Bankroll Management

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To become a successful full time poker player, there are several necessary traits or skills that one must possess. For starters, a player should know how to play poker and preferably be better than an average player. Secondly, a player must be willing to study his or her game constantly to find weaknesses so that they can improve upon them to get better and retain the edge they have over their opponents. Lastly, and most importantly, a player must understand and exercise proper bankroll management.

That's right, bankroll management is undoubtedly more important than studying your game or being a solid player. Now, I am not saying that bankroll management will make up for you being a losing player. To be successful at poker, you do need to know how to play well and you do need to study very hard. However, you can study everyday to be the next Phil Ivey times ten and still be broke if you lacked bankroll management skills. And what fun is it to be a solid poker player if you are always broke?

So, for those of you that are interested in learning more about bankroll management, I have provided some thoughts on what needs to be considered when determining your bankroll requirements as well as some guidelines to follow when first starting out.

Considerations for Proper Bankroll Management

Although there are some solid guidelines to use when learning how to manage your bankroll, there would be a slight flaw here. People are different in his or her financial situation, their personal needs and how much money they need to have coming in as sole income for the month.

Here are a few things to consider:

* How many bills do you have? There is a big difference with having to feed a family of four and paying a mortgage in comparison to living at home with mom and dad and only having to pay for your gas and car insurance.

* Do you have a savings? Playing poker for a living is similar to starting your own business. But instead of worrying about attracting business for the first few months like a new business would, your savings would be set aside for variances. It is important to have a bare minimum of 6 months income stashed aside that is not a part of your poker bankroll to be sure that you can live comfortably in case you are running/playing poorly. The bigger the savings you have, the better.

* Are you disciplined? This is crucial and you must be very honest with yourself. If you do not have the discipline to move down in stakes if needed or find that you cannot control situations where you are tilting and cannot quit playing, you need to wait until you can do so. Being able to move up or down and control your feelings are very similar to making important business decisions.

Additionally, being a poker player aka your own boss means that you have to be disciplined in actually working as well. No work means no money. It will be a good idea to set a 'work' schedule and stick to it. Sure, being your own boss has its own perks but you won't be your own boss long if you aren't responsible or disciplined enough to actually work.

As you can probably tell, the trend here falls along the line of becoming your own boss and starting a business. So, it would be in your best interest to treat it as such. Now, once you get the business started, it is time to learn how to manage it.

Bankroll Guidelines

Again, bankroll guidelines are going to differ from person to person as a player with bills and a family with have to make more and will want a bigger 'roll to ensure that they can still continue to bring in money and a player who lacks and responsibilities at all can get away with a much smaller 'roll. So, the following guidelines are just a 'rule of thumb' and will need to be adjusted to fit your own needs.

Cash Games

Bankroll guidelines for cash games will vary mostly on the stakes that you play and the variation. For example, you are going to want more money in your bankroll if you are playing No Limit Hold'em than if you were playing 7-card Stud. The reason is that in NLHE, a player can lose their stack in one hand as opposed to Stud where the game is generally played in a 'fixed-limit' format so that players will lose no more than the 'fixed' bet amount that is allowed per hand.

Aside from the betting variation, the game you are playing is important to consider as well. Omaha may be played mostly in the 'pot-limit' format which doesn't sound too risky, but remember that Omaha is full of draws and that can play a huge part in your bankroll variation as well.

So, as a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to have no less than 300 times the amount of the big blind of the stakes you wish to play in with 500 times being preferred. For example, if you wanted to play in the $.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em games, you would want at least $300, if not $500 before playing at these stakes. This will allow you to ride out any variances or bad beats you may face as well as allow you to buy in for the table maximum each time you sit down. Then once you have 300 to 500 times the big blind for the next level up, you can then 'take a shot' at those stakes.

With 'taking a shot in mind,' it is also important to understand that at some point you may have to move down in stakes if your bankroll takes a huge hit. There is no shame in doing this as virtually everyone at some point has had to. So similar to having a minimum to playing at certain stakes, you should also have an amount that if you fall below, you will make yourself move down in stakes. Using our example above of 300 to 500, a good number to use would be 200 to 250. So, if you fell below 200 or 250 big blinds for $.50/$1, you would then move down to $.25/$.50 and play at these stakes until you built your bankroll back up. Remember, there is no shame in doing this and it's not only essential to being successful, it is just plain smart to do.

Tournaments/Sit n Go Bankroll Guidelines

Tournaments and Sit n Go's are a different beast altogether as the swings, good or bad, are much larger and more frequent. Meaning, you will not cash every time but when you do, it should be a substantial amount.

Having said that, a good rule of thumb for tournaments would be around 100 buy-ins. This means that if you wish to play $5 180 man tournaments, you should have a minimum of $500 set aside in your bankroll. Since you will not cash every time, $500 should be sufficient until you do, in which case the payout should be a large amount.

Sit n go's are much different since there are so many variations in field sizes. Players can choose from 6-man, 9-man, 18-man, 27 or 45 man tables. So to begin with, a bare minimum bankroll for sit n go's will be 40 buy-ins with that being a little higher if you are playing 27 or 45 man games. Also, 40 buy-ins is sufficient for the lower stakes where the games are much softer, but once you reach the $5 or $10 games, you will be much better off with a minimum bankroll of 100 buy-ins. And as always, the more you have in your bankroll the better. From a personal standpoint, 100 big blinds really should be the minimum but 40 to 50 seem to be common.

Similar to cash games, be sure to come up with a reasonable amount that if fallen below; you will be required to move down. For example, if you were playing the $5 games with a 100 buy-in minimum, you should consider moving down to the $3 games if you fall below 50 buy-ins for the $5 games.

Bankroll Management in Poker

The bottom line is, is that if you fail at managing your bankroll you will simply fail at being a poker player, period. So be sure to remember that even though poker is a game of skill, you still have so many variables that you cannot control, which can lead to having very common and normal losing sessions. A good poker player understands this and will have the bankroll in place to accommodate such loses.