You need to make sure you’re playing responsibly and within your means whenever you play poker. One way to do this is to follow a bankroll management strategy.

The biggest reason poker players go broke, a lack of skill aside is because of poor bankroll management. They don’t keep enough money to one side to see them through downswings. This or they play stakes too high for the funds they have available.

Practising good bankroll management is like budgeting in your everyday life. Bills will catch up to you if you continually live outside your means in the “real world.” The same is true in the poker world. Things can and will come crashing down if you’re not careful.

What is a Bankroll?

Many of you reading this will be seasoned players who are aware of what a bankroll is. Others may be new to online poker having either only played live or be completely new to the game. Whichever best describes you doesn’t matter because it’s worth reading this next bit. Much like when you’re about to take off on a plane, watching the emergency procedures is a good idea even if you think you know them off by heart.

Your bankroll is the total money you have at your disposal for playing poker. This next bit is crucial, so listen carefully. Your bankroll is made up of only money you can afford to lose. It’s money that, if lost, doesn’t affect anything or anyone in your life. Your bankroll is made up entirely of disposable income.

For example, if you think you have a $300 bankroll but you’ve got a $50 bill looming that you need money for, you’ve actually got a $250 bankroll.

Under no circumstances ever should your bankroll contain funds that are earmarked for elsewhere. It’s sometimes tempting to play poker or gamble with all your money, especially in testing, difficult times like many of us are currently experiencing, but don’t.

Play lower stakes if you have to. Your bankroll dictates the stakes you should play. That’s the cardinal rule of poker.

Why Is Bankroll Management Important?

There are several reasons why bankroll management is important. One is it limits the risk of you going broke.

Going broke is disastrous for a poker player because it means you cannot play poker. At least not until you reload your account again. Imagine being a carpenter with no tools, it’s similar to being a poker player with no bankroll.

Following bankroll management also means you don’t immediately have to drop down in stakes if you hit a losing spell. You will go on a major losing stretch, or downswing, at some point in your poker career. Having a large enough bankroll to soak up these losses before Lady Luck starts shining on you again keeps you in the game.

Furthermore, practising good bankroll management prevents you from moving up stakes too fast while keeping you in games you can beat. Moving down stakes is just as important as moving up as it keeps you in the game.

How Large Should Your Bankroll Be?

You need to ask yourself a few simple questions before deciding how large your bankroll should be. Those questions are found below:

  • Are you willing to move down in stakes if you hit a significant losing stretch?
  • Do you want to take a more risky approach to try moving up stakes faster?
  • Would you be able to afford to replenish your bankroll if you somehow lost it all?
  • Does your favourite game and format have high variance?
  • What playing style do you adopt the most?

Every poker player is different. It’s what makes the game so interesting. Everyone has different bankroll management rules, too. The key is to find a system that works for you.

Using the five questions above, you should be able to come to a figure for your bankroll’s size. It should be obvious that if you’re not willing to move down stakes in the face of a downswing that you’re going to need a larger bankroll.

Likewise, someone who plays a loose-aggressive style needs a larger bankroll than a tighter player. Also, some games have more swings than others. Pot-Limit Omaha players need larger bankrolls than their No-Limit Hold’em counterparts because there’s more variance in PLO.

Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is could you reload your bankroll if you somehow lost it all. If you’re in the envious position of being flush with cash you can afford to throw caution to the wind. Play with a much larger bankroll if you can’t freely redeposit for any reason.

Bankroll Management Table

The table below shows you a rough guide to how many buy-ins you should have for different games. Some of the figures may surprise you, but they’re meant as a guide.

Buy-ins, when talking about cash games, refers to 100 big blinds at any given stake. For example, if you play $0.05/$0.10, 100 big blinds would be $10. $10 is one buy-in at these stakes.

Similarly, a buy-in for sit & go and MTTs is the full cost of entering the tournament. A $10+$1 tournament’s buy-in is $11.

Game Minimum Medium Cautious
No-Limit Hold’em 6-Max Cash Games 30 buy-ins 50 buy-ins 100 buy-ins
Pot-Limit Omaha 6-Max Cash Games 50 100 150
No-Limit Hold’em Sit & Go 30 50 100
No-Limit Hold’em MTTs 100 200 500
No-Limit Hold’em MTTs (2K+ players) 200 400 600

Conclusion

Bankroll management isn’t the most exciting of topics, sure, but it is important. Make sure you follow it at all times. Trust us, you’ll thank us for it.

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