Building a Bankroll
By Loki Luchs
Money management is a skill that is essential to being a winning poker player. Many talented young players go broke because they never learn how to properly control the money they win. Unlike the vacationing tourists who pull out whatever money they have in their pockets, serious players should have money set aside that is used only for poker. This money is known as a bankroll. A playerís bankroll is a crucial asset that determines what games they can play in, what level of lifestyle they can afford, and (for professionals) whether or not they need to find a secondary income to support themselves.
Bankrolls are how we determine our strength as a player. Keeping accurate figures is one of the most essential parts of being a poker player. Aside from the fact that it will keep you out of jail when taxes come around, itís the only way to tell if you are a winning or losing player. So many players either donít keep a bankroll or don't keep records. Itís easy to say you're a winning player, but when you are playing out-of-pocket, how do you keep track if you're making an overall profit? If you're not keeping records, are you sure you're winning regularly? Have you reloaded or added to your funds to keep your bankroll full? By keeping a good record of these things, you will never have to question whether you're a winning or losing player.
Most players agree that when you select the limit-game you want to play in, you should have a minimum of 200 big bets in reserve. For example, if you're playing in a 5/10 limit game, you should have roughly $2,000 (200*$10) in your bankroll. If you're playing in a no-limit game, itís recommended that the average buy in for your table should never be more than 5% of your bankroll. So if your 1/2 no-limit game buys in for $200, you should have roughly $4,000 in your bankroll. Due to the huge swings players endure in no-limit, its important that they have larger bankrolls. The reason for these large bankrolls is so that you have enough money in reserve to cover losing sessions and bad beats. It also helps psychologically to know that on any given hand, you're not going to go broke. Think of how many times you've known a player was bluffingÖ its easier to justify making a soft call against a maniac when you have enough money to buy back in! Players that play scared are not playing their best games. Having money for multiple buy-ins is especially useful when you're busted in a good game.
Itís often difficult to decide when you want to move up in levels. Even though you may be crushing your opponents at one level, you may find you're average or even dominated at the next. One of the key uses of the bankroll is to save money so that you can afford to sustain losses at the next level. Letís say you've been playing 1/2 no limit for about a year and you have built your bankroll up to about $8,000; you probably have enough to try your hands at a 2/5 table, so itís okay to give it a shot. One part of this equation that a lot of people don't think about is how much should I risk losing before I move back down? While there are a lot of different opinions on this, I think that a player should give themselves about three buy-ins to test their ability. If the player ends up dropping down below the $6,800 mark (3*$400), they should need to go back to the 1/2 table and rebuild.
Another successful advancement method is to mix in the occasional bigger game with your regular ones. This is a very effective way in which to gain the experience from the higher levels, while still building your bankroll at your regular game. This strategy works best if you only occasionally play higher, so that you can start to adjust to the different skills that you will need for the more sophisticated game. While you can make an argument that if you crush the higher level game, thatís where you should be playing, I still recommend proceeding with caution. Since you are unfamiliar with the higher level game, you can't be certain that your first game is typical for the strategies and strength of the opponents that you will normally be facing. Were you running good? Were the opponents weaker than usual? Were the chip stacks normal for the level of play? Did you understand some of the more subtle things that made the table leadersí superior players? Since you have little or nothing to compare the experience to, itís hard to say if you will be a consistent winner at that level. If you begin to lose or aren't making as much profit as your original game, you may want to move back down. Until you feel certain that you can be a consistent winner, be very careful because you never want to cripple your bankroll.
We play poker for money because we eventually want to spend that cold cash on the billions of toys in the world. In the beginning, though, you want to be very careful about what you take out of it. If you've got only the minimum bankroll, you're going to be hard-pressed to handle long streaks of losing cards. When you've built a sufficient bankroll (3-400 BBs) for your regular game, thatís when I recommend that you should start treating yourself. I personally don't like to take out more than 10% at a time; even though I'm not losing that money, I always feel like I need to make up the difference immediately to ďcatch up.Ē When I was a new player, this would always make me play a little more recklessly than I normally do. If you wait until you have a solid bankroll before you take out a cut, you're less likely to feel pressured from the loss.
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