I smile when remembering how I started my career on PokerStars in 2005... with a bankroll of $50. The lowest SnG's at the time were $5, so I started from there. After big win days I went on to play a 'lottery', i.e. some tournament to play through the night. I made it to a third place in a $10 tourney, good for $1,200. My bankroll was multiplied by 25! It was only later I realised it had been a re-buy tournament. Those were elusive things for a regular player of the lowest SnG's. I played hardcore mode, no re-buys, no add-ons!
Old-timers remember how the lowest SnG/MTT buy-in was $5, the highest was $100 and NL1k was the highest available cash game limit.
Before I picked up poker I was a professional Starcraft and Warcraft player with a competitive attitude. If you get third in a big tourney in those games it actually means you are good. I tried to use the same logic in poker: if I finished third in that tournament, I must be a top pro! Time to grind those $100 Heads-Up SnGs, right? Good thing I was able to stop, losing only $800 out of my $1,200 bankroll.
Around this time I found the first posts about ICM, and that knowledge was enough to go from $5 SnGs to $200 SnGs in a few months. Games were that soft in 2005-2006.
Six years ago, you couldn't deposit when in Russia, so I had to start with a $50 transfer from my online friend (hello, NTT!). When my real life friends decided to try poker as well, I did the same - transferring them $50 of my PS money. I told them to be very careful: do not play high, because losing those $50 would have been a disaster. "Don't worry mate. Your money is safe," was their answer.
I had exams and took a few weeks break from online. When I came back I found out that my money was gone and there was a nice little forwarded email in my inbox that read something like this: "Hello, XXXXX. Thanks for contacting PokerStars support regarding your hand #xxxxxxxx. Please be advised that in Omaha you have to use two and only two cards from your hand. You didn't have quads in that hand, sorry."
I wonder how many emails like that PokerStars support were getting daily!
Most of my friends are poker pros now, but as you can see, it definitely didn't come easy.
Follow Ivan on Twitter: @IvanDemidovPS