Protecting your cash

In this section we’ll talk about...

In poker, as in life, looking after your money is a good habit to get into. In the game, this is called bankroll management, and it’s every bit as important as knowing what cards to play and when. The best players build their bankroll gradually and don’t think about trying the bigger tables until they’re ready. If that’s something you’re interested in, here are some tips to help you on your way.

Choosing your strategy

Be honest. Are you a casual player happy with small stakes, or someone looking to build your skills – and eventually, your winnings too?

If you’re just playing for fun, your bankroll doesn’t have be huge – as long as it’s money you’ve set aside for poker, and losing it won’t spell disaster.

If you want to play for money, you have to be a lot more prudent to build your bankroll without getting in over your head.

Keeping records

Dull as it sounds, keeping accurate records is essential for a healthy bankroll.

Starting today, write down (in a notebook or spreadsheet) every game you enter, with buy-in costs and returns. It can be as simple as recording how much you've won or lost on a given day – or include hours played, time of day, opponents, site statistics and what kind of mood you were in.

Over time, you can use this information to work out your strengths and weaknesses, improve your play, and calculate your hourly profits (or losses).

Moving up limits

Think you’re ready for the next level? The trick is to set aside a portion of your bankroll and be sensible.

Let’s say you’re comfortably beating the smaller games and you’ve increased your bankroll by a third. You use this extra money for some buy-ins at the next level up. If all goes well, you could soon be playing these stakes regularly. If not, you’ll still have enough to keep honing your skills at a level you can beat.

Remember, everyone has their comfort zone. If losing a third of your bankroll feels less like losing a few buy-ins, and more like losing half your rent, stay where you are and don’t push it. You don’t need the stress, and it won’t help your play.

Cashing out

Congratulations! You’re doing well at the tables, and your bankroll’s looking good. What are you going to do with the money?

One option is to take cash out and treat yourself. That’s great, although it does reduce your financial buffer if you want to go back in at the same level.

If you’re serious about moving up limits, you might want to hold off on that present to yourself and grow your money in the game, so you can work towards higher stakes.

Learn from the professionals

Professional players manage their bankroll like they’re running a business, taking out money to live on, while building their bankroll at the same time. This takes a lot of discipline and planning – which is why most people stick to the day job.

Still, it’s a lesson in point: to succeed at poker at any level you need to protect your money. In other words, playing within your means, and never betting more than you’re prepared to lose.