I started off with $90 unused dollars in BlueSq's sportsbook. I'd been betting on the horses with it, but I'd given up after a disastrous 24-horse losing streak, and only inertia had made me keep the money there.
I happened to be browsing the site and noticed a link to play poker. I'd played the World Rec.gambling.poker Tournament tournament the previous year. It's a play-by-email tourney, and takes upwards of 6 months to complete. I'd lasted about three weeks. Unsurprising, given that all I knew about Texas Holdem was the hand rankings. However, the bug had obviously bitten, because the next thing I was downloading the poker client.
Not knowing any better, the first thing I did with my precious $90 bankroll was to enter a $3 multi-table tournament. I did at least get a few hands practise for my money, but soon realised that what I really needed was some actual knowledge. Maybe even some skill.
Luckily for me, my naturally cautious attitude kicked in. I stopped playing poker totally, and started consulting three invaluable sources. Firstly, my IRC friends Ernest and Marshall, who taught me a lot about poker, but, mercifully, none of their cavalier attitudes to bankroll management. Secondly, rec.gambling.poker, which is a spam-and-troll-fest with a vastly useful Usenet group desperately trying to clamber out. And, thirdly, and most importantly, Lee Jones'sbook Winning Low-Limit Hold'em. I really can't stress enough how good this book is for the novice player of low-limit hold'em. There's no recipe for success in poker, but this comes close. It tells you just enough to beat the really poor players you'll find in droves at the lowest levels of the game.
So, armed with a basic grasp of hold'em hand requirements pre-flop, which is more than most people have at these levels, I proceeded to the heady heights of the 2c/4c limit tables at bluesq. You have to start somewhere, right? And I've heard enough of people who jump right into $2/$4 and pay hundreds of dollars for the lessons that cost me a few dollars. I think I lost a dollar to start with, before I started to win. And win. I've still never been lower than that initial four dollar loss.
I have to recommend bluesq (and its fellow sites on the Tribeca network, such as VC Poker and Doyle's Room) because of the many low-limit games they offer. As well as 2c/4c and 5c/10c limit, they also have 1c/2c no-limit, and 10c sit-and-gos. Those 10c SnGs are invaluable - for your lowly ten cents, you get a huge amount of play. After I graduated from 2c/4c with a modest (although relatively big for the level) profit and played 5c/10c limit for a while, I started on the SnGs and soon developed rudimentary no-limit skills. Within a month, I was up to 10c/20c limit and 50c SnGs, and within another month it was 25c/50c and $1 SnGs. I opened an account at one of the big-two sites - Poker Stars - and started playing 50c/$1 limit and entering cheap multi-table tournaments. This is still tiny stakes, of course. And even a year later, I'm still only playing 50c/$1 limit, 10c/20c no-limit, and $3 SnGs. However, my $90 has turned into four figures, I've had a huge amount of fun, I've won 600-person multi-table tournaments at stud, stud hi-lo, and limit hold'em, and of course I still have that dream of winning a big one some day. And, heck, if I can do it, anyone can.