Poker Bankroll Management Strategy

At the heart of every successful poker player is good poker bankroll management. Never play in a game bigger than you can afford and you'll never play with scared money! Follow the tips below for proper bankroll management and watch your game soar.


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The Basics of Poker Bankroll Management

If you’ve been around the game of poker for any amount of time you’ve likely heard talk of “proper bankroll management” and how important it is for poker players.

To make a long story short: it is. But whether or not you need poker bankroll management also depends greatly on just what exactly poker “is” to you.

poker bankroll

Is it a hobby? A casual way to blow off some steam on the weekends? An important part of your monthly income?

Is it your profession? Something you want to be your profession? Is it an opportunity to play in the highest stakes games you can find?

Poker bankroll management means different things to different players. But at its essence bankroll management is simple:

  • Have a dedicated amount of money you ONLY use to play poker
  • Only use a small portion of that money in any one game or tournament to keep you from losing a big portion/all of it in one sitting

Sounds simple, yeah? It is. Mostly.

What is a Poker Bankroll?

A poker bankroll is simply:

  • Money that is only used to pay poker

Not to pay bills, pay rent, put gas in the car. This is money set aside exclusively to play poker with and will go up or down as you have winning or losing sessions.

The idea, of course, is for it to only go up – building and building as you play the same stakes or, if your bankroll allows, moving up in stakes.

The reality, though, is your poker bankroll will likely fluctuate. Sometimes it’ll be up. Sometimes it’ll be down. But, if you’re making good poker decisions and playing within your bankroll (more on that in a bit), your bankroll graph will look like a slowly ascending line ad infinitum.

If it doesn’t, you might be playing at stakes too high for your skill and or bankroll level. Or not managing your poker bankroll very well.

How Much Should I Have in My Poker Bankroll?

This, of course, is the million dollar question. We'd all love to actually have a million dollars in our bankrolls or an amount that basically lets us play poker for as long as we like, at whatever stakes, without ever having to worry about running dry.

That's not the reality for 99% of us.

But if you play poker as a hobby, bankroll management might not really matter too much. You want to play in a $100 game and all you have is $100?

cash

Go for it. The principal gambler’s rule is always:

  • Don’t play poker with money you can’t afford to lose

Outside of that, what you choose to do with your poker money is entirely up to you. If you’re fine with risking $100 and you can afford to lose $100, have at ‘er.

Where things get a bit more particular is if you have plans for your poker career or pastime.

You want to move up in stakes. You never want to make an online poker deposit again. You want to earn 20% of your regular income on the side playing poker …

if you have poker goals you want to accomplish and making money is one of them, a poker bankroll management plan then becomes essential.

Poker Bankroll Management Chart

So what should your poker bankroll minimum (or maximum) be? That obviously depends on just how much money you have to spend or put toward poker.

How much money you have to put toward poker will also determine the stakes that are best for you to play. There are some general poker bankroll guidelines designed to help you in that regard.

The other thing you need to decide is if you primarily want to play:

  • Cash Games
  • Tournaments

Some good general rules of thumb for how many buy-ins you should have in your bankroll are:

Poker Bankroll Management Cash Games

 

  • 20-40 Buy-ins for Live Poker Cash Games
  • 100+ Buy-ins for Online Poker Cash Games

 

Poker Bankroll Management Tournaments

 

  • 60+ Buy-ins for Online Sit & Gos
  • 150-200 Buy-ins for Online Multi-table Tournaments

 

These are obviously very loose and wide guidelines for how many buy-ins you need. But if you want to feel confident playing your game and stakes and fairly sure you'll never put your entire bankroll at risk, the lower end of these guidelines is a good place to start. 

poker bankroll management
Higher the variance, more bankroll you need.

The higher the variance of the game you play (more on Variance below), the more buy-ins you should have on hand to battle through downswings.

Tournaments have more variance than cash games, hyper turbos or shorthanded have more variance than full ring, etc.

You can obviously decide to play any poker games with less than that total amount of buy-ins. Those are very wide buffers to help keep you from ever losing your poker bankroll entirely.

And again, if you’re fine with losing and reloading (and you have the money for it) that’s entirely up to you. Another reminder, though: never play with money you can’t afford to use.

Beyond the possibly drastic consequences for your personal life, you simply end up playing less than your best poker as you’ll be emotionally affected by the money won or lost on the table and it'll affect your decision-making dramatically.

