5 Tips to Managing Your Poker Bankroll

By Ivan Potocki
April 06, 2022

If you’re new to poker, you might be tired of hearing just how important bankroll management is if you want to make it in the long run. If that’s the case, I’m sorry to disappoint, as you’re about to read yet another post on that “boring” subject.

On a more serious note, though, there are plenty of perfectly good reasons why more experienced players (the ones you know and the ones online) keep coming back to bankroll management.

You can’t play poker if you don’t have the money. If you don’t have the money to play, you can’t make any money, either. So it’s a vicious circle that you can easily get into if you’re not careful and not an easy one to get out of.

With that in mind, here are a few simple tips to managing your poker bankroll that you can implement straight away and immediately improve your chances of success.

bankroll builder

1. Have a Fixed Amount of Money Set Aside for Poker

The best way to keep track of things is by setting aside a certain amount of money that you’ll use just to play poker. This applies even if you’re not a professional player. For example, if poker is your hobby, you can have a “monthly” budget, i.e. a portion of your income that goes towards the game.

All the winnings you get along the way should be separated accordingly to help you build your bankroll further. So, if you start out with $500 allocated and win $2,000 during the first month, your bankroll would now be $2,500 going into month #2. Ideally, if you’re able to do so, you should add the monthly $500 to this as well to continue building it.

2. Keep Track of Your Sessions

The simplest way to track your bankroll is by counting how much money you have and comparing it to how much you started with. That way, you’ll always know if you’re in the red or in the black, but that’s only partial information.

You should take poker notes and keep track of your individual sessions or tournaments to have a better overview of how your bankroll got to where it is. For example, did you get lucky in one huge session and vault from $500 to $3,000, or was it a steady grind over a few weeks or months? This is important as it ties into the next bankroll management tip.

3. Never Forget About Variance

Another poker term that you may be sick and tired of hearing about is “variance.” If you’re new to the game, you might be wondering what this scary “monster” is that everyone is talking about is and why they all seem so afraid of it.

The simplest translation — although not the most accurate one — is: luck. As you probably know, there is an element of luck to poker, and your short-term results can be influenced by it to a major degree.

If you find yourself on the positive side of variance for a while, you could see your bankroll grow at an exponential rate, which might fool you into believing that your hot streak will continue. I’m sorry to break it to you, but it won’t.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself on an equally (or worse) bad run where every pot will go in the wrong direction no matter what you do.

This is why it’s so important to keep track of your bankroll and its movements. This will give you a decent idea of what to expect in the future. If you won a massive tournament, for example, that’s great, but don’t count on that happening very soon again. If it does, even better, but the odds are stacked against you.

4. Pick the Games Based on Your Bankroll Size

If you have $200 to play poker with, it’s not a good idea to put it all on the table in a live $1/$2 cash game or to enter a $200 tournament. If you do that, even if you’re the best poker player in the world, you’re basically at the whim of luck and are most likely setting yourself up for failure. You’re better off playing for penny stakes online.

There are different bankroll management rules and suggestions out there, but the basic premise is that you should always give yourself plenty of room to live through even the worst stretches of bad variance.

This means having at least 40–50 buy-ins for cash games and 80–100 buy-ins for tournaments, and, believe it or not, this is not a conservative approach. In fact, if you stick to the lower end of those ranges, some might even call it a bit reckless.

The decision will also depend on the kind of games you play and how big your advantage over the field is. If you mostly play soft live games, you probably don’t need as much of a safety net as you do if you plan on taking on mid-range online poker tournaments.

5. There Is No Shame in Dropping Down

The final bankroll management tip I’ll leave you off with is that there is absolutely no shame in dropping down in stakes if things aren’t going your way. If you lose 20% or 30% of your bankroll in a few bad sessions, it’s probably for the best to move down for a little while to rebuild your confidence and get some of your losses back.

For example, if you play NL50 online, move down to NL25 for a little while. Games are always softer, and you won’t feel as much pressure as even bad beats won’t cost as much as you’re used to.

The bottom line is, you need to do everything you can to protect yourself from going bust. The worst thing that can happen to a poker player is to lose their entire bankroll and have to start from scratch. Even if you can find someone to back you, you’ll have to give up a part of your profits, so you’d be better off had you dropped down for a while and avoided all the unnecessary problems altogether.

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Ivan Potocki poker author
Written By.

Ivan Potocki

Ivan Potocki transitioned to poker writing after playing more or less full-time for about five years. He first discovered poker while studying English Language and Literature at the University of Sarajevo. What started with freerolls and micro-stakes games led to a love for poker, opening gates to a whole different world. After finishing his studies […]

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