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Basic Poker Bankroll Management

Bankroll management is all about mitigating risk. Poker is primarily a game of skill, but there is also an element of luck beyond the player's control. When long runs of bad luck strike, it can have a significant impact on your bankroll, unless you are properly prepared for it. How then can you both minimize the risk of going bust, and at the same time grow your bankroll in a manageable way that allows you to move up in limits?


The first step is to realize that bad downswings are not only common and expected, they are inevitable. Trust me, I know that the first time you go through a 15-buyin downswing it feels like the end of the world, but you are not the only one to go through it, nor will you be the last. Coming to terms with this reality is a critical step. You should not get discouraged, as long as you are a winning player you WILL come out of the swing.


Next, you must ensure that you leave yourself at least enough of a cushion to absorb these downswings. The exact answer depends on your win rate, but as a general rule of thumb keeping a working bankroll of around 30 buyins is usually more than enough to never go bust or have to move down. Some will advocate more or less, which is certainly possible depending on your win rate, but this is just an average. Higher win rates require less buyins, while very low win rates will require more due to the increased variance. Also, if one is willing to move down, then bankroll requirements can be relaxed, since if you ever lose half your bankroll you can simply move down and effectively double the number of buyins you have.


Finally, as a winning player you will want to cash out from time to time so you can enjoy your winnings. If you don't want to move up, then the solution is simple: set yourself some time period (every week, two weeks, a month, etc), and simply cash out all your profit from that period. This more or less ensures a steady stream of income while also never having to deal with the anxiety of moving up and "learning" a new limit. However, if like most of us you aspire to move up to the next level, then you will need a different strategy. One simple but extreme strategy is to never cash out anything and devote 100% of your profits to padding your bankroll so you can move up. This is a good way to aggressively move up in limits, for instance if you had to drop down for any reason and want to quickly move back up to your "normal" limit. Another good strategy is to cash out some fixed percent of your profit and use the rest to pad your bankroll. This gives you a way to move up while at the same time enjoying the fruits of your labor. The exact percent to use is really entirely up to you and depends on how fast you want to move up, how badly you need the money, special circumstances (if you need to cash out more than usual, for instance), and other personal factors.


In conclusion, bankroll management is a critical component in the strategy of a winning player. Ignoring bankroll requirements is a recipe for disaster because it is so easy to lose everything if you only have a couple of buyins in your bankroll due to the simple variance that comes with poker. By carefully managing your bankroll and following a strict balance between moving up and cashing out, your poker career will be successful and rewarding.


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Written by MewsicLovr, FeltPoker forum administrator

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