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Bankroll Requirements For Limit Cash Games

Bankroll Requirements For Limit Cash Games

Steve Ruddock
February 10th 2006

In Part I of this series I briefly outlined what a bankroll is and why it is necessary for poker success. I also outlined the two types of bankrolls, professional and recreational. The rest of the series will discuss professional bankroll requirements for different structures of poker based on the structure and limit you are playing as well as the variables I briefly touched on in part I.

A professional bankroll for limit cash games is between 250 and 1,000 Big Bets. A big bet refers to the bet size when the stakes double in the game, such as; on the turn and river in Hold’ Em and Omaha and 5th street in Stud. If you were playing a $5/$10 game, the $10 amount would be the big bet. Therefor in a $5/$10 game you would need between $2,500 and $10,000.

You may be saying, “that is a pretty big discrepancy, from $2,500 to $10,000!” Those figures are dependent on a set minimum bankroll along with 4 variables that will vary from person to person. Because of these variables some people will need a substantially larger bankroll than others.

The set base is always 10 buy-ins of the highest stakes you intend to play. Someone playing $2/$4 will have vastly different bankroll needs than someone playing a $100/$200 game in terms of money. However, in terms of number of buy-ins there requirements will be roughly the same.

First let me explain what a buy-in is. When you sit down in a casino or click on a seat online you will have to put some amount of money into play, this is your buy-in. Whatever amount you choose to put on the table is the amount you are willing to risk. Unlike what you see in the movies, you are not allowed to go into your pocket or have the wife go get the deed to the house during the middle of a hand; if it wasn’t on the table when the cards were dealt, you can’t bet it. On the internet, you can only bet and lose what you bought in for, even if you have $10,000 more on the site.

A standard buy-in for a limit game is 25 times the amount of the Big Bet. Therefore in a $10/$20 game, a typical buy-in would be $500 (25 x $20 = $500). Buying-in for this amount means that if you lose a hand or two you won’t have to go back into your pocket or to an ATM machine right away. Remember, luck is part of the game; pocket aces don’t always win! Buying-in for this amount will also allow you to play hands out to the end. You don’t want to hit quads only to realize you only have a small amount left to bet before you are all-in.

This 10 buy-in amount will be our starting point for determining your bankroll requirements. Few players will be able to play with a bankroll this small, although there are exceptions. For the rest of us mere mortals there are 4 other variables to consider.

  • Your Comfort Level When Dealing with Losses

The first variable to consider is how well you deal with losses. This is what I call an emotional bankroll. Some players, despite having a $1,000 bankroll, cannot cope with losing a couple hundred dollars. Even though they are properly bankrolled for a certain limit they are not emotionally ready to play that limit.

If this is the case, you will need to adjust your bankroll higher than the minimum requirement of 10 buy-ins. If you are frustrated or angry you will not play to the best of your ability, that will lead to further losses. If you are playing at a limit where a large, but not improbable, loss affects you emotionally I recommend adding 5 buy-ins to your bankroll requirements.

  • Your Willingness to Drop Down in Limits after Losses

Some players simply refuse to put their egos on the back-burner and drop back down in limits when things are going bad. Players will take a shot at a higher limit with a minimum bankroll for the new limit and refuse to move down when their entire bankroll is suddenly in jeopardy.

A good rule of thumb is; if your bankroll at your current limit falls to 10 or fewer buy-ins of the next limit down, you should drop down to that limit or even lower. If you are the type of player who will have trouble humbling yourself and dropping back in limits I recommend adding 5 buy-ins to your bankroll requirements.

  • Your Variance

Variance is the up and down swings your bankroll goes through. If you make $20 an hour playing poker this does not mean you make $20 every hour you play. One hour you might make $200 another you might lose $150 and still another win $31. This is variance.

Some players take more chances than others pushing marginal situations while others are more conservative and their swings are less pronounced. Pushing small edges is a winning play in the long run but will also increase short term variance. In addition to this, newer players tend to make more mistakes than more experienced players so their fluctuations will tend to be higher.

Whatever the reason, players with higher variance need larger bankrolls since they are more likely to have larger downswings and more of them (of course, their upswings will also be larger).

If you have the more than occasional down swing of 25BBs or more in a session you should add 5 buy-ins to your bankroll requirements.

  • Can You Replenish Your Bankroll from an Outside Source?

Someone who can add $100 from their paycheck every week to cover any poker losses they sustained will not require a bankroll as large as someone who has no way other than poker to replenish their bankroll.

Compare these two scenarios:

Geoff has a 10 buy-in bankroll and has a bad run of cards culminating in the loss of 5 buy-ins, so he correctly drops down in limits.

Bob on the other hand, has a 10 buy-in bankroll and also had a bad run of cards costing him half of his roll. However, unlike Geoff, Bob adds 3 buy-ins from an outside source and rides out his losing streak without having to drop back in limits.

They both made the correct decision in terms of their bankrolls, so why are their two situations drastically different? Because, Bob can continue to play the higher limit until his bad streak comes to an end, allowing him to recoup those losses faster. Geoff will be trying to recoup $10/$20 losses at the $5/$10 tables while Bob will still be playing $10/$20.

If you are unable to replenish part of your bankroll from an outside source, I recommend adding 10 buy-ins to your bankroll requirements.

Now that we have determined the four variables let’s get a little better acquainted with Bob and Geoff, and take a closer look at the bankroll each might require:

Bob has about a year of experience playing poker and has become a winning player. Bob has a good job but wants to start playing $10/$20 Hold’ Em on the internet for extra income. Bob is a pretty grounded guy who realizes there will be ups and downs in the beginning of this undertaking. How many buy-ins should Bob have in order to start playing $10/$20 Hold’ Em?

First, we’ll begin with our 10 buy-in minimum rule. Now, Bob is a grounded guy, therefore he will be willing to move down in limits and will stay emotionally stable about losses. Bob also has a good job, so he will be able to replenish some losses to his bankroll. However, Bob is also a newer player, so his variance will probably be on the high side. Because of this, Bob should add 5 buy-ins to his bankroll. Therefore, I would recommend a 15 buy-in bankroll for Bob, or $7,500 for $10/$20 Hold’ Em.

Geoff has about 2 years of experience playing internet poker, and relies on his poker winnings as his only source of income. Recently Geoff has been contemplating moving up to $10/$20 Hold’ Em. Geoff is very competitive and doesn’t like losing. How many buy-ins should Geoff have in order to start playing $10/$20 Hold’ Em?

Again we will start with our 10 buy-in minimum. Unlike Bob, Geoff is emotional and competitive so he is unlikely to drop back down in stakes. Geoff should thus add 5 buy-ins for being emotional, and 5 buy-ins for having an unwillingness to drop down in limits.

Geoff is a little further along than Bob in experience and a proven winner, so his variance should be lower. Geoff also has no way other than poker of replenishing his bankroll so he should add a further 10 buy-ins. Therefore, I would recommend that Geoff start with a 30 buy-in bankroll, or $15,000 for $10/$20 Hold’ Em.

Although both players in the examples above were playing the same stakes, each needed different bankrolls because of their style of play, personality traits, and income sources. When determining your own bankroll needs remember to go over all of these factors, and most importantly be honest when you evaluate yourself.

In Part III of this series I will discuss Bankroll requirements for No Limit and Pot Limit Games.

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