How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Bankroll

Cash Flow

Part 6 of a 10-part series for poker beginners, this article will look at another key ingredient for success often overlooked by rookies - setting aside a bankroll.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself when starting out in poker is to set aside a poker-specific bankroll.

Meaning a lump sum of money used exclusively for playing poker. This money is "poker money"  and poker money only.

The Poker Money Mindset

Most people are extremely attached to money.

They stress over it to the point of becoming physically sick at times. Unfortunately, this attachment to money makes it nearly impossible to be successful in No-Limit poker.

Tom Dwan

The poker bankroll must be separate from your regular money, physically and mentally.

When you go on a bad run and lose hundreds or thousands of dollars, you can't be having thoughts of what you could have done with that money.

Money won or lost in poker is simply poker money. You need to expect to lose at poker from time to time, and those losses should never affect the financial situation of your regular life.

Separate yourself from the poker money, and think of it only as a way to play the game - not money that could be spent on something else.

Playing on Scared Money

One of the most common ways players suck at poker is playing with scared money.

If you're scared to lose the money in front of you, or you simply can't afford to lose it, it's impossible to play a very strong game of No-Limit Hold'em.

You have to be willing to put every chip you have in front of you across the line at any time. If a player knows you're not willing to risk your chips, they're going to walk all over you.

Even if the other players don't catch on to your un-willingness to risk your chips, you'll be unable to pull the trigger when the time comes to make a bluff or difficult call you know to be correct.

Going Busto

The final reason all poker players need a bankroll is to avoid going completely busto.

Regardless of how well you play the game, you're going to have periods of time where no matter what you seem to do, you just can't post a win.

Some of the world's best players have endured months of straight losses. For this reason you need a bankroll large enough to sustain these losses and allow you to continue playing until you earn the money back on your next upswing.

If the size of your roll will leave you broke after one or even a few concurrent losses, you're simply gambling that you don't start your poker timeline off on a downswing.

If you start to lose significantly, the best thing you can do is to drop down in levels. That way, even though your BR is lower than where it was when you started, the ratio of your roll to buy-ins for the game you're playing stays healthy.

If you still can't win even after dropping down in limits, it might just be time to take a break. Clear your head and come back to the game fresh.

Bankroll Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb for a cash-game bankroll is to never have more than 5% of your entire roll in play at one time. This means a 20 buy-in minimum for single-table cash games, and more for multi-tabling.

In a tournament setting, you typically want over 100 buy-ins to the tournaments you want to play. So if you're playing $5+50¢ tournaments, you want $550 as your roll.

This almost ensures that (as long as you don't suck) you will never go busto.

Having a bankroll is the best thing you can do for yourself as a poker player, but even a healthy bankroll can't save you if you don't follow the next step in How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing.

More on how not to suck at poker:

  1. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
  2. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
  3. How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
  4. How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
  5. How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
  6. How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Bankroll
  7. How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
  8. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Your Mouth Shut
  9. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Records
  10. How Not to Suck at Poker: Discuss the Game

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Arty Smokes 2011-05-30 19:23:45

One hundred times the buy-in sounds a little excessive to me, but then it depends on how many entrants there are and your chances of being in the money.
If I was just playing a single-table sitngo and I'd established in the past that I was in the money 10% of the times I played, I'd risk up to 5% of my total bankroll on each game.
For example, if the sitngo cost $10 and I usually won a total of $100 every 10 tries, I'd never go broke if I started with a bankroll of $200. I might lose $90 on the first 9 games and win $100 on the tenth, or lose $180 on the first 18 games and win $200 on the final two. The worst that would happen would be breaking even.

I think it's important that players keep a diary/record of their wins/cashes. If you win 10% of your games, then only risk 5% (or less) of your total bankroll on such games. (Or risk 2% of your bankroll if you only win 4% of your games).
One terrible mistake gamblers make is to move to higher stakes tables to regain the losses they had on lower stakes tables. This is often the worst thing to do, as it leads to even bigger losses!

jaime 2010-07-09 20:06:07

i play a $20 buy in game almost every friday. i would bring $40, but i seemed to not play my game well. then i started bring $100 minimum, sometimes $300, and my game got much better. i wasn't worries about losing, i was only focused on winning. i was not scared of going all in or calling a bluff. i played my game, not the money game..

one thing i will say that this website may not have taled about, is your table's perception of you if you play regular games w/the same people. when i first started playing 3 yrs ago, i was a loose cannon. i had extreme wins and loses. people knew i would call an all in w/only 1 out left on the river when the pot odds were 2:1... a horrible call... people still think of me as a loose cannon.... but i am MUCH SMARTER now and use that perception very well... people can't figure me out OR MORE IMPORTANTLY... they think they have figured me out... i now win consistently and win more than most. most don't want to call me the better player, but in the end, he/she who walks away w/the most is the winner... that is me!!

Melissa Griffin 2010-02-24 05:57:36

Yeah, i've observed that most players are having this closed palm thing with money. I would really suggest to take your bankroll seriously if you don't want to end in bankruptcy. I've been seeing my online friends at es.williamhillcasino juegos de casino to make this mistake and it's too late for them to realize what have they done. :\

colin 2009-05-30 07:06:00

good down to earth stuff made me change my approach my thinking and my ego immediate results i now understand the inportance of position much much more than i did before and your percentage play has certainley improved my winnings thankyou regards coiln

Dennis VanHorn 2009-05-29 05:23:00

This site has help me understand poker a little better. Now I hope I don't lose as much now. Thanks.

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