One of the most crucial prerequisites to being a winning poker player is understanding how to properly manage your bankroll.
Some of the greatest poker players in the world have found themselves broke and looking for loans simply because they didn’t pay attention to some basic rules that every player has to follow. It’s not a matter of skill. It’s a matter of math, odds, and probabilities. Bankroll management is part of the game of poker.
The Purpose Of Bankroll Management
The main purpose of bankroll management is to make sure that you will always have money to continue playing even if you happen to hit a large downswing—assuming that you are a winning player. (If you do not play a long-term winning poker strategy, no bankroll management policy will save you from eventually losing it all.)
The only constant in poker is variance, and that’s what bankroll management is intended to help you get through. Properly managing the money you use to play will allow you to minimize your risk of ruin as much as possible, or at least bring it down to a level that you’re comfortable with.
In general, a bankroll is thought of as a fixed amount of money that you will use to play poker. You may add to it as you win or it can shrink when you lose, but you don’t take money from it to pay expenses or arbitrarily add money to it from your personal finances.
If you have other funds to draw from should lose all of the money you are gambling with, you don’t really have a bankroll. You have disposable cash that you gamble with. If you play online or live with whatever money you happen to have at the moment, again, you don’t have a bankroll. You just have money that you gamble with.
How Bankroll Management Works For Different Poker Games
The most basic concept of bankroll management is that you should start with a certain number of buy-ins for the games that you play. From there, if you lose more than a certain number of buy-ins you should move down in stakes to protect what’s left of your bankroll. If you win more buy-ins and reinvest that into your roll, you can move up in stakes. You would then continue to move up and down as you win or lose, always making sure that you have that minimum number of buy-ins for the games that you are playing.
The rules of bankroll management might not be set in stone, but there are most certainly some recommended guidelines that most professional poker players tend to agree upon. What is considered best depends on what type of games you like to play. There are considerably different bankroll management strategies for Hold’em cash games and tournaments.
Changing Stakes According To Bankroll Management
A good bankroll management plan will dictate when you should move up or down in stakes. A disciplined player will always follow that plan and never move from one level to another simply because they feel like it.
It is generally agreed upon that when you hit the minimum bankroll amount for the stakes one level above you—or perhaps two or three buy-ins more—you can move up and begin taking shots to see if you can play at that level permanently. If you lose and fall back below that minimum, you should go back to the level you were at and build your roll up to the minimum again.
Conversely, if you have been playing at one stake and find yourself falling below the minimum number of buy-ins for your bankroll management plan, you should drop down one level and rebuild your bankroll before moving up again.
Following this type of plan diligently, if you’re a winning player, can virtually eliminate the risk of ruin.
Poker Bankroll Management For No-Limit Cash Games
Bankroll requirements for No-Limit Hold’em cash games are usually the smallest. Most experienced poker players recommend that you maintain a bankroll between 20 and 50 times the buy-in of the games you play.
So, for example, if you play games with a $10 buy-in (10NL), you should have between $200 and $500 set aside specifically for playing poker. Most serious players probably won’t have as many as 50 buy-ins, but usually more than 20.
The right number of buy-ins for you will be determined by a combination of your win rate and your tolerance for variance and risk. The lower your win rate and/or risk tolerance, the more buy-ins you should keep in your bankroll and vice versa.
If your win rate is only marginal and you don’t like to take big risks, you’d do better to keep 35-50 buy-ins in your poker bankroll. If you have a high win rate and/or don’t mind more risk, you could probably play comfortably with 20-35 buy-ins.
Poker Bankroll Management For No-Limit Poker Tournaments
Because there is more variance in poker tournaments, bankroll requirements are much higher. Single table tournaments (STT) will require more buy-ins than cash games and multi-table tournaments (MTT) will require more buy-ins than STTs.
For single table sit ‘n’ go tournaments, experienced players recommend that you maintain a bankroll between 50 and 100 buy-ins. Again, the right number for you is going to depend on your win rate and tolerance for risk.
For standard multi-table tournaments, computing an acceptable bankroll management strategy can be more difficult. For these tournaments, your risk of ruin depends a lot on the number of entrants that you normally encounter in the tournaments that you play.
Most experienced MTT players recommend a bare minimum of 100-200 buy-ins with some players going as high as 500 to help reduce their risk and calm their nerves.
Multi-table poker tournaments have the highest level of variance of any form of poker and among them, those with the highest number of participants will send your bankroll the biggest roller coaster ride.
How Do You Manage Your Poker Bankroll?
We’d love to hear your thoughts. What works best for you? Do you actively manage your own poker bankroll or is it not something you think about? Let us know in the comments below!