Poker Bankroll Management - A Regular Guy's Perspective

50 Cent Let me start off by saying that I am not an expert on poker bankroll management. There are plenty of good resources out there, for determining exactly how much money you should have available for whatever type/level of game you intend to play. Instead, I'm going to share a few personal mistakes from a "normal" guy who plays relatively low stakes online poker.

I strongly suspect that I am not alone in making a few of these errors. So without further ado, let's get to it ...

First, a couple of "no brainers".

  • This one actually applies to any type of gambling - Never, ever, ever gamble with money that you actually need for something else (like rent). If you find yourself in this situation, stop playing, and go get help.

  • Now that we've established that we're only going to play with "fun money", the next step is to make sure that you load up enough cash that you can afford to lose, should you hit a run of bad luck.

  • Along those same lines, I've heard some "hard and fast" rules about exactly how much money you should have (ie, 20x the buy-in). But I have a much simpler, and more common sense thought on the subject:
    If taking two or more "bad beats" in a night would severely impact your ability to keep playing, then there's a good chance that the stakes you are playing at are too high for your bankroll
  • Ok, so that's the basics out of the way. Now, on to the mistake that usually kicks my butt ...

    Unless you are trying to learn a new game (which will generally cost you some money), once you find a game or format that is profitable for you, STICK TO IT.

    For instance, I'm a relatively good tournament player. If all I did online was play sit n go tournaments, and an occasional bigger multi-table tournament on the weekends, my poker bankroll would definitely grow over time. Tournaments are +EV for me.

    Unfortunately, I don't always have time to play in tournaments, but I still want to play poker. So, I'll take some of my money and go play in a cash game. Only one problem ... I'm NOT a good no limit hold 'em cash game player. I don't know if I get bored, or what, but when it comes to cash games, I just tend to make way more bad decisions than I do in tournaments. Since I've been playing poker, cash games have definitely been an overall drain on my bankroll.

    One exception to that, is limit Omaha 8 or better. That's a game that I can come ahead on almost every session (especially at the lower limits I usually play at). But even there, if I can't get a seat at a limit table, I'll occasionally sit down at a pot-limit, or even no-limit O8 table. It's pretty much the same game, but much more volatile, with bigger swings. They're the kind of games where one bad decision, or even a bit of bad luck, can turn a profitable session into a losing session in a hurry.

    The thing is, I know that I shouldn't play in these games, which over time have proven to be unprofitable, but for some reason I still do. Right now, I guess I can just use the excuse that I only play poker for entertainment (which has the benefit of being the truth). But, if I ever do intend to use the game itself to significantly supplement my income, I'm going to have to get a lot more disciplined about sticking to games and formats that I actually have a reasonable expectation of being able to beat over the long haul.

    What about you ... do you have any tips or stories about managing your poker money?


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