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How to manage your bankroll

March 13, 2018

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Having trouble maintaining your stack? Our Poker Operations Manager, Chasetheriver, offers the following advice for safely managing your bankroll.

What does Bankroll Management (BRM) mean when it comes to poker?

Even the best poker players will bust out if they don’t have enough chips to ride out short-term fluctuations, whatever stakes they’re playing! By “short term,” we mean any amount of time necessary for the results to begin to accurately reflect your skill level.

So, what is Bankroll Management? It means risking no more than a “safe” amount of your balance at any one time. While BRM won’t help you win chips if you’re an unskilled poker player, it will help you play longer — and in turn, get more experience at the tables that can help you become more skilled.

Think of your Replay chip balance as the number of buy-ins you have available at the stake level you’re playing. For instance, if you have 40,000 chips and you’re entering a game with a 1,000 chip buy-in, you have 40 buy-ins.

Professional cash players like to have at least 50 buy-ins worth of chips in their stack. Some even advise anywhere up to 100. Pro players tend to like a bigger BRM cushion because they have to be extra careful not to bust, which would mean reinvesting or even getting a different job. They have to fund their living expenses from their poker winnings, and therefore err on the side of safety.

Why should I care about BRM if I just want to play with free play chips at Replay?

Casual players, including Replayers, don’t have to worry about buying groceries from their balance, so we can lower the number of buy-ins a little — but not too much!

Busting out over and over is no fun. If you want to stop hitting the free reload button, consider where your current skill level is. Are you:

  • Able to win consistently and build up your balance from ring games and SnGs?
  • Capable of keeping your chips intact at the table?
  • Taking advantage of free chips and Freerolls to maintain or raise your balance?
  • Willing to take your chances and put all of your chips on any table you have enough for?

If you see yourself as one of the first three, you’re already applying BRM by actively thinking about how much you’re prepared to risk. Additional BRM will give you extra comfort in the knowledge that you’re protecting your overall chip balance!

If you have to admit that you’re more like the fourth, then ask yourself: Would you enjoy the games more if your chips lasted longer, or if you could play at higher stakes more often?

How do I work out how many chips I should have?

Generally speaking, having at least 30 buy-ins worth of chips will be comfortable for most players. If you drop down to 25 or so, you’ll need to think about moving down in stakes.

Here are some factors that might raise or lower the number of buy-ins suitable for you:

  • No Limit, Pot Limit, or other Limit games: In theory, limit games offer the lowest fluctuation, but depending on the type of games, it might not be as much as you think!
  • Multi-Table Tournaments: These tournaments offer the largest variance, but a string of poor results can be reduced by getting regular mini-cashes, and winning a large prize can automatically raise you to a new stake level.
  • SnG and Ring games: Both of these types will have similar effects on your bank, except that weaker players in a SnG will lose just one buy-in at a time, whereas a ring opponent might stick around and lose multiple buy-ins.
  • Your style of play. Tight players might get away with fewer buy-ins, but take longer to build up their stack. Loose, aggressive players will experience more fluctuations.
  • Tilt much? Chasing losses or targeting opponents for personal reasons is going to ruin your hard work! Your whole bankroll is at risk until you regain control.

When can I think about moving up or “taking shots”?

Think about moving up all the time!

If you set yourself 30 buy-ins for your game and see you have over 40, you can start looking at the next stake size up. If it’s a level you haven’t played before and you expect the game dynamics to be different, give it a shot, but take it easy! Drop down again if you’re losing and figure out what went wrong so you’re prepared the next time you step up.

If you’re thriving in the games you regularly play, some might suggest you stay there and gain as many chips as you can, but eventually you’ll want to play bigger. Just remember — skipping too many stake levels means you could miss part of the learning curve!

What if I have a winning streak in a ring game and I get multiple buy-ins in my stack?

Those chips are actually part of your overall bankroll, but most players say it’s reasonable to stay in the game. If you’re in a game that’s profitable and no one really threatens to take your chips because the other stacks are low compared to yours, then stay! But continue to evaluate the situation. Seriously consider leaving if you find the game getting tougher or if the players around you have similar stacks. If you stay, then busting your entire stack in one hand becomes a real possibility. It could be a major psychological blow, as well as a significant dent in how many chips you could have added to your bankroll.