People have different relationships with money. There’s even a field of study dealing with this. Some folks believe it begins at childhood; others believe it develops as we mature. However it develops, the relationship between psychology and money is based on how our beliefs, expectations and feelings influence our behavior as it relates to money. It’s important to understand some of the obstacles to being a successful poker player involve money and some of these issues involving money management are head-game issues.
As with everything in poker, these issues depend on how you see yourself and poker and what poker is to you.
If you’re a recreational player and it doesn’t matter much if you play with real money or matchsticks, there is little reason to think about money management. Set aside the amount you’re willing to pay for a fun evening of entertainment that carries with it the chance of winning and enjoy yourself.
If you’re a problem or compulsive gambler, money management is irrelevant. You need to seek some help to stop playing.
If you fall between a recreational player to some level of professional, you need to understand your relationship with money and money management.
If you’re some level of a professional, it means you’re depending on some level of income from poker.
If you’re playing and counting poker income for life, you need to look at this like any business; you need something of a business plan. You need to set aside enough money to deal with downturns and the like.
As a regular recreational player, you need a poker bankroll.
The recreational player has the hardest time dealing with poker bankroll. The rule of thumb is to have a bankroll of at least 10 buy-ins and not to have more than 5-10 percent of your bankroll on the table at any one time.
Good rule of thumb, sure, but hard for some of us to follow. Let’s say you play $2-$5 and your buy-in is $200. So you need $2K in your bankroll. But now the Ante Up Poker Tour is coming to town and you just had a losing streak and are down to $1K and want to play a $250 event. That is 25 percent of your effective bankroll. Or say you’re down 1.5 buy-ins and that’s your loss limit for any session, but you’re playing well and getting sucked out on. Do you stay or go? The scenarios are limitless.
The purpose of this column is to get you to think about your relationship with money. I hope I helped you keep your head in the game.
— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.