Bankroll management is one of the most valuable tools that a
player can have away from the game itself. Without proper
management of the money that you are playing with, you’ll be
leaving yourself vulnerable to going broke at almost any moment.
Unless you have a virtually infinite supply of money, bankroll
management is going to be something that you need to practice
with regularity. If you are just a casual player, it’s not going
to matter all that much. However, as a general rule, the less that you bother with
bankroll management, the more likely you are to lose.
The exact definition and utility of bankroll management is
going to vary from game to game. For a cash game player, an
ideal bankroll is going to be different than that of a
tournament player. You’ll be using different metrics to gauge
how much money is needed; the variance is going to be different,
and so on and so forth. Lumping all bankroll management
strategies into one group is never going to be a logical plan.
You need to not only understand bankroll management, but you
also need to be able to cater to your own needs. What works for
one player might not work for another, so you need to be willing
to adapt to the safest plan possible.
One of the big things about bankroll management that many
disregard is the need for winning play. A lot of people think
that they would be winning players if only they had more money
in their bankroll. The simple fact is that a losing
player is going to lose whether they have one buy in or 100 buy
Beyond this, your actual requirements and outlines for
reasonable bankroll size are going to be largely determined by
your ability to win. Small winners will need more money in the
bank than players who are consistently winning big, month after
month. The reason for this is that small winners are more
susceptible to losses than big winners. While it would not hurt
to understand and implement proper bankroll management if you
aren’t a winning player, it’s only going to get you so far. If
there’s one benefit to managing money for a losing player, it’s that they will lose their money at a slower pace.
Bankroll Management for Cash Game Players
Cash game players need to have a lot of money on hand not
only for their long term bankrolls, but also for day to day
play. It’s not at all uncommon for a cash game player to lose a
handful of buy ins in a day. So if you don’t have enough cash
on hand at all times, there’s a good chance that you’ll need
to call it an early day. This is one of the big differences from
tournament players, because you’ll only need whatever the fixed buy
in is (unless you are in a re-buy or add on event).
The lower the limit cash game you are playing, the less buy
ins that you will need to have available. The general rule of
thumb is that lower level games tend to have less variance,
because they are of a lesser skill level. In fact, if you are
continually going broke when playing in small and
mid limit cash games, you are only proving that you aren’t
actually a winning player at all. It’s much more important to
first ensure that you are winning than it is to save money for
an inevitable loss.
Cash games, for all intents and purposes, will generally
6-max or full ring tables. For the purpose of this
article, assume that cash games are in a brick and mortar
casino. For the most part, the basic guidelines are going to
remain similar for online play as well.
In cash games at the micro stakes, 25 buy ins is a good
foundation. This is a number that provides you with decent
backing while not going overboard. If you are going broke with
this type of start at micro or small limit games, you need to
rethink your strategy. For mid limit games, adding 5 or so more
buy ins is going to work for the majority of players. As you
trend upwards into high limit games, 35-50 buy ins becomes the
norm. For deep stacked play, make adjustments accordingly. You
are going to need more buy ins when you are playing in more
competitive games, and this is the reason why each progressive
limit is harder and harder to reach in cash game poker.
Bankroll Management for Tournament Players
Tournament players tend to pay less attention to bankroll
management than anyone else. Typically sit and go players are
lumped in with tourney players, but they will normally adhere to
stricter bankroll management ideals than tournament players.
The reason for this lack of management is found in the nature of
tournaments. One of the big reasons why tournaments are so
profitable is found in the average player pool. Unlike cash
games, amateurs are spotted left and right and usually make up a
bulk of the field. These types of players just want to
poker for one fixed cost with the chance at a huge win. You
can’t blame them, and they are going to be the source of most of
The reason that you need a lot of buy ins for tournament play
is found in the fact that there are so many amateurs. The high
volatility of tournaments allows for the less skilled to win
from time to time. Since your edge is going to be diminished in
the short run, you’ll need to have an ample amount of buy ins
on hand to help compensate for the inevitable streaks of non-cashes. Even when you cash, though, you are frequently going to
make pretty small amounts. While cash games are a long term
proposition, tournaments are going to take even longer to
balance out, and they may never balance out at all.
It’s difficult to set a number for the amount of buy ins
tournament players should have because there are just so
many different types of events. You could be playing online,
offline, turbos, re-buys, deep stacked, etc. etc. As a bare
minimum, most experienced, winning tournament players will
advise a bankroll of at least 100 buy ins.
While this is
widespread as a good basis for where to start, you know that
most players in the World Series of Poker Main Event don’t have
1 million dollars to their name for the $10,000 buy in. It all
goes back to how seriously you take poker. If you are in it
mainly for the money and want to increase your chances of
success, you’ll play events that are only within your
bankroll. If you are just playing recreationally or for fun,
having a significant amount of buy ins available won’t be nearly
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