The Importance of Bankroll Management

Bankroll management

Bankroll management is arguably the most important skill you will develop as a poker player. Whether you play for a handful of cents for fun at weekends, have aspirations of becoming a professional poker player in the future, or are already playing poker for a living, you run a realistic chance of going bust without a solid bankroll management strategy in place.

Poor bankroll management is one of the most common reasons a poker player goes broke, perhaps the number one reason if you discount a lack of skill. But what is bankroll management?

In short, bankroll management recognizes how much money you have available to play poker (your bankroll) and then playing for stakes that are within the constraints of this bankroll. The number one rule is your bankroll determines the stakes you play for.

Why Do You Need to Manage You Bankroll?

The reason bankroll management is important is because poker is a game of both skill and chance. In the long run, which is much longer than you think but that’s for another article, skill prevails. In the short term, however, Lady Luck plays a massive part in if you win or lose money playing poker.

You can play perfect poker and still lose. Pocket aces are approximately an 82 percent favorite over pocket kings in Hold’em, which means you will still lose, on average, 18 percent of the time; that is almost one in five times you are all in with aces against kings. The thing about poker math is although aces will win 82 percent of the time in the long run, you could lose 10 of these confrontations in a row in the shorter term.

These bumps in the road can, do and will happen and you need to have enough funds behind you to endure these unexpected losses and to be able to continue playing at your current level, giving you the chance to allow your skills to win you money in the long run. With no bankroll, you can’t play poker.

How To Manage Your Bankroll

Firstly, you need to realize that your bankroll can only be made up of funds that are freely available and that it does not affect any other part of your life if you lost them. Do not get into the habit of thinking you have a $1,000 bankroll at your disposal if you need to withdraw $750 of that sum to pay an important bill this or next month – you have a $250 bankroll in this scenario.

We mentioned earlier that your poker bankroll dictates the stakes you play for. This remains true when you are winning and moving up stakes, or losing when you may need to drop a level or two. We will cover taking shots in bigger games at a future date.

Several factors have an influence on how substantial your poker bankroll should be. These include, but are not limited to, the type of game you play, the variant of the game you play, your tolerance for variance, your playing style, and how easily you can afford to replenish your bankroll if needed.

For example, if you are a full ring No Limit Hold’em player who plays a tight-aggressive style, you can afford to have a smaller bankroll than a loose-aggressive six-handed Pot Limit Omaha player, who in turn can have a smaller bankroll than someone who plays large field multi-table tournaments such as those you can find at the lower stakes at PokerStars.

Your bankroll should be measured in terms of buy-ins, regardless of you being a cash game player, sit & go grinder, or prefer playing tournaments. For the purpose of the table below, a cash game buy-in is 100 big blinds, so playing in a $0.25/$0.50 game would mean one buy-in is $50.

As for any form of tournament poker, a buy-in is the total cost of entering the tournament, including fees or rake, meaning a $10+$1 tournament would be an $11 buy-in.

Variant/Format Minimum Medium Cautionary
Six-max NL Hold’em 30 buy-ins 50 buy-ins 100 buy-ins
Full ring NL Hold’em 25 40 75
Six-max PL Omaha 50 100 150
9-man NL Hold’em Sit & Go 30 50 100
180-man NL Hold’em Sit & Go 100 200 500
NL Hold’em Tournaments 100 200 500
NL Hold’em Large Field Tournaments 200 400 600

Some of these numbers may seem large, especially those listed under tournaments. As a minimum, this guide recommends 100 buy-ins for the stakes you are playing, so you would need $550 in your bankroll to play $5.50 buy-in tournaments online. If a large percentage of those tournaments have turbo blinds you should consider increasing your bankroll requirements because variance is higher and your Return On Investment (ROI) will be less in these games.

The figures in the table are simply there as a guide, one that has been recommended time and time again across poker forums and in poker magazines around the world. It is up to you to find a system that works for you as everyone is different. Just ensure you do not have such a small bankroll that you risk going or continually go broke, or one so substantial that you never get to move up in stakes.

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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