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Did you know it’s relatively easy to play poker without ever going broke?

It’s done through a skill called bankroll management and it allows professional players to survive the sometimes vicious volatility of No-Limit Hold’em.

The goal of good bankroll management is to limit potentially back-breaking losses at the poker table. The general idea is to never risk too much money on a single game of poker.

For instance you should NEVER risk your entire bankroll in a single game. Even the best players in the world get unlucky sometimes and if you lose your entire bankroll it might keep you from ever playing poker again. Instead there are plenty of solid tactics to keep a healthy bankroll that will be able to withstand numerous downswings and keep you in the game until things start going your way.

It should be said that players have very different approaches to bankroll management. Some like to gamble and play big games when the opportunity presents itself while others like to be more cautious. We’ll take a look at both strategies below.

Have at Least 20 Buy-Ins

Many poker pros like to have at least 20-50 buy-ins for the game they play.

That’s generally enough to ride out the streaks of bad luck and keep you in the game. Here’s how the 20 buy-in strategy works in practice.

You have a bankroll of $2,000. That means you should play a game where the buy-in is $100 (Usually $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em). That’s a ton of buy-ins at $1/$2.

The same goes for poker tournaments where instead of cash game buy-ins you're thinking about tournament buy-ins. You're probably going to want at least 30-50 or more buy-ins because there's more variance in tournament poker.

Of course most players don’t start out with a bankroll of $2,000. Instead they play online micro-stakes poker where the stakes start at $.01./$05 and the buy-in is $1. You’d only need $20 to have the exact same buy-in compared to the $1/$2 game.

If you follow the 20 buy-in rule you should always have enough to keep playing.

When to Move Up Stakes

If you’re crushing small-stakes poker there’s a good chance you’re probably read to move up stakes and take a shot at winning some serious money.

Bankroll management comes into play once again when you’re considering moving up the stakes.

Quite simply if you have 20 or buy-ins at the next level of stakes then it’s probably time to move up. If you immediately lose five buy-ins then it’s probably time to move back down and build up another stake to play larger games.

Many poker players move up too quickly and exhaust their bankroll. It’s understandably considering there is so much more money to be won in the higher stakes of poker. That said, it’s very important to exercise caution when moving up stakes.

It’s crucial that your bankroll is big enough to sustain a few big hits while playing higher than you usually play.

Of course there are many, many stories of poker players finding particularly soft games (bad players with big pockets) so they moved up the stakes for a shot at winning huge amounts of money despite not having the proper bankroll.
That level of risk is always up to the individual players. Many poker pros are willing to gamble in certain situations but recreational players are not.

Don’t Withdraw Your Bankroll

This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many people withdraw the minute they make a decent score.

It’s fine to pull money out of an online account (it’s great actually!) but make sure you still have enough to keep playing.

Getting money on an online poker site can be a huge hassle so always leave yourself a little stake that you can keep grinding. That’s if you want to keep playing, of course. If you’d rather take your money and run then that’s a fine move as well.

If you’ve proven to be a reliable winner over time, however, you might as well keep grinding away and earning a little side income.

Players who are able to consistently beat high-stakes poker games are able to live a very comfortable life.

How to Build Your Bankroll

What’s the best way to build a bankroll?

Well the simplest way is to just buy one. It’s not complicated. $50 is more than enough to get you started playing online poker. For live poker you’ll probably want to have more like $2,000 because the minimum stakes are much higher.

If you’re looking to avoid spending any money on poker then you could attempt to score some freerolls on an online poker site.

Freerolls are free tournaments that online poker sites usually give to new players. Generally you have to sign-up and make a minimum deposit but most online poker sites will give you at least a couple freeroll tickets where you’ll have a shot at winning some free money.

Another good way to build a bankroll is the sign-up bonus. Poker sites love getting new players so they often offer a sign-up bonus where they’ll match your deposit. The match is usually set at 100% so if you deposit $100 you have a chance at getting a free $100.

There are some caveats, however, as you’ll need to play a select amount of real-money poker hands to “unlock” your bonus. They are tough to unlock but it’s free money at the end of the day!

Don’t Go on Tilt

Once you have a decent bankroll for playing poker you should make sure to keep it safe.

Many players spend a great deal of time building their bankrolls so the idea of dusting it off in a single night is the stuff of nightmares.

Just use common sense and you should be fine. Try to avoid playing poker when you’re feeling emotional. There are many players who can’t contain their emotions and go on tilt after losing a couple close pots. There are plenty of stories of players depleting their entire bankroll trying to get even.

If have even the slightest inclination that you’re on tilt and not playing your best poker then you should step away from the table and cool down.