Bankroll Management in Online Poker
Online poker is a very different animal than live poker, and even more so when you consider reasonable bankroll management skills. Online play tends to have a higher element of variance, which in turn means that you are going to almost always carry more money in your bankroll. The diversity in available game types is another characteristic that's unique to the online world.
You aren't going to worry about a bankroll for low limit heads up Pot Limit Omaha if you only play live poker, for example. The guidelines for ideal bankroll management strategies are going to vary from player to player, but there are a number of dynamics that will remain relatively unchanged.
There are three primary elements involved in bankroll management for online poker players. The first area to look at is playing style. If you are wild and aggressive, you are going to be much more prone to significant up and downswings, than someone who is very tight and passive. The next factor in bankroll management is the type of game that you tend to play. An Omaha player will encounter more roller coaster rides than someone who plays Limit Texas Hold'em.
Finally, your tolerance for big swings will determine what amount of money will be most reasonable to play with. If you are able to lose multiple buy ins and not break a sweat, you won't need to carry as much money as someone who is going to stress with one lost buy-in. As you can see, bankroll management is much more about you and your specific attributes than it is about right and wrong.
Playing styles come in many different shapes and sizes. For the most part, a player will either fall into the category of aggressive, passive, or somewhere in between. The more aggressive that you are, the more money that you are going to need. So, with that in mind, a sliding scale should be involved in determining how much money you are going to need. If the most aggressive player needs 100 buy-ins for a game, the tightest, most passive player might only need 50 buy-ins. Catering your specific style of play is crucial to forming ideal bankroll sizes.
There are many different types of games that can be played in online poker. Beyond this, there are a number of different limits within those game types that you can also choose from. Since the list of games and limits online are virtually un-ending, it's impossible to say which ones will demand what amount of buy-ins. However, the following guideline should give you a head start to figuring out how many buy-ins you will need.
Omaha is the game with the largest amount of variance. Unless you are playing hi/lo Omaha, you should expect many large swings on a repeated basis. You could win five buy-ins one day and lose ten buy-ins the next. As ridiculous as this sounds, it shouldn't be considered abnormal. As a result of this, Omaha players will need more buy-ins than anyone else.
Texas Hold'em is the most popular form of poker, so the majority of players will use this game as their framework when outlining ideal bankroll sizes. No Limit games will need almost as many buy-ins as are required in Omaha, but Limit players have it quite easy. Where NLHE and Omaha players are prone to massive swings in one direction or the other, Limit players tend to keep things quite steady and calm. If you prefer small wins and small losses, Limit Hold'em is definitely the game for you as you'll be able to play at higher limits with a lot less money.
Just as Omaha has the heaviest bankroll requirements according to game, heads up play will require the most buy-ins according to format. Heads up players will need to have much more money than their 6-max and full ring counterparts as they are very prone to huge swings. In fact, heads up play of any sort is going to trump the type of game that is being played. If you are a heads up specialist, you'll need to have a hefty wallet.
6-Max and Full Ring
6-Max and full ring games require the lightest bankroll of any type of table. Whereas heads up tables are chock full of wild swings, the ups and downs in these games aren't nearly as dramatic.
Tolerance for Variance
Your own tolerance for variance should also factor into the ultimate bankroll management equation. If you have no issue absorbing big swings, don't worry about a huge amount of padding in your bankroll. If you are worried whenever you lose a buy-in, make sure you have enough money to endure the inevitable bad runs. Only you are going to be aware of just how much variance you are able to handle.
-Heads Up-75 buy-ins for low limit games and 150+ for higher limit games.
-6-6-Max and Full Ring-35 buy-ins for low limit games and 100+ for higher limit games.
-Heads Up-50 buy-ins for low limit games and 100+ buy-ins for higher limit games.
-6-Max and Full Ring-25 buy-ins for low limit games and 50+ for higher limit games.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
Related Poker Articles