The Global Poker Guide to Managing Your Poker Bankroll

The articles on the Global Poker School page are designed to help you improve your enjoyment of the game we all know and love, by improving and deepening your knowledge of the game. It’s the best game in the world; only something so good, can bring such swings of enjoyment, passion and on occasion, that jittery feeling of anticipation. Poker draws us in and captivates our imagination.

That’s why we put so much effort into trying to help our players, writing articles like ​variance in poker and m​istakes beginner poker players make and how to avoid them.​

A topic of equal importance to those articles above is understanding how to manage your bankroll. Good bankroll management may improve your overall success at the tables. So in this article on bankroll management, we want to give you some guidance on how to give yourself more longevity in the game.

To start, what is bankroll management? Just so we are clear, it has pretty much nothing to do with the actual game in and of itself. However, it’s arguable to how much of a degree it affects how you play the game. Simply put, bankroll management is how you take care of the Gold Coins in your account. Even though Global Poker returning players can receive some free Gold Coins every day and additional Gold Coins can be purchased to enhance the game play experience, good bankroll management is about having Gold Coins available through the swings and roundabouts of the poker merry-go-round. As we all know, poker is a game of highs and lows, and your bankroll is your backbone!

We want you to be able to enjoy playing our social game for a long time, and that means not having to spend more than your financial circumstances permit buying Gold Coins. So, if you’ve just started out on your poker journey, and you keep on having to reach into your bank account, we hope this article provides you with some invaluable insight. Once you understand the importance of bankroll management, it may help you achieve long-term benefits on and even off the tables.

Remember you can tell the quality of a poker player, not by the amount of hands or big pots they’ve won, but by the size of their bankroll.

What we will cover in this article:

  • Starting Bankroll
  • What to Risk
  • Building Bankroll
  • Managing Expectations
  • How Not To Blow Bankroll

WHAT IS POKER BANKROLL?

At its most basic, a poker bankroll is the sum of the resources you can comfortably set aside now for your enjoyment of the game of poker. It shouldn’t take into account what you will receive in the future, or impact your day-to-day living expenses.

This is not to be confused with the available balance of Gold Coins in your Global Poker account. They are different things; both part of the same ecosystem, but different.

HOW TO START A POKER BANKROLL?

To start a bankroll, first you need to make some decisions. How much can you responsibly and comfortably set aside for your enjoyment of the game of poker? In other words, if everything went to hell in a heartbeat at the tables, would you still be able to go about your daily life normally and not have to eat Rice-A-Roni for the next six months? If you need a bit of help with staying in control and gaming responsibly, please have a look at some of the tools we have available here.

Start by deciding how much risk is comfortable for you. Some people love risk and live like that; other people don’t like so much risk, so their answer would be different. Decide what’s right for you. It might be GC10 for some, and for others it could be GC1000. It doesn’t matter what the amount is, it is the starting point for building up your poker bankroll. Just bear in mind that the larger your risk appetite, the more Gold Coins you could lose in one game.

It’s important not to make the mistake of thinking your bankroll is just the Gold Coins in your poker account, this is not true. You might, for example, decide that you have a GC1000 limit on your bankroll, then decide to limit yourself to playing with GC500, leaving the remaining GC500 in reserve in case you need it later. It’s not necessarily about having the GC1000 in your account, it’s knowing what your limits are, setting them, sticking to them, and keeping track of them.

WHAT IS THE BEST STARTING POKER BANKROLL?

We all have our own limits, so it will be different for everyone. Some people play a lot, some people limit their play and pick their spots; as with all budgets, some people will have more Gold Coins to set aside to enjoy poker than others. Poker is a game of chance and some skill, so there is always a possibility you might lose the Gold Coins you play with. If you are a skilled player, and you follow good bankroll management principles, you shouldn’t need to worry about what you might lose on a micro level. You’ll know that overall you’re playing within your bankroll limits and you have the game to ride out the element of luck or should we say bad luck.

HOW MUCH SHOULD I RISK?

Once you have worked out how much you have set as your dedicated poker bankroll, however small, you should then examine the different stake levels and which levels are right for you.

HOW MUCH SHOULD MY BANKROLL BE FOR RING GAMES?

For ring game players, it’s a good idea to have an amount which equals at least 20 buy-ins. Some players like to have as many as 50 buy-ins, but everyone’s preference is different.

Assuming you’ve gone for at least 20 buy-ins.

A practical example is: If you want to play GC5/10 No-limit Hold’em and the minimum buy-in for the table is GC40, then you would ideally have at least GC800 in your account. If you're the kind of player who wants to buy in for the maximum, say GC100, then you would want to have GC2000 available in your account. A prime example, take Live At The Bike, arguably the two best players Garrett Adelstein and Andy Tsai – you’ll never see them with less than a substantial starting stack, giving them the flexibility to mix up their style of play.

