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Poker’s Inner Circle: The Methodical Thinking of ‘Bankroll Management’

As anyone who is serious about their poker knows, hitting a life-changing jackpot is an extremely rare occurrence. Much like investing, returns often even out over a long run rather than a single hand or game. Most professional poker players make enough to keep their bankroll in the black, while only a few bank enough winnings to afford the luxuries in life.

So, what’s the secret to making the most of your poker winnings? Unsurprisingly, it isn’t changing the games that you play or the amounts that you wager. Proper bankroll management is one of the most important skills a poker player can learn. It will help you know how much to bring to the table to make the best of your game, when to make the step up to a higher buy-in, and when it’s time to walk away.

What is Bankroll Management?

Simply put, it means properly keeping track of the money you have specifically for wagering on poker games; making sure you have enough to play with, but not too much to lose. The amount of cash you have available for your bankroll will dictate the way you play and the games that you look for so there are some important things to remember:

  • Only bankroll money you can afford to lose. This money is only to be used for poker and should be kept separate from other household accounts. Decide what you need to pay bills and living expenses; anything left over can be put into your bankroll and it’s worth saving up over a couple of months.
  • Never wager all your bankroll at once. Your bankroll needs to sustain several games. If losing your bankroll would mean you’d have to stop and save it up again, you’re probably playing too high stakes. Plan to bring enough money for multiple buy-ins. This will also reduce the pressure on each hand and allow you to take greater risks.
  • Different games need different bankrolls. This is due to the difference in variance between game types. You will need a larger bankroll for a No-Limit Hold‘Em multi-table tournament than a No-Limit Hold’Em sit-n-go. Let your bankroll dictate what you play, not the other way around.

Getting the Bankroll Right

Experienced players use a wide range of mathematical aids in the form of Poker bankroll management charts, which help decide how much your bankroll needs to be for each game. They look at statistics such as your expected win rate, so you should have a good idea of your stats before attempting bankroll management.

Remember – the more hands you have information for, the more accurate your calculations will be: your win rate over 10 hands is not likely to continue over 100 or 1000 hands and you should keep updating this figure as your sample size increases.

These sophisticated charts also give you different values depending on whether you’re a conservative or aggressive player. A conservative player will need a larger bankroll because they’re statistically less likely to pull off a big win. Being aggressive has its place, and skilled players will recognise when they can take advantage of lower-skilled players at their table.

How efficient Bankroll Management can Help your Game

Anyone will tell you that your state of mind can hugely influence your game, even with statistics on your side. A player betting with their last £10 is going to make different choices than one who knows they can afford to lose it. Having a well-managed bankroll can give you a huge psychological advantage by relieving a lot of stressful influences. When you arrive at a table with enough money for multiple buy-ins, it allows you the freedom to match your playing style to the situation: you won’t have to play aggressively to keep in the game and can afford to fold hands which won’t get you anywhere.

This can be really helpful when playing online poker. Because of its increased popularity, a lot of new players start online. This means you are likely to have a substantial skill advantage over most opponents, but you won’t necessarily know who until you’ve played a few hands. Having enough bankroll to allow you to lose the first few rounds while you assess your opponents will let you figure out who to shove.

Bankroll Management for Beginners

Growing your bankroll can take time. Here are the best ways to get a good start:

  • Save over time. Most people would miss £500 if they deducted it from one month’s salary, but take out £50 or £100 over a few months and you’ll have built a decent starting bankroll without causing yourself any financial problems. Yes, you’ll need some patience, but use that time to hone your skills and play for free.
  • Add your winnings. Don’t be tempted to withdraw from your poker pot – you’ll grow your bankroll much faster this way and be able to move up to higher stakes games. Unless it’s an emergency, leave your bankroll and winnings where they are.
  • Stay where you are confident. Just because you’ve built up a big enough bankroll to play at higher stakes, doesn’t mean you should. As the money increases, so does the skill of other players, and if you decide to move up but hit a losing streak, it can really dent your confidence. Don’t be afraid to play smaller games until you get it back again.

In Summary

Keeping track of your bankroll is as important as tracking your poker stats. Once mastered alongside other simple mathematical concepts, it will help you feel in control and prevent you from losing more than you can afford.

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