Build a Poker Bankroll with this Comprehensive Guide to Poker Bankroll Management Strategy

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For new poker players, after that initial excitement of playing a few free games, the focus is usually on how to become a better player. For most of us, that means learning about betting strategies, how to approach pre flop, maybe even buying a few courses to learn the latest trend in game theory for optimal play.

But while all those things are important, one area that is often overlooked, and yet is crucial to any success for any player, is bankroll management. But what is that, and why does it matter so much?

What is Bankroll Management in Poker?

Poker is a game of strategy even more than it is about the cards you are dealt, but no matter how good you are, you will have times when you lose. Bankroll management is what poker players refer to when understanding that there is a relationship between the money you bet and the money you have in reserve to bet.

You should set aside money to play poker with, funds that, if the worst should happen, you can afford to lose. It should only be used for poker, and poker players call this the bankroll. If you want to progress your game and eventually be able to play the high stakes tournaments, you must build your bankroll so you can afford those buy ins.

Even the best players lose, despite what you may read on the internet, so managing that bankroll is crucial. Overreach your betting and a bad run can drain your funds to the point you cannot afford to play any longer. Bankroll management is the strategic approach to avoid that, and build your poker fund over time so that as your skills progress, you can move up to the higher stakes games without it being a stretch.

The basic rules for poker bankroll management Strategy

The total amount of money you have to bet with is known as your bankroll. How much you have dictates the maximum you should be betting in any game. This is to allow for bad runs when you lose a lot, the idea being that by basing bets off your available funds, you minimise the losses and maximise the wins when you are on a winning streak.

To accomplish this, the size of your bankroll should be equal to a specific number of buy-ins for the game you are playing. How many varies depending on the type of poker and how much risk you are happy with. But to give an illustration, if your bankroll management approach is 100 buy-ins, and you have $10,000, then you should not be playing higher than $100 buy-in games.

As you win over time, the profits mean your bankroll grows, allowing you to enter games and tournaments with higher buy-ins and still have an effective safety net for bad runs. In this way, you can start with $2 games and a $2,000 bankroll and work your way up to where you want to be, learning as you go.

Why Use Bankroll Management When Playing Poker?

The reality of poker is that many, many more players lose overall than ever win, but if you set out to be a winning poker player, what does that really mean? We look at player’s success in terms of win rate, which is expressed as the number of Big Blinds won per 100 games. Players who lose over time, and they are the majority, will have a win rate of zero, however, what may be surprising is that the vast majority of winning poker players have a win rate very close to zero too.

In other words, even the best players lose a lot of hands. This range between winning and losing is known as variance, and is why bankroll management is co important. Good players walk away from bad hands, and make the most out of the good ones, but you never know when they will turn up. Poor management of your bankroll can mean your finds are wiped out if things go against you over an extended period, so that when the tide turns and you have the inevitable good games, you no longer have the bankroll to fund it.

As we can see then, even for the best players, bankroll management is crucial in making sure they have the finds there to take advantage of their winning runs and survive the losing ones.

What Is the Risk of Ruin for proper Bankroll management?

The risk of ruin refers to the probability that a poker player could lose their entire bankroll. It is an expression of the idea of winning and losing streaks, because we know as a game of chance, the chances of a player winning a game depends on many factors, one of which is the cards dealt to all players at the table, something completely out of any control.

Over time, the variations in cards will always even out, which is why good players do win overall, but the risk of ruin focuses on the short term variations and how they could impact the bankroll, specifically to reducing it to zero.

How many buy-ins should your poker bankroll be if you are not a professional poker player?

At the heart of bankroll management is the basic idea of how much you should be betting for a given size of bankroll. This is expressed in how many multiples of a buy in the bankroll should be. For instance, if the buy in at a table is $5, and you are working on a 20 buy in management strategy, then you need a bankroll of $1000.

The exact number of buy ins varies depending on the type of poker, online or tournament and so on, but there are some general recommendations to think about.

