Guide to Bankroll Management in Poker

Bankroll Management in Online Poker
Bankroll Management in Online Poker

If you interviewed the average poker player sitting at a table in Las Vegas (or sitting in his pajamas playing online) and asked them the first thing they think about regarding the game, “bankroll management” rarely gets answered first.

But why is that and should it be the case?

Let’s first start with the definition of a bankroll. It is the amount of money a person sets aside specifically to play poker with. This should never be commingled with the other financial obligations in your life whether it is rent/mortgage, utilities, food, travel and leisure etc.

Next, let’s get into the definition of bankroll management itself. It is the process of properly managing your money to make sure that your bankroll is sufficient for the poker games you are participating in. It is one of the keys to longevity in playing the game and is also the best way to ensure that you don’t lose all your money!

This article begins with the basic rules of bankroll management, then moves on to discuss ways to build your bankroll like Welcome Bonuses, freerolls and rakeback. Specific details are then delved into like how much you should be risking based on what game you are playing and the player type you are. Finally, we talk about why managing your expectations is paramount.

Bankroll management is one of the main keys to long-term poker success, but it’s not just enough to know the rules, you must have the discipline to follow them on an ongoing basis. We hope you find this article informative as it’s one in a series on the rules of poker and how to improve your game.

Basic Rules of Poker Bankroll Management

Play for what you can afford to lose: When you are setting the amount for your initial bankroll, the first question that you should be asking yourself is ‘what can I comfortably afford to lose?’ It’s extremely important to never risk an amount of money playing poker that will put you in financial straits away from the tables.

Play within your bankroll limits: The key here is to stick to a predetermined plan of what your buy-in levels should be based on your bankroll and not play above your means. For example, you need to have the discipline to not enter a tourney with a gigantic prize pool if the buy-in is out of your parameters. This kind of action, albeit tempting when you see a $1 million first-place prize, puts your poker longevity at risk. Playing for higher stakes than you are used to can also make you feel very uncomfortable, leading to poor decisions at the tables.

Playing Within Your Limits - Bankroll Management
Playing Within Your Limits - Bankroll Management

Don’t get desperate if you start losing: All players go on cold streaks at the tables and learning how to manage those times is extremely vital. It is important to never get rattled or to attempt to quickly make up these losses by playing a more reckless style (also known as going on tilt) or going up in betting stakes. Conversely, the correct move is to actually move down in stakes if losses have decreased your bankroll considerably.

Analyze each session after you’re done: This is an item that is often overlooked, but is something that bankroll management disciples know all about. You should dedicate a good amount of time and energy to looking at each of your poker sessions after it’s done. Make sure you understand which hands you felt you played well in and which you struggled in or weren’t sure about the correct approach.

Poker Bonus to build your bankroll

One of the easiest ways to increase your bankroll is through an online poker bonus. Most online poker sites offer a Welcome Bonus when a player makes their first deposit. The percentage amount of the bonus (i.e. 100%, 200%), the total amount able to be earned (i.e. $500, $1,000) and the conditions needed to convert the bonus to cash all vary by site, so it’s important to do your research first and compare the value.

Let’s use Americas Cardroom, the flagship site of the Winning Poker Network, as an example. Their normal offer is a 100% First Deposit Bonus up to $1,000. They increase it to 200% up to $1,000 when a player makes their deposit using a cryptocurrency. The US-facing poker site makes the latter offer very easy by accepting over 60 crypto options, including Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum and Litecoin.

Finding a longstanding and reputable online poker site to play at, while increasing your bankroll at the same time, is a win-win situation for you the player.

Reputable-Online Poker - Bankroll Management
Reputable-Online Poker - Bankroll Management

Other ways to build your bankroll

If you’re looking for other ways on how to build a bankroll online poker, we have you covered. Many online poker sites offer freerolls, which are essentially free poker tournaments. That means the buy-in is $0 but the prize pool can range around $50, or even higher.

Participating in rakeback is another easy way to build your poker bankroll. When you play poker online for money, some sites will pay you back a percentage of the rake you generate. For cash games, the rake is the fee from each pot collected by the online poker site. For tournaments, the rake is the entry fee that each player pays once they register.

Some sites also offer something known as rake races. You might be not surprised that the Winning Poker Network and Americas Cardroom are one of the examples. Their Beast rake race runs each week and has awarded over $20 Million to players since its inception, just for playing cash games. Their Sit & Crush race is a similar program for their players who participate in Sit & Go’s, Jackpot Poker games and On-Demand tournaments.

How much to risk

One of the most important questions when it comes to bankroll management poker is how much should you risk? The answer to this question is based on what type of game you are going to play and what your player type is.

