Many times in past articles, I’ve mentioned how to treat playing low-stakes cash games as a job. I’ve even given examples. Here is a roadmap of how to track everything, taken from my days of playing $2-$5 no-limit for a living.
PAY YOURSELF AN HOURLY RATE: Don’t just come up with this number out of thin air. You should know your hourly win rate in the games you’re playing. My win rate always was around $50 an hour in a $2-$5 game. Never pay yourself more than half of your expected win rate, but you also will want to leave some money set aside for high variance plays, which I’ll cover below. I paid myself $15 an hour because I wanted to grow my bankroll aggressively and I could live off of that money each month when I played 120-160 hours. Adjust this to fit your needs and pay yourself enough so that you’re not tempted to take out any extra.
PUT A PORTION INTO A TAKE-A-SHOT FUND: This fund will be for all tournaments or any games you “take a shot” at that are outside your bankroll. If you don’t have the funds set aside, you shouldn’t be playing a high-variance game. This is where any of my degenerate gambling came from: craps, sports betting, etc. It would be best if you did NONE of that, but if you decide to play these games, it comes out of this part of your bankroll. This allocation plus the hourly that you pay yourself shouldn’t equal more than 60 percent of your total expected win. I paid myself $15 per hour and I allocated $15 per hour to this fund. The smaller this number is, the less likely you’ll go broke.
DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH BIG WINDFALLS: Maybe you’ve won a tournament, hit a bad beat or one of your craps sessions lasted 45 minutes in the Bahamas. Decide on where that money goes and stick to it. When I hit these scores that were at least equal to 500 big blinds of the game I was playing, I would give myself 20 percent, put 20 percent into my retirement account and then split the rest between the bankroll and the take-a-shot fund at 30 percent each. It’s important your bankroll grows with your skill level, so it may be tempting to put this all into your bankroll and move up in stakes. It’s possible you’re not ready yet. Get there the hard way!
FINAL TIPS: Segregate your bankroll. I had a safety-deposit box at my local casino and I’d only remove $300 for every 20 hours I played, keeping track of the balance on a spreadsheet. Stick to a schedule, but don’t force yourself to do something you don’t want to do. Take the day off if you don’t feel right. If your bankroll goes below the amount you should have to play your game, step down in stakes. This system corrects itself if you’re not beating the game for enough money.
— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at Brent.Philbin@gmail.com.