In today’s world of online poker, it is extremely easy to build up a sizable cash position without ever having to make a single deposit. This proves to be an increasingly attractive alternative as many credit card companies and banks (especially in the US) prohibit transfers to internet gaming sites.

However, the term “extremely easy” only applies if you approach the game realistically and analytically and can control your ego. Always remember that when you are playing poker there is one really terrible and dangerous opponent sitting at the table– yourself!

This article will teach you how to build up a playable bankroll from absolutely nothing (other than a computer and an internet connection). First, let’s delineate the facts and illusions of poker:



Poker is all math


Poker is all luck


All poker players play to win


All poker players expect they are going to win


Skilled poker players will win more often then they lose


Unskilled poker players think they’ll win because they’re lucky


Stick to the facts and avoid the illusions and you will be a winner.

To begin with, one must learn the basics of poker. The simple stuff is readily available from our FTR articles on Poker Hands, Poker Lingo, etc. Once you’ve got all that down you are itching to play. The absolute sucker play is to immediately make a cash deposit and play for real money. You will lose it all in a matter of minutes. Instead, you must learn the poker realities from ‘play money’ games. The two biggest online poker rooms, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker offer plenty of play money tables. They even advertise “learn poker for free” at their .net sites. The real money games are only available at their .com sites, but you can access the play money tables through the .com portal as well. If you are serious about building up a bankroll from nothing, register at the .com sites and then learn the game at the play money tables. Make sure you use the links here at FTR to sign up, because the poker rooms and FTR offer cash prize freerolls to our members!

Learning at Play Money Tables

For the beginner, play money tables are invaluable learning tools. They are extremely important displays of human behavior at poker. Each person at a poker table plays the game differently and each has their own personal strategy. Understanding the role which strategy plays in poker is the key to winning. One must be able to recognize an opponent’s strategy and be able to deal with it, as well as having one’s own strategy and the ability to change strategies as the game changes. While gaining experience at play money tables, read articles about poker strategies here at FTR and read books like Doyle Brunson’s “Super System” (which can usually be found at public libraries). In poker, as in so many avenues of life, knowledge is power and, thanks to the internet, poker knowledge is free.

For the sake of this article as well as their universality we’ll limit our bankroll building to PokerStars and Full Tilt. They both have very active play money tables and offer freerolls that can put real cash into your account. However, before going after the real cash, it would be a good idea to set a play money goal (something like 30,000 play dollars/chips) that you must reach. The cold hard reality is that if you can’t win 30,000 play dollars you will never win 30,000 real dollars.

Money For Nothin’ – Freerolls

Although both PokerStars and Full Tilt offer free entry to tournaments through which players can get real money (freerolls), each site has a different route to the money.

At Full Tilt, they have free entry tournaments every hour (sometimes two) with a $100 prize pool. The problem with these is that they have a small number of seats available and they fill up VERY quickly. For example, the $100 No-limit Hold’em Freeroll tournaments have 2700 seats and there are a horde of players waiting with the tournament lobby window open ready to click the “Register” button the instant it appears. The 2700 places fill within seconds, so you must do the same thing if you wish to get in. On the other hand, Full Tilt also offers $100 Freerolls in games like Razz (Fixed-limit), HORSE (Fixed-limit), and Omaha Hi (Pot-limit) which tend to fill a little more slowly, if only by a few seconds during peak hours. While these freerolls give players the opportunity to learn the games, you have got to be good to have any chance of winning money. The prize pool only pays the top TWENTY-SEVEN finishers, so do the math. If there are 2700 entrants and only 27 see real money, then the odds are 100:1 that you’ll get to cash in. This is a great place to understand the difference between being a loser and being a winner. The LOSERS will say to themselves “the odds are a hundred to one against me, so I’m not going to play.” The WINNERS will say “the odds may be a hundred to one against me, but I’ll keep playing until I win!”

At PokerStars, the road to the loot is more circuitous. If you thought the odds at Bovada were bad at a hundred to one, the PokerStars freerolls are worse. While they offer freerolls in games like HORSE, Draw, 2-7 Low, Draw, Badugi, Omaha Hi and Omaha Hi-Lo, those games have 8000 seats out of which the top 64 will get a free seat in either of two weekly $2000 freerolls. So 64/8000 is 125 to 1 odds and that only gets you a free entry to another tournament which can have up to 32,500 players competing to be in the top 15% that will see a real money prize pool. Their No-limit Hold’em freerolls have the same odds of 125:1 but give 9000 seats and the top 72 get the free entries. On a typical day, PokerStars has 34 freeroll MTTs offering Round 2 seats, so you can play all day for free.

During peak US East Coast times the NLHE freerolls always fill up, although not as fast as at Bovada. The more familiar freeroll games like the Omaha varieties almost always fill up, but the rarer games such as 2-7 Low, Badugi, Razz, and HORSE usually don’t. So if you want much better odds at winning a free entry into the $2000 jackpot freeroll, learn to play those games. Freerolls that take place at early morning weekday hours (i.e. 3 AM EST) may only have a couple of thousand players, so the odds may only be 35:1.

If you can win a place in the $2000 weekly PokerStars Round 2 freerolls, those take place Saturday at 10AM EST (always NLHE) and Sunday 2PM EST (alternating each week in the following order: Limit Hold’em, No-limit Hold’em, Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, Seven Card Stud, No-limit Hold’em and Pot-limit Omaha). You make the choice of game and register yourself. While those freerolls can seat up to 32,500 players, in reality they never have that many entrants. A recent Sunday Round 2 (NLHE/PLO) only had 7980 entrants and paid cash out to the top 1350 finishers (17%).

PokerStars also has a Daily $80,000 prize pool tournament that offers free entry via their “Daily Eighty Grand Freeroll Satellite”. This satellite gives the top 5 finishers free entry into the $80K tourney (worth $50) but gives finishers 6-27 a real cash $5.50 prize. The satellite has 10,000 seats available and they fill up within 10 seconds of opening, so be ready with the lobby window open and start clicking before the Register button appears. Odds on winning any money at this satellite are really pretty dismal (370:1) and players in this one know it. Within 15 minutes the field has been cut in half because of “all-ins” by poor players. While this satellite does offer a door to a real payday (a recent Daily $80,000 paid out to 324 of the 2179 entrants – from a low of $76.24 to $17,432 for number 1), you have better odds playing other freerolls that occur at the same time over at Bovada.

One way to improve your odds on winning cash is to multi-table freerolls. Multi-tabling means playing several different games in different windows at the same time and you can play PokerStars and Full Tilt freerolls simultaneously (although you need a capable computer). Keep game schedules with registration times and an alarm clock handy so you don’t miss entering a tourney when your attention is pre-occupied by another one. Mathematically, you are not going to win, place, or show in many tournaments but the more you play the better the odds that you will do well in one of them. If you are in four or five games at the same time and start pulling out ahead at one table, then you definitely want to focus your attention there.

This article is continued here – No Deposit – All Returns: How to Build a Bankroll from Nothing Part II

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