How to Go From $1 to $1000 Fast in Poker

How to Go From $1 to $1000 Fast in Poker

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

Having a $1000 bankroll is a huge milestone in your poker career. It allows you to start playing more serious games for a more substantial amount of money.

A healthy bankroll is a must if you want to make money at least somewhat consistently in this game.

But what if you don’t have a thousand bucks lying around, or you’re not quite comfortable with depositing that money in a poker site?

Is there a way to build up a $1000 bankroll from scratch?

This article will show you a step-by-step guide on how to build a $1000 bankroll without risking a lot (or any) of your hard-earned money.

Let’s get right into it.

1. Have a Small Starting Bankroll

If you want to build a $1000 bankroll, you can’t build it up out of thin air.

In poker, you need money to make money, so you need to have some sort of a starting bankroll.

Your poker bankroll is an amount of money you specifically set aside for playing poker.

This means you don’t use your bankroll money to pay for groceries. Your bankroll should serve one specific purpose, and that is to use it to buy in the games you decide to play (cash games, tournaments, sit-and-gos etc.)

Of course, once you build up your bankroll, you can take a portion of your money out as payout, while making sure you still have enough buyins for the stakes you’re playing.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First you need to build up that bankroll, so let’s examine the fastest ways to go about it.

The easiest way to start building up your bankroll is to set aside enough buyins for the very lowest stakes.

In most online poker sites, this means NL2, where you can buy in for 2 dollars. 

When talking about buyins, we’re talking about FULL buyin amounts.

While you can technically buy in for less than the table maximum, I wouldn’t recommend it.

When buying in for less than the maximum amount, you’re technically risking less money, but you’re also limiting your upside potential, as well.

For example, let’s say you buy in for a dollar instead of 2 dollars, and you get dealt pocket Aces, the strongest starting hand in no-limit hold’em.

Your opponent shoves all-in, and you snap call. Your pocket Aces hold up, and you double up.

Congratulations, you just won a dollar (minus the rake, of course).

But if you had 2 dollars instead, you would have won 2 dollars.

In poker, your chips are your ammunition. Good poker players always want to have as many chips in front of them as possible.

That’s because they want to maximize their potential winnings at any given moment, so they always buyin for the full amount.

Buying in for less than the table maximum is one of the tell-tale signs of recreational poker players, so it should be avoided.

Check out my other article on the 5 common preflop poker mistakes for a much deeper dive on this.

So how many full buyins do you need to start building up that bankroll?

As a general bankroll management rule, it’s advised to have at least 30 full buyins for the stakes you’re playing.

So if you’re playing NL2, you should have a bankroll of no less than $60.

30 buyins is more than enough to weather basic variance and eliminate the risk of going broke.

Granted, there are ways to build up a bankroll without putting down one cent of your own money (more on that below).

But these options are usually way too time-consuming to be worth the hassle.

And since your time is precious, it’s a lot easier to put down a small initial deposit and just hit the tables.

The point of having a decent starting bankroll is to eliminate the chance of going broke and having to reload.

If you do it right the first time, these 60 bucks should be the last time you ever deposit money in a poker site.

Winning poker players should only take the money out of the site, and every single winning poker player will adhere to strict bankroll management rules.

A sufficient bankroll helps you ride out the variance (i.e. the short term fluctuations in your results).

Poker is a game of skill, and the superior players will come out on top more often than not. But poker also has a short term luck element involved, meaning you can sometimes lose for prolonged periods despite playing perfectly.

So a decent bankroll will help you stay afloat even if you run into a particularly vicious run of cards (which will happen sooner or later, trust me).

A healthy bankroll will give you a peace of mind to keep playing your best despite how you’re running session to session.

Check out my ultimate bankroll management guide for more info on the topic.

Now, the premise of this article is how to build up a bankroll with a very small initial investment, so the question is: do you really need 60 bucks to start?

And the answer is: Yes, if you want to do it right the first time around.

You can probably get away with putting down $50, or even $40 as your initial deposit.

$40 is still 20 full buyins for NL2, and could be enough to start building your bankroll.

But anything below that, you’re risking the possibility of going broke and having to reload.

So again, it’s better to do it right the first time, and making it so that these 60 bucks are the last time you need to reach for your credit card.

Alright, now that you have your bankroll in place, let’s talk about how to turn it into a thousand dollars.

By the way, my recent video on the 7 crucial beginner poker tips you need to know will also help you with this.

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2. Play Low Stakes Cash Games Online

Online poker offers plenty of advantages over live poker in a brick and mortar casino.

