Poker cash-game buy-ins and bankroll

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Before you’re even dealt into a cash game, you’re faced with a decision: How much money should I put on the table? Well, there are a few questions you need to ask to come up with the most profitable buy-in amount for you.

Profitability and buy-in size are correlated. Most people overlook buy-in size and I will show you why it’s essential to put some thought into it.

First, you need to know the minimum and maximum buy-ins for your regular game. Usually there are three types: 100 big blinds (such as the $2-$5 at Bellagio and Borgata) 200 or 300 big blinds (such as the $5-$10 at Borgata and $10-$10 at Parx) and uncapped games (no max). Harrah’s New Orleans spreads uncapped no-limit cash games.

The deeper you are, the more big blinds you have should absolutely affect your style of play. The deeper you are, the looser you could (and in most instances should) play. You also need to keep in mind that in large pots of 200-1,000 BBs, one pair is often no good.

A large part of success in poker is keeping objective and asking questions while answering honestly. The buy-in guidelines are no different. Ego has no place here. Are you bankrolled to play a certain stake? How many buy-ins do you have in your pocket? Is the game too deep for you to play comfortably? What is your stop-loss threshold? Do you play well with more than a 200 big-blind stack?

Playing with deep stacks is where the pro makes his money. He can force someone into playing for their stack, creating a lot of folds from tighter players. He can outmaneuver other less-skilled players through manipulating the size of the pot and conversely control it when he so chooses. I would advise the intermediate player to buy in for no more than 100 big blinds in any cash session.

Buying in short is an option. You can be successful and buy in short as long as you aren’t playing with scared money. Understand the shorter you buy, the variance will increase. You may choose to fold 10s preflop if you have 200 BBs in front of you and get into a raising war but if you have 50 BBs then you might choose to flip against what likely are two overcards, thus increasing variance. Think of buying short like playing a tournament; more often than not you will go bust.

— Mike Wolf is a pro player who resides in NYC and is available via email at MichaelJWolf33@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikewolf7