Poker Bankroll: rules and management strategy

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Updated 16.04.2024
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Poker Bankroll

What is it? Poker bankroll is the amount of money a player allocates to the game and to it only. Withdrawing funds for household needs is a big mistake and a wrong strategy. You need to be able to manage your bankroll correctly.

What to consider? Bankroll management involves following the rules and choosing the right strategy. How exactly to manage your bankroll depends on the stakes you play, the number of buy-ins and, no surprise, the amount of money you have.

The essence of a bankroll management in poker

First, you should understand the common terminology. Bankroll is the amount of money a player dedicates to poker. These funds are usually kept in separate account and are not used for day-to-day expenses. Otherwise, managing your bankroll will be very difficult.

The generally accepted unit of bankroll measurement is the buy-in. For example, let’s take a $1/$2 cash game with a minimum entry of 200$. If you allocate $10,000 to your bankroll, then it is equal to 50 buy-ins. In the case of 0.5$/1$ game, you have 100 buy-ins.

A series of losses in poker is called downswing. It can last for a very long time for any player, up to several months. This is why it is so important to have a bankroll with enough buy-ins to endure tough times. This is especially important for tournaments, where many players are hoping for a big win.

Why do we need bankroll management in poker?

In simple terms, bankroll management (abbreviated as BRM) allows you to control the size of your bankroll so that there is no risk of losing most of it, and you only risk the amounts you are willing to lose.

ГТО в покере: как это работает

With a well-designed BRM, the poker player clearly understands that the amount of money he dedicates to poker determines the stakes he can play. Theoretically, this is a very reasonable and straightforward strategy. However, in practice, not all players can implement it.

Also, in developing your bankroll management you should take variance into account. This is an integral part of the game.

Proper bankroll management gives a player confidence that he will not lose a significant part of his funds in high variance environments. Here, the player is required to have strict discipline and psychological stability.

Bankroll management not only guarantees the safety of funds, but also helps to choose the right game stakes in accordance with the player’s skills. In the long term, a good BRM allows you to make consistent money playing poker.

As already mentioned, variance is always a part of a poker player’s gaming experience. Its fluctuations determine the amount of money a player wins or loses in one game or in a series of games. Therefore, in addition to player’s skill set, luck also plays its part.

Variance in poker is inevitable, but its consequences are a subject to minimization. And it is achieved with a help of a solid bankroll management. A player who strictly adheres to the BRM only plays stakes his bankroll is apt for.

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If you do not take into account the magnitude of the effect variance has on your game, there is a risk of losing a significant part of your funds. A bankroll that is too large for stakes you play is also undesirable, since in this case you make less money.

This way, bankroll management makes the money a player dedicates to the game work for him and not against.

Key rules and principles of bankroll management

So, we have found out the importance of bankroll management. This allows the player to retain most of his funds even during long downswings.

Now let’s take a look at more specific management rules:

  • For cash games, proper bankroll manages requires you to have at least 50 buy-ins. The same minimum applies to SnG games. In multi-table tournaments, the minimum player bankroll must be 100 buy-ins. However, professional poker players often go even more conservative.
  • In the event of a significant drawdown of the bankroll, when it is low enough that you cannot safely play in your main games, you have to go down in stakes or start finding softer games. Here, as already mentioned, a high level of self-discipline is important.
  • It is utterly inacceptable to go up the stakes to make up for your losses. This always leads to the loss of your whole bankroll.

You can manage your bankroll in two ways:

  • Conservative approach (from 100 buy-ins). This is a safe option, optimal for beginner poker players. Each buy-in takes a small part of the entire bankroll, so even a long losing streak will not have a noticeable impact on the player’s financial condition.
  • Aggressive approach (up to 40 buy-ins). A significant portion of the bankroll is involved each session here, which means greater risks. However, this strategy allows you to climb up the stakes faster. This option is only acceptable for strong, experienced players who can sense the level of the opponents.

Multi-table tournaments have the highest variance, requiring a very large cash reserve for participants. The required bankroll for cash games is much smaller.

Bankroll management should include stop-loss tactics. This means that if you lose several buy-ins in a row within one session, you have to stop playing and switch to other things. Each player sets stop-loss amount for himself.

For some people losing 5 buy-ins is already a huge deal, while others can comfortably play even after losing up to 12. It is important to set a stop-loss number in advance, to avoid making emotional decisions in the game.

Poker Bankroll Management Strategies

Poker players use several strategies to manage money more effectively. Let’s look at the most popular frameworks:

  • Fixed bets. This strategy is very popular due to its simplicity. The minimum bet is set to a fixed bankroll percentage (for example, 2%), and the bet itself will vary depending on the size of the bankroll. This approach allows you to regulate the optimal bets depending on your capabilities.
  • Table buy-ins. The idea is that the player chooses tables with a certain buy-in, depending on his bankroll. For example, there is an available amount of $1000. With such a bankroll, player opts for 50$ buy-in. It protects you from playing against people whose bets are way above your financial capabilities.
  • “20 buy-ins” (20 BI). The strategy is based on the idea of a minimum acceptable bankroll for certain stakes. The name reflects the recommended minimum buy-ins. For example, for a $0.25/$0.50 table with a $50 buy-in, the optimal bankroll should be at least 20 times that buy-in, which is at least $1000.
Poker strategy, how it works
  • Stop-Loss. A limit on losses is set in advance, upon reaching which the player stops playing for a certain period. For example, a stop loss is set to the amount that reduces the bankroll by 20%. This strategy protects you from losing too much during downswings.
  • “Increasing-Unloading” (Bankroll Building & Management). A player gradually increases his bankroll up to a certain point and then unloads a part of it to save it. For example, you’ve deposited 50$ into a room and the goal is to increase it to 800$. Upon reaching this milestone, you unload a half of total profits and continue playing. It would be a half of 750$, so 375$, and then you keep on playing with 425$. This method ensures safety of your progress and allows you to protect a part of your winnings.

