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Poker Bankroll Management

Managing your bankroll in poker should always be the primary concern. Without capital in the bank, you run the risk of falling out of the game, or limiting your upside when the cards present opportunity. The size of your bankroll dictates how you play the game, and specifically the size of the stakes you can play for in each hand. Overplaying your bankroll can lead to serious cash-flow problems, likely to end your game; underplaying your bankroll leads to missed opportunities, and costs you money.

Depending on the scale of your bankroll and the stakes you are playing for, it can inform your approach to the game as either cautious or aggressive. Your bankroll allows you to take losses on the chin, and to absorb the effects of variance as you play through the game, while allowing you to push forward from a winning position to maximize your available returns. Managing your cash flow in poker gets easier with time, but there are a number of techniques you can deploy from the outset to stand you in the best possible stead.

Don’t Withdraw Your Bankroll

This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many people withdraw too aggressively from their bankroll. When you win, you don’t want to withdraw your winnings immediately — this is nonsensical, unless you’re playing for fun and don’t actually want to make decent money from your poker play. Instead, far better to leave your winnings in your bankroll to steadily build up your capital. The more money available in your bankroll, the further you can go with your poker game. It takes money to make money, so don’t spend it unnecessarily.

Once your bankroll reaches a certain level, you can start to feel more comfortable about withdrawing a percentage of your upside. But in the interim, it’s worth redoubling your efforts as you steadily increase your bankroll, graduating to higher-stakes games and playing more poker to help you develop your skills further.

Buy In For 2-5%

Inexperienced players make the mistake of buying in above their level. While your bankroll may be $1,000, you don’t want to be playing $200 buy-in games. This isn’t nearly enough margin to allow you to operate freely, and even natural variance at this level could lead you into some difficulty pretty quickly. Play conservative levels and build up your game — this is the way to improve and increase your bankroll.

It starts with buying in at around the 2-5 percent level relative to your bankroll. So $1,000 bankroll players should be playing $20-$50 buy-ins as a maximum. This ensures that even if/when you lose, you are not having a catastrophic impact on your available bankroll.

Keep Tight Control and Manage Leaks

Leaks are one of the biggest problems for poker players looking to manage their bankroll. Unfortunately, there are a number of bad decisions and logical fallacies that can creep into the game, and many players need to be actively trained out of these thought patterns to build their game.

The tighter you play your game, the more control you have over your bankroll. Naturally, you still want to capitalize on your winning potential when the hands allow, but by taking a broadly restrictive approach to your betting, you start off on the right foot. When you identify leaks, for example limping in pre-flop on weak hands, you can start to work on eliminating these from your game. This will save you money, cash that is better spent on stronger hands.

Bet With Pot Odds

Maintaining control over the odds and the mathematical fluctuations in play allows you to better manage your bankroll, in terms of choosing the right bets and payoffs. When the pot odds are longer than the odds of your draw, you are essentially in the money (controlling for variance). This type of thinking will help you decide when it is mathematically sensible to conserve your bankroll, versus when you should raise the action to build your bankroll. More informed decisions mean it becomes easier to control bad and losing bets in your game, with a view to preserving your bankroll for future glory.

Bankroll management is central to building your success as a poker player. Whether it’s a home game or the World Series of Poker, bankroll management is critical to staying in the game, and thereby essential to helping you profit from your poker play.