The cost of buy in should never be more than 5%, so 20 buy ins, but for higher risk games should be much less. 60 or even 100 buy ins for your bankroll eliminate much of the risk, and if you also apply another standard, exiting a game if you lose more than 10% in one go, then your bankroll will be well protected.

Poker Bankroll Management Tips

For experienced players, bankroll management becomes second nature, but if you are just starting out with the concept, it can be easy to make mistakes. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you put the ideas of bankroll management into practice as effectively as possible.

Treat your poker bankroll like an investment—because it is

Your bankroll is the fund that will take you to the next level in your poker journey. It is an investment in your poker career, manage it well and it will grow to fund the big games, and big wins, that you want to experience. Squander it, and those future poker earnings are gone for good.

Even if you can afford to add more funds for your poker playing if you do lose your current bankroll, get into the habit of treating it as if it were the only money you have, Because if you are to be successful, you want to be at the point where you couldn’t just replace it if things go badly, because it has grown so much.

Build a bankroll through game selection, especially when you’re first getting started

Early on, your goal is to build your bankroll, and while getting started you can make mistakes during games, by carefully selecting games to begin with, you can avoid situations and players that could exploit your weaknesses.

Taking time when selecting games should always be part of your approach to poker, even the pros do it, but it is especially important when just starting out. That means stick to one game type to really get to learn it properly, and look for the lowest rake and seek out softer players who won’t be so aggressive with your mistakes.

Always play within your bankroll

We have discussed the number of buy ins per bankroll to identify the maximum stake you should be playing for, and this should be the backbone of your strategy. Never be tempted to ‘go for it’ and take on bigger risk than your bankroll allows, because while you may get away with it once, even twice, the laws of probability will catch up with you, as the risk of ruin so very clearly explains.

Poker Bankroll Management for Tournaments vs Online Cash Games

Online poker games are great for those looking to build a bankroll, simply because they are full of what the industry often refers to as soft players. Those who play for fun and who enjoy the experience, whether they win or lose. These are not competitive players, and if you have any poker skill, are likely to come up ahead with regular games against these types of players.

With that in mind, your bankroll management can be a little looser here, where opponents mean that over time the risk itself is lower. So, you may think about a 40 buy-in limit here for your bankroll.

Conversely, tournament play is, by definition, competitive. Every player you face is trying to win, and they have at least some experience in doing so, else they would not have entered at all. What that means is the risk to your bankroll is much higher than an average game, and your bankroll management should reflect that. Many professional players suggest as much as 100 buy ins should be the approach for bankroll management in tournament play, to allow for those higher risks.

Build a Poker Bankroll

The obvious answer tot his is by winning hands of poker, but there is more to it. Poker management itself is designed to help you build your bankroll over time, but you do need to win games for that to happen, however there are other options for boosting your bankroll. Poker sites and casino apps are always looking for new players, and to get you to join, they often have attractive new member bonuses, including matching your deposit or giving you free cash to use in their games.

By using these offers, playing to your management strategy and winning, over time you can build your bankroll and ultimately play for bigger prizes.


What is proper bankroll management in poker?

Bankroll management is mitigating the risks to your overall poker fund that playing the game represents. The goal is to ensure you don’t lose all of it on a bad streak, by limiting the amount you bet based on the size of the bankroll, and having exit strategies for games where you are losing constantly.

Why is bankroll important in poker?

You can win a few hands in a poker game and still lose money without proper bankroll management. It is crucial not just in making sure you don’t lose everything, but also in coming out ahead in games over time.

How much bankroll do I need for poker?

That depends on what kind of poker you are playing, and what the buy in for the games are. You should always have 40 05 40 times the buy in in your bankroll, more if possible. Micro stakes games can have a buy in of just $0.01, so you could start with a dollar, but for most a minimum of $200 or so can get you started. A bigger bankroll means you can skip the micro stakes though.

How many buy-ins for heads up?

You should look to have around 40 buy ins or more for a head up game, and be careful who you play against.


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