I honestly can’t stress enough about the importance of money management, especially when you are a professional poker player. It’s more important than any particular skill or sharp aspect of your game. That’s not to say that having strong knowledgebase is not crucial to winning and becoming a professional player, as it obviously is. However money management is what most people go wrong with and that’s exactly what I will try to change throughout this article.
You’ll see a lot of advice like this all over the Internet. Truth be told, most articles are very brief and I get a feeling that authors have never pursued poker as a career. I have done so for 4 years of my life and know it all inside out.
The Golden Rules
Most players seem to believe that there is going to be a single rule that will clear the air and provide them with one of those ‘aha’ moments. Unfortunately it’s way more complicated than that and sound bankroll management strategy will almost always depend on your case. With case I am referring to the games you are playing, your experience, where you live at, your costs and whether you have a family to provide for, so lets go through all of that.
Games You Are Looking to Play
The two big categories here are Hold’em and Omaha. This changes things drastically, as Hold’em is a less complex game and involves swings that cannot be compared to Omaha. For players who play the most popular variation of Hold’em, No Limit, I can suggest that you question yourself with these:
- Are the games soft? Are there many bad players?
- What’s my edge? How good I actually am? This might be quite hard given how egocentric most poker players get, but try to be realistic. Do you feel that you are way better than your opposition every time you play?
Given that you are looking to jump into a boat and be a professional poker player, you should also have some kind of a sample size from hands and hours you’ve been putting in before. What has been your winrate in past? Do you think it’s sustainable?
So why exactly I’m making you question yourself with all these enquiries? Because there is a golden rule in poker, regardless of what I said before. That rules is this: The better player you are and the larger your edge is against opponents, the less variance in terms of monetary swings you will experience.
That’s exactly why I want you to be realistic and honest with yourself. If your edge is huge, you can take it easier whereas if you hardly broke even in past, you have to be very careful. To throw you some numbers, the absolute minimum I would suggest as a bankroll for NL Hold’em cash games is 50 buy-ins, while for tournaments this number should be 100 buy-ins. If you are preparing to play a cash game with $1/2 blinds, I would suggest that you have at least $10,000 for poker.
What about Omaha? This game is completely different and a true evil, when it comes to swings. You can easily double or triple your worst run in Hold’em and get a taste of what it will be like to play Omaha poker. So why would anyone ever play it? The catch is that this is a relatively new game and there are thousands of unexperienced, new players who have felt exactly how much fun it is to play this game. The average opponent in this game will be much worse and less knowledgable than in Hold’em and that’s exactly why so many professional players have started to play it., but there are downsides too – swings.
Luckily, it’s all mathematics and statistics so given that you are the better player, you won’t be unlucky forever. That’s why it is so important for you to follow very strict bankroll managing guidelines. I would suggest having at least 100 buy-ins for the cash games you are looking to play, ideally double that number and make it 200. So again, for $1/2 Omaha game, you would need at least $20,000. That might seem like an overly cautious approach, but I always say that it’s better to be careful than broke.