One of these is definitely convenience, since you can play poker in the comfort of your own living room.

You also don’t have to drive to your local casino, so you’re saving money for gas, drinks and so on.

The third advantage of online games is the fact that you can buy in for insanely small amounts of money, even as little as 2 dollars.

If you want to quickly build up a bankroll from scratch, your best bet is to start at NL2.

NL2 games are very soft on most online poker sites, and you can quickly start winning at these stakes by following a simple tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy.

Most players at NL2 are complete beginners, meaning they will routinely make a lot of huge fundamental mistakes you can take advantage of.

Some of the most common amateur poker mistakes are:

a) playing too many hands

b) playing too passively (i.e. checking and calling instead of betting and raising)

c) calling too much (chasing every draw, clinging on to their mediocre to weak hands, trying to catch other players bluffing etc.)

Aside from the fact that players at these stakes tend to be complete beginners, another reason why it’s easy to beat these games is the fact that the amount of money in play is trivial to most people.

This means that a lot of players are likely to spew off their chips, calling you down too widely, attempting all sorts of crazy bluffs, trying to catch their miracle rivers cards and so on.

In short, NL2 can be a complete circus.

While this makes NL2 games relatively simple to beat, it can also be quite frustrating if recreational players keep getting lucky against you.

In poker, your opponents will almost always have a considerable chunk of equity against you, even if they happen to play horribly.

Poker is designed in a way to keep the bad players coming back.

This can be extremely frustrating at times, and it can be downright disheartening to keep making good decisions and seemingly getting punished for it.

But that’s poker for you.

This is why the previous point about having a sufficient bankroll is so crucial.

If you have enough buyins in your bankroll, you won’t mind the fish occasionally getting lucky against you.

Winning poker is not only about knowing which cards to play in which position. It’s also about having the discipline to keep making the right decisions despite how you’re running in your current session.

This is especially the case at the lower stakes, because you’re bound to suffer a fair number of bad beats and suckouts on your way to building a bankroll.

For more on how to beat NL2...

Check out my best selling book Crushing the Microstakes which is literally a 250 page answer to how to beat NL2 (and NL5 also).

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3. Use the Proven Tight and Aggressive Strategy to Beat Small Stakes Games

If you want to quickly build your bankroll, the best way to go about it is to use the tried and true tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy.

TAG strategy works like a charm in small stakes poker games because it exploits the weaknesses of the majority of the player pool you’re likely to play against.

In poker, the best playstyle is usually the one that’s the exact opposite of the style your opponents are playing.

In small stakes poker games, most players tend to play too many hands, and they tend to play them very passively (checking and calling instead of betting and raising).

So the best way to play against these players is to employ the exact opposite strategy: only playing strong hands, playing them aggressively both preflop and post flop, and using the power of position to your advantage.

These 3 aspects are the cornerstone of the winning TAG strategy, so let’s go over them one by one.

a) Only play strong starting hands

In poker, most hands miss most flops (2 out of 3 times, to be precise). So the more hands you play, the more often you’re going to miss the flop.

And since you have to pay money every time to see the flop, the more flops you see, the more money you’re going to lose over the long run.

And the times you do connect with the flop won’t make up for all the misses.

That’s because not all starting hands are created equal in no-limit hold’em.

Some hands will simply perform much better post flop than others, so the trick is to only play hands that have a reasonable chance of connecting with the flop in some meaningful way.

This includes hands that are either strong enough in and of themselves, or have the potential of making strong post flop combinations (like straights and flushes).

This includes:

- pocket pairs (AA through 22),

- broadway hands (hands that can make the strongest possible straight, like AQ or KJ)

- suited Aces (AKs through A2s)

- suited connectors (like T9s or 87s)

These hands make up about the top 20% of all starting hands in no-limit hold’em.

The rest is trash and should be thrown away.

How to Go From $1 to $1000 Fast in Poker

Now, this is only a rough guideline, so take it with a grain of salt.

The number of hands you choose to play will depend on a lot of factors, namely your table position, which brings us to the n
ext key aspect of TAG strategy.

b) Play most hands in position

Playing in position means being the last to act in a betting round, and it’s a huge advantage to have at the poker table.

By playing in position, you get to see what your opponents do first, while they have no idea what you’re about to do next.

This informational advantage gives you an opportunity to make better in-game decisions.

This means you can value bet or bluff more effectively when playing in position.

You also get the final say at the size of the pot.

If you have a strong hand, you can bet or raise to inflate the pot size. If you have a mediocre or a drawing hand, you can just call or check behind to control the size of the pot.

