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Many people start playing poker with the assumption that their bankroll will last forever because they have the “skills” needed to play profitable poker. These players receive a rude awakening once variance hits or they get careless with their bankroll. Money management plays a major part in a poker player’s ability to stay liquid in a game.

Quite often, you will find poker players with enough talent to play the game successfully but they cannot stay in the game due to poor money management skills. Below we give you a few tips on poker money management in hopes of helping to prevent you from going busto.

Can You Withstand Variance?

Poker players have a nice little term for the impact of luck on their game. We like to call it variance. It doesn’t matter if your Larry Fitzgerald playing in his first game of poker or Phil Ivey, at some point luck is going to negatively impact your bankroll.

Prolonged periods where you’re not willing can decimate your bankroll if a proper strategy is not used. At its core, your bankroll should be large enough to stand swings and allow you to continue playing.

How large should your bankroll be? This depends on your comfort level. Are you capable of moving down in stakes if your bankroll gets small or do you prefer a bankroll that can withstand prolonged variance?

Also, the type of game that you’re playing is going to determine how large your bankroll should be. For example, a PLO cash game player is going to have a larger bankroll than a Hold’em player and tournament players are going to have larger bankrolls on average than cash players.

We recommend a bankroll of a minimum of 25 to 30 buy-ins for cash games and a max of 100. If you have a style that is prone to swings, you may want to adjust this range even higher.

For tournaments, we recommend a bit of a larger bankroll than has been suggested in the past. A base bankroll for tournaments should be around 100 buy-ins with a max somewhere around 500 buy-ins.

For those of you playing in live tournaments, we realize that a 500 buy-in bankroll may not be feasible depending on what limits you play. This is why many recommend a bankroll of 25 to 100 buy-ins for live play. With the popularity of re-entry events, we recommend at least doubling that total to somewhere between 50 and 200 buy-ins for live events.

How Much Do I Risk in a Session?

Never take all of your bankroll into a poker game. This provides too much temptation to continue playing if you’re running badly. Instead, the standard rule of thumb is to take no more than 10% of your bankroll with you into a cash game.

If you have a bankroll of 50 buy-ins, that means you take 5 buy-ins with you to the cash game. From there, you have to learn to exercise control in the games where you’re losing. On the days you’re losing, we recommend quitting after losing three buy-ins at the table.

The exception would be if the game is particularly good and you know you’re still playing your A game. Even then, you need to make your stop loss at five buy-ins.

For tournament players, we also recommend using a similar strategy. This wasn’t a concern in the past but now that we have many events offering multiple re-entries, it is easy to throw down three, five or even 10 buy-ins for a single event. If you don’t believe someone will put up 10 buy-ins for an event, check out Quantum Reload events at the Bicycle Casino with a dozen or more start days.

We’d also like to address limit poker players for a moment. We often talk about buy-ins but for limit poker players we should address the stop loss in terms of big bets. It is recommended that most limit poker players put a stop loss of 30 big bets when they are playing in cash games.

The reason for 30 is that you cannot stack players in limit poker like you can in NL and PL games. As such, it is difficult to rebound from a 30 big bet loss in a single day. For games such as Omaha Hi-Lo, especially those with a kill, you can extend this to 50 big bets but afterwards you need to quit and come back another day.

Sticking to a stop loss, regardless of which form of poker you play, is the best way to protect your bankroll from being wiped out in a single session. The games will be there tomorrow. Go home, take a break and come back another day ready to win.

Your Bankroll is for Poker Only

The hardest concept for some players to grasp is that their poker bankroll is only for poker and nothing else. It isn’t supposed to be used to pay bills, bet on sports, buy expensive toys or take your girlfriend out for a nice dinner.

Your base bankroll should be only used to play poker and nothing else whatsoever. If you must spend some of your poker money, this is where your profit comes into play. The money over and above your base bankroll can be used for other things if you desire but the base bankroll is off limits.

What if I Want to Play Professionally?

That’s a great question. What happens to your bankroll if you want to turn pro? Guess what, the concept of money management doesn’t change just because you want to make the game your career.

However, you now have the lovely concept of your monthly nut to contend with. How much do you need to earn each month in order to pay your bills and have a reasonable lifestyle? Whatever number you determine is how much profit you have to make each month at poker.

If you cannot make your monthly nut, that doesn’t mean you draw on your poker bankroll. We realize that is what some of you will do anyway, so that is why it is recommended that you have at least six months worth of expenses saved up prior to turning pro. This way you have a bit of a cushion provided you are unable to meet your monthly nut.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.