5 important tips for proper poker bankroll management

Poker.Org Staff
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Posted on 06/11/2021

Poor poker bankroll management will prevent you from success in this difficult but rewarding game. Many skilled players have failed in poker because of their inability to properly handle their money. If you’re playing for a living, you must have the proper funds available, so you can always remain in the game.

1. Approach proper poker bankroll management like running a business

There’s a reason some of the top poker pros such as Doug Polk and Fedor Holz have had great success in various business ventures outside of poker. They know how to manage their money. Poker and business are similar in that both require a certain bankroll to survive. If you owned, say, a candy shop, you’d need enough money for start-up costs right off the bat. But you’d also need money to continue purchasing inventory, as well as paying for rent, insurance, marketing, and many other expenses.

Those who aren’t properly bankrolled to run a business will go out of business quickly. The same can be said about poker. Proper poker bankroll management is crucial because bad beats, bad luck, and bad runs are bound to happen at times. Even the best players in the world will go days and weeks without winning. If you aren’t properly bankrolled to get through those rough patches, you’ll end up broke and applying for jobs, and no one wants to go work a 9-5.

2. Know how much money you’ll need

Before you start playing poker for a living, you should set an annual salary goal. That’s the amount of money you need to make from poker to pay your bills and live comfortably. For some, that’s $50,000, while others need a six-figure income or higher to get what they want out of life. If you feel the need to live a lavish lifestyle, you won’t get there playing low-stakes games, so take that into consideration.

Regardless of the amount you need to make playing cards, proper poker bankroll management suggests you should have at least 25 buy-ins in the bank for the game you play. You should also have an additional 3-6 months of living expenses in your bank account. So, if you play $2/$5 no-limit hold’em cash games, you shouldn’t begin playing for a living unless you have, at minimum, $12,500 set aside to play ($500 average buy-in times 25). To be safe, it wouldn’t hurt to start with an additional 4-5 buy-ins in your bankroll. You just never know how long the bad runs will last, or when they’ll begin.

3. Don’t spend your winnings

There’s nothing more satisfying in poker than a big win. Immediately after hitting a big score, nearly everyone’s initial thought is to go buy a new car, that expensive pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing, or some other big purchase. But we’re urging you to fight the urge.

As we’ve already discussed, you must have a certain amount of buy-ins in your bankroll to start, but you should also look to move up in stakes as your game progresses. You won’t be able to do that if you’re always spending your winnings. It’s okay to occasionally make a nice purchase after a big win. Just don’t make a habit of it.

4. Know when to move up in stakes

The goal of every low-stakes poker player is to one day move up in stakes. And everyone wants to do it as quickly as possible. But there are two reasons players often fail and go broke when moving up in stakes. The first is that they don’t have proper poker bankroll management. The second is that they don’t realize how much more difficult it is to beat the higher stakes games.

If you go from $2/$5 to $5/$10, not only are the players better and tougher to beat, the buy-in is also much higher. In most $5/$10 games, the average buy-in is $1,000 or more, and sometimes closer to $1,500. That means you’ll need at least double the bankroll compared to $2/$5. You should only move up in stakes if you feel your game is strong enough and you’ve built a bankroll large enough to play at those stakes.

5. Be careful who you loan money to

Befriending other poker players, especially those who are more skilled than you, is a great idea. You’ll have someone to share hand histories with and learn from. But you should be careful when your poker friends ask to be staked or for a loan. Unfortunately, many poker players aren’t so trustworthy and fail to pay back these loans. Or, they aren’t as skilled as you’d hoped, and your investment goes down the drain.

It’s one thing to lose a bankroll on your own. But it’s far more tilting when you don’t have money to play anymore because you loaned it all out to someone who will never pay it back. Never loan any money out to anyone — not even the most trustworthy person you know — if doing so puts your bankroll below the 25-30 buy-in threshold. Ever. Under any circumstances.

Don’t count on success

Finally, no matter your bankroll management skills, success in poker isn’t guaranteed. It takes a great deal of skill, a little luck, and deep pockets to survive the bad beats and come out on top. Don’t get in over your head. The vast majority of poker players never make it to pro status.

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