So how do you play more hands in position?

You simply open-raise more hands in late table positions (the cutoff and the button), and play less hands in early table positions and in the blinds.

When playing on the button in particular, you wlll ALWAYS have the positional advantage post flop.

This means the button is going to be the most profitable seat by far.

If you’re using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4, you can check these stats yourself.

Chances are, you’d be surprised by how much more you win on the button compared to other table positions.

So the closer you are to the button, the more hands you can play profitably, because you stand a better chance of playing in position post flop.

c) Play your hands aggressively

The third key aspect of TAG strategy is playing your hands aggressively (both preflop and post flop).

If you take only one thing from this article, let it be this: winning poker is aggressive poker.

If you want to wing big in poker, you need to win big pots.

And the best way to do that is to build up the pot with your strong value hands.

In poker, most of your winnings will come from strong value hands when your opponent has a weaker hand that ‘s willing to pay you off.

The problem is, these strong hands don’t come around very often, so it’s crucial you get your money’s worth when you actually do get a monster hand.

And the best way to do that is just build up the pot yourself.

This means open-raising preflop instead of just limping into the pot.

To limp in means to just pay the big blind preflop instead of making a raise.

I won’t get into much detail as to why you should avoid open-limping.

Check out my other article on the 5 basic amateur poker mistakes for more info on why open-limping is a bad idea.

When you open-raise, you have the opportunity to make a continuation bet (or a c-bet for short on the flop).

A flop c-bet is a bet made by the preflop aggressor.

C-bets are usually profitable, so you should be inclined to make one unless there’s a very good reason not to.

If you connect with the flop, you can make a value c-bet, where you expect to get called by a lot of weaker hands.

If you miss the flop, you can still make a c-bet with the intention of getting your opponent to fold.

This is known as a bluff c-bet (or a light c-bet).

The reason light c-bets are usually profitable is the fact that your opponent is just as likely to have missed the flop as you.

And since you are the preflop aggressor, you are the one that’s perceived to have the strongest hand.

This means you can credibly represent a strong hand even though you’ve missed the flop completely.

Granted, this doesn’t mean you should c-bet 100% of all flops.

But most of the time, c-bets are going to be profitable for you, because you’ll be putting a lot of pressure on your opponents, especially if you’re also playing in position.

Example Hand

Cash Game, Effective Stack Size: 100 BB ♥♦♠♣

You are dealt AQ in the MP (middle position).

You open-raise to 3 BB. SB (small blind) calls.

Pot: 7 BB

Flop: J63

SB checks.

You: ???

You should c-bet 3.5 BB.

Even though you’ve missed the flop, you can still make a profitable c-bet in this spot.

First of all, the board is bone-dry, meaning it’s very hard for your opponent to have connected with it in some big way.

There are very few two-pair combos on this board, since most players won’t play hands like J6, J3, or 63.

Your opponent could hold a number of Jx hands, but even against these hands, you have plenty of equity.

You have two overcards, as any Ace or a Queen will give you a top pair.

You also have backdoor straight and flush draws, which give you a nice little equity boost.

A backdoor draw means you need both turn and river cards to complete your draw.

So if you bet here, you will get your opponent to fold most of the time.

And even if they call you, you can still improve your hand on future streets and potentially take down an even bigger pot.

These days, it takes more than waiting around for the nuts to be a long term winner in this game.

You also need to find ways to win pots even without a particularly strong hand.

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4. Play Freeroll Poker Tournaments

Finally, let’s answer the titular question: is it possible to build a $1000 bankroll without putting up any of your own money upfront?

The answer is yes, but the way to go about it is likely to be too time consuming to be worth the effort.

When you go to work, you’re exchanging your time for money, so you should approach poker the same way.

You want to play in games that give you the most bang for your buck, depending on your goals, skill level and so on.

And the point of building a substantial bankroll is to allow you to comfortably play in games where you can make a decent profit.

So all things considered, it’s better to simply bite the bullet and set aside money aside for your initial bankroll.

If you don’t mind taking the slower approach, however, it’s entirely possible to build up a bankroll without risking any of your own hard-earned money.

And the way to do it is to play freeroll tournaments.

As the name suggests, freeroll tournaments are multitable tournaments players can enter for free and compete for a certain amount of money.

Most online poker sites offer some kind of daily or weekly freeroll tournaments in order to attract players and drive traffic to their site.

They also sometimes offer freeroll tournaments as a reward for playing on their site, or might offer freeroll tickets as a part of a signup bonus.

