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Poker Bankroll Management

As a general rule…
Cash games: 20 maximum buy-ins for your regular game
Tournaments: 100 buy-ins for your regular tournaments

Bankroll management is one of the most important factors in becoming a successful poker player. Without it, you are opening yourself up to big swings in variance that can empty your bankroll very quickly.

Variance is the main reason you need to properly manage your bankroll. Swings in poker are common, and a successful player will have more or bigger upswings than downswings. You need to make sure you are not buying into games you cannot afford. This means if you go on a horror run, you will still have plenty of cash left to play with.

Make sure you can afford it

Set your bankroll aside from your day-to-day money or your savings. You need to have complete separation so your losses don’t affect you financially, and in turn, emotionally. Keep your poker money as poker money only.

Pay your rent, your mortgage, or any other bills before committing money to playing poker. The biggest threat to your poker bankroll is needing money for your personal life. Making sure your personal life is taken care of first, which means you have the necessary tools to make money at poker.

Cash games

As a good and solid cash game bankroll management guide, you should have at least 20 full buy-ins for the stakes you are looking to play. This means that at any one time, a maximum of 5% of your bankroll is at risk. You have to be stacked 20 times in a row without a winning session which is extremely unlikely for a solid cash game player.

For example, if you are looking to play $1/$2 with a maximum buy-in of $200, you should have a bankroll of at least $4,000. This is money set aside purely for the $1/$2 game. You can consider moving up to the next game when you achieve the necessary bankroll for it. For example, if the next game up is $2/$4 with a maximum buy-in of $400, you should make sure you have a bankroll of at least $8,000.

Tournaments

Tournament bankrolls are slightly different as you need to adjust for the fact that you will not cash, and lose your entire buy-in a majority of the time. A standard tournament only pays the top 10%, and you’re only making a serious ROI when you make the top 1%. You cannot cash in all of them, so you need to ensure you can control the variance.

Tournament bankroll strategies vary in opinions in the poker world, but a safe bankroll to keep for tournament poker is 100 times your regular buy-in. This means that if your standard tournament buy-in is $5, you should have a bankroll of at least $500.

To be even safer, it is recommended to base your calculations off of the highest tournament you play. For example, if you play $215 buy-in tournaments occasionally, and it is your biggest buy-in, you should have at least $21,500 as a tournament poker bankroll. Losing streaks are much more likely in tournament poker, so having a larger bankroll will take away the stress of worrying about going broke.

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