Bankroll Management - A Beginner’s Guide
Variance is hard-wired into poker, and variance means short-term variability in outcomes, which in poker jargon means bankroll swings. Or in certain more volatile scenarios these might be referred to as swongs.
The best players in the world are still subject to variance, and if someone plays poker without having a proper bankroll for doing so, they will inevitably not just lose money but very often lose their entire bankroll. This is almost regardless of the stake level, or the standard of their play.
Even the most gifted player is likely to go broke if playing MTTs with 50 buy-ins, for example, or cash games with 5 buy-ins. It is just too little to withstand the average amount of variance you would expect to encounter in these formats.
This article sets out with a simple goal, which is to offer you guidance on how to create a safe, solid bankroll management plan for yourself, to make sure that you don’t fall foul of variance and end up going busto. The good news is that this is entirely doable, if you simply follow a few key steps.
Step 1: Choose a stake which you have good reason to think you can hold your own at, or even beat. If you don’t have such a stake in mind, choose the lowest stake available, or one you can afford to lose 100x buy-ins in!
Step 2: Choose a game format which you think you are passionate enough about to get deeply into studying for a long period of time, and which you have time to play regularly (if you only have 2hrs per day free to play, don’t study MTTs). You may want to read our guide to game formats in making this choice.
Step 3: Figure out what bankroll is needed for this game format and stake. We offer some guidance on this below.
Step 4: Decide what your move up / down requirements are. This is your plan for what size bankroll you will require to build up to as a minimum before moving up in stakes, and also at what stage you will move down in stakes if you go on a downswing and lose bankroll.
This is absolutely critical to a bankroll plan, and without it you have no real protection against going bust on a bad run. We’ll go into more detail about it in our example bankroll plans at the end of this article.
Step 5: Decide what range of buy-ins you will include in your plan. This mostly goes for MTTs and SNGs, as with cash games you are likely to stick to one stake at a time for the most part.
It is worth noting that the wider you range across buy-ins in your game plan, the greater variance you will encounter (since you can run great at your higher stakes and terrible at your low stakes, or vice versa).
Step 6: Stick to your bankroll plan! If you take shots, make sure these are already measured and planned for, and that they do not inflate your average buy-in too much. If you play satellites, bear in mind that you need a much bigger bankroll to play the equivalent stake of satellite, since you must generally always play through the event itself once you bink a ticket, which drastically raises your average buy-in.
Typical Bankroll Sizes for Different Formats
Here’s a snap guide to how big a bankroll you likely need for different formats. These are just rough guides of course.
Starting with the lowest variance option, if you want to play cash games you can get away with a fairly modest bankroll in terms of buy-ins. The bigger your skill edge (win rate), the less hard variance will hit you.
Provided of course that you think you can hold your own in a given stake, you can likely get away with as little as 20 buy-ins if you are playing one table at a time. If you’re multi-tabling, say 4 tables of zoom or 8-10 of regular speed, you’ll likely want to work with a minimum of 50 buy-ins to be safe in terms of avoiding risk of ruin.
On the other extreme lie high variance formats such as MTTs and spins. If you are playing low stakes MTTs (less variance) with small fields of say under 1,000 runners on average, you can probably get away with around 100-150 buy-ins versus your average buy-in. So this means if your average stake is $10, you should be looking to work with a bankroll of around $1,000 to $1,500 to be safe from bustoville.
However if you’re talking about higher stakes MTTs where the edges are thinner and the swings swongier, you’ll likely want at least 3-400 buy-ins in your roll, especially if you’re seriously multi-tabling. Those buy-ins can vanish fast in the MTT grind! They can also come in very fast when you bink a big one.
Other formats such as SNGs lie somewhere in the middle, just as with the lowest stakes MTTs you’re probably fine with a bankroll of 100+ buy-ins for 9-45 man SNGs, possibly even less. You can also mix buy-in levels, provided you keep track of how the average buy-in is working out overall.
How conservative or liberal a bankroll strategy you choose will also impact how quickly you should move up, or especially how quickly you should move down on a downswing.
Moving Up / Down Requirements
There’s no fixed requirement to move up as soon as your bankroll is in good shape for it, naturally you also want to be sure your game is in decent shape for the next level too, and sometimes there’s no surefire way to know that other than to suck it and see.
Moving down is another matter though. Tough as it may be to implement, it is crucial that if your bankroll shrinks, you shrink your average tourney buy-in or cash table stake along with it. You should stick religiously to this. If you do so, you won’t need to pray to avoid busting, it’ll be built into the program. If you can really master moving up and down to manage your bankroll, you will quite simply never go bust. Many players have had to learn this the hard way, and we’re hoping to save you the trouble by getting you set up right from day one!
