In poker, it’s imperative that you treat your bankroll with the greatest respect, because otherwise it could soon be gone. Each poker variant and limit requires you to use different bankroll strategies. Doing so will stand you in good stead for the trials and tribulations that the game of poker can bring.
Throughout this article we will be looking at; what is bankroll management, why bankroll management is important, cash game limits, tournament limits, professional bankrolls, game adjustments, and shot taking.
What is Bankroll Management?
Bankroll management is a term used in poker that translates as ‘playing within your means’. So for each financial level, there is a sweet spot of how many buy ins you need in order to be playing comfortably within your bankroll.
Each person’s bankroll is likely to differ greatly depending on their financial situation and line of work. A professional player is likely to have a large bankroll (we will talk more about this later in the article) whereas a recreational player who works a ‘regular’ nine to five job may have a variable bankroll due to how much spare cash they have and what they can afford to lose at any one time.
Why is Bankroll Management Important?
Your bankroll should determine what levels you are able to comfortably play at without running the risk of going broke after just a few sessions. Later on in the article we will give you a guide as to what sort of bankroll amount you should be playing with at each level.
The reason to have a sensible bankroll behind you is to deal with the variance that is part and parcel of poker. Variance can affect you in different ways, both positive and negative; positive variance would mean you are winning money when, statistically, you should be losing, and negative variance meaning you lose money when by rights you should be winning.
As this is out of our control and we have no idea how long either effect is going to last, it’s important that our bankroll is suitably balanced to cope with these swings in fortune, meaning you can continue to play your usual stakes and survive a losing streak.
As mentioned, each variant and stake requires a different amount of buy ins depending on how much variance has an effect in the game.
No Limit and Pot Limit Cash game buy ins
As a general rule, for cash games you want to be looking to have around 30 buy ins for the level you are looking to play. Some people actually like to have this amount much higher, but 30 buy ins is the minimum amount that is needed to comfortably play a certain limit.
So, if you want to play 50c/$1 cash game tables ($100 buy in), you would need a bankroll of $3000 to be comfortably bankrolled.
*You will need to increase the bankroll limits for all stakes accordingly the more tables you play at one time.
Fixed limit cash games work a little differently compared to that of no limit and pot limit. As a result, your bankroll requirements will need to be adjusted accordingly. It’s recommended that you can afford 400 big bets for a limit to be comfortably bankrolled.
So to play 50c/$1 you would need a bankroll of $400.
With large scale MTT’s it’s tough to put an exact number on how many buy ins you should have behind you. Due to the massive variance swings that you can encounter whilst playing tournaments your bankroll needs to be much larger, so it is advised that you use around 1% of your bankroll per tournament buy in.
So, if you wanted to play a $10 MTT, your bankroll would need to be $1000. If you intend to multi-table then this percentage needs to decrease and look to use no more than 5% of your bankroll per session.
Sit and go’s are a little easier to determine how many you need per level. You should be looking to have around 40 buy ins for each level. So for a $10 sit and go your bankroll should be around $400.
Professional Players’ Bankroll
Professionals need to treat their bankroll a little differently than the recreational player. Due to the fact that poker is likely their main (and sometimes only) source of income, it’s imperative that they treat their bankroll with a lot of respect. At the end of the day, it’s the difference between having a job and becoming unemployed.
It’s going to be highly likely that a professional will need to skim their living expenses off the top of their bankroll each month. This can have a severe effect if, for example, they have a couple of losing months in a row. Off just a 30 buy in bankroll their roll could become crushed, if not wiped out in a very short period of time.
It’s recommended that most pro’s have at least 100 buy ins for a level before moving up to that stake. Whilst this may seem high, it will provide a cushion for those days, weeks, or even months when things just don’t go your way.
A Few Final Thoughts
So that’s the nuts and bolts of it, although it is far from comprehensive. Each section could be broken down and explored in much more detail, but as a basic run down of what’s what you should now be well placed to start trying things out for yourself.
Before you do that, though, there are one or two other things to consider, including a bit of forward planning as to how you climb the poker ladder and get onto the big tables, and when is the right time to do so.
Heads Up and Shorthanded Adjustments
We’ve spoken a lot about variance throughout this article and how it affects your bankroll requirements. Well, shorthanded and heads up poker are the games which provide the biggest variance swings.
It’s for this reason that you will need a larger bankroll from these formats, compared to that of full ring, to cope with the increased variance in the games.
Your playing style can drastically affect how much influence variance has on your game.
A loose aggressive style will mean you are playing more pots meaning your variance can fluctuate massively. A slightly tighter style will reduce variance slightly so your bankroll requirements can decrease as a result.
Fluctuating Between Levels and Shot Taking
All players strive to move up to that next level in order to earn more cash. However, a big factor as to whether or not you are ready is your bankroll. A great practice for moving up is ‘taking a shot’. This is where you set aside a certain amount of bankroll to play with at the next level, and if you lose that money you drop back down until you have won that money back.
As a rule of thumb, you should be looking to use around 10 buy ins to give yourself a sporting chance to make a go of the next step.
Similarly, if you start to lose money at your current level and your bankroll starts to diminish, a good plan is to move down to try and regain not only your bankroll, but also your confidence. Trying to rush things will only set you back further.