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Dan Carter - Bankroll Management

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  • Dan CarterWhether you are a social player or an up-and-coming pro then bankroll management is essential. Poker books teach one how to maximise profit and to reduce variance at the tables, but without correct bankroll management you may be really hurting your potential win rate, or even worse, putting the whole lot at risk.

    There are 3 types of people when it comes to bankroll management: Risk taker, risk adverse and risk neutral players.

    The risk neutral player is what everybody should be aiming for. Being a risk neutral player will maximise potential profits at the smallest risk. I will talk about how to become a risk neutral player later in this article.

    A risk taker can often be very extreme. For example, how often do you hear a conversation like this:

    Bob: Hey Ann how did poker go on Friday?
    Ann: Well, 25c/50c NL was no good, so I tried sitting at a 5/10nl table with my $800 roll vs a fish.
    Bob: How'd it go?
    Ann: No good, I got it in with a set vs his flush draw and he sucked out, I'm so unlucky! I should be winning more!

    Well, this is something that happens very often. Players might not sit with their whole bankroll, but they may be sitting at a table with only a few buyins left.

    A risk adverse player is someone who is not maximising profits by playing lower staked games than they are adequately rolled for. They are usually "scared" of losing a certain amount of money. I will admit, I fell into this category for a long time. It took me some time to realise how much money I was wasting playing $2/$4nl when I was easily bankrolled for $10/$20nl+.

    So, how do you become a risk neutral player? How many buyins is recommended at certain levels?

    Well, it partially depends on what stakes you are playing and whether you have a second income. If you are happy playing micro stakes poker as a hobby whilst you have a $100k job, then bankroll management is not very important. But, the majority of people playing poker want to try and maximise their profits surely?

    Years ago pros recommended having 20 buy-ins to play a certain game. This means if you have $10,000 as a poker bankroll then sitting with any more than $500 is too risky and could send you broke in the long run (this does not mean short stacking a cash game, you need to sit with the full buy-in!). Well, this rule is now no longer true, 20 Buy-ins will send a lot of internet players broke.

    Nowadays games are a lot harder meaning your edge is smaller therefore variance is a lot higher. You need to take multi-tabling into account too - it is very common for people to play 4 tables at a time and this will also increase variance. I recommend players to have 30-50 buy-ins in their bankroll to play a certain limit.

    What about playing for a living? If poker is your only income then it is even more essential that you practice good bankroll management. You will often have to take money out of your bankroll to pay for bills and other things that you may or may not expect to bite a chunk out of your bankroll. If you are wanting to make a living out of poker, it is not a bad idea to go more for the 50-100 buy-in range just to be safe.

    Taking shots:
    Taking shots is fun. I'm not talking about the double vodka you had at the bar last night! I mean when you play out of your bankroll as an exception. At first I thought people who took shots would be the kind of players that end up broke.

    If you notice an exceptionally soft game taking place at a higher stake than you are used to, then taking a one-off shot is not a bad idea. Not only will it be profitable, but playing at higher staked games will eventually make you a better player. You could do very well and within a few days you are adequately bankrolled for that staked game! No longer would you be making $200 an hour at 5/10nl, that may have turned into $400 an hour at 10/20nl.

    If you ever take notice of players who play the sick nosebleed stakes - I'm talking 50/100nl and up - they have all done the same thing. Practice good bankroll management and take those important shots at the right times. You will be surprised how many of these players (me included) have not ever had a proper job and started at 1c 2c.

    Good luck at the tables,

    Dan "lucky_scrote" carter

    Dan can be contacted through the forums (nickname: lucky_scrote) and found playing online at under the alias luc_scrote

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