Golden Rules of Poker Bankroll Management

Take a moment to think about some of the great poker players you’ve heard about. What do they have in common? For many of these famous sharks, the answer may surprise you: going broke. Fortunes have been won and lost at the poker table. While great strides have been made over the past 20 years in terms of poker strategy, not everyone is willing to practice sound bankroll management. Don’t fall into this trap – use this poker bankroll management guide to get the most out of your sessions, whether it’s at the live tables or on the virtual felt here at Ignition.

What Is a Bankroll?


Simply put, your bankroll is the money you have set aside to play poker. It’s nice to imagine this number always going up, but no matter how good you are at the game, you can and should expect your bankroll to rise and fall with every session you play. They say that poker is 70% skill and 30% luck; that’s enough skill to give you a positive long-term expectation if you play the game well, but in the short term, a bad run of cards can wipe you out – if you don’t practice sound online poker bankroll management, that is.


What Type of Player Are You?


When you’re thinking about poker bankroll management, cash games and online poker tournaments included, you should be thinking about the risk of ruin. If you consider yourself a professional poker player, that means you’re treating your poker like a business, and every business has a chance of failing. The more you depend on poker for your income, the more you need to minimize your risk of ruin. If you’re a recreational player or even a semi-pro with multiple income streams, you don’t have to worry as much about your bankroll; you have the cash flow to reload anytime the cards are against you. Even then, make sure you play poker only with money that you can afford to lose.


Sadly, there’s no magic formula that will tell you how to manage poker bankroll requirements like a boss. But if you start with the right mindset, and use a little math here and there, you can minimize your risk of ruin and increase your chances of success.




What Type of Player Are You?


5 Golden Rules of Bankroll Management


1. Poker Money Is not Rent Money

This is Rule No. 1 for a reason. As we’ve mentioned, if you’re going to play online poker for real money, it’s vitally important to play with money you can afford to lose. The best way to ensure this is to keep your poker bankroll separate from the rest of your cash. Many top players have gone broke failing to do this. Unless you’re playing poker recreationally, never use your “life roll” to replenish your bankroll – just keep grinding at whatever stakes you can handle. Which brings us to Rule No. 2…




2. Your Bankroll Determines Your Stakes

You might be the next Phil Ivey, but if you don’t have his bankroll, you can’t afford to play the nosebleed stakes like Ivey does. Your risk of ruin increases as the stakes go higher, whether you’re playing cash games or online poker tournaments. No matter where your bankroll is at, or what your skill level is, you should only be risking a small percentage of your poker money when you’re at the tables. Don’t let your ego drive you towards the higher stakes when your bankroll isn’t big enough.


3. Play Where You’re Comfortable

The higher the stakes, the more likely you are to feel the pressure – not just financially, but physically and emotionally as well. Some players are more comfortable under pressure than others. They can tolerate a higher risk of ruin, while others tend to cave in and make mistakes when the heat is on. The more nervous you get at the tables, the lower stakes you should play, even if you have the funds to play higher. There’s no shame in being a “bankroll nit.”


4. Know Your Hourly Rate (by stake)

It’s hard to run a business when you don’t know how much money you’re making. Figuring this out in online poker is a challenge since luck can swing your fortunes up and down in the short term. But the more hands you play, the easier it is to calculate your expected hourly over the long run. You’ll want to calculate how many big blinds per hour you’re making, as well as dollars per hour. Make sure to do separate calculations for hands played at different stakes or buy-in levels; the competition gets tougher as the stakes increase.


5. Use a Stop-Loss Strategy

What do you do when you’re having a losing session, but you feel comfortable and you’re at a “good” table where you have a positive expectation? Many pros will say you should keep playing, but there’s another school of thought (championed by Barry Greenstein, among others) that says you should back away – especially if you’re a newer player. By implementing a stop-loss of two or three buy-ins for your cash games, you can limit the short-term damage done by a downswing. This will prevent you from staying in a game that you think is good, when in fact, you may be overmatched, or simply on tilt.




Bankroll Variation Requirements


Bankroll Variation Requirements

Again, there is no set formula to tell you how much “bankroll for poker” you should set aside. A lot of it depends on what kind of poker you’re playing; tournaments have more risk of ruin built in than cash games since you’re only expected to finish in the money around one in six or seven times. And players who focus on multi-table tournaments (MTTs) will encounter more variance than those who play single-table tournaments (STTs), while cash game players will see more variance in No-Limit games than Fixed-Limit.


Having said that, it’s still nice to have some general guidelines for bankroll management (BRM). Since most people are still playing No-Limit Hold’em far more than any other variant, here are some recommended BRM thresholds for playing the cash games at Ignition, followed up by some tournament BRM guidelines – note how you should be playing smaller buy-ins as the fields get larger, or when you play Hyper-Turbos with their very short blind levels.



No-Limit Hold’em BRM Chart


Stakes High Risk (20 buy-ins) Medium Risk (50 buy-ins) Low Risk (100 buy-ins)
1c/2c $40 $100 $200
5c/10c $200 $500 $1000
25c/50c $1000 $2500 $5000
$1/$2 $4000 $10000 $20000
$2/$5 $10000 $25000 $50000



Tournament BRM Chart


Field Size High Risk Medium Risk Low Risk
up to 50 20 buy-ins 50 buy-ins 100 buy-ins
up to 250 40 buy-ins 100 buy-ins 200 buy-ins
up to 500 60 buy-ins 150 buy-ins 300 buy-ins
over 500/Hyper-Turbos 80 buy-ins 200 buy-ins 400 buy-ins



Keeping Track of Your Sessions


In order to practice proper bankroll management, you’ll need to keep account of how your business is doing. While you won’t be able to use a Heads-Up Display (HUD) effectively at Ignition, thanks to the protection you get at the anonymous tables, you can still download your hand histories and use third-party software to keep track of your progress – this will also help you calculate your hourly rate. Don’t get too tangled up in the numbers, especially over a small sample size, but make sure you have every hand logged for future reference.


Freerolls When Bankroll Is Low


As your bankroll rises and falls, you should adjust your stakes and buy-in levels accordingly. But what happens when you no longer have the bankroll to play even the smallest stakes? You have two choices: deposit, or play freerolls. If you don’t have the cash flow to make another deposit, freerolls will help you build your bankroll back up. As the name implies, these tournaments cost nothing to enter, but you can win a little bit of money here and there, and work your way back into the microstakes. Where else can you get an infinite return on investment (ROI)?


How to Make a Deposit at Ignition

How to Make a Deposit at Ignition


If you’ve worn your bankroll down to nearly nothing, and you do have the cash flow, it’s easy to make a deposit at Ignition Poker. You can use credit/charge cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) or Bitcoin; Visa Gift Cards can also be used in some instances. Don’t forget to check our Promotions page to see what deposit bonuses are available – these can help boost your bankroll while you’re learning the ropes at Ignition Poker.





In the meantime, this crash course in bankroll management has given you everything you need to start treating your money like a professional, from the basic mindset to specific targets for which stakes and buy-ins you should play. Take these rules and guidelines seriously, keep working on your poker skills, and we’ll see you on the felt.