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Building and Managing Poker Bankroll

If you’re really serious about playing poker then you should be equally serious about your bankroll

If you’ve completed our online poker training, you could be considered a fairly “serious” poker player. And if you’re really serious about playing poker then you should be equally serious about your bankroll. The reason you need to manage your bankroll is to be aware of how much you can lose without draining your bankroll. In this lesson, we'll deal with building a bankroll while playing Texas Holdem.

A good cash game player should win in 60-80% of cases, which means that in 20-40% of cases he will be losing. How many lost sessions in a row are considered a losing streak? Five in a row would scare the majority of players, but professionals know that it might be followed by a series of successful games. The longer you’ve been playing poker the more likely you will understand that bankroll is exactly what you need to help you survive a losing streak. A bankroll is one of the aspects of this crazy game that we can control.

Types of Bankroll

Some poker players have a dedicated bankroll, some players’ goal is to have a dedicated bankroll, and some players are just hiding money from their wives. It’s like saving for vacation – what we can afford to spend we keep in a separate envelope. There's an envelope for every day: for poker during the week - $300, on Fridays - $400, and on Saturdays - $500. If I lose all the money, I go to the pool, read, play billiards, or simply take a walk. A casual poker player’s bankroll might be kept as a kind of hobby. Dedicated bankroll is kept by the players who take the game seriously and make money on poker to finance their needs. Some players take out 20% of what they win, some take more or less. What they don’t do is take this money out to pay for lunch, deposits, or anything. In contrast, many professional poker players take money out of their bankroll for vacations, housing and so on.

What type of bankroll you need depends on why you’ve started playing poker in the first place. A novice or a casual player would say that it’s for fun. At this stage, they play with the money they can afford to spend on their hobby. They might go to the casino, play with friends, or put some money into a virtual account for online poker. It costs money to have fun, and it’s the fastest way to discover all aspects of poker. When you start playing - play cautiously, otherwise, poker will cost you way too much.

Building Your Poker Bankroll

The main rule when building a bankroll is doing it slowly and systematically, through acquiring experience, and not just pouring money down the drain. No doubt, you can act this way when you’re financially independent and can afford “refueling” your bankroll any time. Take risks and gain experience. Yet, you’d better be more disciplined and determine your bankroll size depending on your game skills.

Here are two stories: of Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Annette "Annette_15" Obrestad. Chris turned $1 into $20,000 over six months as a personal challenge. He managed to do this only due to tough bankroll management. He conducted such an experiment to show other players how it could be done - growing to higher limits and moving from level to level in a systematic and disciplined manner. Annette began her poker career at the age of 15 (accounts for her name in the online game "Annette_15"). She never put money into poker sites. Annette built her bankroll by winning freeroll tournaments. Her highly aggressive and fearless style has translated quite well from online rooms to live play. She currently ranks second on Norway’s All-Time Money List and 285th on the All-Time Money List with just over $3.9 million in total live earnings.

The Size of Your Bankroll

How much money do you need for your bankroll? There’s the main rule: don’t put in more than 2%-5% of your bankroll (per table) and quite a game if you lose more than 10% of your bankroll. Like most things in poker - it depends on the situation. Here are some elements you’ll need to consider:

  • GAME TYPE: Firstly, it depends on the type of game. The prize in a tournament can be very large, but even the best players can play for a long time without making money. This makes for the variance in your bankroll. For example, to play a tournament you'll need about 100 buy-ins, and for a cash game - only 40. In general, tournament game style differs significantly. Remember, it all depends on winning odds.
  • YOUR ABILITIES: Your bankroll size also depends on how good your play is. If you are a cash game player winning 60% of the time, you’ll need a bigger bankroll than a player that wins 80% of the time. Loose players face much more difficulties related to their bankroll. The types of your rivals, their game style are to be taken into consideration. If you feel ok with a short bankroll and can recharge it anytime - it's up to you. But many players feel much better when they have a certain amount of money in reserve.
  • BETTING OPTIONS: The limits you play can also affect your bankroll. For example, Limit Hold’em or Pot Limit Holdem players can have a smaller bankroll, as the pot size in such games is usually smaller.
    As you can see, your bankroll size depends on many things, and it’s something you’ll have to determine for yourself. For a general guide, the following information may be useful: professionals can double these numbers to increase their bankroll size. The casual player may risk about 10% of his bankroll, but a player with a small bankroll may risk no more than 2-3%. Your bankroll is your poker life force. Anyone can build a bankroll but the main thing is to learn how to play correctly and manage your expenses.

When to Move Up/Down in Limits

The simple answer is - when your bankroll is big enough, or when your bankroll is too small. But there are some things to consider:

  • RETURN-ON-INVESTMENT. This means you need to consider profits gained while playing poker. Divide any profit by the amount you’ve invested and multiply it by the number of games you’ve played. If the result is 0%, it will indicate that you’re a break-even player. You can move up when the result is 25% or more. For example, in SnG tournaments you should move up when you've got 30% after 100 games, or 20% after 300 games. This method can be also used for cash games. Many players today have 30-35% and even 50%. There are many formulas, scales, statistics, and graphs available to estimate your and other players’ results. In any case, you should decide on moving up only when you feel you are ready for that.
  • COMFORT LEVELS. Psychologically a player is ready to move up or down when they feel comfortable to do this. If a player feels uncomfortable, it will affect his game.
    If you are a winning player, then consider moving up. Don't change your tactics if it provides winnings. By the way, you can always move back down if you are not successful at the new limit, or if you feel psychologically uncomfortable. The key point here is understanding the basics of the game at each level. The main question you should ask yourself is “Do I perform at my best?”
  • ANALYZING YOUR GAME. In the previous lessons, we've already talked about keeping records and using statistics. Statistics will not only let you know what your strengths and weakness are, but they will also help you decide on what type of game to play and when to move up to the next level. Analyze your own game and the way your rivals play. Work out success formula of your own for each type of the game. The more a player analyzes, the faster they can move up to a new limit. This is a key point for building your bankroll. But don’t necessarily change your game. Keep studying, ask questions, move level down if necessary and play more and more. Start using some programs for tracking your game, find a personal coach. Keep records of your games - it will help you decide what size of bankroll is required to go on playing.

Conclusion

Bankroll management is one of the most important poker skills, it requires you to be more disciplined, and is necessary to become a successful player. Don't risk your money when moving from level to level. Master the game when playing with $1- $2 and only then move to play $2- $4 blinds. Just keep playing. At each level check your winning odds and consider other statistics. You will surely succeed!
In our next lesson, we will tell how to win and how to maintain discipline in poker.

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