Online Poker Bankroll

Playing online poker, the importance of bankroll management is magnified due to the increased number of hands that you play. While you can get away with being under-rolled when playing live due to the slow pace of the game and the edge you can get at the tables, it’s vital that you’re properly rolled for online play.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what bankroll management is, why it’s important, and the bankroll you should have for online cash games and tournaments.

What is Bankroll Management?

Bankroll management is the act of preserving your poker bankroll through smart pre-game decisions. Usually, this means that you play in games that are an appropriate size for your bankroll, but it does manifest itself in other areas. If you’re blowing off a couple of buy-ins on blackjack before you start your session or withdrawing poker funds to buy the latest iPhone, you’re not practising good bankroll management, as you’re taking money that should be earmarked for poker, and using it for other things.

However, to keep things simple, when we’ll be talking about bankroll management in this article, we’ll be focusing on choosing games that are the right size for your bankroll.

Think Mike McDermott in Rounders; taking your last $30,000 to sit in a high-stakes underground game is bad bankroll management, whereas taking that 30 grand and using it as to play in $300-$500 buy-in games is good bankroll management.

Why is Bankroll Management Important?

Continuing the Rounders analogy, having good bankroll management is important as it prevents you from going broke after one bad session or one unlucky hand. If Mike had been playing in a $500 max buy-in game, that aces full over nines full hand wouldn’t have seen him relegated to the night shift.

The aim should be to deposit a set amount of money for your poker bankroll and not have to reload. If you’re playing stakes that are beyond your bankroll and are having to consistently top up your account, you’re likely going to run out of money before the variance evens out. There’s a lot of variance in online poker and the edges are a lot smaller, especially if you’re multi-tabling, so you need to ensure that you have a bankroll that will allow you to handle the swings.

Here are some of the primary reasons why bankroll management is important:

How Should You Manage Your Bankroll?

Money on poker chips on a poker table

If you’re new to poker or new to the concept of managing a bankroll, this is the section for you.

When taking your first steps into online poker, you need to decide how much money you want to dedicate to your poker bankroll. Not everyone can afford to throw thousands of dollars into the game when they’re starting out – and that’s fine! Many of the biggest players in the world started with just a few bucks and made their way up the stakes as they improved.

Once you’ve decided what your starting bankroll will be, you need to decide what kind of games you’ll be playing. If you’re unsure what you want to play, we recommend depositing a small amount of money and trying out all the different variants to find the game you enjoy the most. While profit may be your ultimate goal, it’s important you have fun while doing so, which is why it’s important to pick a game that you enjoy playing.

Now that you know what you’re going to play and how much money you have to play with, it’s time for the most important part of the process – picking the stake level for your game. The stake level you choose should directly correlate to the size of your bankroll, but make sure you take your skill level into consideration too. Even if you have $100,000 to deposit, it doesn’t mean you should start sitting at the highest-stakes games and battle it out with the uber-pros!

“But,” I hear you ask, “how do I know which stakes to play at based on the size of my bankroll?” Well, to answer that, you should think of your bankroll not in terms of dollars, but in buy-ins. By determining the number of buy-ins you have for a certain game, you can ascertain whether or not you are properly bankrolled for it.

Below, we’ve listed the most common bankroll management suggestions for each type of game you’ll find at an online poker room.

  • Cash Games
  • Multi-Table Tournaments
  • Sit & Gos

Bankroll Management for Online Cash Games

The prevailing sentiment for cash game bankroll management has gotten progressively nittier over the years. It used to be advised that 20 buyins were enough to play cash games, which then got increased to 30, then 40, and now very few people will advise you to play with less than 50 buy-ins for your current stake level.

The reason for this increase is mainly due to the reduced edges that many players have in the game – the lower your edge, the bigger your bankroll should be to ride out the variance. Plus, it’s much easier to play a lot of hands in a short space of time compared to when online poker rooms were just starting, further increasing the variance.

If you know you’re a winning player in a game, anywhere between 30-50 buy-ins will be fine, depending on your personal risk level. So, if you have a bankroll of $500, you should be looking to play $0.05/$0.10 cash games with a $10 buy-in.

However, you may decide that you want to have a deeper bankroll, as knowing that you’re over-rolled for a game will allow you to make better decisions. If that applies to you, we’d recommend having 100 buy-ins for your stake level; so the same $500 buy-in would mean you should play $0.02/$0.05 cash games with a $5 buy-in.

