The time has come. You’re tired of free poker games and you want to play against people who take the game seriously. Congratulations — you’ve taken your first step towards “really” playing the game. Now what?
First of all, you need to determine how much you’re willing to invest in the short term to get your poker game underway. I understand it can be tempting to just deposit $50 or $100 into your account, but the fact is that with variance and other factors, it’s probably better to start with at least $500 and up to $1,000 in place. That way, you can play for longer at lower stakes and really get a feel for the game. Too many players with potential have lost their $100 initial investment and stepped away from the game forever out of spite.
Let’s say you’ve started with $500, a healthy amount to invest in real money poker. I recommend that at the beginning you play $.50/$1.00 limit ring games to get a feel for real poker competition. After all, penny-stakes and free game players aren’t going to be as serious about the game as people who are risking dollars at a time. If you’re doing well at that level and double your bankroll, then move up to $1/$2 limit games. The competition is not likely to be that much tougher and you can make more money if you’re a consistent winner.
Sit and go tournaments are great for players without a large bankroll because they allow you to limit your initial investment and make a significant profit if you win. $5 sit and go tournaments are pretty common, but much like the gap between $.50/$1 games and $1/$2 games, any player that consistently wins at them will likely do just as well and make double the money playing in $10 single-table tournaments.
These are conservative guidelines compared to the advice a lot of pros follow when it comes to the game, but you’ll find that it’s better to be more conservative when dealing with your bankroll. After all, once it’s gone, it’s gone, and the longer you have with your initial deposit, the more likely it is that you can become a profitable poker player without having to re-up your account.
The best advice anyone can follow when it comes to learning real-money poker is that you shouldn’t overextend yourself. Move up when you have a chance to do so, don’t be afraid to step down if you can’t take the competition and avoid no-limit games until you’ve mastered betting in limit and pot-limit games.