One of the most important things you can do for yourself when starting out in poker is to set aside a poker-specific bankroll.
That means 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 Hold'em.
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 couldhave 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.
Don't Play 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.
A Poker Bankroll Must Sustain Losing Streaks
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.
Poker 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.
A Poker Bankroll is a Slow Build, Not a Race
Yes, the stories you've heard from your poker playing 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.
This is not the norm. And it's not very likely it'll happen to you.
Back in the early days of the online poker boom (2004-2006) this might have been a semi-common story but it certainly isn't the experience for most every poker player in the world.
Most poker players, in fact, never even advance past the micro-stakes. But there certainly are ways you can build a nice, profitable poker bankroll over time with solid practice and good money management skills.
There's Poker Money and There's Life Money
We can't stress enough how important it is to keep those two things separate.
The added stress playing for money you need to get by everything is more than enough to keep you from playing your best poker game. And simply not something you'd ever want to experience.
If you're playing online poker and you don't want to keep re-depositing, follow our guidelines and give yourself the best chance of never going broke.
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More on How Not to Suck at Poker:
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Proper Bankroll
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Talking So Much
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Track Your Results
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Talk to Better Players