As a former financial advisor, I take a very rational, conservative approach to poker. Although I have the bankroll to play higher buy-ins, I specifically choose to play mid-stakes. I play smaller because it’s in my comfort zone and I have a higher rate of return because I’m going against weaker players. I also have a family now, so I’m less willing to gamble. I’d rather make a steady profit and lead a less stressful life. I think my approach works because I’ve been playing professionally for eight years now and I’m still going strong. Playing high stakes works for some, of course, but I think when it comes to bankroll management, staying on the conservative side works better in the long run.
If I were to offer some advice to a new player making their first deposit on PokerStars, I would encourage them to do some reading first. When I was starting out, I read about a dozen books and spent a lot of time on poker forums before I put any money online. Once you have a pretty good handle on how to play, take that initial deposit and break it up into very small pieces. From there on out, make sure that you aren’t investing too many of those pieces into any one game.
When it comes to choosing to focus on cash games or tournaments, I believe it is a personal preference. Cash games are definitely the option with lowest variance, especially on PokerStars where stakes as low as 1c/2c are offered. In a 1c/2c NLHE game, you can buy in for only $1 and get in quite a lot of practice with that tiny investment. Small buy-in tournaments are also a good option and MTTs are available on Stars that only cost ten cents to enter. A lot of beginners love tournaments because they cannot lose any more than the buy-in, but some find them too time-consuming. If you don’t have long stretches of time available to play, cash games are probably a better choice. Personally, I spend 80-90% of my online playing time in cash games, but I hardly ever play live cash games. I love multi-tabling and I get too bored when I’m only getting 30 hands an hour live. However, I love playing live tournaments. I know it seems strange, but in a live tournament I feel like I value my chips more.
In poker, the answer to most questions is “it depends,” and this one is no different. Whether you choose cash games, tournaments, or both, keep these two rules in mind when making your first deposit (1) never invest too much in one game and (2) improve your skills as much as possible before moving up in stakes.
Marcin Horecki is a member of Team PokerStars Pro