Managing Your Poker Career

No matter what your level of ambition as a poker player, your ultimate goal should always be to make the most money possible. In this chapter, we will discuss a few intangibles that will help you succeed and achieve this end.

First, we will discuss the most important key to success for any poker player. In the section on bankroll management, you will learn how to move up and down in stakes effectively without the risk of ever going broke.

I will then help you get your computer set up and provide insights on highly recommended software programs that make sessions more efficient and help you continually improve your game.

You will then be shown adjustments that need to be made to play higher stakes, full-ring games, CAP games, and sites that have 40 big blind minimum tables only. With only slight adaptations, you can apply the strategies learned from this book to any game.

Last, I will cover how to conduct yourself at the tables like a professional with proper etiquette and decorum. While this knowledge may not seem necessary to ensure your success, this is still a gentleman’s game, and you should always strive to treat your opponents with respect and decency.

Bankroll Management

Above are my recommended bankroll management guidelines as you begin learning and playing a small stack strategy. It is an aggressive plan which maximizes your ability to rapidly ascend through the stakes. By following it, you have virtually no chance of ever going broke.

The chart lists each specific limit followed by the 30 big blind buy-in amount. Then it gives the minimum bankroll required to play at that level as well as the amount that you should drop down should you fall below it. For example, at 50NL you would buy-in for $15 with a minimum bankroll of $600, only moving down if you fall below $500.

In order to move beyond small stakes, you will need a more advanced game than the charts alone can provide. Because of this, I recommend only using them for 50NL and below while you study and improve. Don’t get me wrong, I am not disparaging micro-stakes players. Some professionals make a very good living at the lowest stakes. My hourly rate at 50NL is around $30/hr while 6-tabling. Not too shabby and better than a lot of people make in their “real” job.

Mixing Levels

Unless you are at the lowest level for your site, you should consider playing two stakes at once during your sessions. Doing this allows for a smoother transition into the next stake without as much shock to the bankroll.

Let’s say you are on a site that has 4NL as its smallest stake. Here are the guidelines you would follow as your bankroll grows.

$40-$99: Play 4 NL
$100-$249: Play 4NL and 10NL
$250-$599: Play 10NL and 20NL
$600-$1199: Play 20NL and 50NL
$1,200+: Play 50NL (with shots at 100NL at your discretion)

Once your bankroll exceeds $2,400, I recommend withdrawing anything in excess of that amount monthly until you feel your poker game is ready for higher stakes. Occasionally cashing out will add a sense of accomplishment to your endeavor and build confidence for your long-term poker career.

If you are especially risk averse, you can move down immediately if your bankroll drops below the minimum amount for a level. The way it works is, at the beginning of each session, you only play at the stakes your bankroll allows for. And if your bankroll dips below the necessary amount of money for a particular level, you move down until your bankroll increases to a sufficient level again. For example, if you start a session with $620 at 20NL and 50NL and end with $585, you would begin your next session playing 10NL and 20NL. Your risk of ruin will be nil if you adhere to this plan.

Taking Shots

It is well known that bankroll generally increases much faster than skill does. Do not be in a rush to move beyond 50NL. 100NL is usually an exponential jump in the quality of the player pool, so I recommend getting a few months of micro-stakes experience under your belt before making the leap. Nevertheless, once you are soundly beating a stake, you should start actively taking shots at higher levels. One way to do this is to set aside a few buy-ins and move up to the next level. If you lose what you allocated for the shot, it’s no big deal. Just move back down until you rebuild the little bit that you lost and try again later.

You should be cautiously aggressive, but your overall goal should be to play in the biggest games offered. The reward for beating high stakes games is considerable and well worth the hard work and perseverance. It will take some sacrifice, but imagine playing at a level that allows you to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It is possible, and anyone can do it if they put in enough time and effort.

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