Bankroll Management For Online Multi-Table Tournaments

Online tournaments are known for their insane variance; only 15-20% of the field is paid in any given tournament, and most of the money is in the top few positions. It’s extremely common for tournament players to go on huge downswings, only to make it all back by winning a single tournament.

This extreme variance is why we recommend having 200 buy-ins for your average tournament buy-in. The concept of the average buy-in means that you’re free to take shots in some bigger tournaments, but you should always keep it within a reasonable level. For example, if you have a $500 bankroll and have an average tournament buy-in of $2, you should mainly be playing $1-$3 tournaments, with the occasional $4/$5 tournament added into the mix.

If you add too many higher-stakes tournaments, you’ll quickly see your bankroll decrease, making it more likely you’ll go broke before you can bink a tournament win.

Bankroll Management For Sit & Gos

As sit & gos are essentially mini-tournaments, the level of variance lies somewhere between cash games and MTTs. A higher percentage of the field gets paid in your average sit & go compared to your average MTT, but it’s easy to go on long stretches without recording a single cash.

That’s why we recommend having at least 100 buy-ins for your given stake level at any one time; so a bankroll of $500 will allow you to play $5 sit & gos. Another thing that you need to consider is the type of sit & go you’re going to play, as it should have an impact on how you manage your bankroll.

If you play nine-handed, regular structure sit & gos, you can afford to be more aggressive with your bankroll management, as you’re more likely to be able to exert your edge over your opponents. However, if you’re playing in heads-up hyper turbo sit & gos, the edge becomes a lot lower, as the amount of variance is dramatically increased.

A good rule of thumb to remember is that the more variance there is in your game, the more buy-ins you should have in your bankroll.

The Significance of Sound Bankroll Management

Advantages of Effective Bankroll Management

  • Sustainability: Proper management ensures you can weather the storm of losses and downswings.
  • Confidence: A well-protected bankroll boosts your confidence, enabling you to make calculated decisions.
  • Risk Mitigation: Effective management reduces the risk of busting out due to unfortunate variance.
  • Skill Improvement: Bankroll management compels you to refine your skills for consistent success.

Disadvantages of Ignoring Bankroll Management

  • Vulnerability to Losses: Without a plan, you’re susceptible to depleting your funds quickly.
  • Emotional Rollercoaster: Poor bankroll management leads to emotional decision-making, often leading to tilt.
  • Missed Opportunities: Inadequate funds may prevent you from capitalizing on profitable situations.
  • Stagnation: Ignoring proper management can hinder your growth as a poker player.

Adjusting Your Buy-In Level

Green, blue, red, and black poker chips on a green felt

An important skill in bankroll management is knowing when to move up or down in stakes. Many people are happy to move up once they’ve proven themselves to be a winner, but very few people have the discipline to move down after a consistent run of losing.

Moving down in stakes is not an admission of defeat. It doesn’t make you any less of a poker player. In fact, it shows that you have more discipline than 95% of the players currently playing right now. Being able to move down in stakes after a run of consistent losses allows you to conserve your bankroll and rebuild at a stake level where you know you’re a winner.

The exact point at which you move down should come down to how certain you are that you’re a winner in the games you’re playing. If you’re certain you’re a winning player, we’d recommend moving down once you’ve hit 50 buy-ins for the stake level below you. For example, if you started with $500 to play $0.05/$0.10 cash games, we’d recommend moving down when you reach $250.

However, if you’re unsure whether or not you’re a winner, we’d recommend moving down even sooner. Keep moving down in stakes until you find a game that you feel like you have an edge in, then continue playing that game to prove to yourself that you do. Once you’ve established that you can consistently beat that game, then it’s time to move back up in stakes.

When taking a shot at a higher stake, it’s important to give yourself the flexibility to move back down. Some players will move up in stakes after consistently winning in one game, but then won’t accept they’re not a winner in their new game, and lose all of their bankroll trying to prove that they are.

Before you move up, give yourself a strict bankroll limit, and move back down if you cross that limit. The games aren’t going anywhere, and you can always have another go once you’ve rebuilt your bankroll.

