Sunday, 19 December 2010

Bankroll management is critical if you are going to make poker your primary income.

When I played recreationally I was happy to play with a BR of 20-30 BI, but it is important to have a deeper BR when it is your job and stick religiously to it for 2 reasons:

  • It protects you from going busto.. you can't make money if you lose all your BR
  • It protects you from unnecessary mental anguish and pressure if you go on a downswing
The common wisdom seems to be a 100BI BR if you play full-time. You must also be able to drop down stakes if your BR takes a bad hit and try and rebuild it from there. Taking shots with less BI at higher stakes can be ok too (say 50BI) if you pick the moments the games are softest. Some people also use a stop-loss limit for a given day but numbers seem to vary a lot depending on the person and their tilt control.

I actually started the year with about 150BI for 50 and I was taking a few shots at 100 too. As the year has progressed as I've made withdrawls my BR has fluctuated between 100BI at 50 and 140BI at 100. I don't seem to go on as many downswings as others and when I do they aren't very severe (yet?!). Hence, I'd feel pretty comfortable playing 100 with only 50BI now and might even take some shots at 200 on 25BI. I recently played a few hands at 400 on 25BI but its not going to be a regular occurrence. I will always strive to get my BR up to 100BI for the main stake I'm playing and right now thats 100BI at 100, taking a few shots at 200. Fortunately, I haven't been forced to move down at all, but I mix different stakes and might only play 50 one day depending on how I'm feeling and how the games are. If it comes to it I know I'm prepared and able to play lower stakes if my bankroll dictates it. As I don't downswing much I haven't felt the need for a stop loss and instead focus on making good quitting decisions.

The point is, that BR requirements are going to be quite different for everyone depending on their style and games they play and how they handle it mentally. Setting the limits generously to start with should give you the flexibility to adjust things at a later date if you feel it still gives you the protection that BR management is there for.

EDIT: I forgot to add that I also had some contingency in a savings account when I started - enough to survive a few months if there was no other income. I didn't want my career to end before it even got started due to variance, and I knew I'd need some time to improve my game to win enough each month.

I've not needed to use any of the contingency this year which I'm really pleased about, other than borrowing a bit from it around Vegas for cashflow reasons, but it was repaid soon after I got back.