Poker Bankroll Management

Written by: Cliff Spiller, Online Casino and Game Expert
poker bankroll management

Poker bankroll management helps card players to gamble with less risk, weather losing streaks better, and ultimately enjoy the game more.

Make the best out of your gameplay, budget for your hobby, and manage risks. These techniques help gamblers to create their grand strategy and to make betting decisions during a session.

This guide to poker bankroll management discusses the concept of variance and provides advice for players at different experience levels.

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What is Poker Bankroll Management?

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A bankroll is the amount of money you have set aside for poker. No matter how much that amount is, proper management of your gaming budget helps players enjoy the game by placing appropriately-sized bets.

Poker bankroll management aims to manage your money to have a proper bankroll throughout your upcoming sessions. It becomes tricky when playing no-limit Texas Holdem and other games that don’t have limits. This is why choosing a table with the appropriate bet limits is critical. As you successfully build your funds allocated for gameplay, you can raise the stakes by playing at tables with bigger blinds.

How Big Should Your Bankroll Be?

Bankroll management techniques are not the same for every event. Your strategy for multi-table tournaments is much different than it would be for cash games. Also, beginners have other goals than experienced players, while veterans typically build a more substantial poker bankroll.

Managing Your Bankroll to Reduce Variance

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Poker variance is the measure of uncertainty in a game of cards. Players use this to describe the amount of upswing or downswing they can expect in a game. Specific plays (scenarios) have a higher degree of uncertainty, thus higher variance.

Poker is a game of skill but has a certain degree of chance. When a player gains skill, they understand the level of uncertainty with each play they make. It means their overall variance decreases because they make decisions based on rational calculations. This is why they can use more of their bankroll in any given game.

How Can Poker Bankroll Management Help to Reduce Variance

Proper bankroll management does not directly reduce variance but helps manage it better. It lets you pick your poker sessions better, meaning you’re less likely to lose a bunch of cash in any given game. Because this technique spreads your betting over a larger number of hands, it means you spend less to learn valuable information

If you have a negative expectation at the poker table, no technique will work over the long term. Mastering the game is how you reduce variance directly.

Poker Bankroll Management for Beginners and Experienced Players

Below we included different scenarios card players might find themselves in and the bankroll management tip for each situation. We start with beginners versus experienced players and discuss how different poker variants and game formats change your strategy.

Poker Bankroll Management for Beginners

big icon beginners

New players should have a conservative bankroll management strategy. The reason is you’ll face major variance and thus need more room for error.

Your bankroll should include 50 buy-ins for any limit you play at, and your buy-in level should be 2%. It means you won’t move to the next buy-in level until your bankroll is 50x that buy-in level.

Poker psychology dictates this. You’ll be a better player when you know any losing session is a small part of your gaming budget. If you have an unlucky streak- say 10 to 20 tournaments or sessions without winnings- then you move down to the previous buy-in level again. Beginning poker can sometimes be a two-step-forward, one-step-back process.

Poker Bankroll Management for Experienced Players

big icon experienced players

Experienced poker players can increase the percentage size of their buy-ins — from 2% to 5% or more. These players have less variance and tend to have a dedicated bankroll (not just a stash for a hobby).

Avoid re-buy tournaments. These are tempting because the initial buy-in is small, and they have small starting chip stacks. It means that highly aggressive players also bought into the tournament. Most will bust out, but a few will get lucky and have huge chip stacks by the time you re-buy an entry. You have very little chance of winning, so it’s a budgeting sinkhole.

You should also track your results. Players remember a big winning session but tend to forget a string of 10 losing sessions. Use income tracker apps like ITM Poker Bankroll Manager, Poker Manager, or Poker Income Tracker to keep track of every session.

Bankroll Management for Live Poker And Tournaments

A player’s strategy changes according to the type of game you enter. Real money online poker sites have turbo events, sit’n go events, add-ons, re-buys, and traditional freezeouts. Online cash games require some strategies, while live options require different skills because you read players differently.

Below is a broad overview of the types of poker games you can enter, with general advice for approaching the main types.

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Poker Tournaments Bankroll Management

  1. Stay the Course

    Tournament players should stick to the 2% equation because tournaments naturally have a wider variance. You’ll go longer stretches when you don’t have winnings.
  2. In-Game Bankroll Management

    Once you pay the buy-in, you’ll receive a stack of chips the same size as other players. Use different betting strategies once the event begins because you’ll want targeted aggression to build your chip stack. It applies mainly to tournament buy-ins.
poker bankroll management for live games icon

Live Dealer Poker Bankroll Management

  1. Increase the Buy-In

    Live poker players can increase their buy-in percentage. You’ll win more consistently, especially if your skill level has increased. Since you’re playing with a steady group of opponents, this becomes more of a factor.
  2. Keep a Poker Journal

    Gauging your skill level can be difficult at first, which is why keeping a poker journal of your sessions is essential. With the journal, you’ll be able to properly asses your skill level and your knowledge of the variance within each play.

