The Cardinal Rule in bankroll management is to never play outside the games that the size of your bankroll allows. Those who know this limit the chances of them going broke. Those who don't know this will go broke over and over.

The trick of the game is to set the limits: what kind of of bankroll allows the playing of which limits...

The only problem is of course when you have people that know the Cardinal Rule but choose to disregard it. This can be dangerous, naturally, and yet - I wandered off the path.

My journey into cash games started a few months ago. I wanted to get a copy of HM2 and being the guy I am, I was too much of a cheapskate to buy it. Why spend 100 bucks when you can get it for free, right. All you need to do is accumulate enough player points. The only problem is: I already have and enjoy my account at PokerStars, and that means I cannot sign up with the promotional code allowing me to earn a free copy of HM2.

And so I took the step and signed up somewhere else too. I'm not happy: After moving to Stars from Full Tilt I decided to stick with this one site. And I dislike their software. Now as soon as my mission is accomplished, that account is going to be closed. The general idea was to deposit a mere 25 USD, play until I reached enough player points, and then get my free HM2, withdraw all the money and enjoy life with a HUD and analysis tool.

Things started off fine. I started at the lowest level, and after about 5k hands at 2NL, I had doubled my starting stack. Of course, this gives me 50 USD which is not a whole lot if you wanna move up in the stakes. Even at 4NL, you only have 12 stacks. And yet I did. And another 5k hands later, I was at triple my starting bankroll. So far so good.

And that's where I hit a snag. Suddenly everything turned sour, and 1300 hands later, I lost a third of my bankroll.

Now the last time this happened, I gave up, took a long break and did other things for six months. I was determined not to do that this time. And so I dropped down to 2NL. With no luck, as the bad results continued.

I took a few days off and looked at my progress. I had barely earned 50 player points, and at this rate I would need another 6 months or so to compete my mission. The site had given me a nice amount of points as a head start, but I was not looking forward to another 7 months of this. Also also felt my play probably wasn't the best. With the theory I have, I should be winning bigger. Or is that just short term thinking.

And so I made a bold move. Instead of grinding back up at 2NL, I skipped that and started playing 10NL.

Hey! You can't do that! 50 USD is not the kind of bankroll to be playing at 10NL!

Well, yes. I know. But I had several reasons for doing this. And these reasons, after thinking them through, made me decide to do this anyway. Rest assured, this was not a tilt decision, nor was this a decision I advocate to others. It is, no matter how you are looking at it, a bad bankroll management decision. The cardinal difference between me and others playing well outside their bankroll is the fact I know I am. And the fact that it was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. To be more specific, I had several reasons for doing this:

Reason 1: When I signed up at this site and deposited my 25 USD, I decided that I didn't care much for it. I won't starve or lose my house if it's all lost. It is the investment I'm willing to make to get my HM2 copy. And if that means losing all of it, I won't mind. It still means I will get HM2 for only 25% of retail price. Now I wouldn't mind walking away with a profit, but that's not the objective here. The objective is only to make enough player points.

Reason 2: The 25 USD here isn't my entire bankroll. I have a bankroll at Stars which is a wee bit bigger. If I add that to the 25, I'm getting upto a point where it's alright to take shots at 10NL.

Reason 3: The accumulation of player points is going very very slow. Two hours of grinding barely gets me a single point. This is tiresome, and after several months I was growing impatient. Impatience and poker is a bad combination, I know. Higher stakes means more rake per hour, means more player points per hour, and thus less time until I complete my mission. After all - win or lose, the player points are determined based upon how much you contribute to rake, not based on how much you win.

Reason 4: Perhaps the most important of them all: I felt that part of the problem causing my losing streak was bad play on my end. Playing at 2NL or 4NL wasn't going to change that, for the simple reason that the impatience wasn't going away. I weighed the options and felt I had a better chance at making enough player points at this higher level before the money ran out than at 2NL.

Reason 5: Seeing how I'm playing not to earn money anyway, I thought I might as well see what play is like at the 10NL level. I was curious anyway. I wouldn't risk my Stars bankroll on something like this, but with this, why not.

Now, all of these reasons make sense to me in my specific situation. It also only applies to my mission to get HM2. I'm not taking risks like these with my bankroll on Stars. My goal on Stars is very different from my goal on this other site. These reasons apply only to my specific situation, and I doubt they'd be enough to justify anoyone else for playing at 10NL with a 5 stack bankroll. I'm not even entirely sure it justifies it for me...

So far, I've played 275 hands at this level. It's not a whole lot and certainly not worthy of drawing any kinds of conclusions. Still, I am up 12 bucks so far, and would have been up double that had I not been crushed in my first session when my opponent stacked off on the turn holding a 3-outer and caught the river. The 12 bucks is nice, but more importantly, in just over 3 hours of play, I've earned more points than the 18 hours before it combined. At this rate, I need less than 20 hours of play. And that's what we did it for. While all the time, the money is always more important than earning player points, in this one specific situation it is not. And to me, that is the justification I need.

Aside from my goofing around, I did learn a valuable lesson from my short excursion into 10NL.

First off, I'm playing a lot tighter than I used to at the 2NL/4NL levels. As a result, I play less hands I probably should not be playing to begin with. As such, I lose less money with marginal holdings, I lose less money hitting a pair and being outkicked, or hitting the dummy end of a straight. Whenever I'm in a pot, I have a better chance of beating my opponent because of it. It's one reason why I will keep playing at this level for awhile. I need to get used to this tight aggressive style of play, so that I can take that with me when I go back to lower stakes. Maybe I'm playing scared because I can't loose too many stacks, but maybe it's just playing as tight as I should be....

Secondly, I'm also back to playing 1 table instead of 2, so maybe I'm paying a wee bit more attention. I thought I was doing pretty well with playing 2 tables and could handle it. Perhaps I was wrong there. At this higher level, I am still making plays with crap hands in position, but I get away with it a lot more than I used to. I think I'm picking my spots a lot better.So perhaps when I go back to my old level I should stick with 1 table for awhile too.

So - while I'm going to continue my foray at 10NL for awhile, I am taking away some valuable lessons. If those cost me some money, I won't mind. After all, this money wasn't intended to make me rich. It was intended to pay for HM2 with. And that it will do. That it will do....