Roughly speaking, a move down requirement should be designed to ensure that you always have approximately the same number of buy-ins for a given stake. So if you’re playing $0.50 / $1 cash games (otherwise known as 100nl) with 40 buy-ins and you lose $2,000, that’s half your roll, you should probably already have moved down, but you absolutely must move down at this point to 50nl where you will once again have 40 buy-ins.
I’d recommend moving down a little sooner, perhaps once you hit 25 buy-ins at 100nl. This will ensure that you have a healthy 50 buy-in roll at the lower stake of 50nl.
Conversely, once you’ve built your bankroll up to something like $8,000 (80 buy-ins at 100nl) it might be worth looking at taking a shot at moving up to 200nl. You could set a limit for this experimental move-up by choosing to fire a maximum of 10 buy-ins at the new stake, and if it doesn’t take within that shot, move down to 100nl again but still with 60 buy-ins to play with.
There’s a psychological aspect to bankroll plans too, since moving up and down in stakes very frequently can take its toll on the psyche and be quite stressful and uncertain, so some players are certainly better off using a conservative bankroll management plan which doesn’t involve so much of this.
Finally, one key piece of advice. Don’t just think about your bankroll plan. Write it out in all its detail, stick it on the wall by your computer, and for the love of poker, stick to it! If you don’t have a bankroll plan, sit down and do this today. You won’t regret it.
Ever feel overwhelmed by choice? The modern online poker player really does suffer from an embarrassment of riches when it comes to game choice in the online scene, and we're here to help you narrow down your options (as well as your opponent's range). In this instalment in the guide series we'll walk you through all of the most popular forms of poker being played today, and indicate which of these are available across multiple types of poker beyond No Limit Hold'em. We'll also dip into some variants within each format, where applicable. Our aim in this piece is to give you the very best start in choosing which formats to settle on for your own grind, so in each case we'll try to give you a thorough sense of the pros and cons of each one for your average grinder. Cash Game Poker Let's start as simple as it comes with cash games. These are the original deal, games where you can sit down and stand up as you wish, there's a minimum and maximum buy-in, blinds are fixed and chips is chips, what you sit down with is what you play with. Typically players will sit with 100bbs, so for a $1/$2 blinds cash game, you'd usually sit with $200. This is the max at many cash game tables. The minimum buy-in for cash tables tends to range from 20-50bbs, and short stackers are often frowned upon as they will often "hit and run” a table by doubling up and then leaving. Deepstack cash game (200bb+) is the most complex form of poker out there, and is available on some sites, as are capped tables where only short-stacks may play. A popular format within cash is zoom, or fast-fold poker, in which players are entered into pools and reseated on a new table with players from that pool as soon as they've folded their hand. This makes for much faster play and many more hands per hour. Zoom tables are often capped at 4 maximum, but grinders of regular speed cash tables have been known to play anywhere between 6-24 cash games at a time. Rake is an important consideration in cash game poker, and rakeback is a big component of regulars' income at the tougher games (rake is also generally higher in the lowest stakes). See our poker sites review page for more info on how we can help secure the best rakeback deals. Six-max is now surely the most popular form of cash game online, although you will also find games running Heads-up (2-handed), 8-handed, and 9-handed. Cash games available online span a huge range of buy-ins, from $0.01/$0.02 games where you would sit with $2 for 100bbs, up to $5/$10 where you'd sit with $1,000 for 100bbs and even higher stakes running at times on certain sites. Cash games are available on certain sites in almost any format including 8-game, but the most popular by far is NLHE, followed by PLO. You can also find various variants, in particular Omaha Hi-Lo and NL 6+ are somewhat popular on certain sites. Another twist you might find on certain apps is a straddle, which is a third blind (twice the size of the big blind), or certain games running with antes of different sizes. This tends to boost the aggression of the action in-game, since there's more to be won in the middle. Cash game play is well-suited to anyone who likes to study the intricacies of postflop poker, who wants to work with a bankroll of around 50 buy-ins, who likes the prospect of putting in hundreds of thousands of hands of play as they progress up the stakes, who wants to play against tougher opponents as they progress and who prefers to play poker in instalments of a few hours at a time. The main benefits of cash game poker are the low variance relative to other formats, the significance of rakeback for your bottom line, and the convenience of the flexible hours it offers. The main downside is that it is relatively tough compared to some other formats, and that some players find it less engaging due to always playing at the same stack depth. Tournament Poker Tournament poker subdivides into several formats, but first a word about the overall grouping. Tournaments are essentially any game into which you enter with a fixed buy-in amount for which you receive chips, and then cannot exchange these chips for real money again until you place in the tournament. The blinds go up in fixed increments at fixed time intervals, forcing players to elimination as stacks become shorter in big blinds. outs usually go to roughly the top 12-18% of finishers, or up to 30% in the case of small sit and go tournaments (SNGs) of 6-9 players. In big field multi-table