Bankroll Management

Manage online poker bankrolls graph

When poker players start out, they probably don't pay much attention to their bankroll. After all, poker is a pastime, a bit of fun, something you do in your spare time. Right?


If you're playing poker for real money, even for low stakes, you have to handle your money sensibly. Whether your buy-in is $10, $100 or $5,000, you have to employ even a basic system for handling your money to minimize the chances of going broke.

And chances are, you will go broke at least once. Even the best pros in the world can go bust, as poker still has sufficient luck to make the swings a very real problem.

However, with good housekeeping and a simple plan, even the worst financial minds can keep tabs on their wins and losses and make going broke a thing of the past.

What is Good Bankroll Management?

Employing and understanding bankroll management is key to a happy poker life. Managing your bankroll means you can handle the wins as well as the losses, and you'll be well-placed if you have any big swings in variance.

Good management starts with having the right number of buy-ins. Thought playing online poker was sitting down at a cash game with whatever money you happen to have to hand that day?

Think again: bankroll management is about working out what you have at the start, picking a stake level to suit, and keeping accurate records.

Important Bankroll Management Points
  • Knowing your stake levels
  • Understanding profits as well as losses
  • Handling tilt if things go bad
Know Your Buy-Ins
Manage bankrolls - Buy Ins

First, decide what stakes you're going to play at. Let's say you're a cash game player jumping in at the $0.02/$0.04 NLHE tables. The maximum buy-in at a table is 100 buy-ins, or $4.00. Assuming you're buying in every time for the full amount (and you should be), you'll need 20 times the buy-in, or $80 in this case.

As you improve you'll want to multi-table, so the bankroll suddenly jumps even higher.

For MTT or SNG players, work on a rough 50x-buyin roll. For example, if you're comfortable at the $11 Sit n' Gos, you'll need $550 (50 x $11) in entries, including any tourney fees.

Those figures may seem big, but they're big for a reason, namely to safeguard against swings in variance that you will inevitably face.

3 Helpful Bankroll Management Tips

1 - Choose the Right Levels
While bankroll management is vital, picking a stake that's right for you is important too. As a beginner, there's no point jumping in at $2/4 cash games; you'll soon go broke.

Testing out your comfort level is important before risking too much cash. If you can comfortably crush a level, and keep on crushing it, then it's time to go higher.

2 - Multi-Tablers, Do the Math
The beauty of online poker is that you can play more than one table at a time. The more tables you play, the more money you can potentially win. And you should be keeping an eye on your ROI (Return on Investment) too: a good ROI of 15 percent is good for a casual grinder. Anything bigger is a bonus.

While multi-tabling can be a route to faster profits, they can also mean a bigger outlay. So, if you're playing more than one table you need to multiply your buy-ins and bankroll accordingly. If you have $550 for one table (as in the above example), add on $550 for every extra table you're planning on playing.

3 - Going Up and Down Levels
OK, so you've picked the right stake. And you're crushing it like a boss. When's the right time to move? If you can beat the $0.10/$0.20 cash games or $22 Sit 'n Gos, and can make a 20x buy-in profit, move up a level.

If you find the next level trickier and your bankroll dipping below 10 buy-ins, it's probably time to consider dropping down a level. Build your roll back up, then move to your original comfort zone.

Beware of Tilt
Manage bankrolls - Tilt

Managing a bankroll is all about the right mentality. There's always the temptation to chase losses, up your stakes if you're bored, or take a shot at a big tournament that promises a big guarantee but is out of your comfort zone.

Tilt is the psychological effect that losing has on you. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from playing too much, chasing those losses, gambling on marginal hands, or losing sight of your skill level.

Handling tilt and recognizing when it's happening is another vital component of making sure your bankroll doesn't go south.