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Article by Tadas Peckaitis
Bankroll management is one of the most important skills to master in order to be successful at poker in the long run. Nowadays, almost all players with an interest in poker have heard about it, and a large portion of them are following their own money management rules. Unfortunately, simply following a set of rules doesn’t mean that you are doing it right or that you couldn’t do it better.
Misconception #1: Everybody should follow a bankroll management strategy
When players come to see me and ask me what their bankroll management strategy should be, the first thing I ask them is: Are you sure to be a winning player?
If that’s not the case, it doesn’t make sense to set up a financial strategy to gradually move up in stakes. Therefore, you first need to study hard, do all you can to improve, and start by playing the lowest stakes possible. Regarding money management, set up a monthly budget that represents the maximum amount of money that you could lose without feeling uncomfortable about it and without losing your motivation to learn the game. If your capital starts to grow, it’s time to determine a bankroll strategy.
Misconception #2: Everybody should follow the same bankroll management strategy
It is true that you can and should have some guidelines in your games, but there is no ultimate strategy or rule that everybody should follow without distinction. Your goal is to find your own personal bankroll management strategy that fits with your willingness to take risks as a poker player but also suits your personal financial situation:
Willingness to take the risk
Your strategy will depend on your poker goals and risk tolerance. Obviously, if you want to reach your goals as fast as possible and are willing to take the risk, you will adopt a much more aggressive bankroll management strategy than others. When I talk about aggressive bankroll management, I consider that everyone playing with less than 20 Buy Ins in NLH Cash Games is adopting an aggressive bankroll management strategy. This is my personal strategy that I have used over the years with huge success.
However, you need to consider your willingness to take the risk and your mental ability to handle inevitable losing streaks that will cost you a large portion of your bankroll. More practically, you also need to be able to move down quickly in the stakes if things go wrong, and, in the worst case scenario, you need to be ready to reload if you bust.
If you follow this strategy, make sure to keep your money in your bankroll. If you constantly make aggressive shots and try to move up the stakes, you will encounter variance at some point just like everyone else. There is no way around it. Therefore, you should not try to withdraw money after a winning session or short period of success. Your primary goal should be to accumulate your bankroll and move up the stakes as fast as possible.
If you don’t want to follow an aggressive bankroll management strategy and would prefer to be more conservative, it will be harder for me to give you recommendations, as I have never followed this path. There is just one thing that is very important: make sure that you don’t set goals that are completely unrealistic.
If you want to play with 100 Buy Ins behind you and your challenge is to move up from NL5 to NL100, you have to understand that you will have to play hundreds of thousands of hands or maybe millions hands to reach this target.
Your personal situation
Firstly, an enormously overlooked factor that will help you a lot regardless of your personal situation: keep your poker capital and your own money strictly separated. Even if it does not look so important, it is. It will help you to stay more focused and calm even when things are not going your way. In those times, you will be more likely to prevent yourself from going on tilt or carrying your emotions outside of the game.
Secondly, don’t forget that the money you are playing with is real and consider it in relation to your personal financial situation. If you follow an aggressive bankroll management strategy, you might have the chance to play with a significant amount of money. Make sure that you are ready to lose it without any regret and without impacting “your real life”. If, as an individual, you don’t feel comfortable with the money you are putting in the stakes, telling yourself it’s only “play money” as a reassurance is not a solution. If you are facing this fear, adjust your bankroll management accordingly and work first on your emotions.
More generally, never forget that money is part of poker and that you will learn a lot about your own relationship with money when playing this game. Your bankroll management strategy should take these personal factors into account.
Misconception #3: All games require the same bankroll management
Another common mistake I see my students making is thinking that they can use the same bankroll management strategy regardless of the games they are playing. This is just 100% wrong.
For MTT’s you need a much bigger bankroll compared to cash games.
I am not going to give you a magic number simply because there are many factors that you need to consider. The first and most important of these is field size. The more players enrolled in the tournament, the bigger the variance you will have, and you will need a bigger bankroll for that.
If you are playing low buy-in tournaments with up to 100 players and have a reasonable edge on your opponents, even 50 buy-ins could be sufficient. However, if you play the biggest tournaments with thousands of players, you should not even start without 100 buy-ins.
NLH (No Limit Hold’em) vs PLO (Pot Limit Omaha)
The same could be said about the format of the game. To be honest, there is not much to add; you just have to be aware that swings will be bigger in PLO games, and you need to be prepared for it, both mentally and in terms of your bankroll! You may have heard a lot of PLO players telling you to be ready to accept the downswing of 30 or 50 buy-ins in a short amount of time. From an emotional point of view, it’s hard to be really prepared for the pain that you will feel the first time you brutally lose this kind of money. The only way to do it is to adjust your bankroll management strategy accordingly.
Your skill and level of competition
Despite the game type, the most important factor that will influence your bankroll management strategy is your skill. The explanation is simple: the bigger your edge over your opponents, the more likely you are to steadily increase your poker capital.
This should be your main consideration and, surely, you have many options to improve. You can choose what suits you best. You can learn a lot by reading strategy articles and watching videos, but if you are serious about improving your game, getting some poker coaching is certainly the best option. It will help you to improve and fix your mistakes much faster than any other method.
If you keep improving and choosing the right games, you can reduce your bankroll and continue to play comfortably, knowing that you are much more likely to win. If you play online, choosing the right poker room is a big part of that.
Now you know it all! Be aware of your risk tolerance, and depending on the game of your choice, estimate the right bankroll for you. Moreover, continue learning and improving your game, and you will be good!
About me: I am playing poker professionally since 2008. Now I do feel the need to share my knowledge with others and I am successfully helping my students to learn poker skills and achieve better and better results while moving up stakes constantly with My Poker Coaching!