When it comes to bankroll management, maybe we should all just ask What Would Jesus Do? Team Full Tilt Poker member Chris Ferguson recently showed that with the right mixture of responsibility and discipline, it’s possible to turn very little money into thousands. In fact, he managed to turn zero dollars into more than $10,000.
Over the past 16 months, Ferguson was on a quest to complete this challenge. Starting with nothing but a Full Tilt Poker account, he played in freerolls until he earned enough to try games with a real-money buy-in. From there, Ferguson built up his bankroll by adhering to this strict set of guidelines:
• He never bought into a cash game or a sit-n-go with more than 5 percent of his total bankroll (there was an exception for the lowest limits: he was allowed to buy into any game with a buy-in of $2.50 or less).
• He didn’t buy into a multi-table tournament for more than 2 percent of his total bankroll, but he was allowed to buy into any multi-table tournament that cost $1.
• If at any time during a No-Limit or Pot-Limit cash-game session the money on the table represented more than 10 percent of his total bankroll, he had to leave the game when the blinds reached him.
“I think a lot of players would do well to apply these rules,” Ferguson wrote in a FTP pro tip. “One great benefit from this approach to bankroll management is that it ensures you’ll be playing in games you can afford. You’ll never play for very long in a game that’s over your head because, when you’re losing, you’ll have no choice but to drop down to a smaller game. You can continue to sharpen your game at that lower limit until your bankroll allows you to move up and take another shot. These rules also prevent you from being completely decimated by a bad run of cards.”
Getting started wasn’t easy. It took more than seven months of steady play until he got his bankroll to stabilize at about $6.50. Then, on November 26th, 2006, Ferguson made a major breakthrough, turning a $1 tournament buy-in into to $104 in prize money by finishing second in a 683-person tournament. Even with that huge bankroll boost, it still took Ferguson nine more months to reach his goal and break the $10,000 dollar mark. His bankroll hovered around $1,000 for a long time and then after the World Series of Poker, a focused Ferguson managed to move it up past $10,000 on August 14.
Former PokerWorks’ blogger Michael Craig, who now writes a blog for FTP, watched as Ferguson achieved the milestone in a $10-$20 NLHE game. Ferguson raised with A♠-J♠ and the big blind called. After a flop of T-8-3 with two spades, Ferguson bet and was check-raised. Ferguson moved all in and his opponent folded.
He wasn’t done for the evening. Ferguson finished 20th in the FTOPS Omaha Eight-or-Better event, earning $815 and then came in third in the Turbo Hundred for another $2,511, finishing the night with nearly $14,000. Since then his account has gone up to nearly $18,000 and back down to $11,000.
FTP has a poll on its site asking players where they think Ferguson should stop in this quest. Only 10 percent said he should quit at $10,000. About 59 percent said he should try to run it up to $1 million, while 31 percent said he should try for $100,000. Whenever he quits, Ferguson has pledged to donate his winnings to the Save the Children Foundation.
Ferguson, who has turned $1 into $20,000 before on FTP, said he wanted to show players that it’s possible with good bankroll management to turn a small stake into a pretty nice one.
He said he encountered many players in the low-limit games who told stories of turning $5 into $500 or $100 into $1,000.
Usually, these stories end with the person telling me that they went broke. There’s no surprise there,” Ferguson wrote. “These folks tried to quickly build a bankroll by gambling. They’d play in a game that was beyond their bankroll and, if they happened to win, they’d move up to a higher limit and risk it all one more time. Inevitably, they’d lose a few big hands and go broke.”
Remember that when you play in a game or tournament that is above your head, you are putting your entire bankroll at risk. If you plan ahead and play smart, you will be able to survive any bad beat or lousy run of cards without being crippled. Chris Ferguson has proved it beyond a doubt.