Poker Bankroll Management – Our Ultimate Guide for Staying Ahead
If you’re serious about playing poker, you should be aware that bankroll management is just as critical to the outcome of the game just as learning the rankings of poker hands. If you want to increase your odds of winning not just the next hand, but the overall match or tournament, you need to be smart with your money and make sure your bankroll doesn’t run dry. We’ve written this article to help you do that.
Bankroll Management Poker
To win at poker in the long run, you should consider poker a business, and also treat your poker money as if it belonged to that business. The first step is to separate your poker money from your personal finances and avoid spending your personal finances on poker, just as you should not count on poker money to pay bills. Accordingly, you should be very careful about how much you can actually afford to spend on poker, while also leaving yourself a big enough bankroll to wield some power at the table and win. It’s a delicate balance.
According to poker bankroll management theory, the size of your bankroll should directly determine the stakes at which you play. While you may be okay with the theoretical approach, the key is to adequately implement it in practice. You may understand what buy-in amount you can afford based on how much money you have, but understanding how to apply that knowledge while actually playing poker is another thing completely.
Below are some key poker bankroll management tips that will help you develop and adopt adequate strategies for selecting the right game, moving up in the stakes, or cashing out. Ultimately, that will help you in managing your poker bankroll successfully.
Poker Bankroll Management Tips
Play within the limits of your bankroll. However tempting it may be to go for a cash game or enter a tournament with an amazing prize pool, you should always remember the golden rule: only gamble with money you can afford to lose. There’s no sense in playing higher-stakes games if you aren’t adequately bankrolled or if the buy-ins are way out of your league. Your bankroll bucks are supposed to fund your poker playing, not pay for your bills.
Building a bankroll implies that your bankroll will not be used for anything other than poker. That’s because if you’re playing with money you can’t afford to lose or don’t have, not only will you be putting your and your family’s financial security at risk, but you’ll also be worrying about how to cut your losses, not focusing on how to win the game.
Do what it takes to stay in the game. Before starting a game, you should be honest with yourself about your bankroll. Be sure that your current bankroll isn’t all the money you have for poker; you should still save some for a rainy day. Your poker money management is critical, because if you lose all your bankroll money at once, you might have to consider quitting poker altogether.
If you have stable finances and a full-time job, this may not be an issue. But if losing your bankroll money means you’ll have to consider not playing poker for a long time, then maybe you should reconsider your priorities. Your bankroll actually serves as a financial buffer for when you lose, which happens even to the best of players.
For example, your online poker bankroll management helps you avoid situations in which all it takes is one online game to lose the only buy-in you can afford, at which point you’re out of the game. The point is to have enough for several buy-ins in any specific game, which automatically increases your odds of both staying in the game and winning it.
You don’t stop “swings” with desperate moves. When dealing with swings – those inevitable moments when things don’t go your way and you lose – you’ve gotta keep your wits about you. In these moments of crisis, remember all you know about how to manage bankroll in poker and stick with your A-game. You should not let the swings and money pressure get to you and force you to make rash plays. If your losing streak extends, you should consider whether it’s in your best interests to keep playing. After all, reckless moves won’t “stop” variance and chasing losses never ends well.
To help you deal with the swings, you should consider using a poker variance calculator (you can find handy and easy-to-use calculators online). By default, the higher the variance of your selected game type, the more buy-ins you need to have in your bankroll. Bankroll management and poker buy-ins notwithstanding, you’ll still need to make a judgement about the skill level of other players. Your opponents’ skill level increases variance, as do higher stakes and the number of players in multi-table tournaments.
Move down in stakes if needed. If your losses have mounted to the point of jeopardizing your bankroll substantially, you should consider moving down in stakes, at least until you’re able to top up your bankroll with some more money.
Be willing to take risks occasionally. As soon as you master cash game bankroll management, you can start to move forward and see how a more aggressive approach will affect your supplies of money. There’s no universal formula for this one, except that your strategy should be based on your poker goals. Accordingly, you may consider implementing an aggressive bankroll management strategy if you aim to learn quickly and move up the stakes.
Save money on “comps.”In live cash games, players tend to use chips from their current stacks to pay for food, drinks, massages, or tips. Therefore, live poker bankroll management requires additional caution, because apart from these costs (which can quickly add up), eating into your stack may result in you eventually winning less money, for example if you end up going all-in. This is particularly important for low-stakes players – whether you’re paying out of your stack or not, the costs are the same.
Select your game based on your bankroll. There are a number of factors dictating your bankroll, such as your playing style, the game format, and the way you cope with wins and losses. If you’re versed in poker bankroll management, you’ll know that you can play from a smaller bankroll in short-handed (six-max.) no-limit hold’em cash games. On the other hand, you’ll need a bigger bankroll for a pot-limit Omaha cash game, as this tends to have more variance, although not as much as multi-table tournaments do.
You should find the games with the lowest rake and stick to them. Among the factors you should consider are rakebacks and beatable rakes, which may not be easy to find online.
