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Starting out in Poker, Part II: True Bankroll Management

There’s a lot of information on the Internet, in books and magazines, coaching sites etc on what your bankroll management plan should be, in exact numbers. Take whichever seems fit for your needs: but keep in mind one thing while you’re at it: taylor the plan till you’re confortable with the number of buyins for a specific limit.

A lot of us guys that totally crush nowadays started with a very small bankroll and just worked our way through the limits from the smallest one, right to the top. It’s always a very good decision to start with NL2 which means 0.01c/0.02c and see if you can beat that limit for a few buyins, and not start at a high limit trying to beat that right off the bat and losing a few thousand dollars. If you can’t beat the lowest limit in poker, how can you sit down with the big boys and constantly win? If you’re saying that people at that limit are bad and that’s why you’re losing because they do “stupid” stuff, well you’re way off. If you can’t beat bad players, you don’t stand a chance against good players, as plain as that. So get your butt to work and play the newbies!

Also, a solid winrate can’t be determined on a few thousand hands, you need to play at least 50.000 to get closer to your real level at that limit, but if you’re a total clear winner over 20.000 and your bankroll can take it, you can take a crack at the next one as long as you remember to go down if needed and not jeopardize all of your funds. And when you’re at the top, remember that this is where you started!

As a cliff-note, I’ve found the number of buyins for comfortable play at each limit in Texas Hold’em to be:

  • NL2 – For a beginner, I’d suggest 50 full buyins, but for someone who’s breaking even, at least, over a long stretch of hands, 20-25 are enough. That’s 100$ and 40-50$, what most of us pros have started with, chief.
  • NL5 – After you’re beating NL2, there’s a strong chance that you’ll hit some swings here, but mostly be breakeven. This means that from this limit onwards, we’ve advanced by beating the lower limit and usually will be breakeven to slightly losing at the next one. For that, I suggest 25 buyins at least.
  • NL10 – 30 buyins. Competition gets tougher as you move up in limits and so does variance. You’ll be having more swings, so you should at least feel confident that you grinded upwards from NL2 through NL5 to a 300$ bankroll. Time for a real challenge!
  • NL20/25 – 30 buyins. This won’t be as different as moving from NL5 to NL10, the step is not that big in skill gap, but the pressure will be. 600-750$ should do the trick.
  • NL50 – This is where the real action starts. Where money actually starts mattering and it’s basically the limit that, if achieved, you know you’re on the right track and you’re doing extremely good. If you just got here, congratulations! You need 40 buyins here, where the real men are weeded out from the little boys. Pat yourself on the back and push on three times as hard! Also, this is the lowest limit that I personally recommend cashing out from, after you’ve played at least 50.000 hands and you know that you’re beating it clearly.
  • NL100 – 40-50 buyins as a precautionary method of not falling into the trap of variance. At this limit, things start to go crazy and even the best of the best can go down in a blaze of glory for a lot of buyins. It’s good to have your own stash, so when you have that minus 10 buyin session, you don’t feel phased by the end result and keep playing poker like a champ.
  • NL200, NL500 and upwards – This should be a matter of comfort and when you’re beating NL100 you should really know what you’re doing. Taking a shot at these limits is also good, to get some experience, and maybe to earn some of that cold hard cash, baby! Some people prefer going upwards at these limits when they have in excess of 100 buyins. Taking shots here will let you set your comfort levels, so allocating 3-4 buyins for the desired limit should prove itself to be a cheap and effective lesson.

 

 

About Tudor Scriminti

Computer Science BSc Graduate, started playing poker online since 2007, professionally since 2012, won $50k playing micro-stakes with over 2.5 million hands experience, coach to over 500 happy students and loves to game on the side when has some free time!