Strategies to Safeguard Your Bankroll

  • The Kelly Criterion: To Use or Not to Use?: The Kelly Criterion, a mathematical formula for determining optimal bet sizes, has gained popularity in various fields. However, when it comes to poker, its application can be risky due to the inherent variance in the game. While it’s mathematically sound, it might lead to substantial losses during prolonged downswings.
  • The 1/20 Rule: A Steady Approach: An alternative approach to bet sizing is the 1/20 rule. According to this rule, allocate no more than 5% of your bankroll for a single session. This cautious strategy shields you from the impact of significant losses in a single gaming session, reducing the risk of depleting your bankroll hastily.
  • The 50/100 Transition Rule: As you gain experience and your bankroll grows, you might contemplate moving up to higher stakes. To ensure a smooth transition, adhere to the 50/100 rule: have 50 buy-ins for your current stakes before considering a move to the next level. This rule offers a safety net against the potential downswings that can occur when playing at higher stakes.
  • The Dynamic Nature of Bankroll Strategies: Bankroll management isn’t a static concept; it’s an evolving strategy that should adapt to your progress, experience, and risk tolerance. Regularly reevaluate your bankroll strategy to ensure it remains aligned with your goals and circumstances. What worked for you as a novice might not be suitable as you climb the ranks.

A poker player with his chips and cards calculating his poker odds

As every poker player knows, the element of luck plays a significant role in outcomes, and understanding how to manage the inherent swings while preserving your financial resources is an essential skill. From table allocation strategies to confronting emotional challenges like tilt, this section offers insights into strategies that not only shield your bankroll from the stormy seas of variance but also empower you to remain calm and strategic amidst the unpredictability of online poker.

Table and Session Allocation

Once you’re at the virtual poker table, it’s crucial to divide your bankroll appropriately. One common guideline is to allocate between 2% and 5% of your total bankroll for each table you’re playing at. This ensures that a series of unfortunate hands doesn’t swiftly deplete your entire bankroll.

Confronting Variance and Downswings

Variance is an inherent aspect of poker. Even the most skilled players experience swings of good and bad luck. To protect your bankroll, it’s essential to acknowledge that losses are part of the game and that downswings will occur. Having a substantial bankroll provides you with the staying power to weather these inevitable storms.

Taming Tilt: Your Bankroll’s Best Friend

One of the most significant threats to effective bankroll management is tilt—the emotional state that arises from consecutive losses or bad beats. Tilt can lead to reckless decisions and further losses. To preserve your bankroll, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of tilt and take proactive steps to counter it. This might involve taking a break, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in activities that calm your mind.

The Art of Discipline

Discipline is the backbone of successful bankroll management. It’s the ability to stick to your predetermined bankroll strategy even in the face of tempting opportunities or frustrating losses. Having the discipline to adhere to your plan, whether it’s about session lengths, stakes, or overall goals, ensures that your bankroll remains intact over the long haul.

Tracking, Analyzing, and Improving

poker chips on a table with flowers

Meticulous record-keeping and sophisticated analysis play an important role in honing your poker prowess. By leveraging insights gleaned from both manual tracking and cutting-edge software, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth.

The Power of Record-Keeping

Maintaining detailed records of your poker sessions is more than just bookkeeping—it’s a crucial tool for improvement. Recording your wins, losses, and observations about opponents can provide insights into your strengths, weaknesses, and overall performance. By tracking your progress, you can identify trends and patterns that inform your decisions.

Poker Tracking Software: Your Insights Engine

For a more sophisticated approach to record-keeping and analysis, poker tracking software comes to the rescue. Tools like Hold’em Manager and PokerTracker provide comprehensive analytics that go beyond your manual records. These tools track your playstyle, profitability, and opponent tendencies, helping you uncover areas for improvement and potential leaks.

Data-Driven Adjustments

Recording and analyzing data isn’t just for the sake of record-keeping—it’s about making informed decisions. By studying the data collected through both manual and software-based tracking, you can identify trends and tendencies that influence your gameplay. This enables you to adjust your strategy, fix leaks, and refine your approach for optimal results.

Leveraging Online Tools for Bankroll Management

 

As poker enthusiasts strive to optimize their gameplay and maximize their gains, a new realm of possibilities has opened up with the integration of advanced online tools. These tools, ranging from innovative applications to cutting-edge AI solutions, offer players unprecedented insights into their bankroll management strategies.

Bankroll Management Apps and Calculators

In the digital age, technology offers a range of tools to assist with bankroll management. Various apps and online calculators provide real-time tracking of your bankroll, suggesting stakes and buy-ins that align with your financial situation. These tools ensure that you’re always making decisions based on your current bankroll status.