Note that the rules of thumb / estimates you see below are geared more towards an average serious player. The estimates will all be lower if you are a beginner player and higher if you are a professional. It’s important to properly gauge what type of player you actually are and not what you might be aspiring to be (hint: the next Phil Ivey or Phil Hellmuth).

How Much Should I Risk - Bankroll Management
How Much Should I Risk - Bankroll Management

Cash games: For No Limit Hold’em cash games, you should aim to have at least 20 buy-ins based on your bankroll size. That means if your current bankroll is $1,000, then your buy-ins should cost $50 or less. For No Limit Hold’em, that translates into around $0.25/$0.50 games.

Multi-table tournaments (MTT’s): For multi-table tournaments, you should aim to have at least 50 buy-ins based on your bankroll size. That means if your current bankroll is $1,000, then you should search for tourneys that cost $20 or less. Note that you need to make sure your buy-in total takes rebuys or add-ons into consideration (if the tourney you’re playing in has them).

Be conservative in your expectations

Even the most casual of online poker players is familiar with the story of Chris Moneymaker. Back in 2003, the virtual unknown qualified for the WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas through a $39 online satellite. He ended up winning the whole tournament for a whopping $2.5 Million prize payout.

The rise of Moneymaker provided a huge boost to both land-based and online poker sites, but it also did one more thing. It raised the bankroll expectations of a huge chunk of poker players. Suddenly, every Tom, Dick and Harry thought they could go straight from winning a few bucks in their weekly home game to becoming the WSOP champion. Or quickly turn (for example) $50 into $5,000 by playing online.

Being conservative in your expectations means a beginning player who starts with $50 online should be happy to turn that into $55 on the first day. Moving up to higher amounts, someone with a $500 bankroll should be content to turn that into $550 on the first day.

Of course, there are going to be days when a player far exceeds these modest expectations. And there will also be days when losses occur and the bankroll moves in the opposite direction. It’s important to note that you don’t want to lose too much on a given day and should even curtail your play if that starts to happen.

The key to managing expectations is to not get too high after a day of wins or too low after a day of losses. That way, you’ll stay more consistent with your playing strategy.

Being Conservative with your limits - Bankroll-Management
Being Conservative with your limits - Bankroll-Management

Conclusion

Most beginning players have little concept of bankroll management, so we hope this article gives you a good intro as you continue to learn more about the subject. Even many seasoned poker players who are aware of bankroll management lack the discipline to stick to a predetermined plan and not play above their means.

Poker is a game of ups and downs and that’s true even if you play with consistent poker strategy. But if you continue to follow the rules of bankroll management, you can much more easily navigate these swings and increase your long-term poker success.

New Poker Players - Bankroll Management
New Poker Players - Bankroll Management

Frequently Asked Questions About Bankroll Management

What is bankroll in poker?

A poker bankroll is the amount of money a person sets aside specifically to play poker with. This should be completely separate from all the other money you need to live your life like rent/mortgage, utilities, food, travel and leisure etc.

What is Bankroll Management?

Bankroll management is the process of properly managing your money to make sure that your bankroll is sufficient for the poker games you are participating in. It is one of the keys to increasing your chances of having long-term success at the tables.

How to manage a poker bankroll?

The best way to manage a poker bankroll is by consistently following the rules of Bankroll Management as outlined in this article. For example, consistently keeping your buy-ins within the parameters of your bankroll size.

Are there specific tips for Bankroll Management?

Four of the bankroll management tips that have been discussed in this article are as follows: Play for what you can afford to lose, play within your bankroll limits, don’t get desperate if you start losing, and analyze each session after you’re done.

What buy-in levels should I play at?

There is no exact answer to this question. However, there are rules of thumb based on whether you are playing cash games or tournaments and what player type you are (beginner, average, professional). For example, a common rule of thumb for an average No Limit Hold’em cash game player is to have at least 20 buy-ins based on their bankroll size.

How to play poker with a small bankroll?

Playing poker with a small bankroll is pretty straightforward as long as you use the tools of bankroll management. Just concentrate on very low stakes cash games and low buy-in tournaments. Then as you start winning, you can gradually increase the stakes.

Does a poker bonus affect my bankroll management?

The answer to this question is a strong yes. Finding the right Welcome Bonus is one of the easiest ways to build your bankroll. However, it is important to study the terms carefully to make sure this bonus money can be reasonably turned into cash via real money play.

Are there other ways to build your bankroll?

Freerolls and rakeback are two other ways that online poker sites allow you to build your bankroll. Again, it is important to research individual sites for comparison purposes to maximize value.

Can I be the next Chris Moneymaker?

Chris Moneymaker won $2.5 Million in the 2003 WSOP Main Event despite being a virtual unknown. While every poker player should strive for greatness, bankroll management rules stress to be conservative in your expectations and never play in large tourneys that you can’t afford.