Every player needs to master three essential components of poker: a great poker mindset, a winning poker strategy and good bankroll management. These essentials are like three legs of a stool – remove one and the stool will fall, together with the person who sits on it. Weaker players try to build a stool with only one leg, or two at the most. Besides having a good poker strategy your poker sessions must be based on clearly defined rules. You have to analyze your feelings as you play, to make sure that your decisions are intellectually sound. You have to structure your bankroll management so that no string of losses can kick you out of the game.
Good bankroll management is crucial for poker players. It is one of the most important parts of your overall strategy and is something you have control over. The number one reason a player goes broke is due to poor bankroll management.
This article is a complete guide to poker bankroll management. Below you will find some essential tips, examples of different types of poker and the bankrolls required to play them, and the necessary steps when taking shots. Enjoy!
Separate your poker bankroll from your personal money
Think about poker as an investment or a company. Make sure you separate your bankroll from your personal money and avoid spending your poker money. Of course, if your only income is from poker you have to use a good cash out strategy and stick to it. Remember, just like in any business, money makes money.
“Being disciplined and separating bankroll from your own money for living is very important. Make sure you are comfortable with the limits you play at before you move any higher” – Maria Ho
Always play within your bankroll
Not playing within your bankroll is the most common mistake poker players make, which leads to going broke. Set yourself strict bankroll management rules and do not deviate from them no matter what! After losing a couple of pots you might be tempted to move up and win the money back quickly, this often makes things worse. Shift your perspective from money-oriented to process-oriented.
Keep in mind that no matter how soft a higher stake game is or how big a higher buy-in tournament is, if your bankroll doesn’t allow it be smart and don’t play there.
Move down in stakes if necessary
A lot of players go broke, because of not moving down in stakes if necessary. It may feel bad, embarrassing or time-wasting, but you should feel good about making this decision. Put your ego aside and play for less money! Playing lower stakes can also help you to regain your confidence.
Treat poker like a business or investment
When choosing the right amount of money to play poker with, you have to think in the same way as you would when you invest in the stock market or in a business. If you want to be successful you have to be strict in the amount you choose to invest. The assumption that you can continually reload no matter what is a sure way to failure. Make sure you find the right amount to risk and stick to it, this way you will be disciplined and play your best poker.
Keep a poker journal and track your sessions
One of the best decisions I’ve made through my poker career was to start a poker journal. Consistently journaling your poker days can be game-changing. This way you will be able to clearly write down your goals and keep track of them. You will identify which games you perform better in, what leaks do you have and which parts of your game need more work. There are also many application and software to help you track your poker journey. For example: PokerTracker 4 and Holdem Manager 3
Use a good cash out strategy
If you want to constantly grow your bankroll make sure you set clear and strict cash out rules. Otherwise you will always spend your poker winnings on things you don’t necessarily need and you will never be able to take a shot at the next limit.
Poker is a game played with money, but how well do poker players understand money and how well do they manage it? I’ve recently read an eye-opening book, The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel, it’s not a book about what to do with your money, it’s a book about what happens in your head when you try to do things with money.
“Doing well with money has a little to do with how smart you are and a lot to do with how you behave.” – Morgan Housel
Other books that I recommend if you want to learn about managing your money and building wealth:
- The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
- Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker
Check them out on Amazon!
Bankroll management rules for different types of poker
- The higher the variance of the game type, the more buy-ins you need to have in your bankroll.
- Keep in mind that the lower your win rate the bigger your bankroll needs to be.
- If you are playing poker professionally I would recommend a stricter bankroll management(twice as many buy-ins as recommended below). Psychologically it is far easier to deal with the inevitable downswings when you know that the losses only cause a small dent in your bankroll.
No-Limit Hold’em Cash Games: 50 buy-ins+
Note: For live cash game players, because of the lower variance I would recommend minimum 25-30 buy-ins. Make sure you move down in limits if a downswing occurs!
MTTs have a lot higher variance, especially if the fields are large. You can go through long periods of time without a major score. Because of this, I recommend a very conservative bankroll management.
If you play on the smaller online poker networks on in smaller live tournaments then 100 buy-ins should be enough. For large fields(1000 players or more) I would suggest at least 250 buy-ins.
Understand that in big field tournaments you can lose for months or even years and then out of nowhere you will hit that big score you were dreaming about. This is the real nature of tournament poker.
Here’s a typical MTT graph:
Sit ‘n Gos: 50 buy-ins+
Note: Turbo and Hyper-turbo formats require higher bankroll! (75-100 buy-ins)
Large sample-size statistics show that even solid winning players experience a 20 buy-in downswing every 500 games. For the new players it’s hard to believe that this can happen. Make sure you keep this in mind and avoid going broke.
In Double or Nothing or Fifty50 SNGs the required bankroll can be lower; For Knockout SNGs I would suggest the same bankroll as regular SNGs.
Heads-Up Sit ‘n Gos
Note: Turbo and Hyper-turbo formats require higher bankroll!
Personally I’m conservative when it comes to bankroll management. My suggestion is to have at least 25 buy-ins for the lower buy-in games(1-10$) and gradually increase your bankroll requirements as you move up(10-30$ – 40 buy-ins; 30$+ games – 50-60 buy-ins).
Pot-Limit Omaha Cash Games
I’m personally not a PLO player, but I know that swings in PLO are pretty big, so I would recommend a bankroll management of 150 buy-ins+
This might seem too conservative, but it will also prevent you from having mental game issues because you are under rolled.
Because taking shots is a high-risk/high-reward scenario you should look for spots where you have a good edge. This could be a situation when the higher limit games are full of recreational players or when your mental state is great.
Let’s say you want to shot take NL100 online. You set aside $500 to do so. You have to decide when it’s the best time to take the shot. For example: Sunday evening could be the time when most of the recreational players are playing. But the solid regulars are also online at that time to make use of all the recreational players.
Most of the regulars might play long hours on Sunday. If you sit in towards the end of the night, most of them might be already tired and not playing their A-game. So, you have potentially found a timeslot where a lot of recreational players are online, while the regulars are not causing a big challenge.
The next step is(and in my opinion the most important one) to make sure you are in the right mental state. Be aware of your mood and understand that you perform your best when you feel at your peak(calm, relaxed and happy). This is the way to maximize your chances of success at the higher limit games.
Make sure to ask yourself before taking the shot: Am I going to be okay if I lose the money I set aside for this shot? If the answer is yes, then go for it!
After you’ve gone through these steps all you have to do is to make sure you focus on playing well and trust the process. Move down if you lose the money you set aside, and try again next time. Eventually your shot will work out well and you will find yourself comfortably grinding the higher limit.
“I was told, ‘you will once run worse than you ever thought possible.’ Variance is a beast. It’s not to be underestimated but it always is underestimated.” – Phil Galfond
I hope this article helped you understand why bankroll management is so important. You need to have a big enough bankroll to withstand the inevitable downswings! Always remember:
“You can be the best player in the world, but if you play above your bankroll, like way above, you’re guaranteed to go broke.” – Daniel Negreanu