How I Became a Poker Pro (Started With $60)

How I Went From $60 in my Bankroll to Poker Pro Traveling the World
Bangkok, Thailand.
A little over 10 years ago I started blogging about my poker journey on this website. And truth be told, I originally started playing poker with just $60.

What a lot of people don't know though is that I have never actually deposited a single dime of my own money on any online poker site to this day.

So how did I get my original $60 online poker bankroll? Simple, I sold a couple million play chips in exchange for real money.

Yes, people will actually give you real money for fake poker chips and I am pretty sure they still do it to this day. Amazing, I know!

Anyways, since then I turned that original $60 into a small fortune at the small stakes poker tables creating some of the highest winnings in online poker history at the micro stakes.

I have now also written 3 best selling books on small stakes poker strategy and I also write for some of the biggest poker news publications in the world such as pokernews.com

This is on the back of a massive online business teaching the game, all explained for the first time ever in this article (including how you can do it too).

I also travel the world working when I want and where I want from a tropical beach in Phuket or a cafe in London.

I actually wrote this very article while sitting in a Starbucks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!

Anyways, in this article I am going to tell you how I originally went from a tiny $60 poker bankroll to traveling the world non-stop and living a lifestyle that many people consider to be only a dream.


Humble Beginnings With a $60 Poker Bankroll


I started playing online poker way back in 2004 and I actually began at the fake money tables. Nearly all online poker sites offer these games as a way for people to try playing poker with no financial risk whatsoever.

Anyways, I played these games for close to a year. Ridiculous I know, but I just played poker for fun at this point.

Poker was like playing Starcraft or Call of Duty for me, which I also played for fun. It was something that I enjoyed doing in my spare time. Nothing more than that.

How I Went From $60 in my Bankroll to Poker Pro Traveling the World

Anyways, before too long though it became very clear to me that even in these fake money poker games, most people had absolutely no clue what they were doing.

They would play every single hand and go all-in if they hit any pair. It was like they were all playing Bingo or something!

So common sense suggested to me that if I just play stronger hands than they do, and only stick all my chips in the middle of the pot with a really strong hand, then I would win.

And boy did this theory ever turn out to be true!

Soon I was rolling in the fake money poker riches and I was actually playing the "high-roller" tables exclusively. I made millions and millions of these worthless poker chips.

Cool story bro but who really cares right? Ya, that's what I thought too.

It's like being the world champion tiddlywinks player. Nice work but nobody actually cares. But hang on a minute. Maybe there is actually something more to this poker thing?


People Will Actually Give You Money For Fake Poker Chips?


The thing about poker is that I always knew there was big money in it. You could see them playing the World Series of Poker on TV with millions of dollars on the line.

And one day I noticed somebody typing in the chatbox on my poker table something about "trading $10 real money for one million fake chips."

I thought this had to be a joke right? Who on earth would actually pay real money for these fake worthless poker chips?

Well it turns out there are plenty of play money "high-rollers" out there who are willing to shell out some real money for millions of these fake chips.

This is like the guy who sold "pet rocks" in the 80's right? It just goes to show that people will literally buy ANYTHING these days!

My theory was always that it must some married guy who's wife would not let him play poker for real money. And therefore, playing high stakes play money was the compromise they made lol.

But anyways, whatever the case, it didn't matter at all to me.

The bottom line was that somehow there was actually a market for all this absolutely worthless currency I had acquired.

I had at least 10 million of these fake poker chips sitting in my account doing nothing. So I figured even if the whole thing was a scam, what did I really have to lose right?

So I found the website and shipped 6 million play chips over to them. Sure enough, about 30 minutes later I got an email saying:

"You have received $60 USD real money in your poker account."

Wow.


The Start of an Empire


So now, I really had nothing to lose. I am essentially playing on the house's money after all.

Some religious members of my family had already been giving me crap about my so called "gambling addiction" even though I tried explaining to them so many times that I was only playing for fake chips at that point.

Anyways, now I basically had a freeroll on the real money games as well, nothing to lose. So I started out at the very bottom, NL2 (1c/2c blinds), just like I suggest all the time on this blog.

These are the best poker games for beginners in my opinion.

And slowly but surely I started moving my way up the stakes, still just using this very basic "play tight" strategy that I discussed above.

How I Went From $60 in my Bankroll to Poker Pro Traveling the World

Essentially, this was just a common sense poker strategy of playing better hands than they do and only getting all my money in the pot with a really strong hand.