AI’s Role in Informed Decisions

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made significant strides in enhancing decision-making in various fields, and online poker is no exception. AI-powered tools analyze vast amounts of hand history data to provide insights into optimal plays and betting strategies. By leveraging AI, you can gain an edge in the game and make decisions based on data-driven insights.

The Psychology Behind Successful Bankroll Management

psychology in poker

Poker psychology is an often-overlooked dimension of poker prowess—one that delves into the emotions, mindset, and resilience that shape a player’s journey. Here, we explore how emotions influence decisions, the art of developing a resilient mindset, and the strategies to remain in control, ensuring that your bankroll thrives amidst the challenges of the poker table.

Emotions: Friends and Foes

Emotional control is a cornerstone of effective bankroll management. Emotions such as excitement, frustration, and anxiety can cloud your judgment and lead to impulsive decisions. Recognizing the emotional rollercoaster that poker can induce and learning to manage these emotions are crucial steps in maintaining consistent and logical gameplay.

Developing a Resilient Mindset

Resilience is a trait that separates successful poker players from the rest. Setbacks and losses are inevitable, but it’s how you respond to them that defines your progress. A resilient mindset allows you to view losses as learning experiences, enabling you to bounce back stronger and more determined.

Staying in the Zone

Maintaining focus during extended poker sessions is essential. Practicing techniques like meditation and mindfulness can help you stay present, preventing fatigue-induced mistakes. Regular breaks between sessions also ensure that you’re mentally refreshed and able to make sound decisions.

Ensuring Longevity in Poker

Man playing poker with dollar bills in the air

Setting Win and Loss Limits

An essential aspect of bankroll management is setting limits. Define the point at which you’ll walk away from a winning session to secure your profits. Similarly, establish a threshold for losses at which you’ll step back to prevent significant setbacks.

The Unending Learning Curve

Poker is a game of continuous learning and adaptation. The strategies that work today might become obsolete tomorrow. Staying updated with new techniques, trends, and concepts ensures that you remain competitive in an ever-evolving landscape.

Climbing Stakes: The Smart Approach

As your skills and bankroll grow, the temptation to move up stakes can be strong. However, a hasty jump in stakes can be detrimental if you’re not adequately prepared. Gradually increasing stakes as you consistently profit at your current level ensures a smoother transition and reduces the risk of financial setbacks.

Avoiding Complacency

Even as you achieve success and climb stakes, it’s crucial to maintain a sense of humility and continuous improvement. Complacency can lead to stagnation, hindering your growth as a player. Always strive to refine your skills and maintain the discipline that got you to where you are.

Ethical Gameplay and Responsible Gambling

someone playing poker online with chips surrounding the computer

The Foundation of Ethical Play

Integrity is paramount in the world of online poker. Uphold the principles of fair play, honesty, and respect for opponents. Avoid tactics like collusion and cheating, which not only compromise your bankroll but also tarnish the integrity of the game.

Respecting Legal Age Restrictions

Online poker platforms have age restrictions in place for a reason. Abide by the laws and regulations governing online gambling in your jurisdiction. Engaging in underage gambling not only risks your bankroll but also legal consequences.

Choosing Reputable Online Poker Platforms

Your bankroll’s security and your overall poker experience hinge on the platform you choose. Opt for established online poker platforms that have a reputation for transparency, fairness, and robust security measures. Conduct thorough research and read user reviews to make an informed choice.

Summary

If you want to be a serious poker player, you need to be able to practice strict bankroll management. Being able to properly manage your bankroll is one of the most important skills you can have in poker, as a properly managed bankroll allows you to consistently play in games in which you are profitable – without the risk of going broke.

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Jordan conroy

Author
Jordan Conroy, a respected name in the online poker arena, has cultivated his authority through years of dedicated play and content creation. Since 2020, he has earned a stellar reputation for his in-depth analysis of poker theory and his ability to keep a finger on the pulse of the latest developments in the poker world. Jordan's dedication to staying at the forefront of poker knowledge allows him to consistently deliver top-quality content that resonates with both novice players and seasoned professionals. Beyond his poker expertise, he brings a diverse perspective, closely following other competitive domains like soccer, snooker, and Formula 1, enriching his insights and providing a comprehensive understanding of the gaming landscape.
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