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A Guide to Poker Bankroll Management Strategy

Charles S

Apr 27, 2023

Poker Bankroll Management

Did you ever type into your internet browser the phrase "bankroll management poker"? OK, we know it’s not sexy or fun, but bankroll management is critical to becoming a successful poker player. Without a solid bankroll management strategy, you’re going to go broke. It’s as simple as that!

While learning exciting poker strategies such as the check-raise or the semi-bluff can be great fun, bankroll management is what will keep you in the game and improve your win rate. There are a number of different bankroll management strategies out there, with the goal in mind of keeping you from going broke.

However, good poker bankroll management is like walking a tightrope - you must be careful not to overspend or underspend. Overspending will result in going broke while underspending will limit your winnings and prevent you from taking advantage of profitable situations.

In this in-depth guide, we'll teach you everything you need to know about managing your money while playing poker. So whether you're just starting out or looking to fine-tune your current strategy, read on to discover how to keep your bankroll healthy.

What is Bankroll Management in Poker?

Bankroll management poker strategy is essential for poker players of all levels, from casual players who sit down at the poker table a few times a year to professional poker players who make their living by playing the game. Basically, it's the process of managing your money wisely so that you can stay in the game, minimize your losses, and maximize your winnings at the poker table.

Why Is Bankroll Management Crucial When Playing Poker?

It's important to remember that poker is a game of skill, but it's also a game where luck plays a role. Even a professional poker player can have losing streaks; that's why even the greats like Daniel Negreanu preach that proper bankroll management in poker is vital if you don't want to go broke during a downswing.

Another reason why bankroll management is essential is that it helps you control your emotions while playing. If you're gambling with money you are overly attached to, it's easy to get tilted (upset or angry) when you lose a hand. But if you're using proper bankroll management, you'll be able to control your emotions and make better decisions at the poker table.

Benefits of Proper Poker Bankroll Management

To summarise, these are some of the benefits of managing your poker bankroll:

  • You'll be in a better position to make more educated bets

  • You'll avoid going on tilt and making rash decisions

  • In the long run, you'll have more money to bet with

  • You'll be able to focus more on playing your best game

  • Overall you'll make fewer mistakes

  • You will find it easier to survive downswings

Poker Bankroll Management Tips

We're sure you've read some of these tips before with glazed-over eyes - you know the drill, don't play with money you can't afford to lose, blah blah blah. But seriously, following these simple tips can save your poker bankroll (and your overall financial health).

You wouldn't believe the number of players who lost their entire bankroll because they got too cocky or careless with their poker money. Don't let that be you.

Setting a Poker Budget

Set a Poker Budget for Good Bankroll Management in PokerThe first step to poker bankroll mastery is to set yourself a budget. This is the amount of money you're comfortable spending on poker, and it should be an amount that won't strain your finances if you lose it.

Some people like to set a daily, weekly, or monthly budget for their poker playing. Others like to set a bankroll for each individual session. It's really up to you and what works best for your lifestyle and financial situation.

If you are starting out as a novice poker player, then taking a conservative approach is probably your best bet. Once you’ve gained some experience and confidence at the poker table, you can loosen up your budget a bit and increase the size of your bankroll.

No matter what approach you take, make sure that your poker budget is an amount of money that you're comfortable losing. This way, if (or when) you have a losing streak, it won't affect your financial well-being in the long run.

Once you've set your budget, it's time to start picking the right games to play. Not all poker games are created equal; some will be more suited to your bankroll than others.

Picking the Right Poker Games

If you're a beginner, it's probably best to stick to the lower-stakes games. Once you've built up your bankroll, you can start considering playing in some of the mid-stakes games. And if you're a real high roller, then there's always the option of playing in the higher stakes games!

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing which poker games to play:

  • The size of the buy-in: You want to ensure that the buy-in for the game is an amount you're comfortable with. If it's too high, then you could quickly deplete your bankroll. If it's too low, you might not be able to make enough money to grow your bankroll.

  • The skill level of the competition: It's important to find games where you have a decent chance of winning. You're just setting yourself up for failure if the competition is too tough.

  • The size of the pot: The bigger the pot, the more money you can potentially win.

Keep Your Poker Bankroll Apart from Regular Cash

Many poker players make the big mistake of using their everyday money to fund their poker playing. 

If you're serious about playing poker, you must have a dedicated bankroll that you use specifically for gambling. This way, you can track your wins and losses more efficiently and avoid dipping into other funds that you may need for other purposes.

One way to do this is to set up a special account for your poker bankroll. This way, you can transfer money into and out of the account as needed without worrying about mixing up your funds. Another option is to use a prepaid card for your poker expenses.

Whatever method you choose, never use a credit card or any other type of loan to finance your poker playing. Not only is this a good way to rack up debt, but it can also lead to impulsively chasing your losses and spiraling entirely out of control.

