Poker Bankroll management

If you’re a keen poker player, no matter which version of the game you play, you’ll no doubt take your poker bankroll management very seriously. The most important aspect of playing poker for money is learning the rules so you understand the mechanics of the game and how to win. But learning how to manage your poker bankroll is arguably the second most important thing to learn. It’s essential that you know your poker bankroll basics before jumping in and playing a game. It will help you control your playing budget, and you’ll most likely enjoy the game a whole lot more, as it will take away or simplify some of the more stressful decisions.

What is a Bankroll in Poker?

At its simplest, a poker bankroll is your budget, or the amount of money you have available to place your wagers in any given poker game. Do all players have a set bankroll? No, but they should. You’ve likely seen fictional poker games play out on TV where people run out of money and end up throwing in their watch, their wedding ring, or their two best horses as part of their wager. While this makes for dramatic story-telling, it should never happen in real life – or online – poker games.

When you sit down to a game of poker you should always have a specific amount set aside to play with. When it’s gone, the session is over for you. When it comes to bankroll management, poker players need to think carefully about how much they add to their bankroll for each game. To start with, it should never be more than you can afford to lose. That is, poker money should be discretionary “fun money” that you would happily spend on any other form of entertainment like dinner, a movie, or a day out with your family.

That’s because there are no guarantees in poker. You could win big, or you could lose everything. If you do lose all the money in your bankroll, you should still be able to pay your rent, bills, and all other necessary expenses for the month. One of the big things to keep in mind when setting your bankroll size is that you shouldn’t be relying on winning. Even professional players know that you win some and you lose some. The money in your bankroll has to be expendable.

Strategies for Effective Poker Bankroll Management

Once you’ve set your bankroll, you need to play according to the amount you have available. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the amount of money in your bankroll should always dictate the stakes at which you play. High rollers with a lot in their bankroll will have more options than a beginner player on a very small budget. This shouldn’t necessarily affect your enjoyment of the game, though. Poker can be a fun game at any level. In fact, it’s a lot more fun if you know you’re playing within your means and not taking risks with money you can’t afford to lose.

Many gamblers seem to accept the importance of a bankroll strategy when they’re playing a game of pure luck, but poker is a little different. It’s a game of luck and skill, and this is what can trip people up. It’s easy to think you can rely on your skill, and maybe estimate the skill of the other people around the table, but you really can’t.

Poker games will always be subject to variance. Variance is what makes it impossible to predict at the outset how a poker game will go. There will always be factors outside your control. You may be an awesome player but get terrible cards. You may be a great bluffer but someone at the table will figure you out. You may have a great hand, but someone across the table may have an even better one.

Variance means that you have to factor in luck as well as skill and be aware that, statistically speaking, you will always lose money as well as win it, so proper bankroll management isn’t optional; it’s essential. Since you can’t avoid variance, the best you can do is minimize its effects on you by managing your poker bankroll carefully. You need to be sure that the size of your bankroll is appropriate, given the stakes you’re playing for.

If your bankroll for any particular game is really small, you won’t be in a strong position to handle the swings that come with playing poker. One big loss, and you’re pretty much done for the night. However, it’s also possible to have a bankroll that’s “too big,” believe it or not. If there’s too much in your bankroll and you’re playing a low-stakes game, then you’ll generally be looking at some wasted opportunities. 

So think about the stakes you’re playing for and deposit money into your poker bankroll accordingly. Have a bigger bankroll than usual right now due to a lucky streak or other windfall? Then maybe you can afford to consider some higher-stakes games.

Because your bankroll is linked to stakes, managing it well can help stop you going broke. Simply decide in advance at what point you’ll move down stakes. Once you’ve lost a pre-determined amount of money and your overall bankroll hits a specific number, you’ll move down stakes and play for less. It’s vital to decide this in advance, and you’ve probably already worked out why. 

We can make rational decisions when we sit down and crunch the numbers, outside of the excitement of actually playing a game. In the heat of a poker game, it’s far more likely you’ll get emotional, act on a whim, chase losses, and let other players get to you. Make important decisions about bankroll management when you’re calm and focused. Then stick to them even if you’re getting a little caught up in the action during an actual game.

The stakes you play for will depend on a few different factors. Most online poker sites have cash games with pretty low stakes, sometimes as low as $0.01/$0.02 or $0.02/$0.05. This is great as it means you can practice disciplined poker bankroll management even with a really small budget. In real-life casinos, stakes may be a lot higher, but many casinos offer a range of games aimed at players with different skill levels and bankrolls, so you should find something to suit you and your budget.

Size of Poker Bankroll 

The size of your poker bankroll will depend on the type of poker game you’re playing, along with various other factors. Many poker games have a limit on the amount you can stake, which means that all players must always place a bet (or raise another player’s bet) in a fixed increment that’s set out before the game starts. There are also no-limit cash games, where players can bet or raise pretty much any amount they want at any time.

In a no-limit game, players have a lot of flexibility. They can raise and re-raise as many times as they want. They can place any bet amount that they want and really put their poker playing skills to the test – along with their poker face as bluffing can be a very important strategy in no-limit games.

No-Limit Hold’Em is perhaps the most popular poker game among the high rollers, but it really is a game where the players’ level of skill is a vital factor in the game. Highly-skilled, experienced poker players can win big in these games, but there is a lot of risk involved too. Top players with big bankrolls will be hoping to entice weaker players into making big bets and hopefully taking home a bigger profit. No-limit games certainly aren’t for those with less experience and smaller bankrolls.

Although they’re known as no-limit games, there are actually some limits. Players are not able to bet a smaller amount than one big blind at any point in the game, for example, and a raise on any street must be the same as or higher than the previous raise. These games are also subject to the table stakes rule, which basically means that no player can raise more chips than he or she currently has.

