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Introduction to Bankroll Management

Every winning poker player applies bankroll management to their game: from casual players in the micro stakes tables to the NL100/200 multi-tabling sharks.  Before you get started in real money games or make any deposits online, it’s really important that you come to terms with this principle and understand the consequences of neglecting it.

Bankroll Management describes the process of playing at the right tables and insuring yourself against variance.  The ups and downs of poker, aka “variance” means that even the best players can’t escape a bad run of cards.  You might lose pocket kings to pocket aces or some other type of “suck out” several times within a given period.  For players who risk too much of their money in each game this can heavily dent or even wipe out their bankroll.  That’s why it’s important to limit how much of your total bankroll you bring to the tables (offline or online).  Regardless of what anybody tells you, poker is a game steeped in luck and no long term player can escape a string of bad beats – regardless of how tight they play.  As recently as last year, Tom Dwan – one of the most successful online poker players of his generation, suffered a downswing worth up to 40% of his $10 million online bankroll.

Bankroll for No Limit Holdem Cash Games
As a rule of thumb, in No Limit Holdem Games (the most popular form of poker) players should buy-in with a maximum of 5% of their total bankroll. In other words, you should be able to cover at least 20 buy-ins for each game.  You can afford to lose a few buy-ins or finish a bad day off without causing much damage your bankroll’s longevity.  The typical amount that you should enter each cash game is 100xBBs; so if we’re playing NL $1/$2, then we should buy-in for a minimum of $200 and have a total bankroll of $4,000 to prepare for this (20 x 200).

Bankroll for SNGs (Sit and Gos)
New players tend to favour SNGs the most as they finish quickly, are pretty ease to win money in and are run 24/7.  Players should have a bankroll of 40 buy-ins for each SNG game they play.  For example, if the SNG buy-in is $1 + 10c then you should have at least $50 to cover the 40 buy-ins.  Although these games aren’t too difficult to master, there’s still a great deal of variance to deal with and you need the volume (you can’t afford to lose an all-in more than once). Some exceptionally talented players can play with a bankroll of just 20 to 30 buy-ins; but for beginners, I strongly advise nothing less than 40.

Bankroll for Multi-Table Tournaments
Multi-Table Tournaments (MTTs) can include up to 7,000 entrants at PokerStars and tend to only payoff the top 15% of places.  This reduces the chances of a payoff and even Chris Moorman (UK’s top MTT player in 2008) has gone up to 20 losing streaks in a row without cashing out.  To protect yourself against MTT variance I recommend having a bankroll of at least 100 times the buy-in.  Yes that’s right, players who enter $5 MTTs should have total bankroll of at least $500. 99% of players in forums agree that there’s no wiggle room.