You should also set yourself limits (goals) not only for your poker in general, but also for your individual poker sessions. It helps you know when you should exit the game, and helps instill discipline because it can be a challenge to exit when you’re doing well and more so when you’re not doing as well.

Set a goal for yourself for each session as we have set out below.

It's more important to set a loss limit, especially with No-Limit as the swings can be devastating.

Set A Goal - Win Double/Triple The Buy-In

Once you achieve that goal, pat yourself on the back, have a stretch, do a couple of backflips, logout and stop. Even that guy you know who was on a heater that one time had to stop at some point, if only to feed the cat.

Set A Limit - No More Than One Buy-In Per Session

Set that limit for yourself and if you’ve lost the buy-in, that’s it; over. Pat yourself on the back for your amazing discipline, do a couple of backflips, log out, stop, and treat yourself to something nice. Maybe some ice cream. Maybe an episode of My Name is Earl. Nothing’s going anywhere; it’ll all be there when you come back for your next session. If you’re not sure how to set limits, make sure you check out how to ​here.​

Set A Limit - Less Than 3% Of Your Bankroll on Any Tourney

If you like multi-table tournaments, why not try restricting yourself to less than 3 percent of your bankroll for any one buy-in? If you have GC500 in your account, look for tournaments that are GC10 or less. The same principle can be used for Sit-n-Go’s.

Be sure your buy-in total includes rebuys or add-ons. If you play a tourney that offers re-buys and add-ons, add up the cost of the initial buy-in, one rebuy and one add-on and make sure you're still under the five percent mark. It’s generally a good idea to avoid rebuys and add-ons when playing in tournaments.

Building a Bankroll

So, now you have your bankroll ready to go, and you're itching to start bossing it at the tables. Nice. However, bankroll management isn't just a case of starting with the right amount—it's also making sure you never exceed your limits while playing, even if you've suddenly managed to turn GC50 into GC1000.

HOW TO BUILD A BANKROLL — TOP TIPS

So, what rules should you follow to increase your bankroll in the safest and most cost effective way? Here are some of the factors that can influence how you increase your bankroll.

Limits

It makes sense that if you want to play higher stakes, you’re going to need a bigger bankroll. The flip side is that if you’re going to be playing only lower stakes, your bankroll doesn’t need to be as large. However, it’s not always as simple as that, because it’s poker. If it were simple, it wouldn’t be the best game in the world. The possible v​ariance​ in moving from GC50 No-limit Hold’em to GC200 might mean that the player requires more than 5X the bankroll to account for the swings.

The Rate of Winning

If you play tournaments, the rate of winning means what you can expect in return for the time and investment you’re making in your poker play. If you prefer to play ring games, the rate of winning is your win rate in big blinds per 100 hands played. However, whether you’re a tournament or ring game player, to accurately assess the rate of winning, you need a large sample size of hands. You can’t get an accurate idea from a short run of good hands in which you did well. If you’re not sure of your win rate, keeping track of that will help your bankroll management and may improve your game. Indirectly, you will be analyzing your hands, honing in on what spots you tend to play well, and what you need to improve on.

Everything You Desire On the Other Side of Pain

Wow, sounds like something Mr Miyagi might say. Basically, your comfort with disc​ omfort is crucial to your success. This isn’t an ego thing, this is just life. Remember that time when you thought you couldn’t do something, then you tried and it was scary and you were nervous? Whatever it was. You did it, and you felt great afterwards. The more you do that, the more comfortable you become with it, even though the risks aren’t any lower; you’re just better at it and you accept the risk. Your ability to manage your mindset is part of how well you play the game. When your mindset is focused on your performance in the long-term, your short-term wins and losses become less important. Your attitude to your bankroll is similar. You might think that having a bankroll three times the suggested standard bankroll for the situation enables you to play better poker. Another player might decide that having an overly-large bankroll contributes to them playing sloppy poker. Choose the best option for you.

HOW TO BUILD A POKER BANKROLL—WITH EXAMPLES

Everyone is different, will set about building their bankroll differently, and face different problems. However, here is a typical ring and tournament game scenario, how to mitigate adversity and continue to build up a bankroll.

Player 1 - Ring Game:

Player 1 plays GC10 NL Hold’em (GC0.05/0.10 blinds) and has averaged an hourly rate of 8 BB/H (GC0.80/Hour). They have a starting bankroll of GC200 and would need to double that before progressing to GC20 (GC0.10/0.20 blinds). At the rate of GC8 BB/H, to progress to GC20 would take 250 hours.

After building their bankroll to GC400 they stepped up to the higher stakes but then experienced a downswing with the small amount of 20 buy-ins. In this case, it would be smart to build to 2.5 the recommended 20 buy-ins to help with the stress of a small bankroll and a short-term downswing/smaller win rate due to tougher competition.