Some of the best poker players around believe you should be guided by your win rate for the game that you’re playing. Whatever your approach, having a sound poker bankroll management strategy is one of the key prerequisites for a successful career in poker. Being smart with your money is necessary if you aim to maintain your bankroll, increase the stakes, improve your game, and ultimately win money.
There is no universal solution for maintaining a good poker bankroll. Some players recommend a more aggressive approach by setting aside a smaller number of required buy-ins and playing a higher-stakes game. Others suggest caution to minimize or rule out the possibility of blowing their bankroll completely. You may also look for free poker bankroll and no-deposit poker bonuses, which can allow you to play online poker for real money with no risk to your own funds.
Another good idea is to use a poker risk of ruin calculator to determine the bankroll size you need for a negative expectation game. To use this, you would need to know your expected edge in the game and the standard deviation, which along with the hypothetical bankroll, number of hands played, and the average bet placed, could help you predict the result. This may be a bit challenging in a game like no limit hold’em, as the bet per hand is not fixed.
Poker Bankroll Management App Reviews (IOS, Android)
You’re probably aware that there are plenty of poker apps out there, but you might be surprised to learn that there are also purpose-built bankroll management apps. With such a large selection, it may be difficult to choose the right one.
To help you narrow down your choices, we’re highlighting three of the apps available on the market today. Regardless of your game preferences and goals – whether that’s to improve your game, track your statistics, find tournaments, or just watch others play – there’s an app (most commonly known as a poker bankroll tracker) that will match your requirements. To help you pick the best poker bankroll management app, we’ve selected the following options:
- Poker Income (free/$9.99) enables you to track your stakes, locations, results, and time played for live games and tournaments (iOS, Android).
- ITM Poker Bankroll Manager (free/$2.49) lets you manage multiple bankrolls, bonuses, deposits, rakebacks, and cashouts for live play or at multiple online sites (Android).
- Poker Manager PRO (free/$5.99) enables you to save and improve your games, keep track of your poker income, view monthly stats, and customize options (Android).
The Importance of a Proper Poker Bankroll Management Tool
If you’re committed to becoming a great poker player, you should be fully aware of the importance of having and implementing sound poker bankroll management principles. Having advanced poker skills is great, but it won’t suffice unless you practice discipline and develop your bankroll management abilities. And even if you satisfy all the prerequisites, you can still find yourself sliding down a slippery slope.
You’ve probably heard about great players who never move up in stakes because they don’t have the poker bankroll or the required discipline to advance in the game. To stay on top of your poker bankroll management and avoid losing streaks, you need to understand that your bankroll is an investment and, as such, should be handled with care and determination. Building your discipline means becoming strict about your bankroll limit; you should never gamble more than you can afford to lose, as it can affect both your poker career and your life.
To make life a bit easier for avid poker players, there are tools that can help you manage your bankroll properly without having to write anything down. Some players prefer a DIY approach to tracking their bankroll using spreadsheets, while others may opt for a poker bankroll management chart. Spreadsheets are easy to use and allow you to record and share your progress online.
Among a variety of services available online, Poker Charts, My Poker Bankroll, Poker Bankroll Tracker, and Poker Dominator allow you to manage your bankroll and evaluate your results. You can also take a look at the three apps we mentioned earlier: Poker Income, ITM Poker Bankroll Manager, and Poker Manager PRO. Typically, you’ll get a free trial, after which you need to pay for the service. However, these tools are mainly designed for live poker bankroll management.
How to Manage Your Poker Bankroll Online
When they think about online poker, most players imagine big bets, legendary bluffs, and piles of chips. What they don’t consider is the less exciting side, which is actually the most vital element of poker playing: bankroll management. Bankroll management has little to do with your playing style and everything to do with the way you manage the funds in your account. It’s the only way you can ensure you have money to play with even when you’re dealing with a losing streak.
Poker online bankroll management is just as important as bankroll management in live games. So, if you’re a newbie or you’ve noticed that you’re constantly having to replenish your account, you should consider gaining a more in-depth understanding of bankroll management. Not only will this improve your overall poker experience, but it will help make sure you don’t start dipping into your savings or other non-poker-related funds. If you feel uncertain about the number of buy-ins you need to play within the means of variance, you may consider trying an online poker bankroll management calculator.
Building Your Poker Bankroll
Experienced players usually recommend a conservative approach to building your online poker bankroll. That’s because with a stable and healthy poker bankroll, you will not be forced into making hasty decisions during a game. Whatever your approach, you should consider these four main components of building a bankroll:
- The stakes you play at determine your bankroll requirement. In comparison to high-stakes games, low-stakes poker games require a smaller bankroll, regardless of whether you prefer MTTs, cash games, or another variant of the game.
- Your online poker bankroll management also depends on the type of game you play. You can kick off with a smaller bankroll in cash games, whereas in tournaments you’ll need a higher amount to cover numerous buy-ins.
- Your success rate is critical to your bankroll – the more games you win, the higher your bankroll will be. If you’re an experienced player and prefer tournaments, you’re likely to get a higher return on your investment, meaning you can win more money within a shorter time span while building a bankroll.
