Poker Bankroll Management Top Guide by LearnWPT Team

Bankroll-Management

When it comes to playing poker, there are many poker strategies and practices that can help improve your game. The more attention you pay to every aspect of your poker game that can be improved, the more likely you are to achieve success in cash games and poker tournaments.


What is poker bankroll management?

One of the concepts that is key to playing successful poker is bankroll management. In this blog, we will give you solid guidelines for poker bankroll management, outline its tools and principles, and tell you how to use it as a poker player.

Poker bankroll management is a money management strategy in professional poker based on statistical probability and skill level. It is an essential part of playing poker. With bankroll management, you can practice reducing or eliminating your risk of ruin by minimizing losses against gains.

A bankroll is money set aside exclusively to play poker. Having a bankroll offers a lot of advantages over not having a bankroll. If you're just playing poker out of money that is part of your everyday ordinary life money, that can create a lot of problems. You're only going to go so far with your poker career if you keep playing that way. On the other hand, having a dedicated bankroll offers many advantages.

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Bankroll money is a little bit different than everyday money. You should think of it as a tool that you're going to use to make more money and work your way up in stakes. When you separate your bankroll completely in this manner, you set it aside from the money you would use to pay a mortgage payment, buy a car, or have dinner with. Treat your bankroll as the money you will use as an investment in your poker career and growth.

When you keep a proper poker bankroll, you don't have to worry about those normal ups and downs and normal swings that just occur naturally because of variance. A proper bankroll can help you survive those inevitable downswings that have to happen during the normal course of playing poker over time.

An excellent way to manage your bankroll is to physically separate it from your everyday money. Most card rooms and casinos offer safety deposit boxes, and those are good places to keep your poker bankroll. This way you will keep it away from your everyday money and feel safer since you don't have to travel to and from the card room or casino with cash on you.

Check out LearnWPT Episode 5 and learn more about bankroll management and its role in poker.


Now, you are probably thinking - How should you decide the size of your bankroll? When playing poker, it's essential to always to know the size of your bankroll. If you don't have a specific amount of money set aside for the game of poker, then how can you decide what games are worth playing?

Knowing which games are worth playing with your available cash will actually depend on whether you are a professional player or not. Professional poker players often have a target amount of income required and will therefore choose the stakes that will allow them to most reliably earn a specific hourly rate. Those who are not professional poker players should use a set percentage of their entertainment budget to invest in playing poker.

Although it may be tempting to try and jump into bigger games right away given the potential reward for success, it’s much more enjoyable and puts much less stress on your game to maintain poker bankroll management rules.

Whether you are a top professional or someone new to the game, keeping track of your cash game sessions and tournament buy-ins and results is important to making good decisions with your poker bankroll.

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After you’ve played several cash games and tournaments and have a good sample size to compare, it seems your game is ready to move up in levels against tough competition. So, how can you make sure you are prepared to go pro?

Many poker players question how long it will take them to become better players and actually just how much time it takes to reach the long-term when evaluating your ability at the poker table. There are several factors that go into playing better poker however, improvement will mostly depend on how frequently you practice and how hard you work. If you are practicing every day, you will surely make faster progress than the person who works on their poker game for only one hour a week. As long as you create a consistent study routine over time, you are on the right path to becoming a better poker player.

It takes time to reach the long-term in poker, and that time period will be different between cash games vs. tournaments. For cash games, around 20,000 hands and 700 hours of live time at the table is around the amount of play you’ll need to know if you are a winning, break-even, or losing player.

For tournament poker variance is more considerable and it will also depend on how big the fields are in the tournaments you play. After 1,000 tournaments you should be able to get a good sense of your skill level and profitability.


Having a proper poker bankroll allows you to focus on decision-making at the table without the pressure of playing above your budget.

If you want to progress as a poker player, you will have to start thinking long-term instead of short-term. Don’t get overly emotional based on a good or bad result of any single hand, focus on improving your decision-making process. In addition to studying LearnWPT Strategy Episodes, taking notes, and discussing strategy with players you trust, bankroll management is one of the most effective ways to help gain consistency in your game. Let's see how.

If you are just starting out in poker, it's important that your bankroll is healthy and sufficient to allow for growth and learning of the game.

While you may see different guidelines for the appropriate amount of buy-ins to keep in your poker bankroll, in order to avoid risk of ruin in cash games you need to budget 50 buy-ins for the level you are playing. For proper tournament bankroll management as a professional you should never risk more than 1% of your bankroll in any given tournament, or in other words have at least 100 buy-ins for the tournament buy-in level you play.

Keep in mind the amounts noted above for the recommended number of buy-ins are for professional poker players who don’t have the ability to replenish their bankroll and need to stay in the game to make a living. As a recreational player you can be a little less strict with the number of buy-ins, however you should still have at least 25 buy-ins for the level of games you are playing.


So, let's look at an example of how bankroll management breaks down for the non-professional.

If you play $1-$2 no-limit cash games, and usually buy-in for $200, you want to make sure that you keep at least 25 buy-ins of $200 in your poker bankroll. So that would mean $5,000 set aside solely to play poker.

Maybe right now you cannot set that amount of money aside for playing poker, but you want to work towards the goal of having an appropriate bankroll. That is why having a bankroll is so important, as it can help your poker career or hobby to be self-sustaining. You won't have to take money out of your paycheck or take cash out from anywhere else to play poker.

