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Why do you need so many buy-ins?

May 6, 2020

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Have you ever wondered why bankroll management articles suggest that players need anywhere from 40 to 100 buy-ins for their games? It seems impossible to have such a terrible run of luck to lose that many buy-ins. So why do so many reasonable sources advise this?

Even though it’s unlikely that you’ll have such a bad run to lose 50 or more buy-ins in a row, getting 50 buy-ins in the hole gets more and more likely as you put in more volume. Going 0 and 50 is very improbable, as would be 25-75 in 100 sessions, but think about how many times you join a SnG or a ring game. 475 wins and 525 loses out of 1,000 appears much more likely, doesn’t it? 

At the end of the day, it’s down to immutable math, and an advanced approach is to be aware of The Kelly Criterion. This can help you calculate the amount you should risk, given your expected skill level.

Be warned: One stumbling block which may cause players to unexpectedly bust out, even from a reasonable-looking bankroll, is their over-estimation of their own ability. Be honest with yourself!

Buy-ins for ring games vs. tournaments

It’s easy to count SnG or even MTT buy-ins as you use them, because you commit one at a time as an entry. However, ring game buy-ins seem less quantifiable. 

A ring session may result in a loss of anywhere between your entire buy-in to several buy-in profit. Plus, you can top up for partial buy-ins as you play, and you may also be playing several at once. You need to keep a careful track of your available funds if you’re having a heavy losing day across multiple games, because you can easily find that you’re risking much more than expected. If you and several opponents in your game have multiple buy-ins, you’re risking much more than your original one buy-in by playing there.

Remember these bankroll management tips:

  1. Avoid making rules that will influence your play adversely. For example, double or nothing, or having a stop loss of half a buy-in. Treat each session (each hand almost) as part of the big picture. Reload to your buy-in all the time, and leave when the game becomes undesirable to play based on opponents and your perceived win rate in it.
  2. If you’re winning, don’t tell yourself it’s okay to play differently (especially more recklessly) because it’s “other players’ chips.” Those chips belong to you, and they are part of your bankroll when they are in your stack at the table.
  3.  If you find yourself on a downswing, be sure to move down in stakes if bankroll management regime advises it.

Some closing advice from our Poker Operations Manager, Chasetheriver (first, don’t take his name literally!):

“One rule which I have heard from successful players who have been through devastating runs of losses is: Find your worst ever losing steak and expect it to happen again, twice.”