One of the most important things you can do when you start to play poker is set aside a poker-specific bankroll. That means a lump sum of money used exclusively for playing poker - this is your “poker money”.
If you’re playing poker for fun or just dabbling, this shouldn’t be a big issue for you. But if you’re starting to take poker more seriously, you need to think about bankroll management - and a good strategy for it. This may depend on whether you’re playing live or online poker, what level of player you are, whether you’re playing cash games or tournaments. Read on to find out more poker bankroll tips and help on starting a bankroll for poker from scratch.
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Most people are attached to money, which, unfortunately, makes it tough to succeed at No-Limit Hold'em. The poker bankroll must be separate from your regular money, physically and mentally. 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.
So when you go on a bad run in poker and lose hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, you can't be having thoughts of what could have been. Money won or lost in poker is simply poker money. Separate yourself from the poker money and think of it only as a way to play the game. Not money that could have been spent elsewhere.
If you're scared to lose your bankroll in poker, or can't afford to, it's impossible to play a strong no-limit game. You have to be willing to put every chip you have in front of you across the line at any time. Because, if an opponent knows you're not willing to risk your chips, they'll walk all over you. That aside, even you will not be able to pull the trigger on bluffs or difficult calls when you have the fear.
You need to be realistic about the money you can make, your actual results, and what you need to survive on a monthly basis. You need to assess:
Your monthly expenditure is known as your “nut”. It includes living expenses, personal expenses, and poker expenses. This sum total is the amount you need to make from poker each month just to break even. In other words, it’s the bare minimum. So calculate your nut and then add 15 to 20% to see how much you need to make per month. This is your bankroll in poker - Don’t touch it for anything but poker. On top of that, you need at least three months saved up for emergencies.
To determine your profit per hour, calculate your big blinds per 100 hands (bb/100) using the following equations:
(winnings/big blind amount) / (number of hands/10)
In a live setting, you’ll probably see around 25-30 hands per hour. Online, a full-ring game will deal approximately 70 hands per hour, while six-max games race through around 100. In fast-fold cash games, you can play even 250 hands per hour. If you play multiple tables you can go up to 1,000 hands per hour.
Is your BB/100 enough? Read the following for more:
|Win rate per 100 hands||When to move up stakes||When to lower stakes|
|Big winner: 6BB/100+||30 buy-ins||20 buy-ins|
|Standard: 3BB/100||40 buy-ins||30 buy-ins|
|Small winner: 1BB/100||80 buy-ins||60 buy-ins|
If you're only playing live you can survive with an effective bankroll of 100 buy-ins. Once you start playing online you're going to want a slightly larger bankroll for playing the same limit. Because while playing online, you’ll see more hands, and hence experience bigger swings and more variance.
Your single-table online roll should be in the neighborhood of 120 buy-ins at least. If you're multi-tabling online you're putting more money in play, which helps to decrease variance, but you're also increasing risk. The risk of increased variance requires an increased roll, so think of 150 buy-ins maybe if playing more than one table online.
Poker Tournament Bankroll (non-Turbo): (150-300 buy-ins)
This is tournament bankroll management for online events - for live you can do with less.
Live Tournaments (100-120 buy-ins)
Online heads-up Sit & Gos (not Turbo): 20-40 buy-ins
No-Limit Online Cash Games: 100+ buy-ins
Note that live cash games have less variance and thus do not require as many buy-ins as online cash games. But be prepared to move down in stakes if a downswing occurs.
No-Limit Live Cash Games: 20-40 buy-ins
Limit Cash Games
Lots of poker players - even winning players - are prone to burning through their online bankrolls quickly. You can ruin weeks or months of successful grinding in one or two bad sessions. Unfortunately, online poker bankroll management requires significantly more discipline and control than your bankroll for live poker. Because players are stronger, and the play is quicker. Here’s how to save your
Poker players need a bankroll to avoid going completely bust. Regardless of how well you play, you're going to have periods of time where you just can't win. Even the world's best players have endured months of straight losses. That’s why you need a bankroll large enough to sustain these losses and allow you to continue playing. So you can earn the money back on your next upswing.
Luckily, if you're a winning player, you can expect a positive return on your investment. But you need to have enough money in your roll to make the swings and variance irrelevant.
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, the ratio of your roll to buy-ins for the game you're playing stays healthy. If you still can't win after dropping down in limits, it might be time to take a break. Clear your head and come back to the game fresh.
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.
If you really want to be robust, drop that number as low as 1% or 2%. Some of the most profitable and serious online grinders play with rolls 10x that.
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’ll never go bust.
Yes, the stories you've heard from your poker buddies are true. There are some people who deposited $100 online and within a couple of years had $1m+ bankrolls and were playing some of the highest-stakes available. Back in the early days of the online poker boom (2004-2006), this might have been a semi-common story. But nowadays, this isn’t the norm and isn’t likely to happen to you.
Most players never even advance past micro-stakes. But there are ways you can build a nice, profitable poker bankroll over time with solid practice and good money management skills.
If you’re following the above tips and likely recording your poker bankroll spreadsheet, don’t monitor it constantly. When you're on an upswing, every time you check your balance you feel good. But it only takes one beat to make that number go down. And if you're still checking your balance, seeing that smaller number will make you feel bad.
This can lead to you "chasing your losses." You're going to start forcing your play to get back to where you think you should be. If you're watching your balance you'll fall into the depression of "a week's work lost" or "It will take me a week to get back what I just lost in an hour." The only way to get it back fast is to jump limits and take a shot at a big score. This breaks rule #1 and is the first step to going broke.
When you're playing online poker for real money, every session, pot, and decision matters. Even the smallest of mistakes costs you money. The more money you lose from mistakes, the harder it becomes to generate profit and keep from going broke.
Limit distractions: Honestly assess your ability to multi-task and set yourself up to play in an optimal poker environment. Also pay attention to anything that’s on your mind that’s affecting your play, or enhanced states while playing like drugs and booze.
Don't play bored or tired: If you play for fun, that’s fine, but if your goal is making money, don’t play if you legitimately don’t feel like it. Because this causes you to make dumb moves just for action and excitement.
Fix Your Tilt: A bad beat can drive even the most measured player into a frenzy of ridiculous bets, raises, and calls. It’s time to get up for a breather or do something else. feeling good, you're not going to be playing your best poker.
Unlike with online games, your live poker results and bankroll management is calculated automatically. Luckily, there are apps you can use to facilitate that.
Poker Bankroll Tracker is the app we would go for at PokerListings to stay on top of poker money. You can track your wins and losses, and time spent playing, among other poker stats, and even generate graphs.
This app is very similar to Poker Bankroll Tracker, except it lets you add more info. Like stakes, locations, and times of your play, and you can generate more visuals too. It’s not as simple but can also be a good poker bankroll building guide, and allow you to see which games are more profitable for you.
This is also a good app to track your cash game and tournament buy-ins, locations, and overall profit. However, it will take you more time to enter all the info, so maybe less user-friendly.
Some players become aggressive after a big score. Either they play too high, play in games where they’re not a favorite, play negative EV games like blackjack and craps, or just spend too lavishly. Soon they’re out of a large amount and are left wondering “wtf did I do with all my money?!” We recommend finding the right medium (games and stakes) with a minimal amount of risk to maximize one’s profits with the new bankroll.