tournaments (MTTs), the lion's share of the payouts goes to the top three finishers, making for a game format with extremely high variance but potentially life-changing reward. Multi-table Tournaments (MTTs) Because of the huge prize money on offer tournament poker, particularly big field MTTs, have remained one of the softest poker formats in existence online, and will likely be the softest remaining format in the future, aside from new formats which may emerge which no-one yet knows how to play or study. ICM is a model used to estimate the relative value of different stack sizes in terms of their potential to cash for different amounts in the payout structure. Multi-table tournament (MTT) poker is well-suited to anyone who loves the thrill of a deep run and attempting to come out on top despite the long odds, who is interested in studying different ranges needed for different stack depths, is interested in how the payouts affect ranges, who is prepared to play for long sessions of 8-10 hours or more and who is able to stand the psychological pressure of huge variance and big down and up swings. The main benefits of MTT poker are the softness of the games, the interest value of the dynamic nature, with stack depths changing often, and the sheer fun of taking a big title in a headline event. Naturally the big payouts on offer for the top spots are a major draw as well. The main downsides of MTT poker are the crushing swings possible in a format with very high variance, and the sheer time outlay required. MTTs tend to run for NLHE and PLO, but rarely for other formats except during major series. Some MTTs are freezeouts, meaning you cannot re-enter if you bust out. Some are re-entry, and allow either a fixed or unlimited number of re-entries within the late registration period. Others are rebuys, meaning usually that you can buy in for multiple stacks at the start, and at several points during the late registration period, as well as adding on chips at the end of that period, for an additional fee. Now you're well equipped to play almost anything, what will you choose? Let us know over at our PokerDeals Discord ! by Lucky Luke
If you missed the premiere, you've got to catch this awesome podcast we put together with champ and gentleman Greg Raymer . With some serious wins under his belt including shipping the WSOP Main Event back in 2004 for a sweet $5 million first prize , the Fossilman (as Raymer is better known) has crushed the tournament circuit for decades as well as being a very successful cash game player, specialising in Limit Hold'em and HORSE (a mixed game format). In this special extended 100-minute podcast, Raymer talks us through his experience in cash game play, and how he got started in the beautiful game. He also goes into a fascinating account of how he gathers live reads in poker, and how to avoid tilt . Raymer explores some very interesting areas of poker strategy in this podcast, including how to use randomness to improve your game, as well as his views on poker intuition . Of course, we round out the interview as usual with our fun quickfire round of questions, bringing to a conclusion this excellent installment of the PokerDeals Podcast! For those of you who prefer to listen in without video, you can also catch the show on Apple or Spotify at the click of a button! Be sure to hop in our Discord to let us know what you thought of the show, and tune in next time to catch us chatting with poker legend Jeff Gross ! By Lucky Luke
Crack out the popcorn and settle in for this one because this much-anticipated face-off did not disappoint. Unexpectedly, often chill and relaxed podcast host Doug Polk , though obviously enjoying some moments of the pod, found himself on the back foot for others. A pumped-up and caffeinated Bilzerian fired back somewhat coherently with accusations of misrepresentation by Polk . To be fair, Blitz ap peared to have a point , as it emerged Polk had clipped quotes of him to essentially state the opposite of what Bilzerian had said about his own sources of funds in poker. This, Blitz maintained, went beyond Polk 's pretty arguably weak defense of it having been " a joke ”. No stranger to controversy, many might view Bilzerian's social media offenses as far more egregious (his own favourite word in this podcast!). He has a history of outspoken misogyny , having referred to Vanessa Kade as a " hoe ” in response to her own innocuous Tweet, and being outspokenly sexist in multiple other high-profile interactions online on the daily. Whether this behaviour could possibly be defended as being merely an " online persona ” or not was another facet to a fascinating debate between these two larger-than-life characters. Hate to love or love to hate him, Blitz did argue his corner pretty well at times in debate with Polk , and at other times merely bewildered him with his bizarre attitudes, for one reason or the other leaving the usually cheery host a little lost for words at times. On the money front, who will ever know for sure, but Bilzerian's claim that he had action in some top players in extremely soft private games over the years, as well as his acknowledgement that his wealthy background, whilst not propping up his bankroll directly did help to get him in some amazing High Stakes games by dint of reputation , combine to go some way to explaining his explosive claim that he is up over $70 million from poker. This nosebleed-stakes live cash account is more believable than his claim to have been one of the best players online in his day (2005 upwards), but Bilzerian did invite Polk to check his online results, so perhaps we'll see a follow-up on this one. Other highlights include Bilzerian's claim that he once wagered $3.5 million by flipping a quarter . Come tell us what you made of it all in the PokerDeals Discord , where you can get the best on poker news, deals and entertainment every day. by Lucky Luke Original image from Doug Polk's podcast
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