Bankroll Management Guide. Protecting Your Bankroll

The most important factor that contributes to any gambler’s success is practicing good poker bankroll management. If you’re bad at managing your money, you will go broke. It’s really that simple.

So we want to know how best to manage our poker bankroll if we want to win consistently. The name of the game here is protection – we want to only play in situations that are profitable for us, and only with cash we can actually afford to drop. That way, we’re never over-extending ourselves, or playing scared money.

By protecting our poker bankroll, we avoid gambler’s ruin; and that’s the most important thing you, as a gambler, can do. Let’s look a bit closer at why and how we should practice bankroll management.

Stake and Bake: Don’t Fry Your Stack

I like my chicken baked. A slow, thorough cookin’ in the oven helps to release flavours from the bird that can’t be matched by a fry.

I like my gambling the same way. I want to grind a profit slowly and steadily; because if I try and build my roll too quickly, I could end up getting myself burned.

You’ve probably heard horror stories about guys who’ve taken shots at the big time. We’ve seen them in the movies, Rounders being the first to come to mind. We’ve read about them in books, One of A Kind, the Stu Ungar story, being perhaps the most prominent among many.

It’s a story that gets told over and over again: Guy takes shot at too-high stakes with too little cash; Guy goes bust and dies homeless and alone.

That’s not a story I ever want to live out myself, and I don’t want you to go through such an ordeal either. So I implore you to play within your poker bankroll. Building bankroll management that way, you’ll never go bust. You’ll slow-cook your way into a slow and steady income.

Playing Within Your Bankroll

So what exactly does playing within your bankroll mean for poker bankroll management?

It depends.

At a minimum, it means you’re not taking shots at $10/20 NL with only $2,000 to your name. That’s nuts, and you’re almost certain to go bust doing so, no matter how skilled you are.

On the other end of the risk-aversion scale, there are guys who won’t play a game of $0.05/$0.10 NL without $500 in their accounts. That ensures they’ll almost never go bust, even if they’re pretty bad; but it’s pretty darn conservative.

Ideally, you want to be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Here’s a basic formula for calculating the stakes you should be playing:

1. Add up all the cash in your bankroll. Note that I do NOT mean all the cash you have to your name. I mean all the cash you’ve set aside to gamble with – above and beyond living expenses. That’s very important. You never, ever, ever want to be gambling with your rent money. You will not win, and you’ll regret it later.

2. If you’re playing online NL Holdem cash games (try Full Tilt games), divide your entire poker bankroll by 30. The number you come up with is the buyin of the stake you should be playing. So if you’ve got a $1000 buy-in, you should play (1000 / 30) = $33.33, so somewhere in between $25 NL and $50NL. If you feel like you’ve got an edge, go for $50NL — but know that you’re taking a risk. If you want to be conservative, and lessen your risk of ruin, play $25NL until you hit (30*50) = $1500.

3. If you’re playing online Limit Holdem cash games, divide your entire bankroll by 300. The result of such bankroll management is the Big Bet of the stake you should be playing. So if you’ve got a $1,000 bankroll, play either $1/2 or $2/4, depending on how much risk you’re comfortable taking.

4. If you’re playing online Holdem tournaments (PokerStars hold plenty), you should divide your poker bankroll by 100. The result is the buy-in of the stake you should be playing. So if you’ve got a $1,000 bankroll, a comfortable buy-in for you would be $10.

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