Bankroll management is one of the key ingredients to long-term success in poker
The term bankroll is thrown around so casually these days that its true meaning has been lost by many and misinterpreted by even more. But to be a long-term winning poker player, a bankroll is of the utmost importance. It is – dare I say – more important than the skill of the player.
To be a winning player, you must understand that losing is sometimes the norm. You can play an entire session perfectly, and still be down. You will be dealt phenomenal bad beats, get runner- runnered and lose to someone hitting their miracle card on the river. It happens every day – so you better get used to it. But a proper bankroll provides a cushion to absorb bad beats, bad sessions and occasional bad play.
That is all well and good, but how do you get a bankroll big enough to act as a cushion? Well, here we will show you how to turn $200 into $5,000 over a six-month period.
I’m going to assume that most readers hold a full or part-time job, where the hours you can put into playing are limited. I’ll also assume that you have an expendable amount of money with which to risk. Given your restrictions on time, I will advise a high-risk starting strategy, slowing down as your roll builds. We don’t want to be hanging around too long at the very low stakes.
One thing I would not recommend is playing with friends for stupidly small sums of money. This will result in laying poor foundations to your game. The foundation of a ‘winning discipline’ is understanding that the process is more important than results.
You have to train your brain to make the best possible decisions and execute them as flawlessly as possible. Playing for ‘fun’ and tiny amounts of money will expose you to really bad play, some of which you will subconsciously absorb. So with that said, let’s get started…
SIT & GO SPIN-UP
INITIAL DEPOSIT: $200
TIMESCALE: 6-9 MONTHS
Sit&gos are the ideal format for growing a bankroll. The fact that you can limit your losses from the outset to one buy-in is a huge advantage. And as they take roughly an hour to complete, it means you can fit them into ‘free time’ slots easily.
Your first steps should be to learn. Start out by reading the strategy articles on www. insidepokermag.co.uk. Other compulsory reading is the Harrington on Hold’em trilogy.
The first stage is about playing a lot of $10 sit&gos. Bear in mind that this is playing way out of our bankroll, partly because games under $10 have excessively high rakes. Also, it’s because we are trying to get a quick spin-up. There are many varieties, but I want you to stick with the straightforward ten-handed (or nine) sit&gos.
Your first aim is to climb from $200 to $600. A good player can realistically expect to have an average profit of around $2 per game at the $10 level. This means that to hit our first target we need to play 200 sit&gos. You may find you run hot, or play eight sit&gos in a day to complete this first target in a month. But most of us will expect to take two months to get to $600.
On reaching $600 you have proved that you can beat the game. Congratulations – you are now a winning poker player! At this stage we have trebled our bankroll, so we have something to protect. And reducing the negative impact of any single game is always the focus of this bankroll-building task.
I’d recommend playing $20 games from now until you reach $1,200. The game is far different and you will need to adapt to better players, new moves and important concepts. Hopefully, you will have developed a passion for learning the game, which will help with the more complex strategies you now face and use.
Make sure you read the sit&go strategy in next month’s InsidePoker to learn more. Bubble aggression is a key factor and knowing how to use a short-stack properly will give you a huge edge over the field. Fold equity should be your mantra.
Although you are now moving up in stakes, don’t expect your average profit per game to jump by 100%. An initial return on investment of 10% is a sensible expectation while you learn the game at this level. Your next target should be to reach $1,200, which will mean playing around 300 games at the $20 level.
This will hopefully be speeded up by the fact your multi-tabling skills should begin to blossom now. Be careful you don’t over-do it though. Start with two tables and get accustomed to them slowly. As time goes by you will get more proficient, I assure you. And it will help you to complete this level in two months or less.
Once you hit $1,200, you should be feeling a lot more comfortable with your game and developing your own style. You need to start managing yourself as well. If you feel a little tired, don’t play. If you feel great, play a lot. If you start a losing run, let yourself have a break. I know I personally play much better after a few days to forget whether I should have passed 10-10 to his re-raise pre- flop. Remember, you have a bankroll that you must protect.
From here on your bankroll would seem to fit $30 sit&gos quite well. But be aware that you can move down a level as well as up and beating fish is easier than beating semi-pros. If you know you can crush the $20 sit&gos, I can understand your reluctance to change. I have never understood why so many poker players who can crush smaller games play bigger, tougher games, where they have little positive expectation.
By now you should be multi- tabling comfortably and at the $20 level, you should also be earning an average of $3 per game. You will need to play around 400 games to reach your next target, which, with up to four tables running simultaneously, could easily be achieved in a month. But aim for a timescale of two months.
By the time you reach $2,500, you are well on the way to achieving your goal. I won’t bore you with pushing ranges, calling ranges and bubble plays. You studied that straight after implied pot odds, didn’t you? Start thinking about your edge. Table selection and edge maximisation are key in your progress to beating bigger games.
