Bankroll Management: The Ultimate Guide

Bankroll management

"Becoming wealthy is not a matter of how much you earn, who your parents are, or what you do… it is a matter of managing your money properly."
Noel Whittaker

Your online poker bankroll is the amount of money you keep for playing poker. Poker, although truly a game of great skill, is still subject to variance, even for the very best of players. Variance is a nice word for "sometimes you lose, sometimes you win." And poker has lots of variance!

Imagine a situation where Player A gets all the money in the pot with an Ace of hearts and an Ace of clubs against Player B who is holding a J of hearts and a 2 of clubs. In this situation Player A is statistically going to win almost a whopping 90% of the time. But sometimes a 2 and then another 2 land on the flop and Player A is feeling variance in a very painful way!

Realistically, bankrolls are often grown and lost as the swings of online poker have you winning, then losing, then (hopefully) winning again. This article will tell you how to manage your bankroll so that you play within the stakes you can afford and avoid losing your entire bankroll.

Know Your Comfort Zone and Playing Style

There are several factors that you should take into consideration when determining how to manage your bankroll.

Comfort Zone

Are you a recreational player playing purely for fun? Do you have a regular income and could replenish your bankroll easily? Or are you more serious about developing poker skills and want to be able to earn a side income from playing solid poker online? If you are the latter type of player, you will be more impacted by variance.

Aggressive Playing Style vs. Conservative Playing Style

The more conservative player is playing fewer hands than the aggressive player.

Tighter players will generally experience much less variance than aggressive players who are willing to gamble more. This is because the more conservative player is playing fewer hands than the aggressive player.

Type of Poker Games

Variance based on the type of poker games refers to whether you are playing multi-table tournaments (MTTs), single-table tournaments (STTs), or cash games. Online tournament games can also be played at regular or turbo speeds.

Generally speaking, MTTs have greater variance than STTs, and turbo games have more variance than regular speed games. No-limit cash games have much more variance than Limit cash games (and heads up cash games have more variance than 6-person games which have more variance than a full ring table).

Play within Your Bankroll

The chart below will give you a general idea of what stakes to play based upon the factors discussed above. It is based on the number of buy-ins (BIs) or big bets that you make in a game.

Always play at the stakes within your bankroll, using the guidelines above. As you make money, you can go up in stakes but make sure to drop back down in stakes if your bankroll starts to dwindle.

Game Bankroll Example of Bankroll Based on Buy-In
Cash: Limit 200 - 400 Big Bets $10 - $20 ($.02/$.05 games)
$200 - $400 ($1/$2 games)
Cash: No-limit/
20 - 30 Buy-ins $100 - $150 ($.02/$.05 games)
$4000 - $6000 ($1/$2 games)
STTs 30 - 50 Buy-ins $33–$55 ($1.10 games)
$660–$1100 ($22.00 games)
MTTs 100 Buy-ins $110 ($1.10 games)
$5500 ($55 games)

The Most Important Rule

Please remember that this is not an exact science, but a general rule of thumb. Knowing your personal playing style and your tolerance for variance while practicing sound bankroll management will keep you playing poker online for a long time!

Learning poker takes time and patience; it's important to dedicate time to learning poker strategy to hone your game.