Staying Disciplined

With all the best intentions in the world, it's easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and make impulsive decisions with your poker bankroll. That's why it's essential to have a plan and stick with it. If all your hard work and commitment are wasted because you can't control your impulses, then what's the point?

This is all part of the mental game of poker. Learning to control your emotions and make disciplined decisions is just as important as learning the rules of the game, and it is what ultimately will help you to manage your bankroll effectively.

Manage Your Expectations

Managing your expectations and managing your bankroll go hand in hand. If you have unrealistic expectations about your poker-playing abilities, you're setting yourself up for disappointment - and a smaller bankroll.

This is another discipline that boils down to emotions. If you get euphoric over a couple of wins and go all in, or you have a few losses and decide to use what’s left of your bankroll to try and recoup them in one go - you need to take a step back and have a reality check.

Understanding Variance

Variance is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the poker world, but what does it actually mean?

It ties in with what we were just discussing with managing your expectations. In plain terms, variance is the number of up-and-down swings a player experiences over time.

How does this fit in with poker bankroll management, you may ask?

Well, if you're the type of player who experiences a lot of variances, you must ensure that your bankroll can withstand the inevitable downswings. This means having a larger bankroll than someone who experiences less variance.

You can determine your variance by looking at your winnings over a period of time. You're a high-variance player if you tend to have big ups and downs. If your results are more consistent, then you're a low-variance player.

Of course, this is just a generalization, and everyone's results will vary from session to session. But it's still a good idea to understand your personal variance so that you can adjust your bankroll management strategy accordingly.

Managing Your Poker Winnings

Just as important as managing your poker losses is managing your poker winnings. It can be tempting to splurge after a big win, but resist the urge! Sure, treat yourself to something nice, but your bankroll won't grow unless you filter some of those winnings back into it.

A good rule of thumb is to never withdraw more than 20% of your winnings from your poker bankroll.

Using Online Poker Site Bonuses to Boost Your Bankroll

Boost Your Poker Bankroll Using Online Poker SitesUnless you are brand new to online poker, you have probably already taken advantage of a poker bonus. For the uninitiated, poker bonuses are offers made by poker sites to encourage new players to sign up and make a deposit or to reward existing players for their loyalty.

Bonuses come in all shapes and sizes, but the deposit match bonus is the most common.

This is where the site will match your deposit up to a certain amount. At Natural8, we pride ourselves on our whopping 200% matched bonus up to $1,000 when you make your first deposit.

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say we have the broadest and most lucrative selection of promotions and bonuses compared to other Asian poker sites.

Using these fantastic Natural8 Bonuses and Promotions will boost your bankroll at no cost to you. So, if you're not already doing so, make sure to take advantage of these freebies.

Cut Down on Your Expenses

This one really only applies to those who play at brick-and-mortar casinos. If you're playing online, your only real expenses are the rake (the fee the poker room charges per hand) and any tournament buy-ins.

However, if you often play poker at a real casino, many additional expenses can really eat into your bankroll if you’re not careful. Things like travel, food and drinks, and tips for the dealers can all add up quickly.

If you're serious about building your bankroll, it's essential to be mindful of your expenses and cut down where possible. For example, if you're playing in a casino away from home, see if you can find a hotel room at a discount rate. Or, if you're buying drinks at the casino bar, try to stick to cheaper drinks.

Every little bit helps when it comes to saving money and building your bankroll.

Adjusting Your Bankroll Management Strategy as Your Skills Improve

As your poker playing skills improve, you must adjust your bankroll management strategy accordingly. 

Start by assessing your current poker skill level. Are you a consistent winner? Do you have a solid understanding of poker strategy? If you’re still learning the ropes, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

With more experience under your belt, in most cases, you'll be able to handle more significant swings and take more risks. Of course, this doesn't mean going all-in every hand. But it does mean that you can start to loosen up a bit and play with a higher level of confidence. 

If you’re regularly finishing in the money or even winning tournaments and live cash games, then you can afford to take more risks with your poker bankroll. For example, you might start playing games with higher buy-ins or try new game variants. The key is to keep growing the size of your bankroll while still maintaining sensible limits on how much you’re willing to lose in a single session. 

For example, If you’re playing in $1/$2 games and doing pretty good, then it could be time to up the ante and start playing in $2/$5 games. Of course, you don’t want to go too high too fast – but you can slowly move up in stakes as your skills keep improving.

Track Your Results to Manage Your Bankroll More Efficiently

This might sound like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many players don't bother to keep track of how much they're winning or losing. This information is invaluable when it comes to making decisions about where to play and how much to risk.

There are several ways to track your poker results, but one of the simplest is using Excel or Google Sheets. Just create a spreadsheet and make a note of every session, the game types, how much you bought in for, and how much you cashed out for.

You can use poker tracking software like PokerTracker 4 or Hold'em Manager to get a little more sophisticated. These programs track your hand histories and give you detailed information about your results.

