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Shirley Rosario
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Poker Bankroll Management

Managing Your Poker Bankroll

by Shirley Rosario


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Poker Bankroll Money ManagementOne of the questions I get asked most is: "What is a good bankroll to start with if you want to begin playing seriously?" There are so many variables it is impossible to give a general answer that will be accurate. Each person must examine their style of play, their game of choice, where they play, the limit they feel comfortable playing, and the reason for playing the game. After some serious thought, you might be able to come up with a ballpark figure.

If you search for information regarding bankroll management, you might find some general rules of thumb. I have read that it is good to play with a bankroll of 300 times the amount of the big bet. This means if you want to play $1-2 limit, you should have a bankroll of $600. This is a good figure, but it is also a very general statement. You must first be aware of the type of player you are. If you are a tight, solid player, then you will probably not need as much money as a player who is involved in a lot of pots. When I first started my job as a prop player, my game of choice was Limit Omaha High Low Split. Whenever an opportunity came up for me to play the game, I jumped at the chance. There was another prop that enjoyed the game as much as I did and we usually ended up in the same game. I probably played 2 to 3 times as many hands as she did which meant my swings were higher. Our styles of play were totally different, but at the end of the week our bottom line was similar. I asked myself if I should change my style of play so my swings wouldn't be as high and the answer was easy... Absolutely not! This style of play works for me. I just need to make sure my bankroll is larger than some other people would need in the same game.

Another factor you must take into consideration when determining the size of your bankroll is the type of game you are playing. If you enjoy playing Stud, Triple Draw or Badugi, you will need more money than if you were playing Draw Poker. Some games have more betting rounds than others, so if you are going to play in the games with more betting rounds, then you should need a little more money than somebody playing a game of the same limit with less betting rounds.

No Limit Holdem is another game where you should have a lot more money. In a $100 restricted buy-in game, the blinds are $2-3. The 300x the big bet formula doesn't apply here at all. Anybody who has played No Limit Holdem knows that $900 would be way too small of a bankroll to ride out the swings of the game. I stated that when I first started, my game of choice was Omaha. Lately, the game I play most often is No Limit. I have had consecutive losing sessions where I have lost a total of $1500 in the small ($100 buy-in) game. Swings like that can beat a person down if they don't have enough money to be able to handle it. No Limit Holdem is probably the game where the swings will be the highest. I can handle the swings because I have enough money in my bankroll that I can lose for days on end and still have enough to get back into the game and not play with scared money. Scared money means you don't play your game properly because you are afraid that if you lose, you will lose your bankroll, and be out of action -- or even completely without money.

You must also decide what limit you feel comfortable playing. The basic guideline stated that in a $1-2 limit game, you should have $600. So in a $10-20 limit game, you should have $6000. It seems simple enough, but it isn't. In a smaller limit game, you will most likely be facing more opponents when you see a flop. Even if you only play premium hands, your swings will be relatively larger because you will win less hands overall (due to having more opponents) but the pots you win will be bigger. Generally speaking, your swings will be higher (relative to your bankroll) in smaller limit games. Therefore, you should start with a little more than the guideline.

One of the most important things to consider when determining your bankroll is the reason you play poker. If you have a regular job or another source of income, then the above guidelines should suit you just fine. If you plan on playing poker as your sole source of income, then things get much more complicated. A professional poker players needs are different than a recreational players (or even a semi-professional). A pro player lives off his bankroll. His bankroll is essentially his net worth.

While playing poker, you are bound to have fluctuations. When you are independently wealthy, the fluctuations only matter to themselves. If poker is your only source of income and you have fluctuations, you have to remove your monthly house payment from your bankroll when it comes due. Instead of earning your bankroll, you deplete it. The bankroll you had, you no longer have, and this occurred for reasons having basically nothing to do with poker, so it important to start with a lot more than the standard 300x.

The professional poker player should also consider that he should be making some money with his bankroll in other places besides the poker table. A bankroll should not just be in a drawer in your bedroom. If a player plays $30-60 regularly, they should have approximately $20,000. If a player has a $20,000 bankroll, the whole wad does not go on the table every time they sit down. A player should take some of the money (in this case perhaps $5000) to the casino and the rest should be in the bank, the stock market or any other place where it can make a profit. The reserve should be "working" for the player while the player is working at the poker table.

Everybody's bankroll will be different depending on life circumstance. Each player must answer a lot of questions before they even come up with an amount that will suit them. They must consider the game, the limit, the style of play (Las Vegas games tend to be tighter than Los Angeles games) and the reason for playing. Once a player does that, then they should be on their way. Just remember that it is better to have more than enough, than not enough. Winning a little less than you could have if you played bigger is a lot better of a bad thing than to go broke would be. Bankroll is for life.