Poker bankroll management

Poker bankroll management

Bankroll management is one of the most important topics for aspiring poker players. It is the discipline that helps you avoid going broke and it reduces the risk of getting addicted to gambling. It can also help significantly with your game and mental game, since you will play with less stress.

Your bankroll is the amount of money you’ve set aside exclusively for poker. It’s not rent money, not grocery money, just poker money. Think of it as an investment in your poker career – the capital that keeps your “poker business” running. If you are not a professional player and you have other sources of income, you can consider the bankroll the amount of money you are comfortable losing.

Important to note is that the bankroll is of course not protecting your finances if you are a losing player. It will just take longer for you to lose the money if you start with a bigger bankroll. All bankroll management guidance assumes you are a solid winner over a large sample of hands. In general this means at least 50 000 hands in cash games and more in tournaments.


At its core, variance is the statistical measure of how your results can differ from the expected outcome. In poker, even if you play perfectly, you won’t win every hand. Variance acknowledges the swings – both good and bad – that occur due to luck in the short term. If you want to understand variance and bankroll needs better, you can try the Primedope variance calculator.

Cash games

A good rule of thumb is to have 40 – 100 buy-ins for cash games. So, if you’re playing $0.10/$0.20 games and the typical buy-in is $20, aim for a bankroll of at least $800.

If you are playing live cash games, your win rate might be significantly higher than what is normally possible online. If this is the case 30 buy-ins might be enough.


A good rule of thumb is to have 100 – 200 buy-ins for tournaments. Tournaments have higher variance than cash games. The larger the field, the higher the variance. If you play small field tournaments or if you play live with a very high win rate you might get away with a bankroll of 50 – 100 buy-ins.

Play within your bankroll

It is tempting to jump into a higher stakes game when you’re on a winning streak, but remember that bigger stakes bring tougher opponents. Stick to the limits you’ve set for yourself and only move up when your bankroll and skill level allow for it. If you have decided your bankroll should be at least 40 buy-ins then you should go down in limit when it goes below that.

Shot taking

If you are an ambitious player moving up through the stakes and you are very confident in your ability, you might take shots at a higher stake before you are fully bankrolled for it. For example, you might decide to take a shot with 5 buy-ins on a level above your current level and move down immediately if it doesn’t work out. This can help you climb stakes faster, but it also increases the risk.

Final thoughts

Effective bankroll management isn’t just about protecting your funds; it’s about ensuring you can withstand the ups and downs of poker without letting them affect your overall game or well-being. Treat your bankroll with respect, and it’ll pave the way for a rewarding poker journey.

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