An Introduction to Poker Bankroll Management

Even the very best players, if they are not cautious, can burn through their reserve. GTO vs exploitative strategy! A nice bankroll management tool for you to download and enjoy. If you do not then you are setting yourself up for frequent losses that you will find hard to prevent, no matter how good you may be at poker. The guidelines noted above are very general rules that should give you the best opportunity to make money from playing Texas Holdem poker without going broke. Before you know it, your bankroll will diminish unless you follow a disciplined strategy.


Your Sessions, Perfected.

In order for us to for create a proper bankroll, we need to establish a few things. These estimations are what I expect average winning players to win over the long term in these games. A general rule for where our bankroll should be is between buy-ins. I would never recommend starting out playing on a bankroll of less than 10 buy-ins.

If as a player you fall in the average category, I would recommend buy-ins. If you are a very solid player and win above these rates, you can generally operate on a smaller bankroll as low as 10 buy-ins.

Imagine we are sticking to 20 buy-in bankrolls each stake. This is especially dangerous at the lowest stakes. Try to find a good hybrid game to make the upward transition more smooth. One rule I follow is that I never lose in one session more than I can win back in one session. However, this should not be an excuse to put too much our bankroll on the table. For one, when buying in for less we limit the amount we can win.

Also, without proper experience, we put ourselves at risk when we start to run up our chip stack. In other words, we stunt our growth as a poker player. Playing short requires a totally different strategy and must be studied first before this strategy can be employed effectively. You can consider buying in for more than BBs if the game is amazing or one really terrible player is playing deep-stacked.

However, we need to consider carefully whether we can afford to do so. We should be more inclined to buy in for more if our bankroll is 20 buy-ins or greater, but if it is less we may not be so inclined. When deciding whether or not to buy in for more we should also keep in mind how we have been doing. If we are running well, we can take the risk of buying in for more. If we are running poorly, however, buy in for BBs only. When buying into a game also take note of whether or not you typically play deep-stacked and are comfortable doing so.

Get coaching first and work on your game before doing this. I have always approached tournaments very carefully. Ask any tournament pro about the swings they experience, and you may wonder why anyone plays them. However, I do enjoy tournaments and the allure of holding that winning lotto ticket is very attractive.

If you plan on playing a couple of cheap daily tournaments, you could use a small portion of your bankroll every now and then with minimal risk.

You can scale this model up and use it for any tournament. I keep excellent records of my stats. These apps are amazing for poker and have many easy-to-use filters to show you where you are winning and losing the most money. It is important to keep track of wins and losses for many reasons, including to have records for tax purposes.

It can be tempting stab at higher stakes when things are going well or when things are going poorly. Before you know it, your bankroll will diminish unless you follow a disciplined strategy. Never play outside your bankroll. For example, multi-table tournaments MTTs are a format with much higher variance than cash games. As a general rule, the higher the variance of your game type, the more buy-ins you should have in your bankroll.

Accounting for variance includes determining the skill level of the player pool. With more skilled players comes more variance. The higher the stakes, the higher the variance usually.

The more players in an MTT, the higher the variance. Accounting for variance when making bankroll decisions is very important, as it will guarantee you have room to breath after inevitable downswings. Note that live cash games have less variance and thus do not require as many buy-ins as online cash games.

I recommend 20—40 buy-ins for live games, but be prepared to move down in stakes if even a small downswing occurs. The following recommendations are for regular Heads-up SNGs, not turbo or hyper-turbo formats.

The following recommendations are for regular tournaments, not turbo or hyper-turbo formats. Again, it is important to consider variance for your chosen format. The higher the variance, the larger contingency plan needed and therefore the larger bankroll needed. And you may need to increase the above numbers as you move up in stakes. It is very important to know when to move down in stakes during a downswing.

This is where discipline matters, but also humility. Nobody wants to admit they need to move down in stakes, but sometimes the right thing to do is bite the bullet and rebuild the bankroll.

By the way, we cover proper bankroll management—and much more—in the Upswing Lab! Doug grinded this challenge often during the first few months, but progress has slowed to a crawl since then. Throughout these challenge sessions, Doug explained and demonstrated the principles discussed above.

Figure out your bankroll, and treat it like an investment: Figure out what games you want to play: Why not exploit this edge? After playing micro-stakes cash games for the beginning of the challenge, he came to the conclusion that the rake was too high to maintain a satisfactory win rate.

Moreover, Twitch regulars were hunting him down for the chance to play against him at a discount. That made it clear that tournaments were his best bet to survive the challenge.

Play within your limits. Doug started the challenge with every intention to stay within his self-imposed limits, but he soon realized, again, why the limits were there in the first place. Doug became understandably bored of the micro limits and took some shots. A few paid off big, but one threatened his hopes of completing the challenge. He started the challenge playing NL2 cash games and moved slowly but consistently up in stakes.

After finding the rake in cash games too brutal to continue, he moved on to tournaments. That strategy worked until session 13, when Doug decided to jump from NL4 all the way up to NL20 heads-up cash. His reasoning was sound, since he or course had a big edge over every average heads-up player, but variance had his number.

Doug demonstrated a valuable lesson for his Twitch viewers:

Your POKER Bankroll is For POKER Only