All you need to know about poker bankroll management

Building bankroll management principles is just one step in the staircase of becoming a great poker player. 

There’s more to bankroll management than keeping cash in the account, it takes the very best at management to move up the ranks and work through the stakes to the higher level games. It might sound like an obvious statement, but if players lack the discipline to follow through and build their bankroll and snowball it into special, they’ll never reach the big leagues. 

If players are serious about the game, build their skill level and adopt a strict bankroll management system in place, there’s no reason they can’t reach the big leagues. However, an improper bankroll management system and lack of discipline to stick to it can prevent even the very best poker player from reaching the levels they belong at. 

So, what exactly do players need to know about bankroll management and how should they use a system to work their way up to play in the bigger games? 

Treat your bankroll as an investment

First thing’s first, before you can grow your bankroll, you’re going to need something to start with and that’s not always the easiest value to decide on. 

Your first bankroll deposit should be treated as an investment because, well, it is one, if you’re going in for profit (great guide here on how to do it especially in the online space). If you head into an investment with $500 and the promise to keep throwing money into a company when they run out, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. The same is true for your poker bankroll. 

Instead of continuously reloading your bankroll when you’re running out, a set amount should be decided on and played with, not added onto. Figure out what you can afford to play with and go from there, remember that you’re in this for the long run and that you shouldn’t be adding on anymore anytime soon. 

This is where discipline comes in, you need to play within your means and make every decision count, something you’re much more likely to do if you’ve preventing yourself from reloading when necessary. 

It’s an investment, not something that should be thrown away or treated without care.

Select games carefully 

Selecting games is something incredibly important for your bankroll management, especially when you’re just getting started. 

Players should look for games with the lowest rake and avoid hopping around from one game type to another. Adrian Sireca, of OnlineCasinoGems, advises: “It’s better to be a master of one game type than a jack of all trades (master of none). By taking risks and playing games that you’ve not got an edge in is something that most bankrolls won’t be able to withstand.”

Likewise, it’s never a bad idea to target those tables with players that aren’t quite as good as yourself – that way you’re sitting claiming easy money from those that can’t keep up. If you are starting to run a little low, it’s always good to know that you’re playing your specialty game that you may have an advantage in rather than an alternative than you’re not so clued up in. 

It may sound a little harsh, but that’s one of the main ways in which bankrolls are built – just ask Phil Hellmuth and his ever expanding net worth (source). 

Always play within the bankroll 

This is the area that plenty of players fail at once they’ve added a specific value into their bankroll, but it’s one area that remains vital to management success. 

By playing within your bankroll and avoiding going into the higher stakes games, you can maximize the amount that you’re winning in the long run. By remaining at the lower stakes levels until your bankroll has increased to a size that permits the step up, you can be sure not to jump too soon and lose everything that you’ve played for. 

It may take time and it may be frustrating, but taking the time in the lower stakes games and building the bankroll before moving up the ladder is a key part of bankroll management. But it’s the question of “when is my bankroll ready” that can be particularly tricky to answer and relies heavily on the games chosen, but tends to stick around the 50x buy-in. 

For a general outlook, the higher the variance (the downswings and upswings involved in the game) of your chosen game type, the more buy-ins that you should have ready in your bankroll. Variance includes taking into account factors like the skill levels of the player pool and your own playing style among other different variables in the game but essentially will leave some room to breathe after the downswings. 

It’s these downswings that are so vital to take into account when keeping a healthy bankroll, they will occur, it’s just a case of when and how much slack you’ve given yourself in your bankroll. 

To cut a long story short 

There’s so much more to consider when it comes to building a bankroll and a management system for poker, but for those just getting into bankroll management, it can be simplified into 3 separate tips. 

First, players should treat their first bankroll deposit like an investment, because it is one. By treating the bankroll as a lump of cash that is to be used to create a bigger lump of cash, your decisions in the game will reflect this. By keeping disciplined and betting carefully, not loose with bluffs left (check out this list of the best blufs ever recorded), right and center, players can start to build their bankroll. 

Second, players should select games carefully, targeting players of a lower skill level in the lowest rake games in a single form of poker e.g, Texas Hold’Em. By avoiding jumping between different forms, players can become specialists in the game, ultimately giving advantage and benefitting the bankroll. 

Third and finally, players should focus on playing in games within their bankroll, no chancing it in higher stakes games when things are going well, something Phil Galfond has learned the hard way. If players are serious about building their bankroll, they won’t cut corners and will stay patient in the lower stakes until their bankroll is big enough to move to the higher stakes games. 

Take on this advice and it won’t be long until your bankroll starts to multiply and larger stakes games can be played. But don’t forget, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.