“Poker is good for you. It enriches the soul, sharpens the intellect, heals the spirit, and—when played well—nourishes the wallet.” —Lou Krieger
The Challenge: Start with $500 and build a poker bankroll over a period of one year into a bankroll for higher-stakes games.
1. You can only play in a casino.
2. You cannot play online or in a home game (see Rule 1: only in casinos).
3. You are allowed to accept stake from backers for tournaments or cash games, but the data must be logged.
Throughout poker’s history there have been numerous poker challenges. Recent and notable challenges, primarily in online poker, include the Chris Ferguson challenges on Full Tilt Poker, the Boku87 challenge on PokerStars, the 2009 Bluff Magazine Poker Challenge, and Tom “durrrr” Dwan’s Heads-Up Challenge.
When we were working at the Normandie Casino, Gardena, CA, in 2007, Robert Turner and I created a weekly poker symposium called Poker Wave, which featured professional players as guest speakers. I asked each guest speaker the same question: “Starting with a $100 bankroll, how would you build your bankroll into one capable of supporting higher-stakes games?”
Some pros where stumped, others refused to answer, claiming the information was “top secret.” Inside my head, I was rolling on the floor laughing at the absurdity of this response.
One pro became annoyed, thinking I was challenging his credibility. Another suggested playing at a $40 no-limit table with two buy-ins and a short buy, attempting to double-up, then doing a hit-and-run as a form of bankroll protection. Yet another pro said the initial stake had to be higher than $100. He was right.
Three years later, given the rate of inflation, the state of the domestic and global economies, increased house fees, and the higher skill-level of average players, you need at least $500 to get off to a decent start.
Poker is the poor person’s stock market. There are many stories of novice stock-market investors starting with a small bankroll, investing in penny stocks and building their initial investment into a large portfolio.
New poker players, casual and recreational players, and aspiring pros believe that it is possible to become rich by winning at poker. On the other hand, every time I play I meet numerous veteran poker players who are sitting on the rail because they were unable to win.
For the next year-and-a-half my column will be dedicated to the life of a poker player (me) taking my own $500 Poker Challenge.
One perceptive question was asked by an experienced floorperson, Michelle Quan, at Diamond Jim’s Casino, in Rosamond, CA: “Who will monitor the $500 Poker Challenge?” Translation: Who will keep me honest? Since this is a journalistic investigative expose, as in science, it is critical to exhibit verifiable and reproducible results. I leave it to you, the reader, to suggest a monitoring process.
I have a few ideas of my own on that, but I promise you, for richer or poorer, over the next year and a half this column will report with complete honesty my victories and failures.
Now the first hurdle: to find my initial $500 to begin the $500 Poker Challenge. Maybe I can sell some of my detective mystery book collection on Craigslist or eBay.
I invite you to take the $500 Poker Challenge with me and report your results!
John “The Scientist” Hayes hosts Ask the Scientist, a live call-in poker instruction show on www.hpstv.tv at the Hollywood Poker School in Hollywood Park Casino. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.