And amazingly, even in the low stakes real money poker games, this strategy worked like a charm. People would play all sorts of ridiculous hands, as they often still do to this day, and call off all their chips with weak hands.

I would just sit back and wait for them to make their mistakes and capitalize on them over and over again.

Now, I was only playing the $2 and $5 games back then. But slowly but surely, this ridiculously basic strategy allowed me to start building a pretty decent bankroll and moving up the stakes.

In fact, as I continued to progress up the stakes and learn more, before I knew it I had quickly built a $10,000 poker bankroll.


Becoming a Professional Poker Player 


So by about 2007 I had reached the $50 and $100 buy-in games which is also when I started this poker blog that you are reading right now.

I was also making somewhere around $5000 a month playing poker in my spare time and this was considerably more than I was making at my crappy desk job.

So it was at this point that I took the fateful step of quitting my job and becoming a full time poker pro.

Now I would like to paint some rosy story about how I made to the very top of the game and was battling it out at the World Series of Poker with Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth.

However, it didn't quite work out that way.

The money in poker was so easy back then that it hardly even seemed real. I would just play for a couple of hours on the weekends, print $1000 or so, and easily have all my bills paid.

Because truthfully, my real passion was video games. Even though pro-gaming was starting to finally become a "thing," there was still no real money in it back then in 2010.

This of course is no longer the case today in 2020 with multi-million dollar paydays to the best gamers. But in 2010, I was simply too early to the show.

But since I foolishly figured the money would just keep falling out of the sky forever at the poker tables, I continued to spend considerably more time gaming, rather than playing cards.


Hard Lessons Learned


And of course this turned out to be a very poor decision.

Because by 2010 and 2011 people were starting to finally get a bit better at poker. There weren't nearly as many totally clueless fish anymore.

Also, governments around the world were starting to interfere with their citizen's ability to play online poker (because they weren't getting any tax dollars from these offshore online poker sites).

Don't pay us? We will ban you!

This all culminated in Black Friday on April 15, 2011, when nearly all major online poker sites were forced to pull out of the U.S. market.

This was a devastating blow to the industry and to my online poker career as well. Because American poker players represented about 30% of the entire online poker market at the time.

This is also one of the most wealthy countries on earth. So even though there are plenty of extremely talented American poker pros, this is also where the majority of the biggest fish come from as well.

How I Went From $60 in my Bankroll to Poker Pro Traveling the World

So the bottom line for me is that in the coming years it became increasingly difficult to make big money in online poker with limited effort.

You had to actually put some work into it now if you wanted to stay on top. You had to study, learn the latest theory and consistently improve your game.

You even had to start table selecting now as well! Basically you had to approach the game like a real professional does if you wanted to stay relevant.

So that is exactly what I did.

I slowly began reinventing myself as a mass multi-tabling online poker monster, playing as many as 20 or 30 tables at a time, often at the very lowest stakes, because they were the easiest games to beat.

This brought me some fame and even some haters too within the poker community. Nobody could believe that anyone could make this much money in the micro stakes poker games online.

The bottom line is that I had a big enough bankroll again though to play higher stakes comfortably and soldier on as a poker pro in a much tougher environment.


Building a Brand and a Business


It was also during this time that I first got into teaching the game initially by creating videos for a major poker training site. And then by offering my own 1 on 1 personal poker coaching through this website.

Again, I couldn't believe that anybody actually wanted to learn anything from somebody like me. I was just a lowly micro stakes poker player after all with a very simple strategy.

Boy was I wrong though.

I then went on to write 3 of the most popular poker strategy books in history for these low stakes games.

And they actually sell more copies today in 2020 than they ever have before. Which just completely defies all logic.

But a big reason why this is the case is because I have built this website into one of the most visited small stakes poker strategy sites in the world with thousands of visitors every single day.

This includes an email list of over 100,000 people.

I have a reasonably large audience over on YouTube as well (15k subs) even though I haven't put nearly as much energy into it. In fact once I even stopped making videos for over two years!

That won't happen again :)

And finally, I also regularly write for some of the biggest poker publications in the world including pokernews.com and upswingpoker.com.

All of this is now a massive business. I can’t even handle it all myself anymore. There are hundreds of comments and emails alone every single day and the social media is a full time job as well.

So I have had to hire several people to help me with it all.

