Poker Strategy: Basic Bankroll Management

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October 25 2009

Written to Poker Strategy by nickkaka

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"Poker Strategy: Basic Bankroll Management"
October 25, 2009

So you’ve been successful at the home games with your mates, played a few pub games and now made your first deposit into an online poker site ready to take on the world and win the Sunday Million. You deposit $100 into PokerStars, play a few $33 tournaments, suffer a few bad beats and convince yourself that online poker is rigged, and give up.
For those that persist through the pain that is online poker tournaments, this is the first of a series of tips to hopefully get your feet off the ground, build and protect your bankroll, and really enjoy the game.
The most important discipline of being a poker player is how to effectively use your bankroll, whilst at the same time protecting it from evaporating into cyberspace. The rules that I will outline are generic and simple enough, but in order to succeed you need to apply discipline to stick to them. Many a great poker player has nothing to show for his success because he couldn’t stick to his guns and apply basic bankroll management techniques.
The general rule of thumb is to not buy-in to a tournament for more than 1% of your bankroll. You can take this one step further and have your average buy-in (ABI) not exceed 1% of your bankroll which allows you to play a few slighter more expensive games, so long as you play the smaller ones also. Many pros and seasoned players will play for less than 1% of their roll, especially when you are playing upwards of 15 games at any given time. For now, let’s just stick to 1%. So, if your bankroll is $300, it’s $3 ABI until you prove to yourself that you are successful enough to play higher.
A few weeks go past, and you suddenly find yourself heads-up in the $3 rebuy, eyeing $3K for 1st, you get dealt AA, they hold up, and you spend the rest of the night clicking “Cashier” admiring your new $3,309 balance. Does your bankroll now become $3,300, allowing you to have a $33 ABI? It is unlikely, (though possible) that you have enough experience to jump into games at such a high level, and doing so will only pose problems. My advice is to double your bankroll when its less than $1,000 (withdrawing the rest and saving it), and when you are over $1,000 and you have a decent score (many times more than your entire bankroll), only increase your bankroll by somewhere between 25-40%, thus forcing you to gain more experience, and gradually move up in games. Remember, games play much differently as you move up the ladder so it can take some time to get a feel of the new level. It is much better to take shots occasionally than jumping straight in.
I have heard many stories of players (and felt it myself) of going on downswings that last hundreds of games. Variance is a killer so tread very carefully and play within your means.
The other factor that you need to consider when building a bankroll is game selection, primarily the number of players in a tournament. You will cash more often in a tournament that has a smaller field. At the micro level games (less than $5 buy-in) on PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, the fields are massive and are rarely under 1,000 players.>
I have just quickly gone through my list of final tables over the last 12 months and only 5.8% have been in field sizes greater than 800 runners.
That being said, early on in your career I would focus on the following, whilst still applying the 1% rule:
  • If you are playing on the bigger sites (PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker) – play Multi-Table SNG’s, with the occasional scheduled tournament. The advantage is that the SNG’s are limited to 18, 36, 45, 90 or 180 players. This means you have less of a field to get through to make the final table, and you will pick up valuable end-game experience so that when you make that big final table with a five-figure first prize you will feel more comfortable.
  • Try playing at other sites, such as any on the iPoker or Ongame networks ( have some fantastic deals for some of these sites), as the scheduled tournaments on these sites don’t have the massive fields, and the play is generally softer. I have built my bankroll playing MTT’s on the iPoker network.
  • Single Table SNG’s are also beneficial as approx 30% of the field is in the money, and you also get to experience bubble play and heads-up play more often which is crucial in achieving your long term goals.
Most of all, be disciplined with the 1% rule. Sweep a percentage of your profits out of poker, and be honest with how you keep accurate records of your play.
Until next time, play well.

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