Managing Your Poker Bankroll
Some poker players pay for each session of poker as it comes, and those monies are usually taken from the "entertanment" section of their weekly budget. While playing recreational poker is a perfectly fine way to spend time, if you're taking your game more seriously you should use some form of bankroll management.
Your bankroll is the amount of money you've put aside for the sole purpose of playing poker. An example of this is a deposit at an online poker room. If you excercise solid bankroll management, you can make your poker money last, well, forever.
Of course, each player is different, so I'll list some criteria for those who play recreationally, and are willing to replace their bankrolls often, and those who never want to replace their bankroll.
Sit and Go Bankroll Requirements
Chris Ferguson went from $0 to $10,000 recently, and one of his rules was to never spend more than 5% of his bankroll on a Sit and Go. That translates into 20 buy-ins. The PokerFox recommends between 20 (gambler) and 65 (poker pro) buy-ins.
Recommended bankroll for multitable events ranges widely. Chris Ferguson used a 50 buy-in minimum during his challenge. Some feel that that number is too low, and a typical player really needs closer to 100 buy-ins to protect them from the swings associated with larger tournaments.
Pay attention to the payout structure in the events you typically enter. Some pay "farther down the line" than others, and those events will reduce the variance in your bankroll since you will typically be making the money more often.
The general consensus is that you need at least 300 big bets in your bankroll to play limit holdem. So, if you are playing at a table where the blinds are $.25/$.50, a big bet (which comes on the turn and river) will be $1. You should have $300 in your bankroll to sit at these tables and play comfortably.
No Limit/Pot Limit Holdem
Since a player can win or lose their entire stack in a single hand at a no limit cash game, you will need a larger bankroll than at a limit game. No limit bankrolls are measured in buy-ins the same way that tournaments are measured.
Recreational players might use 15 buy-ins as a base number, while more serious players would want to have between 20-30 buy-ins in their bankroll before sitting down at a table. More conservative players keep as many as 45 buy-ins in their bankroll before cashing out/moving up in stakes.
When Do I Move Up in Stakes?
If you go by nothing other than your bankroll, move up when you have more than the minimum suggested bankroll for the next level. So, if you're a NL cash gamer, and have moved your $500 bankroll up to $1200 by grinding the $25NL tables, you can move up. You've got the 20 buy-ins that are recommended as a solid starting point for games at those stakes.
CASH GAME PLAYERS - I should tell a bit of a warning tale at this time. It is not uncommon for someone to begin playing, and start a heater that runs their bankroll all the way up to the next level stakes. Then, once they start playing at higher stakes the heater ends, and they find themselves overmatched and playing for higher stakes. It usually ends badly.
So, a conservative approach to the game is to make sure that both your game and your bankroll are solid enough to attack the players at the next level. If you're a serious cash game player, you're probably already using pokertracker. A winrate of 4 ptbb/100 is solid play, anything in the 8-10 range is crushing the games. If you have numbers over that, you're probably on a heater.
While some people state that 100,000 hands will give you a solid idea of your winrate, I'd say get to 25,000 hands, and if your bankroll supports it, move up if you feel like it.
When Do I DROP DOWN in Stakes?
Regardless of your winrate, drop down when your bankroll dips below the minimum recommended threshold. For instance, playing $50NL, I recommend dropping down to $25NL when your bankroll goes under $1,000.
For some people the idea of moving down in stakes is unappealing. Actually, it's part of a "braking system" that serves several purposes. By playing at only the stakes that your bankroll can support, you can continue to play aggressive poker without undue worry about the money involved.
It also allows you the chance to play a group of opponents at a level that you've presumably already beaten. There's nothing liking chalking up a few wins to get the confidence back.
Stop Loss Technique
This is a concept aimed at the CASH GAME players. Set a maximum loss amount that you're willing to endure for a session. If you lose that much, Quit.
The truth is, sometimes players don't bring their A games to the tables. Sometimes players tilt. And most of the time these things aren't recognized in time before chips start to bleed away.
By setting a stop loss of say, three buy-ins in a NL game, players can justify walking away from the game. Then they can go back and examine what went wrong later, with a fresh mind. They can do that instead of tilting or bleeding away chips for the rest of the night.
Ferguson 10% Rule
Here's the rules . . . "If at any time during a No-Limit or Pot-Limit cash-game session the money on the table represents more than 10 percent of my total bankroll, I must leave the game when the blinds reach me".
This seems to be almost the opposite of a stop loss technique. It's more like a "lock in the win" technique. Let's say Chris had a bankroll of $1000. He sat down at the $50NL tables and ran his chip count from $50 up to $150. Now he has more than 10% of his entire bankroll on the table in front of him. He'd lock in the win, and leave.