Tips to Manage Your Poker Bankroll

Beyond gaining skill at Texas Hold ’em, Omaha, and other poker variants, bankroll management is the lynchpin of your strategy. When you set it up correctly, it helps you set a budget. Once you have a budget strategy, you’ll make proper-sized bets and know when to fold.

Follow the tips below to manage your bankroll properly.

poker bankroll management stick to your plan tip

Stick to Your Plan/Budget

Don’t deviate from your strategy. If your bankroll is $1000, leave it at that. Shifting from the budget adds more variance, which isn’t good for beginners.

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Keep Poker Bankroll Separated

Good gambling sites segregate their operating cash from player funds. Good poker players also segregate their everyday money from their bankrolls.

poker bankroll management save money on poker expenses tip

Save Money on “Poker Expenses”

Accept bonuses from online sites and comps from land-based casinos and poker clubs. Have a budget for your non-poker expenses.

poker bankroll managementfollow strategy charts tip

Follow Strategy Charts

Improve as a player over time and master strategy. Know the math of poker anytime you make a play and understand the system.

poker bankroll management keep track of your sessions tip

Keep Track of Your Poker Sessions

Keep a poker journal. It tracks every winning session and every losing session. Over time, you’ll see if you’re winning or losing. This helps you judge your actual game skills.

poker bankroll management do not withdraw money from your bankroll tip

Do Not Withdraw Money from Your Bankroll

It works both ways. Have a dedicated bankroll, meaning you don’t dip into these funds for everyday usage.

poker bankroll management avoid desperate moves tip

Avoid Desperate Moves to “Stop” Variance

Don’t chase losses – what experienced players say is going on tilt. The best way to overcome a bad beat is to play smartly.

poker bankroll management set a max winning limit tip

Set a Max Winning Limit That You’ll Walk Away At

The player who pushes it is almost as dangerous because they think they’re “on a roll.” Have a winning goal and follow that strategy 100% of the time.

The Benefits of Poker Bankroll Management

The cards are sometimes kind and sometimes cruel. Every player has their winning streaks and losing streaks. Poker bankroll management benefits players by increasing their winning sessions while minimizing their losing streaks. Let’s take a closer look at some of the main benefits gamblers can get from this.

1

Play for Longer With Less Risk

Play for Longer With Less Risk Icon

New players see depictions of the game and often think it’s risky, but it’s actually a game of skill.

Learning poker math and maintaining a budget means just the opposite. You’ll face less risk in poker using bankroll management than in other forms of gambling.

2

Manage Losing Streak

Manage Losing Streak icon

Proper bankroll management means you’ll be able to weather losing streaks better.

You’ll play under less stress because no single bet or poker session is going to blow your gaming budget. Ultimately, it makes you a better card player.

3

Have More Fun and Win Big

Have More Fun and Win Big icon

Mastering the game and properly managing your poker bankroll means you’ll win more often.

You’ll have more winning sessions than losing sessions, which increases your enjoyment of the game. In the end, winning is fun.

Use This Poker Bankroll Management Guide and Win Big

Poker bankroll management helps players face risk in a game with strategy, skill, and calculation. While you’re learning the best plays in poker games, you should also master your budget to make the best out of your gameplay. Once you do, you’ll find the sessions to be more thrilling and less stressful.

Follow our tips to manage your bankroll successfully and start winning big!

Poker Bankroll Management FAQs

Below are some of gamblers’ most frequently asked questions about poker bankroll management.

What is bankroll management in poker?

Bankroll management in poker is a strategic approach to poker betting based on your budget and skills. It lets you manage the risk of ruin while helping your build a bankroll for higher-stakes poker games.

Why should I use proper bankroll management techniques for online poker?

Proper bankroll management techniques help you decide the bet limits during your current online poker sessions. It also helps you pick the right tournaments to enter while finding the best bet levels in your cash games.

How to manage a poker bankroll?

Manage your poker bankroll with the help of poker bankroll apps. This software helps you track every poker session on your Android phone or iPhone. This gives you a realistic appraisal of your skills and whether you win or lose consistently.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller Online Casino and Game Expert

Cliff Spiller is a global casino industry specialist who writes relatable content for beginners and experts. He's written gambling articles and online casino reviews at OUSC for over 15 years.

Learn More About Cliff