- In weighing up your ideal online poker bankroll, you need to take into account available cash and your income sources to be sure that your investment in the game is within your comfort zone. Of course, this is highly individual and depends on specific situations – some people may become reckless when playing with a substantial bankroll, while others may consider it an incentive to play better.
Different Types of Poker and Corresponding Bankrolls
|No-limit online cash games||Limit cash games: 300-400 big bets||Single table sit & gos: 60+ buy-ins||Heads-up sit & gos: 20-40 buy-ins||MTTs: 150-300 buy-ins|
|Blinds||Bankroll||Blinds||Bankroll||Average buy-in||Bankroll||Average buy-in||Bankroll||Average buy-in||Bankroll|
|$0.01/$0.02||$200+||$0.01/$0.02||$12 to $16||$1.10||$66||$1.10||$22 to $44||$1.10||$165 to $330|
|$0.02/$0.04||$400+||$0.02/$0.04||$30 to $40||$2.20||$122||$2.20||$44 to $88||$5.50||$825 to $1,650|
|$0.05/$0.10||$1,000+||$0.05/$0.10||$60 to $80||$3.30||$198||$3.30||$66 to $132||$11||$1,650 to $3,300|
|$0.25/$0.50||$5,000+||$0.25/$0.50||$150 to $200||$5.50||$330||$5.50||$110 to $220||$22||$3,300 to $6,600|
|$0.50/$1.00||$10,000+||$0.50/$1.00||$300 to $400||$11||$660||$11||$220 to $440||$33||$4,950 to $9,900|
|$1.00/$2.00||$20,000+||$1.00/$2.00||$600 to $800||$15||$1,320||$15||$300 to $600||$55||$8,250 to $16,500|
|$2.00/$5.00||$50,000+||$2.00/$4.00||$1,200 to $1,600||$30||$2,640||$30||$600 to $1,200||$100||$15,000 to $ $30,000|
Professional players recommend that your video poker bankroll – or indeed for any other form of poker – should be based on the following rules: three to four times the payout for a royal flush and 10% to 16.67% of the total amount run for a trip bankroll for a low/middle-variance game respectively. As for session bankrolls, experts recommend splitting the trip bankroll into even amounts for each day and sticking to that amount.
Finally, Be Realistic with Your Expectations
You’ve mastered the key principles of managing your poker bankroll and you’re ready to roll. But there’s one more thing you need to manage: your own expectations. If you’ve just joined an online poker site and you expect to make $10,000 by entering a $10 MTT and beating experienced players, think again. This cavalier attitude will deplete your bankroll of money rapidly.
Small steps are what you really need to gain experience, improve your skills, and learn the fine art of building your bankroll. True, there will be days when your game actually meets your expectations, but you should not take them as the rule – think of that as the exception. Of course, you will lose sometimes, but that should not discourage you, as it happens to both beginners and professionals.
Poker is unlike any other gambling game. While luck may be an important part of it, there are numerous factors you need to consider to be able to win in the long run, and managing your poker bankroll is one of them. You may find it useful to learn from a global poker bankroll challenge, like that of Karlen Aladzjan or Brian Frenzel.
Their experience may be useful, as they have taken on many poker bankroll challenges over the years. Indeed, some of these pro players started with no funds at all. To learn some tricks of the trade, you may consider watching the PokerStars Twitch channel, which streams a wide selection of games. You can also learn from Team PokerStars members, who provide valuable advice about different game formats, limits, and variants.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many buy-ins should your bankroll be?
Depending on the format of the game, managing poker bankroll broadly requires:
- 30 times the tournament buy-in if you’re a serious player and 100 buy-ins if you are a professional player for sit & go tournaments.
- At least 50 buy-ins as a serious player and 200 buy-ins as a professional player for multi-table tournaments.
- About 300 big bets for fixed limit hold’em.
- 10 buy-ins for a recreational player, 20 buy-ins for a serious player, and 50 buy-ins for a professional player in no-limit hold’em cash games.
What should your poker bankroll be?
While building a bankroll, there’s no universal, foolproof formula, but the golden rule is between 10 and 20 buy-ins. No one with an in-depth knowledge of poker would ever suggest having a bankroll of fewer than 10 buy-ins. If you consider yourself an average player, you can start with 15 to 20 buy-ins.
For MTTs and sit & go tournaments, professional players recommend sticking to 2% of your bankroll for any buy-in, meaning that you should look for MTTs that cost $10 or less if you have $500 in your account. More importantly, your poker bankroll should remain separate from your day-to-day money and your savings. Life is bigger than poker.
How many buy-ins for cash games?
In poker bankroll management for cash games, the rule of thumb is that you should have at least enough money to cover 20 buy-ins (although some players would go with as many as 40 or 50).
What is bankroll management?
Before defining bankroll management, it is necessary to define bankroll itself. You should have a designated bankroll, meaning the amount of money you set aside solely for playing poker. This could be the money you bring to the casino or the funds you have in your online poker account, not your everyday living money. Bankroll management refers to the proper management of your funds to ensure that you have enough money for your poker games. When done well, poker bankroll management will help you avoid ending in a financial slump.