Poker Commandments: Thou shalt protect thy bankroll



Editor’s note: This is one in a series.

My saying, “Lifetime hobby of profit and fun” is geared toward the recreational player. Next: “Don’t quit your day job,” is my usual advice.

Therefore, if your bankroll is replaceable from other sources, the following bankroll management wisdom further in this column may prove irrelevant to you. Most bankroll advice is folly. For example, imagine a $1K bankroll and the player wants to enter a $220 satellite event for a shot at a big event.

He would be violating my first rule of thumb, which is “Never lose more than 10 percent of your roll.” But if this player has outside cash-flow resources, I would choose against my wisdom and pat him on the back and wish him luck.

Rule 1: Again, bankroll rules are a good idea (not folly), but if you find yourself in a great game and you have some rule that requires you to leave after four hours of play, it will be prudent to adjust your plan, just like a coach will adjust his play-calling if the opponent is blitzing on every down.

Rule 2: 300 times the big blind. A winning player understands variance and swings. A $2-$5 NLHE game requires a $15K bankroll if we’re strictly playing for a living. (Note, based on Rule 1, our player will quit after a $1,500 downswing)

Rule 3: Five percent tournament buy-in. Tournaments are volatile. There are cases of world-class players having unimaginable downswings on the circuit. The point here is to not buy-in for more than 5 percent of your bankroll. Case closed. Note that having a strong satellite record can keep the tournament pro in the money.

Rule 4: Have a plan. This is a close cousin to Rule 1 and best illustrated by example. You have a $100K bankroll and find yourself in a smaller game than you’re accustomed. Use common sense. In this case, we enter the game with a goal and some stopping points in mind. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Rule 5: Have 100 times the buy-in for SNG selection for your online play. I have much advice about SNGs online and look forward to any queries from Ante Up readers.

Rule 6: The 20 percent rule: This applies for cash-game pros who play tournaments from time to time. Simply put, if you’re a grinder, don’t allocate more than 20 percent of your monthly poker income on tournament buy-ins.

A player who has spent his bankroll on consumables and is on the rail is a sight for sore eyes. Watch your poker money like a mother chicken counts her chicks. Now that is sound advice.

— Email Mark Brement at

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