Profitable Poker – Poker Bankroll Management

Guest post by Mark Holland from

In the 3rd article of my series on profitable poker aimed at beginning players, I will tackle the subject of poker bankroll management. You can see my other articles here. So many poker players assume that this area is something that somehow applies only to other people. These very same people wonder why they are constantly topping up their bankrolls in order to play.

Bankroll management does not have the thrill of a big bluff or the satisfaction of accurately putting someone on a hand. However, if you ignore it one thing is for sure – the natural variance in the game will see you go broke sooner rather than later!

I will start by explaining why embracing variance is the key to profitable poker play, including the relationship between volume played and variance. Next I will discuss some bankroll guidelines for different forms of the game. After this how to use bankroll management to decide when to move up levels is covered. Finally I will bring it all together by noting how individual differences affect your poker bankroll levels.

Variance caused by the chance fall of cards is what makes poker a profitable game. If there were no ‘luck’ then new players would quickly lose their cash against experts and find a different game. Over a single hand chance is in fact the dominant factor in poker. By taking small edges over 1000’s of hands, expert players build up their bankrolls. The lure of occasional wins keeps beginners interested in playing – and without novice players coming into the game there would be no profits to share.

At the same time, variance can see even solid winning players go on short-term ‘downswings’ which can involve large sums of money. Most players have experienced sessions where they keep getting their chips in with the best of it, only to lose. Believe me, this can go on for longer than you ever thought possible in poker, and involve large sums of money. Chance makes the game profitable, however it can also be very painful in the short-run.

Bankroll Management is used to ensure that chance factors do not see you go broke. Guidelines within the game suggest the following bankroll levels for different forms of poker:

No Limit Cash Games: 20 Buy Ins For The Level You Play

Fixed Limit Cash Games: 300 Big Bets

Poker Tournaments: 100+ Average Tournament Buy-Ins

Sit N Go Tournaments: 50+ Average Buy-Ins

Many new players think that these levels are conservative – however these are actually fairly low compared to the figures some online professionals use! I have personally seen winning players go on 12 buy-in cash-game downswings, break even over 1000 SNGs and go for 2 full months without a significant tournament prize. All of them used sensible bankroll management and are still playing and winning at the tables today.

In addition to providing a buffer against variance, poker bankroll management is useful in telling you when you are ready to move up levels. For example if you are playing $25 buy-in No-Limit Holdem cash games and want to move up to the $50 level – simply keep grinding until you have 20 buy-ins ($1000). If you lose at the new level you can step back down to re-build once you have $500 – or sooner if you prefer.

Individual factors do play a large role in poker bankroll management. Some people play higher variance styles than others. If you are loose and aggressive you might want to have more buy-ins than a tight player. While the looser style might be more profitable over time for a skilled player, it does involve a greater variance. Your ability to reload your poker account is another factor that affects the number of buy-ins held. A poker pro who relies on the game for their entire income is likely to be stricter than a leisure player who can top up with spare cash should their bankroll disappear.

Mark Holland runs a large network of poker strategy websites and is the author of the 4-part course ‘The $16 / Hour Sit And Go Blueprint’, teaching beginning players how to profit from 1-table tournaments. You can join this acclaimed course at Sit and Go Planet today!

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.

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