When Beasts of Poker asked me to write this article, I thought they were joking. I mean, I might be known for many things in the poker-world but surely bankroll management has never been one of them. I have gone broke more times than I’ve had warm meals. Then I thought about it from this perspective: Would you listen to a man who has made nearly every possible mistake in poker and learned (a bit) from them? Someone who has felt the pure bliss of flipping 50K and had to walk the streets of Madrid with one shoe because he lost one of them in a semi-drunken side-bet? Or would you just listen to someone who’s been solid and really made it in the world of online poker?
Yes, I’d probably go with the latter as well. Luckily, I’m friends with such a man and asked him about the subject:
BeastsOfPoker: So Mr. E, you have won over USD 5 million from online poker. Surely, you are a man who can teach us something about the importance of bankroll management. Do you have any thoughts that one might apply when they’re starting their poker-journey?
Mr. E: Many promising new players go broke because of lack of proper bankroll management. Poker should be seen as a business, and as such, you shouldn’t take unnecessary risks. Rather you should be maximizing your profits by always keeping optimal risk/reward ratio. This ratio is hard to calculate if you’re just starting out but as you keep getting better, you will learn about variance in any given game and you’ll also learn to calculate your win-rate more correctly. These two are the most important factors when deciding what stakes to play.
BeastsOfPoker: Give us a few general rules for the players who have never even heard of the term ‘bankroll management’?
Mr. E: For No-Limit Hold’em cash games, I’d keep at least 30 buy-ins before moving to higher stakes, for Pot Limit Omaha 50 buy-ins and for tournaments 100 buy-ins or more. Also, remember that these are just if you’re taking a “shot”. When you’re taking a shot, you should keep a certain loss-limit, three buy-ins for example. If you lose three buy-ins you quit the game, go play lower stakes and then take another shot when you’ve “grinded” yourself back to where you started. Ability to do this is what separates the ones who are going to make it in poker and those who aren’t.
To clarify: Buy-ins mean the sum that you’re buying into any given ring game. You should also see that these general guidelines are meant for 100bb poker where the variance is a bit smaller than if you were to buy in short-stacked. For example, if you are to play in a No Limit Hold’em game with 100 dollars, you should at least have a 3000 dollar bankroll. Similarly, to play in a Pot Limit Omaha game with 100 dollars you should have a minimum 5000 dollars bankroll. Lastly, if you were to play a 100 dollar tournament your bankroll should be 10000 dollars.
BeastsOfPoker: Any other pitfalls one should avoid?
Mr. E: I think you’re the man to tell us about those.
BeastsOfPoker: You’re absolutely right. Thank you Mr. E for sharing your knowledge!
Other Pitfalls For A Promising Poker Player
Now, I can speak only from my experience, but alcohol, girls and expensive watches can lead to a dangerous death spiral. Don’t get me wrong, they can lead to a pretty damn groovy path as well!
Nevertheless, here’s a list of “Don’ts” that I’ve prepared from my experiences:
Do not play under influence, especially if you’re the only one.
The situation is not nearly as bad if everyone else on the table is equally messed up but at least at the start of your poker-journey, I’d avoid mixing alcohol and poker altogether. It’s not just that your game is going to get worse, your ability to calculate risk is going to be drastically worse as well. If you ever find yourself thinking about “one brilliant play” after downing a bottle of whiskey – DO NOT DO IT. I know what it’s like to wake up next to an empty bottle without recollections and without a bankroll. Makes the hangover that much worse, trust me.
Do not spend too much.
It’s good to invest smartly, blowing half of your bankroll for a brand-new Rolex is just stupid. Even if “you’re investing in yourself”.
Do not get too cocky.
It can be hard to handle a downswing. Especially for a beginner, it can be even harder to handle an upswing. When you’ve been running hotter than the sun and have thoughts like “I will bust the world”, it’s a good time to take a break. It’s hard to bust the whole world and as a professional poker player, you should set your aim to something a bit more realistic. Even if the thought of “busting the world” still gets my nipples hard, you, my dear readers, should now know better. The best poker players in the world don’t play against better players. Let’s repeat: Do not try “bust the world”.
Do not forget to select your games
Game selection – It’s not just for pussies! Even though I highly recommend each and every one of you to battle from time to time, do not battle to the death. Playing against better players is the best way to learn but it’s also a great way to lose money. Picking up the great value games for most of the time and sometimes challenging tougher opponents for learning-value is the way to go.
Do not break the rules
In this article, I’ve given you a lot of rules. They’re not going to be relevant to everyone, so you must create your own guidelines. The most important thing is, to be honest to yourself.
Once you’ve created your own rules – Do not break them. There’s always another day and another game, no matter how good the game is or how tilted you are – just stick to your rules, you will be a better poker player because of it. As time goes by, you will probably create new rules or guides and they will be even better because you know the game and yourself better now. That’s okay and it’s only natural. Just make sure that when you’re creating these new rules, you’re in a solid state of mind and you’re good to go.
I hope that this article helps you along your poker journey. And remember it’s natural to make some mistakes along the way. Making all the mistakes – like I did, is just plain stupid.
Good luck at the tables!
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Samuli is a long time mid-stakes cash-game professional with two SCOOP titles, Aussie Million title and partypokers monthly million title on his belt. He is the writer of the nominated Gambler’s Diary.