But none of this would have happened if I didn’t persevere when I first started writing this blog or making videos on my YouTube channel when I had, yes you guessed it:

Zero readers and Zero people watching my videos.

I didn’t let that stop me.


Time to Fly


But it was also during this time that I finally realized that since everything I did was online, there was absolutely no reason for me to stay in the same place all year round.

The place I am from, Vancouver, Canada, while an absolutely beautiful city, is cold and rainy most of the year. And it is notoriously expensive as well!

So in April of 2012 I hopped on a 17 hour one way flight to Bangkok, Thailand. I had never been anywhere in my life before besides Canada and America.

And I won't lie, I was absolutely scared out of my mind at the time. But this winded up being one of the best decisions I ever made.

The biggest reason why I finally got on that plane though was because I had heard (from reading on poker forums), that there were already a ton of other online poker players living there.

After reading about the much lower cost of living, and year round tropical weather, I was sold.

How I Went From $60 in My Bankroll to Poker Pro Traveling the World

I had to go see what all the fuss was about.

I immediately loved it and quickly started to make tons of new friends who also played poker online for a living. It was so easy to talk to people after all, who spoke the same "language" as me.

It didn't matter if they were German, Polish, American, English, French, Swedish, Aussie or Russian.

We all spoke the communal language of poker and we were all in this strange new world of Southeast Asia trying to make it.

For example, here is an interview with a good friend of mine who is a poker pro from Germany. We met in northern Thailand.


Limitless


Since then I have continued to travel the world although still using Southeast Asia as my home base.

Why SE Asia? As mentioned, warm tropical weather every single day of the year, and typically about 1/3 the cost of living of my home country, Canada.

Also, great beaches, incredible food and culture, friendly people, low crime, tons of other expats and tourists from western countries and decent to good internet overall.

Singapore actually had far and away the fastest broadband internet on earth in late 2019. And Thailand cracks the top 20 just behind Canada with much faster speeds than several western countries like the UK, Germany and Italy.

I have spent considerable time in nearly every country in this region. For first time travellers especially, this is easily my top recommended place to go.

The power of the internet though and this little card game that we love have allowed me to create a life full of limitless exploration.

Never did I think that anything like this was possible when I started playing the silly fake chip poker games way back in the mid 00's.

But my story is really just a testament to the fact that if you want anything bad enough in life, then you can make it happen.

The truth is that people laughed and me and told me I was crazy at every step of the way. They still do to this day.

Heck, I even had my own family (conservative Christian) telling me I was a "gambling addict" and throwing my life away.

Talk about harsh.


Dream Bigger


But I have always believed in dreaming a little bit bigger in life. I knew very early on that a "regular" 9-5 job working for somebody else, helping them build their dreams, was never meant for me.

And I was desperate to find a way to create a different version of reality where I would be the one in control. Creating my own dreams, building my own destiny.

I needed to be my own boss, working when I want and where I want. And be able to achieve real financial freedom for me and my family.

Even though I actually did go the whole college route and got my degree, I didn't see any realistic way to make this happen by working for somebody else.

So if it wasn't online poker, then it would have been something else online for me. I was 1000% going to make it work online once I saw the power that this thing has to change lives.

And that is why I thank God every single day that I was born in the greatest age in human history where you can literally create a wildly profitable business from your smart phone or laptop.

How I Went From $60 in My Bankroll to Poker Pro Traveling the World

If I was born even 10 or 20 years earlier, none of this would have even be possible.

Most of my friends who I have met in Southeast Asia (or somewhere else in the world), are all doing the exact same thing as me, working online for themselves.

Although most of them are actually non-poker.

Instead they created businesses through YouTube, Amazon FBA or any of the other million and one ways to make a living online these days.

Two of my best friends from Seattle, USA created one of the biggest Amazon FBA selfie stick brands in the world. Now they are blowing up once again with smartphone sticky wallets.

Same old story, they source from China, and then sell at 10x the price back in America or the UK. They were literally down to the very last of their savings when I met them on the road in Southeast Asia 5 years ago.

Not anymore!

Another friend of mine from Ohio runs one of the biggest piano teaching channels on YouTube with millions of subscribers. He also travels the world non-stop now.

Honestly, there are countless stories out here like this, both poker and non-poker. And this is yet another reason to travel.

Because you will often meet some of the most inspiring and successful people while you are on the road, especially in a hot spot for young online professionals like SE Asia.

