Poker Bankroll Management

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One of the keys to consistent Poker winnings is the effective management of a “bankroll”—the total amount of money a player has available to risk on wagers during a given session of play. Although bankroll management has no effect on Poker odds, a good system for managing a bankroll can help control risk, protect winnings, and allow more time for playing.

How Much Is Enough?

The biggest decision any Poker player can make is how much money to bring to the table. The absolute worst choice is to rely on a credit card or bank card to fund play. The temptation to keep going back to the ATM for more cash when losing is just too great. For that reason, a very specific cash limit should be set, an amount that will be a function of two factors: length of session and level of play.

A Poker session can be as short as a few hands or as long as a multi-day tournament. In fact, on advantage of tournament play is the fixed entry fee paid at the start, which automatically limits how much can be lost. But when it comes to ring games (cash games), the timing of a session should be set in hours or number of hands dealt.

Regarding level of play, this refers not to the experience or talent of a player but to the cost of participating in a game, as defined by the size of the blinds (or antes) and the amount required to buy in. Most veteran players agree that a sufficient bankroll must be about 300~1,000 times the value of the big blind or 10~30 times the cost of the initial buy in.

For example, when playing a 10p/25p game with a £25 buy-in, the absolute minimum bankroll to sit at the table for a short session is £0.25 x 300 = £75. A more conservative player would want to have £0.25 x 1,000 = £250 or, based upon the buy in and an intended longer session, £25 x 100 = £250. An ultra-conservative approach would call for £25 x 30 = £750—enough to cover a full day of play.

Maintaining the Bankroll

During play, the amount remaining in the bankroll will fluctuate, sometimes greatly. Rather than change one’s playing style to replenish funds or take advantage of surpluses, a clever bankroll manager will consider changing tables. Should a streak of good fortune prevail, the bankroll may increase to a point where it is possible to play in a higher stakes game. Quite often, however, the opposite is true, necessitating a move to a lower stakes table.

Some signs that the bankroll is not being managed properly include the following: Frequent re-buying into the game; wins or losses that exceed 15% of the total bankroll; and going on “tilt,” i.e., overly loose play, desperately trying to win back lost money. Experienced players look for these signs in other players and exploit them. They know that underfunded players tend to overplay hands and make poor decisions about their cards as well as their money.

Good record keeping is an excellent first step toward maintaining a healthy bankroll. Take note not only of the amount available at the start and conclusion of the session, but also the amount and number of buy-ins, the number of players, the size of the blinds, the size of the average pot, the number of pots played for, and the number of times payment was made to see the flop. Such notes can reveal leaks in one’s play or situations to avoid in the future, thereby protecting one’s bankroll from attrition.

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