No matter how good or bad you are at poker, bankroll management is the single most valuable skill in your arsenal. The good news is that it’s also a very simple skill to master. If you always practice proper bankroll management, there is basically a zero percent chance of you ever going broke or having to deposit again.
The basic concept behind bankroll management is to move up and down in stakes as your bankroll dictates. As your bankroll grows, you can move up in stakes. If you go on a downswing and your bankroll shrinks, you move down in stakes to help minimize the damage.
A good rule of thumb for no limit ring games is to always play at stakes for which you have at least 20 buyins. So if you have $500, for example, the highest stakes you should play in are $0.10/$0.25 ($25 buyin). If you fall below $500, you should move down one level in stakes.
As you move up in stakes, you should consider increasing your minimum bankroll. At the $5/$10 no limit level, we recommend that you have at least 30 buyins. The games get harder and your variance goes up as you move up in stakes. A large cushion helps keep you out of trouble and free of stress.
It is also a good idea to take your own goals into consideration when setting your bankroll limits. If you never want to deposit again, I recommend setting a minimum bankroll of 20 buyins. If you want to go professional, you’ll need a much larger bankroll. And if you’re simply a casual player and don’t mind reloading from time to time, you don’t even really need to set bankroll limits.
The generally accepted minimum bankroll for fixed limit ring games is 300 big bets. That means if you want to play $0.50/$1.00 fixed limit, you should have at least $300 in your bankroll.
As you move up in stakes, you should strongly consider bumping that up to 600 big bets. Your edge diminishes as you move up in stakes and play against stronger people, and that means you can expect to see bigger swings. A bigger bankroll will provide you with much-needed peace of mind.
Why is Bankroll Management So Important?
Bankroll management is important because all players go through downswings. You can be the best player in the world and still go on a downswing that feels like a train wreck. Poker is clearly a game of skill, but bad luck can hurt you in the short term. Bankroll management helps you ride out the short term bumps so that you’re still around when your luck returns to normal.
Being able to move down in stakes during downswings is also helpful because reduces the damage your bankroll takes. Sure, there’s a chance your luck is about to turn around, but there’s no need to take the risk. If you fail to move down in stakes when a downswing strikes, you just might end up burning through your entire bankroll.
Bankroll management also comes in handy for restoring your confidence. If you have to move down in stakes for a while, you’ll get to play for smaller amounts of money against easier opponents. It’s no fun moving down at first, but it can be refreshing to play against opponents that aren’t as skilled.
Putting it to Practice
The concept of bankroll management is a simple one. It doesn’t require an advanced math degree to figure out where you should be playing at all times. Even so, many poker players have a hard time actually practicing bankroll management. It can be tempting to move up in stakes too fast or to not move down during a downswing. The problem is not a matter of knowledge; it’s a matter of discipline.
This is not meant to sound condescending by the way. Bankroll management can be tough to stick with for all of us. I personally know how difficult it can be to move down in stakes after a rough run. It feels like you’re giving up and that it will take forever to rebuild everything that has been lost. But let me reassure you that it’s always for the best in the long run.
There’s no simple way to make yourself actually stick to your bankroll management philosophy; you just have to do it. Being able to always play within your bankroll is an important skill to have and it does not come easily. But know that it is possible to make it happen. If your bankroll drops below the amount it’s supposed to be, just take a break and move down in stakes. Consider it a vacation from the tough games you’re used to.