The 25 buy-ins bankroll will minimize your risk of ruin, otherwise known as your chance of going broke. The lower number of buy-ins you have in your bankroll than 25, the higher your risk of ruin or the greater probability of you going broke. In the same way, if you go above 25 buy-ins for the given level you're reducing the risk of ruin further.

The best feature of bankroll management is that the number of buy-ins in your bankroll will dictate whether you're moving up or down, which takes the emotion out of that tough but important decision.

While it may seem discouraging to have to do so, it's very typical to have to regularly move up and down in stakes in order to sustain an appropriate bankroll.

This is why you shouldn't simply take money out of your poker bankroll whenever you feel like it. Ideally your poker bankroll should be in the range between 45-60 buy-ins before you even consider taking money out for everyday expenses or treating yourself. A conservative bankroll management strategy is the one that will help you achieve your goals and move up in levels. To adopt a more conservative bankroll strategy you should split your profits and take a percentage of the profit each month for life expenses while also leaving some of the profit to continue to grow your poker bankroll. The typical split would be 50-50, which means that if you have made $2,000 that month you're going to take $1,000 out for yourself and leave $1,000 profit for that to continue to grow your bankroll.

This is one of the key skills that separates amateurs from professionals. A lot of professional poker players who have had poor bankroll management skills are the players that are no longer able to make a living from playing poker. If you want to be successful in the long term, bankroll management is essential.

Another crucial skill that can help (or hurt) our ability to grow a poker bankroll and become a successful player is managing our emotions. When emotions guide us it’s often difficult to make decisions clearly. Tilt problems are a big part of playing poker. They happen when you are running bad, feel injustice, focus on bad luck, and many over-competitive people experience hate-losing tilt. Sometimes you will tilt because you think you made a mistake, are overconfident, feel like you deserve to win, or are motivated by revenge. Tilt occurs in everyone’s game sometimes however if you don’t face these issues they can have a dramatic effect on your ability to manage your bankroll properly.

To learn more check out LearnWPT Episode 146.


What is the connection between tilt and poker bankroll management?

We’ve all likely experienced winners tilt, otherwise known as overconfidence. When you start winning and it feels like it’s almost impossible to lose, you completely discount the possibility of making mistakes. Often this results in less studying and working as hard as before, instead hyper-focusing on winning every next game you play.

When you go through a prolonged period of winning it’s easy to make lousy bankroll management decisions and move up in limits too quickly. You might buy into a tournament above your limits or skill level, or spend a lot more money outside of the game than usual which can lead to future financial pressures. Instead, if you use bankroll management to limit yourself in periods when you could emotionally be at risk and don't let winner’s tilt guide you instead of your long-term goals in poker, your bankroll will grow. In tandem with proper bankroll management and consistent study, your profits will grow and allow you to consistently move up and play bigger buy-in cash games tournaments.

Bankroll management is a critical skill you can learn that will allow you to maintain ultimate focus on executing a game plan instead of worrying about the amount of money at stake in any one given tournament or cash game session.


Bankroll Management Tools

Bankroll tools can be handy in developing a routine and consistent process for poker bankroll management. Luckily, you don’t have to bring your pen and paper and you can manage everything using technology. There are many tools available today that can help with this task, including some mobile apps for Android or iOS devices and web browsers on your computer.

  • Bankroll management tools will help you visualize your progress. Many of the apps available on the market include multiple charts filtered by type of game, location, and blinds. These apps allow for efficient tracking of how much money you are making and investing, allowing you to build greater confidence and adjust quickly to the current status of your game.

  • Another technology that is widely available to track your bankroll is using Google sheets or Microsoft excel sheets. If you are creating your own method of bankroll management tracking spreadsheet, make sure you include the following details.

  1. Date of game or tournament
  2. Total Buy-ins (include any rebuys or add-ons)
  3. Total amount won/lost for the session
  4. Total dealer tips
  5. Any other expenses (meals/travel)

Poker can be one of the most lucrative hobbies you have, but many pitfalls can await your process if you don’t approach the game with a sound strategy for managing your money. Keeping a separate bankroll will allow better decision-making and perspective when playing poker. Proper poker bankroll management allows you to use chips as a utility to invest and make more money and frees you up to learn and grow by making objective decisions at the table.


What is the best growing bankroll plan?

So now that we’ve walked through the different bankroll management strategies for cash games and tournaments, let’s review these 3 tips for using your winnings to both grow your bankroll and reward yourself for disciplined efforts:

  1. Your goal should be to add 50% of all winnings to your bankroll. Whether you are playing poker professionally or as a recreational player, it is vital to invest a healthy percentage of winnings back into a bankroll to help secure your poker future.
  2. Spend 10-15% enjoying it. What else are you working for if you can take some time and celebrate? Use up to 15% of your winnings to have fun and treat yourself!
  3. Invest 15-20%. Take up to 20% of your profits each month and put them towards other hobbies, investments, or just put it in the bank. Investing your profits in projects that you like outside of the game might motivate you and inspire you to become an even better player.

Bankroll management strategies vary from player to player and depend on each person’s specific financial situation. These guidelines are provided to help you enjoy the game of No-Limit Texas Hold’em and hopefully make some money along the way! To learn more and ask about bankroll management and get advice from pro poker players, plus work on every other part of your game and learn strategies to help make you a better poker player, check out the LearnWPT features.


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