Managing Your Poker Bankroll

Bankroll Management by definition is having the ability to maintain a safe ratio between your poker bankroll and the table limits that you are playing at, so that you can afford to play more hands without going under before you even have a chance to get ahead. By utilizing good bankroll management skills, you can increase your opportunities to win larger pots and allow yourself the time to slowly but productively move up in limits and ultimately get more out of your time and your efforts.  The first tip is to read this guide and muster up the discipline to follow the proper rules of bankroll management. It’s not always easy to stick to the formula, but think of it as a challenge, and if you succeed, the benefits of a little self-control will payout tenfold.

The limit at which the responsible poker player chooses to play at is by far the most important element of proper bankroll management. You must learn to assess the limits that your bankroll and your skill level can withstand and then force yourself to stick with them. The amount of discipline that goes into textbook bankroll management is the most difficult part of mastering this skill, and many players will find that they are just too erratic at the poker table to possess the level of self-discipline regarding table limits.

Players who do become successful at managing their bankroll will find that there will be a time that they can move up in limits, but that comes later. Once you’ve learned the proper bankroll management skills and have mastered each step individually beginning at the lower limits, then you can tackle higher limits, but even then you must be prepared to move back down when it’s not going well. We’ll talk more about moving up limits later in this lesson.

Bankroll: Limit Ratios
The easy part of bankroll management is understanding the simple mathematical ratios that you must adhere to, and then implementing the formula when you choose your table limits. This is not algebra, it’s simple multiplication, and if you can play poker, you can figure out what your minimum bankroll value should be. Furthermore, you should train yourself to constantly be calculating where you stand in terms of bankroll/big bet ratio.

Limit Poker
As a rule of thumb, for limit poker in the low- to middle-limits, your bankroll must be about 300 times the big bet (for a six-player game). Because of the long-term span of the limit cash game, a considerably large bankroll is a necessity. Your bankroll must be large enough to cushion losses while at the same time big enough to be effective. If this rule is not applied, your losses will eat up your bankroll and you will end up with an inefficient chip stack value that becomes mathematically impossible for you to get ahead.

Even if you’ve played higher-limit tables before, if you are just learning about bankroll management, try the method explained here at a low-limit table, just to get an overall better understanding of the system. Go for a $0.10/$.020 limit cash game with a minimum of six players. At 300 times the big bet, you’ll need to have $60 in chips.

No-Limit and Pot-Limit Poker
For No-Limit and Pot-Limit games, your minimum bankroll value should be determined in terms of buy-ins. For low-stake games ($1/$2), start out with a bankroll that is 20 times the buy-in; for mid-stake games ($2/$4 - $5/$10), up it to 30 times the buy-in; and for higher stakes, have at least 40 times the buy-in stacked up. Competition at these types of games, especially as you go higher in stakes, is significantly more aggressive and the competition can get fierce, so be careful.

Moving Up Limits
Once your bankroll exceeds the above mentioned 300 X the big bet of the next higher limit, you may move up to that limit. In keeping with the above mentioned example, if the limit above $0.10/$0.20 is $0.25/$0.50, then you can advance to the next limit once your bankroll exceeds $150 ($0.50 X 300).

At this point, congratulations are in order; you’ve made it pass the first stage of discipline. However, you must also be prepared to move back down a limit if your bankroll drops below that 300 times the big bet mark. Don’t get ahead of the system and make the mistake of playing beyond your limits. It must be noted that a continuous succession of limits is not realistic. Healthy bankroll management must include progression as well as regression in order for long-term success to be achieved.

The Bottom Line
Don’t make the mistake that many novice players make and many experienced players will be waiting for you to make; don’t play at higher limit tables than the rules of bankroll management allow. Just because you take a few big wins, doesn’t mean it’s automatically time to move. Wait out the numbers until you have the bankroll padding to protect yourself. If you don’t, you’ll be wiped out entirely on one bad run, and it will all be over because your self-discipline didn’t afford your bankroll the cushion to survive the inevitable pitfalls of the game.