A poker bankroll is the single most important resource available to a poker player. Without a bankroll, it’s impossible to play poker. Skill and strategic play are certainly commensurate in terms of how successful you are as a poker player, but it’s your bankroll management skills that determine how far you will go in your poker career. If you manage your poker bankroll well, you will likely enjoy greater success during your poker gaming sessions. Experts readily agree that poor bankroll management is arguably the #1 reason why poker players go broke. The absence of bankroll management is evidence of poor money management and reckless gameplay.
When you understand the importance of bankroll management, you will always know what sort of stakes you can be playing. Effective bankroll management is a learned skill; it takes significant effort. There are so many poker games out there, with varying stakes you can participate in. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hi, Omaha Hi-Lo, 7 Card Stud or other games – you’ve simply got to understand the mechanics of managing your chip stack before you can consider yourself an experienced poker player. A poker bankroll is expressly reserved for your poker gaming sessions. This may appear to be obvious, but too many players aren’t really sure about the way to allocate money in their budget.
For example, if you have a $5,000 poker bankroll then all that money is for the purposes of playing poker – not for food, rent, tuition, utilities, and gas bills. Once you allocate money towards your gaming sessions then that’s where it stays. Never gamble with money that you can’t afford to lose – that’s a no-no. If you need money for basic living expenses then you ought not to be gambling, or at best you should gamble with a much smaller bankroll. Think of the psychological implications of playing with money that is supposed to be used elsewhere. Players that are gambling on ‘borrowed’ money tend to play less optimally than they should.
A scared player is a losing player. That’s one of the hard lessons to learn in poker. Players who are ‘locked and loaded’ with a set bankroll understand precisely how much firepower they have in their chip stack. This is the only way that you’re going to develop the much-needed confidence to play at your best. For a poker player starting out, it’s important to ascertain how much money is available for gaming purposes. In other words, is this bankroll a once-off amount? If so, a player is more likely to play cautiously and avoid taking risks. Compare this to a player who can allocate a set amount of funds to a poker bankroll every month. This affords the player greater ‘freedom’ to experiment with several bankroll management techniques, poker playing styles and betting options. Your bankroll also determines how long you’ll be playing poker in a session. If you’re playing at $5/$10 cash games and you only have a $100 bankroll that you lose, then you will not have an opportunity to continue playing in the cash game. Compare that to a $1,000 bankroll and you can immediately appreciate the value of cash in your stash.
What Types of Poker Games Does Your Bankroll Allow You to Play?
Before you pick a game, consider that you will go through good spells and bad spells in poker. This variance is normal and it happens to the best players. The only way you can mitigate the impact of variance on your bankroll is to allocate a greater budget to your gaming sessions. A caveat is in order: Don’t gamble with money that you can’t afford to lose. Perhaps more important is a careful game selection. You can pick a variety of poker games and formats, including NLH, FLH, PLH, etcetera. Further, you can expect to allocate a much bigger bankroll to PLO games than you do for NLH games since the former is associated with greater variance.
The number of buy-ins you can expect based on your bankroll is equally important. Below is a listing of the number of buy-ins you should expect based on your chosen game:
- NLH 6-Max Cash Games – 30 Min Buy-Ins
- NLH 9-Max Cash Games – 25 Min Buy-Ins
- PLO 6-Max Cash Games – 50 Min Buy-Ins
- NLH MTTs – 100 Min Buy-Ins
- NLH MTTs – 200 Min Buy-Ins
The golden rule is to always play poker with a larger bankroll. That way you’re not stressed about playing too cautiously. If you drop the stakes because you’ve depleted your bankroll it’s like going from 25 cent slots to penny slots. You can still compete but you’re playing a game of diminishing returns. The best bankroll for your needs is one which takes several personal factors into consideration. For example:
- Have you determined your hourly rate during poker sessions?
- Are you more inclined to play loose or aggressive poker games?
- As a low-stakes player, you are risking more of your living expenses
- If you burn through your bankroll are you ready to drop the stakes?
- Do you have an adequate sample size to determine your hourly rate?
- What impact does emotionally-based play have on your poker gaming?
A final word of caution about playing with a diminishing bankroll. If you find yourself depleting your bankroll then you will want to exit the poker games as quickly as possible. You certainly don’t want to deplete your poker stash and stay invested. You only stay in the poker games when you are winning – that’s what successful poker players do!