Most online poker sites offer you some kind of welcome bonus for joining their site, so it’s worth shopping around for a good deal.

Keep in mind that the promotional bonuses often come with some strings attached.

For example, a welcome bonus that matches your initial deposit must be earned by playing a certain amount of hands and/or paying a certain amount of rake.

Welcome bonuses also might have a time limit to unlock, so always make sure to read the fine print to figure out how to unlock your bonus in full.

Anyway, back to the topic of freeroll tournaments.

Freeroll tournaments are a great, risk-free way to boost your bankroll, and the best part is that they usually attract a great number of recreational poker players.

This means that the player pool is likely to be incredibly soft.

However, there are a few serious drawbacks you should consider if you opt for this game format.

a) Freeroll tournaments have very modest payout structure

The saying “you get what you pay for” certainly applies to freeroll tournaments. Since there’s no buyin to pay, the potential payout is not something to write home about.

Winning a freeroll tournament will usually net you only a couple of dollars, so it’s questionable whether or not it’s worth your time.

However, free money is free money. If you were going to play some poker anyway, why not open up a new tab and play a tourney while you’re at it?

b) Freeroll tournaments attract a ton of recreational poker players

Freeroll tournaments have the softest competition only rivalled by play money tables, which makes them fairly easy to beat with a bit of luck.

However, you still have to go through a swarm of recreational poker players, making them harder to beat.

The more players in a tournament, the harder it is to win for obvious reasons.

c) Freeroll tournaments usually have turbo fast structure

In poker tournaments, the blinds gradually go up, so your stack needs to grow as well, otherwise you run the risk of getting “blinded out”.

In freeroll tournaments, the blinds usually go up very fast, so you don’t really have the luxury of waiting around for a good hand.

Also, the effective stack sizes are a lot more shallow, so there’s not much post flop play involved.

Most of your money will go into the middle by the flop, so there’s not much room for your skill edge to manifest.

For these reasons, freeroll tournaments often resemble bingo more than real poker.

There’s a huge element of luck involved, even more so than in other game formats.

This brings us to the last drawback of freerolls.

d) Freeroll tournaments don’t really resemble real poker

In freerolls, players are far more likely to spew chips around, because there’s nothing really at stake there.

So playing freerolls won’t exactly help you gain valuable playing experience you need.

Granted, if you’re planning on playing multitable tournaments in the future, freerolls can serve as a nice practice run.

But again, players tend to play quite differently when there’s real money on the line, even if it’s just a couple of dollars.

So playing freerolls or play money poker is a good idea if you’re a complete beginner that barely knows if a flush beats a straight.

But other than that, you’re much better off playing for real money and learning the ropes that way.

Bottom line: if you have freeroll tournaments available, go ahead and play them if you’re going to play poker anyway.

It’s a variance-free way to boost your bankroll, and they can help you practice your MTT skills to an extent.

But if you want to build a serious bankroll quickly, you’re much better off playing cash games for real money.

How to Go From $1 to $1000 Fast in Poker - Summary

A $1000 bankroll is a big milestone in any aspiring poker player’s career. Fortunately, you don’t need to learn a lot of advanced poker strategy to achieve it.

All you have to do is learn the basics of tight and aggressive (TAG), and practice proper bankroll management and game selection.

To sum up, here’s how to quickly build a $1000 bankroll:

1. Have a starting bankroll of $60

This equals 30 full buyins for NL2, which are the lowest stakes on most online poker sites. 30 buyins is enough to weather basic variance without the risk of going broke.

If you do it right the first time, this could be the last money you ever need to deposit at a poker site.

2. Play low stakes cash games

One of the advantages of online poker is that you can find games with very low buyin amounts.

And most players at these stakes (NL2 or NL5) are usually complete beginners, meaning you can start winning relatively quickly with the right strategy.

3. Use exploitative tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy

This strategy works like a charm in low stakes cash games because it exploits the weaknesses of the majority of the player pool you’ll be playing against.

TAG strategy entails only playing strong starting hands, playing them in position, and playing them very aggressively, both preflop and post flop.

4. Play freeroll tournaments

If you’re really strapped for cash, most online poker sites offer some kind of freeroll tournaments to attract traffic to their sites.

These freeroll tournaments usually have humble payout structures, but they’re a risk-free way to build up your bankroll.


This article was written by Fran Ferlan

Poker player, writer and coach
Specializing in live and online cash games

For coaching enquiries, contact Fran at
Or apply directly for poker coaching with Fran, right here

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

How to Go From $1 to $1000 Fast in Poker