Limit cash games, as the name implies, limit the amount that each player can bet or raise. Betting happens in pre-determined increments, and there is a limit on how much a player can raise. This means that those with smaller bankrolls will have an in-built advantage, as you’ll be able to gauge in advance how quickly you’ll burn through your cash. Playing with a fixed cash limit like this is common in specific types of poker such as Stud, Omaha, and Hi Lo poker games.

Another type of poker that has become popular at online casinos is single table Sit & Go poker, which is different again. At a Sit & Go poker table you can basically play through all the different stages of a traditional poker game in a very short time, and with any buy-in. So this option can really appeal to some players with smaller bankrolls and less time. 

Sit & Gos are essentially on-demand poker tournaments that start as soon as the seats around the poker table are filled. It’s generally played at a single table with a set number of seats, which could be two, six, or nine, and takes the form of a mini version of a standard poker tournament, played in less than an hour in most cases. The buy in is generally pretty low, every player gets the same amount of chips, and prizes are based on the buy-in. So, if there’s a $10 buy-in and six players, the total prize pool is $60. Great for those with a limited bankroll and not much time, these tables are well worth watching out for in your online casino.

See the tables below to give you an idea about the type of bankroll required for each type of game, depending on other important factors.

No-Limit Cash Games

BlindsBuy-InBankroll RequiredNo. of Buy-ins
$0.01 – $0.02$2$40 – $8020 – 40
$0.05 – $0.10$10$200 – $40020 – 40
$0.10 – $0.25$25$500 – $100020 – 40
$0.25 – $0.50$50$1,000 – $2,00020 – 40
$0.50 – $1.00$100$2,000 – $4,00020 – 40
$1.00 – $2.00$200$4,000 – $8,00020 – 40
$2.00 – $5.00$500$10,000 – $20,0020 – 40

Limit Cash Games

LimitsBankroll RequiresNo. of Buy-Ins
$0.02 – $0.04$12 – $16300 – 400 Big Blinds
$0.05 – $0.10$30 – $40300 – 400 Big Blinds
$0.10 – $0.20$60 – $80300 – 400 Big Blinds
$0.20 – $0.40$120 – $160300 – 400 Big Blinds
$0.25 – $0.50$150 – $200300 – 400 Big Blinds
$0.50 – $1.00$300 – $400300 – 400 Big Blinds
$1.00 – $2.00$600 – $800300 – 400 Big Blinds
$2.00 – $4.00$1,200 – $1,600300 – 400 Big Blinds

Single-Table Sit & Gos

Buy-InBankroll Required
$1.10$33 – $66
$2.20$66 – $122
$3.30$99 – $198
$5.50$165 – $330
$6.50$195 – $390
$7.50$225 – $450
$11.00$330 – $660
$16.00$480 – $960
$22.00$660 – $1,320
$27.00$810 – $1,620
$33.00$990 – $1,980

Common mistakes to avoid

There are a few common mistakes to avoid when managing your poker bankroll. If you want to play a fun, stress-free poker game through winning and losing streaks, here’s what to avoid.

Changing your mind on a whim

Your bankroll is your bankroll. Decide on it – and plan your strategy based on it – in advance. No chopping and changing in the middle of a game. No adding to your bankroll as you go along. This is the money you’ve set aside to play with when you were thinking calmly and were focused on your overall finances and what you can afford. Stick to it. Want to play with a bigger bankroll? Fine – do that next time. But go through the same process. Sit down outside of the heat of the casino atmosphere and work out what your bankroll will be and how you’ll use it, depending on the game you’ll be playing, the buy ins needed, the stakes, and the length of time you’ll be playing.

Playing the “wrong” stakes

Stakes can be high or low. There’s no explicit right or wrong. But there are stakes that are wrong for you, given your current bankroll. Your bankroll should be based on the limits you’re playing with and the number of buy ins needed. Whether you’re at a $10 Sit & Go table, or playing a high stakes Hold’Em tournament, your bankroll needs to match the type of game you’re playing and the stakes you’re playing at.

Losing track of the game

Poker players need a calm head, not just to make good decisions in the moment but also to keep track of what’s happening in any given game. You need to know if you’re winning or losing. It’s easy to overestimate your winnings, play down your losses, and forget to take into account extra fees your casino might charge. Learn to keep track yourself or invest in a tracking app like Poker Bankroll Tracker, that will help you keep tabs of your bankroll while also enjoying your game.

Not having a stop-loss

Online traders know what a stop-loss is, but online gamblers aren’t always familiar with the concept. It’s basically a level at which, having lost a certain amount of money, you get out. Traders sell their stock. Poker players decide that they’re out of the game for this particular session. You can set a stop-loss at a certain amount of buy-ins, for example. On a losing streak? Step away. You’ve lost enough for now. You can come back fresh another day.

Going too big, too soon

Some players prefer to play a few big games and call it a day. For many less experienced players though, this can be a big mistake. Playing lots of smaller games is a great way to build skills and experience at a lower cost to you as a player. Consider going smaller and playing more. Your bankroll will last longer, and you’ll rack up more experience for future games.

Ultimately, poker bankroll management is all about having a solid plan in place and sticking to it. Got your bankroll under control and ready to play some poker? Check out some of the best poker tables available today.

Author: Tanya Fields

Campaign Acquisition Manager Length with RC: 1 year, 9 months Favorite Casino Game: Starburst Background in iGaming: Opened the iGaming Department at Hard Rock Atlantic City in 2018 in both Customer Service, and then CRM, prior to moving over to RC in January 2021 Location: Based in NJ at the RC HQ Content: Occasionally, but only as it pertains to RC

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