Here is another friend of mine, who is one of the best mid stakes SNG poker players in the world. And yup you guessed it, we originally met in Thailand.


Nobody is Going to Believe in You


What is the similarity with all these stories?

They all took a chance like I did because they dreamed a little bit bigger in life. And they hustled like their life depended on it.

Of course nobody is going to believe you can do it in the beginning. They will probably laugh at you in fact if you decide to do something crazy like I did, become a micro stakes poker pro.

And then a micro stakes poker author too. Who on earth is going to read a book about NL2 or NL5 they told me over and over again. My haters sure had a field day with that one!

But here's the thing though.

Their "opinion" means absolutely nothing in reality. Zero.

The only person who has to believe in your dream is you. And from there, you just go and make it happen. You bend the universe to your will.

It won't happen over night though. And this is where 95% of people end up failing.

For example, as I often tell people, if you decide to take poker seriously, I wouldn't expect to make any kind of "decent money" for at least one year.

With content creation and online business it is the exact same story. You should expect to have no readers, no viewers, no customers and ultimately make no money for at least one year as well.

Most people are simply not willing to wait this long though and they give up. And this is such a shame.

Because for many of them, if they had just been willing to hang in there for a little bit longer, the success that they had always been looking for, was right around the corner.


Final Thoughts


The real point of this article was to show you that where there is a will there is a way in life.

It all starts with a deep belief in yourself and then a deep commitment to continuously take action towards your goals.

Take bold action. Become a doer not a talker in 2020. Because action always wins.

Move mountains to make your dreams become a reality. And always, always ignore the haters. It's your life, your choice and your decision.

I hope this article was helpful or inspiring to a few of you poker players out there or just anybody who is looking for a little bit more out of life in general.

Because I quite literally "started from the bottom, now we here." A $60 poker bankroll and a young kid with a dream.

Now, I do need to point out that poker is a lot harder now than when I first started playing the game way back in 2004.

And being a professional poker player today is a tough grind. In fact it is probably one of the harder ways to “make it” online these days.

Also, let me tell you that writing books or thousands of blog articles (and actually getting people to read them) is also a really, really difficult thing to do.

But here's one thing I know from meeting tons of winners while traveling the world for almost 8 years now.

Those who want to make their dreams in life become a reality (whether that is poker or something else), will always persevere and find a way.

There is no I quit. There is no I give up.

There is only:

That way didn't work. Let's go find another way that does work.

Let me know in the comments below what big goals and dreams you have in poker, business or anything else.

And much more importantly, what specific steps are you going to take to start making them happen in reality, this year, 2020?

---

If you want to see more about my day to day life and world travel, I post stories about it every single day on my Instagram.

---

Lastly, if you want to know the simple poker strategy that I have used for over 10 years as a low stakes online poker pro, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

How I Went From $60 in My Bankroll to Poker Pro Traveling the World

24 comments:

  1. Hi,
    That was a very inspirational story, congrats to all your success. My dream is still to be a poker prodessional. However I found it harder to achieve. I used to multitable 20 tables or more on nl2 - nl10. However nowadays pokerstars only allows 4 tables instead of 24 for cash game. What are your thoughts about that, is it still worth trying to build the bankroll with fullring tables when you can only have 4 open? Or is it better to enter the zoom tables to get more volume, however there is a lot of regs there, you rarely see a player with over 40 vpip. Or is it simply better to try and win MTTs? What's your thoughts about this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Fredrik!

      This is a difficult question to answer and honestly I have written entire articles on this in the past.

      The short story is that yes, PokerStars recently changed their table count, but rakeback programs on most sites have been in decline for years anyways.

      So I personally haven't mass multi-tabled in a long time. I think the smarter money these days is an intense focus on table selection and playing higher limits.

      But you can still win with the mass table approach also. You will just have to play Zoom if you play on Stars and/or mix in some other sites as well.

      Yes, games are still very soft in low stakes MTTs but they aren't for everybody. I prefer the time freedom (leave whenever I want) of cash games and also the much more steady cash flow.

      Hope this helps.

      Delete
    2. Hi Nathan! I'm writing from Kazakhstan, probably one of the few people reading your blogs and watching your videos from this country :)
      As of now I consider a low-limit poker as a fun way to spend spare time. But, I don't like losing (even if it's just for fun) and therefore I watch your videos and read your articles to improve my game. Everyday I try to increase my bankroll, even at least by a dollar. It does get frustrating when you spend hours to win 10 bucks and then lose almost all of it in a few minutes. But, I understand that you have to be consistent and patient in everything you do.
      Anyways, I enjoyed reading your post and one day I really hope to achieve success in life whether it be in business or poker. I think you nailed it when you decided to teach low-limit poker games. That's an empty niche that most poker pros overlook. Keep up the good work and good luck from Kazakhstan!)

