5 Rules to Help Save Your Online Poker Bankroll

Even the best can burn through their rolls.

Lots of poker players - even winning players - are prone to burning through their online bankrolls quickly.

And even the best players can ruin weeks or months of successful grinding in one or two bad sessions.

Not surprisingly, players who lose money playing live poker (about 90% of the live-poker world) also claim they're simply unable to keep a balance online. Strange.

What is surprising though is the number of truly winning players who have the exact same problem.

How to Save Your Online Bankroll

If a player is a consistent winner in live poker, it stands to reason that his or her game is profitable and should be similarly profitable in online poker.

Unfortunately, being successful in online poker requires significantly more discipline and control than live poker. Players are stronger, play is quicker and you don't have anyone to see when you go off the deep end.

If you're a good poker player and you know you're capable of making money online yet can't seem to keep a roll, this article might be just what you're looking for.

Start with the most important concept first: you absolutely must play within your bankroll if you want to make money online. The simplest way to explain it is to look at the mathematical theorem Gambler's Ruin.

One of the concepts of Gambler's Ruin is this: take two players and pit them against each other in a zero-sum game (such as flipping a coin, where each player has an expected win/loss rate of exactly 0%).

One player has a finite bankroll. The other has an infinite bankroll. Given infinite repetitions of the game, the player with the finite roll will eventually go broke.

In the online poker world it's you against everyone else. This means it's your roll against the infinite roll of the rest of the world.

If poker was a zero-sum game, you'd go broke.

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.

Your bankroll, although finite, needs to be large enough to seem infinite. Stick to the standard rule of having less than 5% of your roll in play on one table at a time. 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. If you never have to worry about going broke from losing at a specific game, chances are you won't.

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2. Don't Monitor Your Poker Balance

If you're following the first rule and playing with a legit bankroll, then (outside of a serious and lengthy downswing defying all odds) you're in little-to-no risk of going broke.

You play poker with chips, not money. You can't think about the money you're playing the game with as it's completely irrelevant.

With checking the amount of your online poker bankroll as easy as clicking a button, it's very easy to fall into the trap of micro-managing your poker account.

When you're on an upswing, every time you check your balance you feel good. The number goes up, so does your spirits.

But it only takes one beat to make that number go down. A lot. And if you're still checking your balance, seeing that smaller number will make you feel bad.

You want it back to where it was and you want it back immediately. As soon as you have that thought, you've started "chasing your losses." You're going to start forcing your play to get back to where you think you should be.

This can be the first step towards total self destruction. Typically in poker, making money is a slow grind and losing money is a quick drop. 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.

3. Treat Poker Seriously

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: By the very definition of the word, a distraction is something that takes your focus away from the game and puts it on something else. As soon as you start playing online poker without paying attention, you're almost certain to make multiple mistakes.

Every person is different. Some players can play just as well, if not better, while watching a movie. Other players need to shut everything else down to keep their mind on the game.

You need to honestly assess your capability for multi-tasking and set yourself up to play in an optimal poker environment.

Don't play out of boredom: You play poker because you want to play or because it's what you do to make money. Playing because you're bored will force you to make poker your personal entertainment.

Sometimes, poker is not entertaining at all. If you're only playing because you're bored, and you're having a boring session, chances are you're going to make dumb moves to push the action. If you're bored and you don't legitimately feel like grinding, find something else to do.

Get a good chair.

4. Pay Attention to Your Human Needs

You are human. Humans require constant maintenance and upkeep to stay healthy. If you're not healthy and feeling good, you're not going to be playing your best poker.

The most important of these factors for poker:

Hunger: If you're not eating well or just plain hungry, you're not going to be thinking as quickly or proficiently as possible. Also, if you're hungry, that's just one more distraction to keep you from thinking about poker.

Comfort: If you're uncomfortable, you're distracted. Get a good chair, a good monitor, and set yourself up as ergonomically as possible.

If you want some good tips, Google is your answer. Use every tip you can find to keep yourself healthy, comfortable and carpal-tunnel free.

