Part IA: All About Your Poker Bankroll

Author's note: This is part of a complete Introductory Poker Course for new players. Course links are provided at the bottom of this page.

It is of the utmost importance that you have a realistic idea about how much money that you need in your bankroll to play at the different bet and blind levels which are available. If you are going to play with any regularity-your bankroll is an amount of money that ideally would be set aside from other money that you need to live, pay bills, etc…. Its important for different reasons that you don't sit down to the poker table with your rent money.

First of all, playing with money that you can't afford to lose is going to reduce the chances of a winning outcome. In general, scarcity, and playing with the fear of busting out, will have a seriously negative impact on your play. The vast, vast majority of people who walk out away winners on a particular night are properly staked when they sit down to play. Their situation is: They can lose a percentage of what they have to play without having to worry about it, and if they lose that, well then tomorrow is another day. Abundance makes money, scarcity and desperation loses it.

So then in terms of the actual ratio of money that you need in your legitimate bankroll to the level of the big blind that you are considering playing at, even experienced players have different opinions. On the liberal end: some players will say that that in a limited stakes game you need 200x the amount of the big blind in your bankroll. If you are considering playing at a 5/10 limit game for example, they would say that you need 200 x 10, or 2,000$. On the conservative end, some players will say that you need 3x that amount, or 600x times the big blind level. Using the previous example they would say that you need 6,000$ just to play in a 5/10 limit game.

My own feeling is somewhere in the middle. If you consider the fact that on a good day you can pretty easily win 800$ at a 5/10 limit table, if you only started with 2,000$, then that's a 40% increase in your bankroll in one day. So if you plan to last through the ups and downs it is probably better to avoid that level of volatility in your overall bankroll. A 40% loss in one day to your bankroll would be a massive hit…. Some of this will have to do with your own tolerance for risk. But I think 200x the big blind level would be the very minimum common sense level conceivable.

A sensible bankroll model might be to play a minimum ratio of 400x the big blind, while allowing a maximum loss of 10% of your overall bankroll in one day-so you can have 10 consecutive losing days before you are wiped out, assuming that at no point you dropped down to a lower blind level to protect yourself (which is something that you should do if you are losing consistently at particular blind level). If you do have 10 consecutive losing days, either you are having an amazingly bad run of luck, or you need to take a step back and seriously examine your own playing habits in order to find out where the problem is. With this model, if you are playing correctly, it should be very difficult to go broke.

The other issue that you need to include in your bankroll model is: how much should you win before you call it quits? Personally I like a trailing stop model here. If you've ever traded stocks or the forex market, most likely you have experience with trailing stops. If you establish a basic goal for the day like a 10% gain in your overall bankroll, then that goal can be your first stop point-you will quit once you drop down below that level. After that, you can establish a trailing stop point every additional 5%. So for example, if 2,000$ is your overall bankroll, and you made 200$, then once you drop below 200$, maybe after a losing hand your left with 187$ profit, you stop for the day. But if you keep winning, and make another 5%, or 100$, for a total of 300$ profit, then 300$ becomes your new stop point, and so on. This way you will not miss out on big profits if you happen to be on big winning streak, and you will also be able to put away at least some profit for the day, assuming that you've hit your first trailing-stop point. Either way you need some type of guidelines that you can stick to in order to know when to quit. Why?

The reason for this is to embrace some kind of structure in your overall playing habits, in order to make them positively habitual, as opposed to impulsive. How much will I lose, and how much will I win if I keep playing are basically unknown factors. Playing for too many hours in a single day will eventually weaken your ability to make correct decisions-so without a temporal stopping point eventually you are bound to give back what you have won, or lose more than you already have. You go to a job and then you come home. You wake up and you take a shower. Poker should be that kind of habit, regular and business like.

There is no bankroll model that in itself can win you money-it works in accordance with your skill set in order to produce profits over time. Assuming the skills and self-mastery are there, then the bankroll model will help you complete the winning package by insuring that you limit your losses, take home the money when you win, avoid impulsive playing, and play at blind levels that work to your own advantage.

Playing under-staked, at a level of money which is clearly too small for the blind level is just as bad as playing with money that you can't afford to lose. Its like throwing it out the window. Its as though there is a right side and a wrong side to the game, and you want to do everything that you can to stay on the right side of it, if you see what I mean. Just like life, right? :)

That about wraps it up for being prepared to win. Lets review:

In order to win consistently at Texas Hold Em Poker, you must be prepared to win, this entails:

  • Mastering your own negative impulses in difficult situations
  • Being aligned with the game (poker is cruel in many ways)
  • Protecting and Respecting your Bankroll. Set percentage loss and win limits and play at appropriate blind levels.

Last for this section, I have two recommendations. The first is that you should keep a regular poker journal. Write down both the things that you feel you've done right, and the things that you feel you've done wrong after you finish playing for a session, or a day. Highlight those situations where you felt the game of Texas Hold Em was testing you, and then note how you responded. Over time this will help create awareness for yourself and help you to respond better during those tough times.

The second recommendation is to read a book called Zen and the Art of Poker by Larry Phillips, which approaches the game from a largely psychological perspective, and may help you to work wonders in the area of self mastery.

The following links for this poker course are listed sequentially. Beginners may want to go through in the order in which they are listed to get the whole rundown. More advanced players may want to skip around to the parts which hold interest for them.


QR Code
QR Code all_about_poker_bankroll (generated for current page)