A Couple of Bankroll Charts

Here's a quick look at how those bankroll guidelines affect the total money you should have on hand for specific games:

No-Limit Online Cash Games: 100+ buy-ins

Blinds

Bankroll Required

$0.01/$0.02

$200+

$0.02/$0.04

$400+

$0.05/$0.10

$1,000+

$0.25/$0.50

$5,000+

$0.50/$1.00

$10,000+

Multi-Table Online Tournaments: 150–300 buy-ins

Average Buy-In

Bankroll Required

$1.10

$165 to $330

$5.50

$825 to $1650

$11

$1650 to $3300

$22

$3300 to $6600

$33

$4950 to $9900

$55

$8250 to $16500

Poker Bankroll Management Calculator

Want to calculate the proper bankroll specifically for the games and stakes you want to play? Try our Poker Bankroll Management Calculator right here:

Your Poker Bankroll & Variance

The Big V: Variance. If you’re a semi-pro poker player you’re all too familiar with variance and how it can affect/devastate your bankroll. If you’re a recreational player, however, it may not even cross your mind.

bankroll poker
Vigilance is ket to bankroll management.

In general terms variance is simply how near or far your results are from what is actually “expected” to be your results. For example if you get involved in a hand as an 80% favorite and lose the hand, you’re running below the expected return in that situation.

If that continues to happen over an extended period of time and you fail to win 80% of those situations, you’re facing some negative variance.

You also might run above that expected value (80%) and win more often than that. Either way, if your actual results are on either side of that 80% you’re experiencing variance.

Over an infinite amount of time, though, you should win exactly 80% of those hands. Why you have a bankroll chart or play with only a small percentage of your bankroll at any one time is to protect you from those swings of variance.

There are times when you will not win at the expected rate so your bankroll has to be big enough to absorb the swings that will occur over time and give you enough room for that expectation to even out.

Make sense? Read more on how to outrun variance in poker here: 

Poker Bankroll Management – Stat Tracking

If you’re serious about managing your poker bankroll properly and making sure you always have a solid amount for the stakes you’re playing, you’re gonna want to keep track of every session you play.

Keeping precise records of your wins and losses is essential to managing your poker bankroll well and ensuring you always have the right percentage of your roll on the table at any one time.

If you’ve lost a bunch of sessions in a row you definitely want to consider moving down in stakes to maintain a safe buffer for your bankroll.

Again, if you’re a recreational player and can easily reload from your outside of poker income, you might not care to keep track of things so closely. But if you’re a semi-pro or professional player – even a serious poker hobbyist – you’ll want to keep track of your sessions down to the cent.

There are lots of software programs that will help do it for you or you can build a simple excelt spreadsheet to track your stats on your own. Here’s how:

888cash

Poker Bonuses for Your Online Bankroll

Another factor to take into consideration when building up your online poker bankroll? Being eligible for and cashing in on the multiple poker bonuses out there.

The dream for a lot of people when they first start out playing online poker is to build a bankroll entirely from scratch. Meaning never making a deposit and solely building up a bankroll by playing (and winning real money) in poker freerolls.

So players, in fact, have done some pretty famous bankroll challenges doing just that (or similar). While that's certainly an option (and there are poker players who have done so), that's far more the exception than the rule.

Freerolls can be fun to play but the truth is most of them have very big fields and it can be difficult to make any kind of substantial money off of them. Maintaining such a low bankroll at the smallest stakes can also be fairly tedious.

What more people do is make an initial deposit of $20-$50 and take advantage of poker bonus offers to buff up their bankrolls. A typical poker bonus is a match bonus (usually 100-200%) where the poker site will match your deposit up to a certain amount.

All you need to do is play real money poker (either cash games or tournaments) and the bonus money will be released into your account for play as you go.

Most bonus requirements aren't too extreme and it's a very nice way to add some free money to your roll. Learn more about and access our exclusive poker sign-up bonuses here:

The Essence of Money Management in Poker

If you truly want to practice effective poker bankroll management we recommend you scroll through our series of articles above for some more detailed information.

In short, though, good poker bankroll management means adhering to a few simple rules that should extend your bankroll indefinitely.

  • Never player with money you can't afford to lose
  • Don't chase your losses
  • Never have more than 5-10% of your poker money on the table/invested at any one time
  • Don't move up stakes until you have enough of a bankroll buffer to outlast any downswings
  • Give yourself a limit of buy-ins you can lose before you need to quit a game

And that's really it. Play smart, play sensibly, and play within your means and your poker money will always be there!


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