First thing you need to do if you’re going to play poker on any serious level is get your bankroll, software (if you’re going to play online), and preparation together. You won’t have the level of success you desire if you aren’t prepared in these areas. There are countless semi-professional and professional poker players that have extremely poor money management skills, and very poor preparation. If you want to improve and move up the poker food chain you’ll need to take these areas of the game seriously, and put work into them if you don’t already excel at them.
There are some generally accepted rules on bankroll management for cash games. Typically 30 buy-ins for the
limit you’re playing is a good enough cushion to absorb any negative variance. Really though, if you haven’t beaten a particular stake level ever before, and you drop around 15 buy-ins, you should be moving down until you can win.
Running bad is going to happen to everyone multiple times throughout their poker careers. However, let’s have a moment of honesty. If you knew what you were doing, and were skilled enough, you could absorb most negative variance by making the best play in many other situations.
This holds especially true the lower the stakes you are playing. The higher the stakes you’re playing, the less this will hold true because the average potential skill gap between you and your opponent will be less. At micro and small stakes though, the average potential skill gap can be gigantic.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re just on a bad run. Take an honest look at your game, and move down stakes if you need to. There’s no shame in moving down, re-gaining your confidence, improving your game, and then moving back up. It’s worse to continue to lose and blame it on bad luck.
The general guideline for bankroll management may not apply to you. If you’ve beaten a certain stake level over a decent sample size, then you may not need as many as 30 buy-ins. You can possibly get away with 20 or less buy-ins depending on what stake amounts you’re going to play. The higher the stakes, the more buy-ins you’re going to want.
So a quick example is if you’re going to play 100NL online, then it’s suggested for a $1 big blind game that you have at least $3k in your poker bankroll. If you haven’t beaten a particular game in a couple of years, don’t expect to just jump back in and beat it at the same level. You’ll want to have some extra buy-ins, or possibly start a little lower than the previous limits you felt you could beat. In general the games tend to get tougher over time, and strategies and the amount of available knowledge change and increase.
When you decide to cash out and spend some of your poker winnings, make sure you leave enough buy-ins left for the stakes you want to play. There’s nothing worse than cashing out, not leaving yourself adequate buy-in cushions, and then going on a losing streak. If you’re worried about the money, you’re not going to make good decisions. So make sure when you cash out you have a plan for your poker bankroll. Don’t leave yourself short.
Sometimes life issues may occur and you’ll need to pull out larger sums of your bankroll than you’d ideally like to. When situations like this occur, have a plan. Either find someone to temporarily stake you, or play at smaller stakes until you can re-build your bankroll. Always have a plan.