Each strategy has its own merits, which are suitable for different playing styles and different financial capabilities. There is no “one size fit all” strategy here. Each player, when choosing a strategy, should follow his own goals and strive for the most calm and confident game for him.

Criteria for choosing a bankroll management strategy

Bankroll management strategies are selected depending on a number of factors, including the experience of a particular player in poker, the amount of money he’s ready to dedicate to the game, his poker goals, conditions for a comfortable game, and the acceptable level of risk. Here are a few criteria to help you choose a strategy.

  • Evaluating your own experience. Beginner players should take a conservative approach at first. With the development of skills, you can gradually switch to a more aggressive BRM strategy.
  • Setting game goals. The player must decide for himself what he wants to achieve by playing poker. If the goal is just playing for fun, small financial commitments are required. In this case, it is wise to play as conservatively as possible. However, if you are planning to become a poker professional, when poker is your main source of income, it is better to choose more aggressive tactics.
  • Determining the bankroll size. The player needs to decide how much money he is willing to put in the game. It has to be an amount that does not hurt your overall financial situation.
  • Analysis of your own game. You should regularly review your own sessions, identifying strengths and weaknesses, assessing profitability of your game at different stakes. This can help in choosing the appropriate strategy according to your playing style.
  • Testing multiple strategies. Each approach has not only advantages, but also disadvantages. To make a choice, it is worth testing several strategies in practice, starting with the simplest. The chosen option can then be adapted to suit your own playing style.

So, the choice of bankroll management technique is always based on the individual requirements and capabilities of the player. The minimum level of comfort and the maximum level of risk are taken into account, among other things.

Three key mistakes in bankroll management in poker

Making mistakes in bankroll management can have big consequences, including flat out bankruptcy. Next, we will look at examples of the key mistakes made by players and actions to avoid these mistakes.

Insufficient buy-ins

Let us say you have a bankroll of $200 and you decide to play at a 1$/2$ table. In this case, you only have one buy-in.

Now let’s take a closer look at this example. Player only has one buy-in for the game, which is very risky. After all, if he loses everything at this table, he will have no more funds to continue playing at any table.

Instead, the player should have followed the “20 BI” strategy, which assumes that the player has at least 20 buy-ins for a stake he plays. It’s easier to start at low stakes, where buy-ins are less than 10$.

Playing at too high of stakes

For example, a player’s bankroll is $500. He chooses to play at a 5$/10$ table.

Let’s look at this example. The player decided to play at stakes that were too high for his bankroll. This is a recipe for big losses. In a series of defeats, you can quickly lose your whole deposit.

Стратегии игры в покер

For a given bankroll, you should choose $0.25/$0.50 or $0.50/$1 tables. These options are more in line with the current bankroll and reduce risks while maintaining the ability to play for much longer.

No stop-loss

Let’s say a player has suffered a series of defeat, but continues playing in hopes of winning everything back.

Let’s analyze the situation. In the absence of a clear stop-loss, the player is susceptible to emotional decisions. There is only one thought in his head – to return the losses. Emotions often aggravate the game and lead to even greater losses.

He should have acted differently from the start. First, the player must set a limit on the amount of losses during session (stop-loss). This size can be expressed as a percentage of the bankroll (for example, 20%). If exceeded, you must stop playing at least until the next day.

Finally, it is worth recalling that any mistake entails negative consequences. In the process of managing your bankroll, you need to try to avoid these mistakes. A responsible attitude towards the financial component of poker is a necessary part of a successful poker career.

Poker Bankroll Frequently Asked Questions

What to do if your bankroll is exhausted?

It’s a good time to stop playing and reconsider your bankroll management strategy. Optimization options include lowering stakes and making a pause to replenish your bankroll.

How often should you check your bankroll?

To track your progress in a timely manner and make informed decisions in game, it is advisable to do this regularly. Exactly how often you want to do this is very individual, so everyone sets the frequency for himself depending on his/her preferences.

What effect does a bankroll have on playing strategy?

Bankroll management is not only useful to prevent you from going broke. Without proper control, a player, in an effort to save money at the stakes he plays, will not always make the right decisions.

For example, if a player with $100 bankroll participates in a $10 tournament, he will often avoid profitable decisions. This is due to his desire to get in the money, since with his bankroll he can only play 10 of those tournaments.

On the other hand, if he prefers tournaments with $1 buy-in, he can play at least 100 of those. Without financial restrictions, he will probably play more relaxed.

Let’s sum it up. Every poker player should manage his or her bankroll wisely. Experience and stakes played do not matter here. Variance can bankrupt any poker player, and only solid bankroll management is a reliable defense against this.

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