You are now certainly rolled for the $50 sit&gos. But bear in mind there is an unusually sharp jump in player quality once you hit the magic $50-mark. You have worked very hard to get to this stage and blowing it is not on the agenda. You should now be looking for soft tables in the lobby starting up, preying on those weaker players we affectionately call ‘fish’. Keeping detailed notes on the weaker players is especially useful.
How long it takes you to reach your final total depends on how many tables you play. But don’t start playing above your bankroll. Never forget that a poker player is effectively defined by his bankroll. So when someone you outdraw offers to ‘play for rollz’, I hope you tell them where to go. Bankroll first, ego second.
INITIAL DEPOSIT: $200
TIMESCALE: 9 MONTHS
I would advise taking the sit&go route to building a bankroll. It can be so easy to lose money on tilt playing cash games that a whole bankroll can be drained in moments. If you know you are one of those players who takes a beat badly (I take a beat horribly), then don’t even consider using cash games to build up substantial sums of money. It can be dangerous to your health and to others around you.
Cash game poker is a game where you have to be mean, ruthless and remorseless, but that’s also what makes it so utterly intoxicating. To win you must demonstrate the qualities of a cold killer, specifically targeting the ‘fish’ in order to get paid.
I’m assuming you understand pot odds, and implied odds. If not, then go and learn them. If you do, then deposit $200 onto the site of your choice and load a nine-handed $25 no-limit table (where the maximum buy-in is $25 and the blinds are 10¢/25¢). Playing any lower than this will only succeed in developing bad habits. Sit down with 50 big blinds ($12.5) and play a very tight, aggressive game.
I want you to play aggressively pre-flop with all the biggest hands: A-A, K-K, Q-Q and A-K. Raise and re-raise pre-flop. Other hands you should play aggressively and raise with are A-Q, J-J, 10-10, 9-9, 8-8 and 7-7. These are the only ones you should play at this level. You should always be raising coming into the pot to try and narrow the field and always seeing a flop with these hands to a normal raise.
If you can’t beat this game – and you should be able to – you can realistically expect to be winning around $5 a day if you put a good three-four hour session in. Obviously there are some days you will win (and lose) far more, but this is a realistic average target. It may take as long as three months to reach $600 and you will learn a lot along the way. As you get more comfortable at this level you can speed things up by experimenting with multi-tabling – but stick to a maximum of two tables.
Once you have reached our first target we can try taking a shot at a slightly bigger game by playing $50 no-limit and buying in short. If you buy-in for $25, it gives you more action and less difficult decisions against (mainly) weak players. I would advise adding to the list of hands you play at this stage. Play all pocket pairs if you are getting the correct implied odds and raise with A-J, K-Q and K-J if you are first to enter the pot.
Don’t call a raise pre-flop with anything but pocket pairs, A-K and A-Q. The no-set-no-bet principle is easy to follow for all pairs under 7-7, but a certain amount of feel should be used when playing 8-8 through to 10-10. Keep playing aggressively at all times, as betting gets you information that calling doesn’t. Don’t ‘slow play’ at these stakes – there is no need. Plenty of calling stations will play you faster if you bet as soon as you hit your monster.
By now you should be comfortable playing two tables at once, and your daily rate can realistically be expected to be up around the $10-$20 level. It should take in the region of two months to reach your next target of $1,500. Once you have reached this, we can start to play real poker.
Whilst you might want to start playing $100 no-limit, you should focus on developing a deep stack game at $50 no-limit. Drawing to a gutshot or trying to hit two pair after the flop are very good strategies for making money at this level. When drawing, remember the golden rules: always make sure that you are getting good odds to draw and don’t chase non-nut draws.
If there are three spades on the flop, don’t chase a straight. In multi- way pots, be very wary of drawing to anything that isn’t close to, or very near, the stone-cold nuts.
With your daily rate now in the $20-$30 range, it will take one-two months to reach $2,500, at which point you can start playing $100 no-limit. Experiment with short- handed tables and start varying your play, mixing up your game and playing hands with big flop potential such as Ace-rag suited. Download poker tracker and start analysing your game and dissecting opponents. It’s important you learn that a bet means ‘I think I have the best hand’, a raise means ‘I know I have the best hand’ and a re-raise means ‘I’m committed’.
Use your knowledge of a deep stack and implied odds to punish those players that overplay big pairs post-flop, that’s the single biggest tip I could give you to beat $100 no-limit. If you find yourself crushing the game, take a shot at a higher game. If you log three winning sessions on the trot, buy-in to a game of $200 no-limit. Some players have won fortunes in relatively no time like this. But just as many have lost it all – so never put your whole bankroll on the line.
Once you reach $5,000 you will be a very cool customer. You will have spent nine months learning that making money is secondary to making first-class decisions. Keep learning and respecting your bankroll. Don’t be a flash in the pan! Use your bankroll properly and you won’t regret it.