bankroll management

Good Bankroll Management is Critical to Poker Success

“The lack of money is the root of all evil.”  – Mark Twain

I would go as far as to say that the Poker version of this, is that bad bankroll management decision making is the root of a lack of money.

Maybe that’s a stretch, but the importance of good bankroll management cannot be stressed enough. I often see players making horrific decisions given the context of their bankroll, and their logic is based in many of the following examples.

“Well I am only going to play it one time.”

“This event is going to be soft, I don’t want to miss out on the value”

“I’ve been doing so great lately, I think it’s time to take a shot.”

These are all bad logic when it comes to responsible decision making. This post is going to address common questions that players have about their bankroll, and how to make good decisions in the future

1) “How should I decide how much my Bankroll Is?”

This is a tough question, but I think it is really a two part question. The first question should be, are you a professional poker player? If the answer is yes, then the answer is your entire liquid worth that is dedicated for poker (It should be a large percentage of your net worth). If the answer is no, it should be the percentage of your net worth that you feel comfortable knowing that you might be exchanging for entertainment.

Just because you are comfortable exchanging for entertainment, does not mean that you should ever lose your entire bankroll. In fact, you should never lose your entire bankroll. You should be moving up or down in stakes in accordance with what your bankroll allows you to play.

You should set aside the number for what your poker bankroll is before you play. Update it after sessions, always know what that number is. If you don’t know what your bankroll is to play poker… how can you decide what games to play to begin with?

2) “I know how much my Bankroll is. Now what should I be playing in relation to it?”

There are many rules and guidelines out there for what your bankroll should be and how you should be using it, let’s go through a few rough guidelines on what you should be doing.

  • You should have 50 buyins for any cash game you play
  • You should have 100 buyins for any tournament you play

These requirements are somewhat of a golden standard. If you decided right now, that you will always abide by these rules, you will get to play a lot of poker with your current bankroll before you lose a large percentage of it.

That is what it boils down to at the end of the day, how much poker does your bankroll management allow you to play? If you only can lose for a few sessions before you have to move up or down in stakes, then you are most likely not practicing strict enough bankroll management.

3) “Those requirements seem conservative, shouldn’t you sometimes go big?”

There might be occasions when it makes sense to go big, but not for the reasons that most players might think. Let’s talk about some of those factors.

Reasons to increase your investment

  • You are having a very profitable year and your country has high taxes on poker winnings
  • An event will not meet the guarantee of the tournament and thus have overlay
  • The event will have minimal or no rake
  • The event will be a small field

Note that nowhere in this list of reasons are reasons such as, “You have been winning a lot lately and are feeling it”, or “You think you are a lot better then everyone so want to gamble bigger”. It would be reasonable to go slightly larger in your investment if you are better then the field, but the factors listed are are much more important than simply thinking you are better then the field.

4) “If you are supposed to be this conservative, why do I see so many players playing high stakes?”

This is a great question, and the answer is somewhat sad. The truth of the matter is that many poker players are at heart, gamblers. They will put more on the line then they should at a given time, to get a rush or to hit it big. That isn’t how poker should be played. Poker is just one long session, you should be trying to win every time you play for an amount you can afford. These players often go Boom and Bust, only to leave behind the story of their failures.

The second answer is that often players have far less of themselves than meets the eye. If there is a 100k tournament, many of the players are only playing for 5% or 10% of themselves. They sell of pieces of themselves to investors in order to make the buyin something that they can more reasonably afford.

5) “I lost a ton of my bankroll, so what do I do to get it back?”

This is a tough one for players to handle, but the answer is going to be on the page of the rest of this article. You should take reasonable pieces and acquire the money over time. There is no reliable get rich quick solution in poker, you have to make consistently good decisions over a long period of time.

No matter what you see other players doing, remember to stick the guidelines above. Bankroll management is a tool that can help you succeed in the long run. Don’t let what could be a source of strength, become a major weakness.

If it’s good enough for Mark Twain, it’s good enough for me.

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About the Author
Doug Polk

Doug Polk

I have over $5,000,000 in live tournament winnings. In 2014, I won my first World Series of Poker Bracelet, followed up with a 2nd bracelet in 2016.
My online winnings are over $2,000,000 on Full Tilt and PokerStars alone, mostly at Heads Up No Limit, and those graphs are publicly available on HighStakesDB.

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