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Bankrolls Many young players find the whole concept of bankroll management far too boring to get tied up in – they want to have some fun and enjoy the thrill of playing in the highest games possible. This fearlessness is a great asset in the modern game of poker but without the ability of self control and a strong amount of discipline even great players can soon be out of the game. Poker is a capital intensive game. Once you run out of funds you’re no longer able to compete and no matter how big your edge is in the game, no matter how much money you have won in these games, the game is over.

Poker is a tough business and anyone who has played for any length of time will tell you it can be a cruel game. You can go through long streaks when you can’t win a thing. You can't seem to cash in a tournament or win a decent pot in a cash game. In the short term nothing about poker is fair. In the long term our edge will be making us good money, but if we’re not around long enough to ever reach the long term what use is that? Realising the importance of maintaining an adequate bankroll is the key to turning a good (and even average or below average) player, into a winning one.

So how big should your bankroll be? What are the rules of thumb that can be applied to ensure a run of bad luck doesn’t send you to the rail forever? As with anything in poker, it depends. Unfortunately there are no set guidelines that can be universally applied and will suit everyone. There are a number of contributing factors that need to be considered such as your style of play, what games you play – how big and how tough they are, and you as a person – your tendencies and your overall mindset

A lot of players will be able to judge instinctively when they are playing too high. You should never play in a game where you feel uncomfortable and if the amounts of money being passed around on your table become too significant for you this should be a red flag. Others however seem to be able to distance themselves from the reality of the money that is being played for. Many different ideas have been suggested for what is a sufficient bankroll. A 5% rule is often quoted, referring to the total amount of your bankroll that you have in play at any one time. That isn’t overly useful to us multi-tabling addicts and a better way would be to consider the total number of buy ins that you should have for the game you are currently playing. Again this will depend on your playing style – a loose aggressive player, playing many more pots, pushing more marginal situations and playing a much higher variance style will have much bigger swings in their play than a much tighter more ABC player. Your game of choice has a critical impact too – if you’re playing pot limit omaha you will also experience much bigger swings that your counterparts focusing on hold’em. The correct figure is going to be somewhere between 40 – 100 times the maximum buy in for your game of choice. Any less than this and you are playing under-rolled and are putting yourself at risk of going broke when the next significant downswing comes along

So far we’ve only considered cash games. Tournaments are even higher variance and it’s even more common for people to ignore bankroll management when buying into a tournament. To be able to play tournaments successfully you’ll need at least 100 buy ins behind you to allow you to play properly and not let your decisions be influenced by the need to make your money back when you should be focusing on driving for those top finishes.

Top 4 tips to improve your bankroll

(1) Daily limits

If you were to graph the profit and loss of most poker players you would likely see 3 or 4 winning sessions in a row followed by a losing one, and then some more winning ones. Of course it’s not always that consistent but obviously good players will have more winning sessions than losing ones. The problem though is that the small number of losing sessions are often 3x bigger (and more) than the consistent winning days. This is a major leak and can usually be contributed to a combination of running bad, multiplied by the effects of tilt. If we can limit these losing days to a pre-set amount we can plug this leak and prevent our losing days from eclipsing our winning ones. Therefore set yourself strict daily loss limits. What these are will depend on your win rate but a figure of around 4-5 buy ins would not be too far off the mark

(2) Know when to drop down

When you’re in the middle of a bad downswing, don’t be ashamed to move down a level or two. This is the sign of a smart player, not a bad one. It allows you to rebuild, weather the storm and come out the other side in tact

(3) Take advantage of satellites

So many players ignore this route of getting into tournaments cheaply. It allows you to take shots at tournaments way above your bankroll and should you be lucky enough to grab a good cash, the opportunity to boost your bankroll is a great one. As an example the GUPKT satellites on Blue Square are a great way to get to play the tour for those players whose bankroll may not permit and yet I’ve spoken to so many people who either haven’t sought them out yet or haven’t “got round” to playing any. Go grab yourself a shot at some serious cash for as little as $1!

(4) Taking shots

Playing above your bankroll is not only ok once in awhile, but it's an important part of building your bankroll. Taking shots at bigger games can be a great way to boost your tank and ease yourself into moving up a level - but only if it is done with discipline. When you’ve been on a good run, put aside a small portion of your profit to use but under no circumstances use any more than this. Even if you lose to the most horrendously unlucky badbeat on the 1st hand do not then tilt away all of your hard work. If you are not able to do this you must stay away from these games altogether. Poker is both challenging and rewarding. Make sure you’re in it for the long haul – play safe and be lucky

Wed, 13th October 2010

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