While building your bankroll, take the time to identify and improve on your weaknesses by experimenting with players at the lower level; put yourself in spots you're normally not comfortable in, and make the most of this time.

Player 2 - Tournament:

Player 2 plays low stakes super turbo sit and gos, and is hoping to transition to normal speed sit and gos. They’ve played very few normal-speed sit and gos, but over 30,000 super turbos and won 5 percent of their Gold Coins starting bankroll. In general, a lower expected ‘win percentage’ for a player is likely to be higher variance, so they maintain a very conservative 400 buy-ins for grinding the super turbos. Often they get bored playing the super turbos, and feel they’re ready to play a new game type. They also think they’ll have a higher ‘win percentage’ in the lower variance format of normal speed sit and gos, and that will mean they can be less conservative with their bankroll, and thus progress in stakes more rapidly.

One of the benefits of a conservative bankroll is it enables you to take shots and explore, but the problem with Player 2’s analysis is that they don’t know what to expect in the new game type they want to play. Grinding the game they know they’re good at means that they could get a coach for the next game type they want to play. Or, with in-depth study of the new game, and developing a modest bankroll for the new game, they could minimize their risk in the new game, while they explore the possibilities.

It’s important that Player 2 understands how they might perform in the new game type, and that it’s not going to be the same as their performance in the old game type. It might not take a long time, but they should not expect to be able to easily replicate the success in one game type in another.

Manage Expectations

Unrealistic expectations of their ability to turn a modest starting amount into a much larger amount in a short period of time is probably one of the biggest challenges people run into when building a good bankroll. They think they’re going to turn GC1000 into GC100,000 in a short period of time. This is unlikely. Not that it couldn’t happen, but if you rely on that happening, you’re entering a world of pain, Larry.

Rather than setting unrealistic goals, take small steps towards your goal. It’s a long game. If you turn your GC5 into GC6 on day 1, that’s a win, don’t forget it. Upon moving up the levels you will experience a lot of highs and lows, but always remember a-win-is-a-win, so if you turn your GC2000 bankroll into GC2100 after a session, that’s also OK. On the days you go above and beyond these modest targets, be happy but stay grounded, and remember it’s not going to be like that every day.

And on the flip side, when you lose from time to time, you have to shrug and say, “Ah, f*ck it, Dude, let’s go bowling.” That’s just part of poker, and it happens to everyone from beginners through to that dude John Malkovich played in Rounders; the one who liked Oreos. Yeah him. Or real poker players like good old Daniel Cates (Jungleman). It’s not the end of the world. Good bankroll management will help you through. Following good bankroll management will help you avoid tilt and will mean you live to play another day.

Don’t expect huge wins, but if you’re in control and playing responsibly you shouldn’t have to worry if you’re experiencing a bad beat. It happens, man.

Building a bankroll is similar to building many other things—start small and build up. If it were property development we were discussing, it would be pretty easy to see that if you’re just starting out, you’re unlikely to buy 50 acres and start building 250 houses. You’d start off with one or two and work your way up, managing your risk and investments. Building and managing your bankroll is similar.

How To Not Blow Your Bankroll

Losing is part of the game and will certainly happen, but it might be balanced by some sweet wins; that’s poker. There are some things to remember which may help limit your losses as much as possible.

Make sure you are in the right state of mind

Every poker player knows of the term “on tilt”, meaning losing your s*&t and all logic going out the window. However, there are more subtle forms of tilting, caused by external factors, meaning 9 times out of 10 you’ll probably perform below your potential. Bottom line—make sure you are in the best condition every time you play i.e. had enough sleep, eaten well, haven’t had a fight with your other half, etc.

Make sure you follow the bankroll management rules

While shot taking (playing outside your bankroll limits) is fun, it can quickly lead to a sharp decline. Especially after a bad beat, you can quickly freefall and find your account empty because of a rough session, we’ve all been there! So, please listen to the guidance shared in this article and if required use the tools available ​here to help you stay in control and play responsibly.

Pay attention to the table

Being self-aware is one thing, but being aware of others around you is a whole different ball game. Playing at your peak is essential; if you cop a bad beat take a minute and recuperate. Pay attention to the table, who are the weaker players? Is the table tight? What are players’ raising patterns (raises 3x the majority of times on the button, for example)? These are all questions that need to be considered.

Conclusion

Poker is the best game in the world—we know it and so do you. Luck, skill, intuition, experience and sometimes some math can come into it, but there are so many other nuances that can be used to gain the advantage and help you to win. Bankroll management probably isn’t the coolest tool in your poker box of tricks, but it is really very important if you want to get the most from your poker play.

Regardless of whether you're planning to play small, or go big, bankroll management is definitely something you should consider, and this article here should help you make sense of it all. What’s your bankroll strategy, and what has helped you develop and improve your game?