So you’ve decided to make the leap into playing for real money. Things get a little more serious now, since it really matters if you win or lose. Here are a few facts you should be aware of before you start tackling these games.

Track Your Results

If you don’t track your results, you’ll never know if you’re a winner or a loser. Sure, you can check your bankroll at the cashier, but so many people use selective memory to fool themselves that way. you may lose track of your deposits or withdrawals or you may fool yourself by saying, “I lost that money playing cash games, but I’m a winner in the tournaments.” Start tracking every single game you play and start your tracking now:

What you played (1-table regular SNG, 2-table speed SNG, etc.) The buy-in
What place you took
How much prize money you won

If you’re super serious about tracking results, you can also track the following, but it’s not essential: The time and date of the tournament
Key hands for review later

I suggest keeping a running spreadsheet on your computer, where you can just fill in this information after every session. you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you track this religiously and honestly.

There’s a lot of short-term luck in poker. you can’t get around it. But in the long run, skill always wins out. Unfortunately, it can often take a long time to reach that point. I’m continuously coming to the conclusion that the “long run” is longer than I previously thought. As a result, you can’t tell how good a player you are with only a few results. you’ll have streaks of good luck and bad. Even expert players have streaks of 10 or 15 tournaments in a row where they fail to reach the money. on the other hand, you may win the first 3 tournaments you play. you really have to look at a large number of tournaments to have any sense of where you stand. Even 100 tournaments aren’t enough to give you a good idea of

player can make hundreds of dollars. Two hundred tournaments is probably enough to give you a sense of whether you’re a winner or a loser. It’ll take several hundred more for you to tell roughly how much of a winner or loser you are.

How Good is Good?

The key statistic for you to track is your Return on Investment (RoI) given by this equation:

A breakeven player will have an RoI of 0% and most players have a negative RoI due to the commission (rake) taken by the site. Any positive RoI is good. If your RoI is above 25%, it’s probably not sustainable in the long run. you’ve hit a hot streak and have had some good results. This doesn’t mean that you’re not a great player, but you’ve been lucky too and can’t expect to make that amount of money long term.

your RoI doesn’t have much meaning until you track it over a few hundred tournaments. As you play more and more tournaments, your RoI will become increasingly accurate.

Don’t Get Discouraged

If you start playing for real money and start losing, don’t give up. Everyone, even the pros, goes through losing streaks. Move down in buy-ins so you don’t feel pressured about the money. has real-money tournaments for as little as one dollar. I encourage you to start at the one-dollar level and only move up once you feel comfortable enough to handle the increased buy-in.

Make Sure You’ve Got the ‘Roll

How much of a bankroll should you have to play SNGs? There’s no one right answer, as the bankroll
you need varies with the profitability of your play. About 30 buy-ins would be in the ballpark for a good player. So to play a tournament with an $11 buy-in, you should have about $330. No bankroll is big enough to sustain a losing player, but 30 should be good if you’re comfortable with your game. Make sure you’ve got more than that (50 or more buy-ins) if you’re unsure about your performance. A useful alternative is to have an active bankroll of 30 buy-ins that you keep in your account and a reserve bankroll of another 30 that you hope you never have to draw on, but is available to you from somewhere else should you require it. When you move up to the next level, make sure you have enough money in your online account and in your reserve bankroll as well. you could get away with fewer buy- ins if you’re willing to step down to a lower level if you hit a losing streak. Some people’s egos won’t let them do that—I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Turbo or Regular?

Many online sites, including, offer “regular” tournaments and “turbo,” “speed,” or “fast” tournaments. The main differences between the two are as follows: the length of each round (5 minutes versus 10 minutes); different time banks for extra time that can be used during the tournament (30 seconds versus 60 seconds); and less time to make a decision in a turbo (12 seconds versus 15). Both are quite playable and have their advantages and disadvantages. Regular tournaments allow you to use more skill when playing, especially in the early blind levels. If this is where you think your main advantage lies, then regular games are probably the way to go. The turbo games get to the push-or-fold stage, with players going all-in or folding, much sooner, so there’s a bit more luck involved. Knowing the correct strategy, however, can pay huge dividends. Many winning players observe that their absolute ROI is lower in turbo games, but they still earn more dollars per hour, since they can play more games. you should try both and see which one better fits your style.

1- or 2-Table Tournaments?

Single-table tournaments are far more popular than their 2-table counterparts. This book focuses on the 1-table variety, but the same strategies can be applied to the 2-table games. There are SNGs with more than 2 tables, but I consider all of those to be multi-table tournaments (MTTs), which I cover in other chapters. The 2-table games usually pay the top 4 spots 40%/30%/20%/10%, while the 1-table games pay the top 3 spots, 50%/30%/20%. This means that the most intense bubble situations in 2-table games occur when 5 players remain, rather than 4. In addition, the payout structure is flatter for the 2-table games, making it even more important just to make it to the money. That means proper play for 2-table tournaments is even tighter than I recommend here.


  1. Keep accurate records.
  2. Due to short-term luck, it will take several hundred SNGs for you to determine how good you are.
  1. Maintain an adequate bankroll for your level of play.
  2. Decide where, what, and how fast (turbo or regular) to play.

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