Poker Bankroll Management Introduction

Bankroll ManagementManaging your poker bankroll correctly is critical and will help you determine what stakes you should be playing at.

Playing at the wrong stakes that are too high for your bankroll will mean you might lose all the money you have put aside to play poker with.

Correctly managing it on the other hand will ensure that you always have a stake available to sit down and play at your chosen game.

Correct Bankroll Management  ensures that you are only playing with money you can afford to lose and at games that are inside your comfort zone and will make sure that you have an enjoyable as well as profitable poker experience.

What is a Poker Bankroll?

Your Poker Bankroll is the total amount of money that you have set aside to exclusively play poker with.

You should separate your poker bankroll from other finances in your life. How you do this is up to you. You could keep it all on your chosen online poker site such as in your player account or you could keep a separate account holding your bankroll balance, either a bank account or an online “eWallet” such as Neteller. The important thing is that you are able to separate it from your day to day finances and track it.

Why is Bankroll Management Important?

Poker involves an element of risk, even if you play really good poker there is a chance that the cards will go against you and you have a “bad run of cards”.

The “Ups and Downs” of poker caused by good and bad runs of cards is called “Variance”.

To protect against “Variance” correct bankroll management ensures that you only play with a small % of your bankroll at any one time.

This means that you must consistently have bad “variance” and consistently lose your stake before you are in any danger of losing your total poker bankroll and allows you to recover losses from a bad session or run.

Basic Rules of Bankroll Management

There are 3 basic rules of Bankroll Management:

1. Never play for more than you can afford to lose

You should never risk an amount of money that could get you into financial trouble in your day to day life. Its important to understand that it is possible to lose in poker no matter how well you play (although good play makes it less likely).

So always assume worst case scenario and only play with an amount that if you lost would not leave you financially unstable.

2. Decide what type of player you are

Recreational Players – play for fun and have other sources of income beside poker. This means they don’t have to be quite so strict on bankroll management as if the worst happens and they lose their bankroll they can replenish it from their regular income source if they wish.

Professional Players – poker is their main source of income and their bankroll is their investment that enables them to earn income. Bankroll management must be stricter for these players as if they lose their bankroll they lose the means to be able to earn income and have no other income to replenish it with.

3. Never play higher stakes than your bankroll allows

The total size of your bankroll will determine the maximum stakes you can responsibly play at. We’ll discuss this in detail in the next section.

As your bankroll grows through winning sessions you will be able to move to higher stakes. Similarly if you have a bad session and your total bankroll diminishes then you may have to drop to a lower stake level until your bankroll recovers to its original level.

You will need to constantly re-evaluate your total bankroll and the stakes available to you and you should NEVER play at stakes higher than your bankroll management permits. If you do then you risk your entire bankroll.

So What Stakes Should I be Playing At?

As we have already discussed this will be determined by your total bankroll. Your bankroll management policy should determine what percentage of your total bankroll you sit down with at one particular session.

As a guide:

Recreational Players

  • Cash Games – use 5% as your bankroll management policy (20 Buy In’s)
  • Tournaments – use 2.5% as your bankroll management policy (40 Buy In’s)

Professional Players

  • Cash Games – use 2.5% as your bankroll management policy (40 Buy In’s)
  • Tournaments – use 1% as your bankroll management policy (100 Buy In’s)

This means that recreational players would be able to sit down and lose 20 times at a cash table or play 40 tournaments without finishing in the prize money before all their bankroll was gone.

This limits the risk of a bad run of cards cleaning you out and gives you plenty of capital to be able to recover from bad sessions.

Lets look at an example.

You have a total bankroll of USD $100 (Online poker sites usually use a common currency of United States Dollars although some do offer games in currencies local to your country.).

To sit down at a normal Cash game (sometimes also called “Ring games”) the maximum “buy in” to the table is normally 100 big bets. So to sit down with the maximum buy in at a $0.02 / $0.05 stake game would be 100 x $0.05 = $5.

As a recreational player the maximum we are allowed to sit down at cash tables with as a result of our bankroll management policy is $100 x 5% = $5. So the stakes we are permitted to play at with a $100 total bankroll is the $0.02 / $0.05 stake tables.

Lets look at another example – this time with poker tournaments.

This time we have a total bankroll of USD $50. Lets calculate our maximum buy in permitted under the bankroll management policy.

Maximum Buy In Permitted (Tournaments) = $50 (Total Bankroll) x 2.5% = $1.25

So we would have to find a tournament with a buy in of $1.25 or less to be allowed to play.


These rules are not enforced by anyone. It is down to you to make sure that you are sensible and ensure correct poker bankroll management.

The level of risk you are willing to take is down to you so you can change the 5% rule above to match your personal circumstances but use it as a guide.

We want your bankroll to go in one direction and that is to grow upwards as you become a better player learning at this site. Don’t ruin all the efforts of your winning session by risking too much of your bankroll at a bad session.

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