Poker Bankroll Management - Online Cash Games Vs. Tournaments

Now that we've gone over some general tips for managing your bankroll, let's look at how these strategies might differ depending on whether you're playing in cash games or tournaments.

Tournament poker, like in multi-table tournaments, is a very top-heavy form of gambling, with the vast majority of prize money awarded to just a few players. As such, you need to be prepared for long stretches where you don’t see any ROI, but when you do win, you can expect a big payday.

Online cash game bankroll requirements are much lower, and there are more opportunities to win smaller amounts of money on a regular basis when playing online poker games.

In general, you should have a larger bankroll for playing in tournaments than you would for cash games. This is because the variance is much higher in tournaments, and you must be prepared for those long dry spells.

The experts recommend that you have a bankroll of 20 to 40 buy-ins if you are a cash game player. So, if you're playing $1/$2 games, you should have $40 to $80 in your account.

As poker tournaments are more volatile, it's recommended that you have a bankroll of 50 to 100 buy-ins. So, if you're playing in $10 tournaments, you should have $500 to $1,000 in your account.

There's no right or wrong, and many poker players compete in both. If you are time-conscious, you might prefer faster-paced cash games. If you can commit hours at a time and enjoy the excitement of a tournament, then that's the way to go.

One is certain - for both types of poker games, you need a sufficient poker bankroll.

How to Increase Your Poker Bankroll

Increase Your Poker BankrollWith the bankroll management basics out of the way, let's go through some tips for actually increasing the size of it.

If you're not already doing so, make sure to review your hands after each session and look for any leaks in your game. These are areas where you might be making sub-optimal decisions that are costing you money. By plugging these leaks, you can start to improve your results and build a bankroll over time.

If you're serious about increasing your poker bankroll, you need to be just as serious about your ongoing education. There are tons of resources out there - from books to online training sites - that can help you take your game to the next level. Check out our Poker School for some excellent tips from some of the top poker experts.

One of the best ways to learn is by watching professional players in action. Twitch poker is a great way to do this, as you can tune in and watch some of the world's best players battle it out in high-stakes games.

As we mentioned earlier, online poker sites offer all sorts of bonuses and promotions that can help you boost your bankroll. From deposit matches to reload bonuses, there are plenty of ways to get free cash to play with. So, make sure to take advantage of these offers whenever possible.

What if we told you that you could also win real money prizes without risking your own bankroll?

Natural8 offers a Weekly Saturday Freeroll Tournament where you get to play poker for free and win real cash prizes.

Another tip is to look for games with high pots and low buy-ins. These are often referred to as "soft games" and offer an excellent opportunity to increase your bankroll. The key is to find games where you have a good chance of winning, it might take a bit of homework, but it could add some serious cash to your poker bankroll.

Playing in satellite tournaments is a great way to increase your poker bankroll. These are events where the prize is an entry into a larger tournament instead of cash. So, for example, you might enter a $10 satellite tournament that gives the winner a seat in a $100 tournament.

Satellite tournaments are a great way to get exposure to bigger events without risking too much of your bankroll. And if you're lucky enough to win a seat, you'll have a chance to turn a small investment into a much larger payday.

Exploring these different options combined with a good poker bankroll management strategy is a surefire way to increase your bankroll's size over time.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully, these poker bankroll management tips will serve you for years to come. It's up to you to maintain the discipline to follow them.

Remember that poker is a long-term game, a marathon, not a sprint. There will be times when you run bad and lose money, but as long as you stick to your poker bankroll management strategy, you’ll always have the opportunity to come back and win big.

Now that you know all about poker bankroll management, it's time to put theory into practice.

Poker Bankroll Management FAQ

How much should I have in my poker bankroll?

This depends on several factors, including your skill level, the type of games you like to play, and your personal tolerance for risk. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 20 buy-ins for cash games and a minimum of 50 buy-ins for tournaments in your bankroll.

Can I use my regular savings account as my poker bankroll?

Technically, yes, but we don't recommend it. It's a good idea to keep your poker money separate from your other finances to track it more efficiently and ensure you're not spending more than you can afford to lose.

What is the difference between a bankroll and a stake?

Your bankroll is the money you have set aside expressly for poker. Your stake is the amount of money you bring to the table for each individual game or tournament.

What happens if my poker bankroll runs out?

If your poker bankroll runs out, you'll have to stop playing or replenish it by making a new deposit. We recommend taking a break from poker and reassessing the situation. It's usually a sign that you're playing above your skill level or making bad decisions at the table.

What if I'm not sure about my skill level?

If you’re not sure about your skill level, it’s best to err on the side of caution and use a more conservative poker bankroll management strategy. This approach offers you a better chance of building your poker bankroll faster, as you're avoiding unnecessary risks and gradually improving your poker skill level.