      Delete
    3. Hi, that's awesome, you might be the first person to ever comment on my blog from Kazakhstan :)

      I am glad that my poker advice is helping you. I agree that most people overlook the low limit games and I have always tried to fill that void, by teaching the exact strategy to beat them.

      Delete
  2. Great article, one of your best! Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks as always for reading TJ :)

      Delete
  3. awesome bro thanks for being an inspiration, safe travels ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy I could inspire, that's why I write these articles. Thanks!

      Delete
  4. Ouch, 4 tables now? I stopped playing last year when my life changed pretty unexpectedly. I had to stop playing to start studying for another job. I'm actually glad I gave up, it was literally consuming all my time! Still a little itch to get back into it but don't think I will, but good to read your stories still.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just because it shows 4 tables on my screen doesn't necessarily mean I am actually only playing on 4 tables :P You can stack tables :)

      However, as I mentioned above, I don't really mass multi-table much anymore anyways. I don't think that strategy is optimal anymore in small stakes games.

      Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  5. Hello Nathan, is short deck now what normal holdem was back at the very start? I mean clueless people playing around...? Thx All the best,gl at the tables, Adrian

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Darian,

      I am not the best person to ask about that because I have played very little short deck. But since the game is so new, yes, I can imagine the games might be insanely soft right now.

      Delete
  6. What a great story..!! Truly inspirational. Good luck to you my friend

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rosh appreciate it, hope you are doing well! :)

      Delete
  7. Thanks for laying it all out on the line for the world to see, Nathan! You are an inspiration man!!! ��

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Glen, I am glad I could inspire or spark even a few people into action who read an article like this. That's why I wrote it!

      I think there are a lot of people that are stuck in a dark mental place, a dead end job and they feel like there is no hope. I know, because I was stuck there once, for a long, long time.

      And I wish there was somebody who smacked me back then and said open up your eyes to all the possibilities around you.

      Delete
  8. My goal is to grind up a bankroll from the micros to the midstakes at least and hopefully beyond.Eventually I'd like to be able to play live at a high level. Sticking with SNG's mostly and I've had a good start so far.

    Your article was just what I needed see to keep pushing forward, no matter what.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Christopher I wish you all the best in your poker journey!

      Delete
  9. Hey! Just wanted to say thank you! Yesterday I won $30 and today I own $40 playing NL5 for 5 hours a day. I know results in poker makes sense in a long term analysis, but your videos and book already helped me a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Fernando,

      Nice job! I am glad that my poker advice has been helping you :)

      Let me know how you progress!

      Delete
  10. Hi Natham. I just beated nl2 and im playing nl5 now. Im building a bankroll and i want to beat every level till i begin earn reall money for me. I have a job so i only play 2/3 hours day but i play everyday. Do u recomend do a cash out of some money once in a while? My motivation is watching my bankroll growing up everyday but i want a strattegy while i m growing up on poker.. thanks for everything on ur articles, u are the man

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Celio,

      Thanks for the kind words. Glad I could help you!

      Honestly, for someone like you I always recommend not cashing out, because that will only hold you back, make your bankroll smaller and prevent you from moving up.

      If you just play poker for fun right now on the side (as you do), then the best thing is to not cashout and just keep building up, getting better and playing higher stakes where you can make the real money.

      All the best at the tables and let me know how it's going for you :)

      Delete
  11. Awesome blog. I live in Pennsylvania and we have legal regulated online poker on Poker Stars. I believe it is like playing on PS back in the early 2000's. Tons of fish with disposable income. I started with a $250 deposit and am currently sitting on almost $1,800. I moved from 10nl up to 50nl pretty quickly. I am also getting better as a player and student of poker. I also should mention I am 46 years old and tired of having spent my life on other people's time making them rich. Poker is an important part of my goals right now. Looking to accomplish what you and many others have.

    Thanks for sharing your story with myself and others!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Kelly,

      Great job! That's awesome to hear that the PokerStars games in Penn are so soft. Also, thanks for being such a big supporter of mine. I wish you all the best in your poker goals :)

      Delete