Exhaustion: If you're exhausted, you're not playing your best game. If you're not playing your best game, you're losing money. Regardless of how good the game is, when you feel extremely tired, go to bed.

Mental Distractions: If you have anything pressing on your mind, you're going to have a hard time playing your best game.

It's best to not play at all when you're in a mental state that's anything other than "normal."

Drugs and booze are another mental distraction from poker. It's one thing to have a beer or two while you play; it's another to try and play while hammered. Regardless of what you may think, you can't play your best poker when you're drunk.

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Tilt: #1 bankroll killer.

5. Integrate a Tilt-Induced Kill Switch

Tilt is the #1 bankroll killer in the world.

Usually brought on by breaking any combination of the previous rules, or something as simple as a bad beat, tilt can drive even the most measured player into a frenzy of ridiculous bets, raises and calls.

The cause of tilt is personal and can come from anywhere. Although it will vary in degree from one person to the next, it's impossible to avoid all tilt entirely.

Some players, such as Phil Ivey, are rarely tilted. And when they are, it's rarely enough to affect their game all that much.

For the rest of the world, when you feel any signs of tilt, no matter how slight or seemingly harmless, it's time to log off, get up, and go do something else.

Poker will always be there when you get back.

Poker Will Always Be Around

If you follow all of these rules, and you're capable of playing winning poker, chances are you will never go broke online. But be warned: Once you break just one of these rules, the others can come crashing through the door right behind it.

Be diligent, and at the first sign of any rule being broken, abandon ship. Remember, poker will always be around tomorrow. But once your roll is gone, it's not coming back.

30 April 2019

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Jan 2012-06-12 18:57:44

This bankroll management if of course a good thing but for me a small bankroll is more motivating. I withdraw the plus of a day or few and start new session with 10 buy-ins. This always keeps me on the edge and prevents from making light headed decisions. Totally agree with the other rules: fresh mind, concentration and good environment.

Kate 2011-09-06 10:17:00

I comment When I Winn. NOW!!! I must to think about the gameplay. naturaly I play. Who don't play This don't Winn. Sorry for my English. KATE

Buenossuenos 2011-01-12 17:59:27

Regarding comment #2, what would be a suggested amount to check the playing-progress, i.e. check the BR end of each week to see how the roll is going? Less than that? Etc.

Johan 2010-10-24 13:53:39

It's been awhile since I agreed this fully with something I read on the internet.

Duggy 2010-07-06 00:29:41

Good article, I managed to create a free BR of over 500USD 4 times and as a result of not using "BR management" I lost them all with a week of getting them. Drinking, Bad Beats, To High a level and so on. But I found out about BR managment a few months ago and now i have a 1k BR so thanks to guys like this making it known to people.

GL at the tables

:o)

WOODZER79 2010-06-30 17:22:51

THX so much this was a great peice

matt 2010-06-26 18:05:33

"\$250 / 8 tables = 31.25

31.25 / 10 hours = 3.1

so with .25 .50 blinds you need to win 3\$ per table every hour.

im not much of a cash poker player, but somebody out there could do that."

all of that plus rakeback, good deal :)

ben 2010-06-02 04:33:48

This article really hits home. Ive played for about a year now and each time i have deposited ive ran my bank roll up and then eventually gone bust. I have had the occasional withdraw but thas after i lost about half of the winnings. The "playing for your losses" part really holds true, once ive been down i constanly find myself playing crazy or at a higher level just to try to make it back.

Sunshine68IOU 2010-05-19 20:52:22

.... and there lies the big question...How do I beat it? I've been playing micro for about a year now and can't seem to improve.
I'm a good player but I don't know why I'm not more successful??? Frustrating. Wish I could pick up that phone and call my idol Annie Duke and say "Hey lets go grab a beer and play.".

Sean Lind 2010-05-19 20:23:51

Sunshine68IOU,

If you want to be successful at tourneys you need to be dedicated, that means blocking off large chunks of time to play them, and getting set to do nothing else.

If you don't have this sort of time or dedication, then cash is the way to go. Start small, play micro stakes until you can beat it and feel confident moving up. If you don't feel confident, things will go bad quickly.

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