You have to pay to play, but all that play isn’t going to last very long if you don’t have enough supporting cash behind your game to survive the bad times.
You don’t have to play Poker to win. It’s perfectly fine to just have your time at the table as a form of entertainment, but if you’re playing to win, the total cash available to you (your bankroll) will make the difference between ongoing enjoyment of the game and sitting on the rail wondering what’s on TV.
If you’ve never been exposed to the basic concept of necessary bankroll before, you’re probably going to be shocked about the amount of money we’re talking about here. So take a deep breath. Meditate. Go to your happy place. That’s right, play with the cute puppy. Okay, now, read on… .
Recommended bankroll sizes
A bankroll is what will help you prosper when you’re winning and stave off the poor times when you’re losing. Because of the vagaries of luck, you need to have a thick cushion under you if you take a big fall.
Bankroll for Limit
If you begin as a Limit player, you should have a bankroll that is at least 300 times the maximum bet size. So for a $2/$4 game, you should have $1,200 earmarked for your Poker play.
That’s not to say you should walk up to a $2/$4 table with $1,200 in your pocket (in fact, you definitely should not do that), but that amount should be the amount of cash that you think of being at your disposal against your Poker quests as a whole.
It’s not unusual for a beginning player to lose as many as 50 big bets over the first several hours of Poker play. A bigger bankroll will let you ride over the top of this initial loss to watch things grow later on.
Bankroll for No-Limit
As you would guess, No-Limit, due to the brutal nature of the game, requires even more cushion. You should have an absolute minimum bankroll of ten maximum buy-ins for the game you’re interested in playing. A $1/$2 No- Limit ring game will probably have a maximum buy-in of $200, so a minimum bankroll for this game would be $2,000 (and double that would actually be safer).
Bankroll for tournament play
Tournaments tend to have wilder swings — especially multi-table tournaments where you might have a dry streak that runs for weeks, only to hit a big one to win it all back.
For single-table tournaments (like satellites for bigger tourneys), you should have 100 times the buy-in. If you play in $10 tournaments, that means $1,000.
For multiple tables, you need even more. A bare minimum of 300 times the buy-in is more appropriate (and don’t forget to count rebuys as part of the tournament fee). So if you’re playing in $10 tournaments where you’re rebuying twice, from your bankroll’s point of view that’s actually a $30 tournament. This means you need — yes, that’s right — $9,000 to weather the storm. Told ya this would get your blood pressure up.
Moving up and moving down in limits
When you’ve got a nice cushy bankroll under you, you still have to be able to adjust to your wins and losses as you play merrily along.
Assuming you want to be a winning player, to keep tabs on how you’re doing overall, you must keep records of your play. You can be as sophisticated as you’d like (who was playing, time of day, what you ate), but really the most important thing is to track your wins and losses across each Poker session.
A simple spreadsheet or even just a small hard-bound notebook (spirals lose pages too easily) that you take with you will do the trick. Write down every session, no matter how big or how small the losses. And don’t make an excuse to not record something, “I was really drunk at the time” doesn’t matter to a diminishing stack of George Washingtons in your bank account.
How important is keeping records? If two players have exactly the same level of skill — one keeps records, and the other doesn’t — the record keeper will win more money over time because he’s more aware of how his game is affecting his bottom line and can adjust accordingly.
You need to be more leery of losing than winning, so it’s the red ink in your ledger that you should be keeping an eye on. If you find that you’ve lost half your bankroll for the limit you assigned yourself, you need to move down one level in the limits that you play. So if your $2/$4 bankroll was $1,200 and you’ve seen it whittle down to $600, you need to move over to the $1/$2 table.
You also should examine your play in general for any leaks in your play — that is, mistakes that are costing you money.
Movin’ on up
If you’re in the envious position of having doubled your bankroll, you’re now able to move up one limit at will. Yes, doubling your bankroll is a lot to win before moving, but it will prove, without a doubt, that you’re not on a lucky streak and give you both the experience and confidence you need for the next level.
Moving up one limit in Poker is always harder. If you assume that after you move up you’ll automatically be as successful as you just were, you’re opening yourself up for a (small) world of heartache.