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Playing winning poker at 1000NL

Where big money can be made

by Mark "mdm13" David on July 14, 2011 9:52 AM

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Beating a typical 1000NL online poker game is not easy. Some poker players take years to reach the level where both their skill level and bankroll are suitable to play 1000NL on a regular basis.

But even for small winners, the rewards can be great.

A player winning at 1PTBB per 100 hands makes $200,000 for every one million hands. A professional who plays 10 tables, that each get 80 hands per hour, for 1,250 hours a year would reach one million hands. Admittedly, that is a lot of poker, but there are certainly players who achieve this.

There are even more benefits of becoming a winning 1000NL poker player. A player with a 40% rate of cash back, through rakeback, bonuses and other promotions, could expect to earn approximately $60,000 in that same one million hands, on top of the table winnings.

This will vary depending on the looseness of the games, the rake of the site and the bonus scheme of the site. Regardless, earning anywhere near $260,000 per year playing a card game from the comfort of your own home is a pretty enviable situation.

Regular 1000NL players are treated like VIPs and qualify for the highest level of treatment from poker sites. This can entail anything from faster customer service to a private lounge with free food and drink at major live tournaments.

In addition, 1000NL can exploit their poker knowledge to make even more money. Popular options include charging hundreds of dollars per hour for one on one coaching services, getting paid to make videos for poker training sites and creating poker strategy websites and e-books.

Bankroll Requirements for 1000NL

The bankroll requirements to play 1000NL are very steep.

Many players keep over 100 buy-ins on hand. Considering that the best players at 1000NL tend to make 2-3PTBB in the very long run, the majority of winning players have very slim winrates. A player with a winrate of 1PTBB and a standard deviation of 80bb/100 has roughly a 10% chance of experiencing a whopping 80 buy-in downswing in a one million hand sample. That is enough to wipe out some regulars' bankrolls.

So how do players survive here? There are three basic options.

  1. The best (and hardest) option is to improve your game is to have a high winrate. A player with a 3PTBB winrate will have drastically smaller downswings and will need a much smaller bankroll than a 1PTBB winner. A very strong player may be able to get by with only a 60 buy-in bankroll.
  2. Have a very large bankroll. Players with bankrolls over 100 buy-ins aren't likely to go broke playing 1000NL, especially if the large downswings don't negatively impact the quality of their play.
  3. Be willing to move around in stakes and bounce around a bit. Many players start playing 1000NL with as little as 30 or 40 buy-ins with the intention to move back down in stakes if they don't run well. This strategy is best for a poker player who does not immediately need the money. Being willing to take aggressive shots with medium sized bankrolls and risk having to move back down frequently yields good results.

Remember that no matter how good you are or how large your bankroll is, the unthinkable can happen. You could run worse than you ever have and lose it all. After losing a lot your mental state is unlikely to be positive and you may not even realize that a large downswing has turned you into a losing player.

Always move down to easier games instead of going broke.

Game Quality of 1000NL Online Poker Games

As a general rule, 1000NL games will consist of five regular players and one fish.

The regular players may be break-even or slightly losing, but they are rarely terrible and have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of poker. Sometimes 1000NL games even build around a marginally weak regular player or are just six professional poker players duking it out.

On some sites the 1000NL games rarely run, or only one or two tables run at a time. However, on larger sites, such as Pokerstars, there may be as many as twenty games running during peak times. To combat the lack of game selection many players will play on multiple sites at the same time to increase the number of tables that can be played at once.


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Strategy Adjustments for Playing 1000NL

The player pool at 1000NL is very small. Sometimes a particular player may be playing at every single table with you. This often creates an aggressive dynamic and can get you into tricky situations.

Restraint is helpful to avoid high variance situations with regulars that you have small to no edge in. A common situation is when a regular tries to get you into a 3-bet/4-bet war preflop.

It isn't smart to let yourself get run over, but giving up a small amount of EV to avoid doing full stack coin flips is usually a good idea. This makes playing winning poker easier because there will be less variance and consequently that will foster a better mental state.

Another adjustment that is related to the size of the player pool is that you should be regularly changing the way you play.

When poker is being played for thousands of dollars per hand, people take the game very seriously. Not only will players naturally catch on to your tendencies, but many will go through their database to see how you play. This will make you very vulnerable to being exploited if you are not switching things up frequently and attempting to play closer to the game theory optimal strategy.

Game selecting becomes more and more important the higher stakes the get. As winrates decrease and aggression increases, the necessary bankroll grows very large. Avoiding games without a particular player that you are 100% sure is a losing player is strongly recommended.

Differences Between 1000NL and 200NL

The differences between 200NL and 1000NL are massive.

A solid winner at small stakes would need to game select religiously to show even a meager profit at 1000NL games. A 200NL player who was very careful about playing only the best games at 200NL could pretty much always play with two fish at every table. This is function of the fact that there is less reward for being good at 200NL and that more recreational players are willing to lose $100 as opposed to $500. A strong player and strict game selector might be able to win at a rate of 4PTBB. Winning at huge rates makes poker feel easy.

Successful 1000NL players have much greater mental fortitude than successful 200NL players.

The pain of a 25 buy-in downswing isn't even in the same league as an 80 buy-in downswing. The effect is amplified by the amount of money being involved being five times larger. It is not unheard of to win or lose the value of a new car in a single day. In addition, the player pool at 200NL is very large - at least several times larger than the 1000NL player pool on most sites.

As a result, there is way less of an aggressive dynamic with other regulars because you will not play with the same players on all of your tables every single day. 200NL players rarely, if ever, study another player in-depth. There simply isn't enough of a financial incentive to do so.

Playing solid, aggressive poker without paying much attention to reads beyond the stats from the HUD will likely produce a winner at 200NL. Success at 1000NL requires much more effort and greater attention to specific tendencies of opponents.

As crazy as it sounds, some winning 1000NL players would be way better off playing 200NL.

A player who wins at a very small rate at 1000NL, such as .5PTBB, would only need to win at 2.5PTBB at 200NL to make the same amount of table winnings. Playing 200NL instead of 1000NL would result in less overall income due to less rakeback and bonuses.

However, having a much lower risk of ruin, less stress and the need for a smaller bankroll is likely more than worth it for marginal 1000NL winners.

Written by Mark David from Online Poker for Beginners.




Not all poker rooms are made equal and the NL1000 regulars know it. There are more poker pros at pokerstars than any other room simply because PokerStars is the online poker room with the best selection of tournaments and active stake levels including up to NL1000 and higher.


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