Poker Strategy 6: Have a Bankroll
One of the most important things you can do for yourself when starting out in poker is to set aside a poker-specific bankroll.
Meaning a lump sum of money used exclusively for playing poker. This money is “poker money” and poker money only.
The Poker Money Mindset
Most people are extremely attached to money.
They stress over it to the point of becoming physically sick at times. Unfortunately, this attachment to money makes it nearly impossible to be successful in No-Limit poker.
The poker bankroll must be separate from your regular money, physically and mentally.
When you go on a bad run and lose hundreds or thousands of dollars, you can’t be having thoughts of what you could have done with that money.
Money won or lost in poker is simply poker money. You need to expect to lose at poker from time to time, and those losses should never affect the financial situation of your regular life.
Separate yourself from the poker money, and think of it only as a way to play the game – not money that could be spent on something else.
Playing on Scared Money
One of the most common ways players suck at poker is playing with scared money.
If you’re scared to lose the money in front of you, or you simply can’t afford to lose it, it’s impossible to play a very strong game of No-Limit Hold’em.
You have to be willing to put every chip you have in front of you across the line at any time. If a player knows you’re not willing to risk your chips, they’re going to walk all over you.
Even if the other players don’t catch on to your un-willingness to risk your chips, you’ll be unable to pull the trigger when the time comes to make a bluff or difficult call you know to be correct.
The final reason all poker players need a bankroll is to avoid going completely busto.
Regardless of how well you play the game, you’re going to have periods of time where no matter what you seem to do, you just can’t post a win.
Some of the world’s best players have endured months of straight losses. For this reason you need a bankroll large enough to sustain these losses and allow you to continue playing until you earn the money back on your next upswing.
If the size of your roll will leave you broke after one or even a few concurrent losses, you’re simply gambling that you don’t start your poker timeline off on a downswing.
If you start to lose significantly, the best thing you can do is to drop down in levels. That way, even though your BR is lower than where it was when you started, the ratio of your roll to buy-ins for the game you’re playing stays healthy.
If you still can’t win even after dropping down in limits, it might just be time to take a break. Clear your head and come back to the game fresh.
Bankroll Rule of Thumb
The rule of thumb for a cash-game bankroll is to never have more than 5% of your entire roll in play at one time. This means a 20 buy-in minimum for single-table cash games, and more for multi-tabling.
In a tournament setting, you typically want over 100 buy-ins to the tournaments you want to play. So if you’re playing $5+50¢ tournaments, you want $550 as your roll.
This almost ensures that (as long as you don’t suck) you will never go busto.
Having a bankroll is the best thing you can do for yourself as a poker player, but even a healthy bankroll can’t save you if you don’t follow the next step in How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing.