Bankroll Management

What level should I play at?

It very much depends on the game you play, the type of player you are, and the number of tables you play at once. A tight player, playing one table of limit holdem can get away with committing a higher percentage (of bankroll) than say a loose player playing 2 tables of NL holdem. Generally most people should fall in the range 1% up to 7%. What this means in English is that if your bankroll is $500, and you are say a NL Holdem player, then something like 3% of $500 is the correct buy-in level (ie $15). You obviously can get away with a higher % in limit because putting your buy-in on the line in just one hand is unlikely to happen.

A quick rough guide:-
1% Loose, NL, Multi-table
2-3% Loose, PL or NL, Multi-table
4% Tight, NL or PL, Multi-table
5% Tight, NL or PL, Single table, or Loose Limit player
5%-6% Tight, Limit, Multi-table
6-7% Tight, Limit, Single table

Why is this percentage so low?

1) The psychology of the bad beat. A badbeat for 3% of your bankroll is so much less painful than a bad beat for 30% of your bankroll. The bad beats will occur with equal likelihood at whatever level you play, so do not subject yourself to the torment. A bad beat for much more than say 10% of your bankroll will inevitably and understandably put you on tilt, so do not put yourself in this situation in the first place. Tilting is virtually never to do solely with how strong or weak minded someone is after a beat, it is all to do with the situations you put yourself in long before the beat occurs. Sometimes lessons take a long time to be learnt, and playing at the wrong level is very alluring, however if you want to make a success of poker this simply must be avoided. For some this means not touching a drop of alcohol whilst playing, for others it mean restricting access to high limit tables. The temptation will be there always. Avoid it.

2) Many situations will arise where you have positive equity for the call, but are not the favourite to win. (eg you are calling at a cost of 33%, your probable likely winning draws come in at more like 40%, but you are still a 60% chance to lose the pot). You should obviously be calling pretty much any circumstance where you feel you have positive equity. This also comes down to degrees of looseness/tightness. Joining a table for 25% of your bankroll and then as a consequence turning down a positive equity call is not good poker.

3) Exploiting others poor bankroll management. Many players will play above their bankroll (eg they have a bankroll of $300 and they seem to think playing at a table with a $100 buy (eg a $0.5/$1 NL table) is a good idea. This obviously tends to make players a little too tight. This edge can only be exploited only if you yourself are not playing above your level.

4) The swings. No matter how good you are, you will have swings. Good runs and Bad Runs will come and go. Some will last an eternity, some will be over in a flash. If someone sucks out some negative equity on you once, for your buy-in, hey-ho, twice, hey-ho. How about 5 times in a row? Man youíre not a happy bunny, but what has happened? A: nothing that defies the laws of gravity. It is simply a small cold streak. What is important is how much has this bad luck has cost you. At 2%, then it has cost you 10%Öwell thatís OK. At 3%, then it had cost you 15%, well thatís OK too. Playing the $100 buy-ins with a $300 bankroll? Well, you didnít even get past 3 hands and youíre wiped out completely. Anyone who thinks cold streaks are 3 or so bad beats in close succession hasnít really been born yet, 1000 hands of poker data? Nothing, 5000 hands, nothing. 3 million hands, well now you have seen some natural swings, the good and the bad. If you have made a good profit over a few hours of poker in your life, this doesnít constitute thinking a pro-poker playing lifestyle awaits. You need volumes of data/hands. After this you will see the importance of the low%.

Record Keeping

Record your data. All of it. Yes, all of it. No cheating. Donít record 3 winning sessions, then when you lose your forth, suddenly decide not to do it. Record it all. Use software, use pens and notebooks, use whatever method. But do not cheat yourself by not recording. Hide the notebooks if wish, but donít hide the reality from yourself. Are you winning enough? Do you need to change levels because of a cold streak?


Waiting for hands, or waiting for good boards, or good draws or whatever can be very tiresome. It is boring. (try playing a few million hands of strategic poker and tell me otherwise). The reason why players come and go in a few months so often is not because they are bad (OK, sometimes it is ), it is because of the boredom. They donít even think about it like this, but it is true. The reason we play above our level is boredom. We seek thrills, we seek quick money. We donít want to play for 3 hours to make a few bucks, we want to win the lottery. To avoid this, and lets be honest it is difficult, you may want to have an MTT ticking over in the background, or more to the point multi-table. Donít do too many. Between 2 and 4 is fine.

Reassessing your level

How often should you reassess your level? Some might say after every hand (lol), some after every session, some after every day. For me I think once a week is appropriate. Moving up and down too quickly doesnít really allow for much bedding in or natural swings. If you want a safety net then ĎReassess once a week, except if 25% of my bankroll has been wiped out within the current weak, in which case reassess your level there and thení. It is important to do this, therefore if a long cold swing is in its infancy you will keep it at bay.


If you are not on a determined upward cycle of levels increase, then cashing out all of the amount above your starting bankroll for the week is not wrong. Eg start week = $1000, end week = $1100. How determined am I to get to the next level? If not bothered, then cash out $100 and play at same level by same rules. If you really want to move up quickly, then donít cash out at all. Often the reality comes to finding a percentage somewhere in-between (eg cash out x% of any amount I am up for the week).