The fuel of poker is money. No money, no poker. Ever play poker without money?  The game quickly falls apart because nothing is at risk.  Everyone bets the universe at every card.  No value, no risk.  No risk, no game.  It’s as simple as that.  So you need money to play poker. So let’s talk about your bankroll.  What is it?  Why do you need one?  Where to you get it?

All medium and lower-limit poker players eventually experience a time in their playing careers when they ponder moving up to high low poker limit. The smaller games are offering small, consistent wins.  It follows then that a larger game would offer larger consistent wins.  And wouldn’t that be nice.  But before you move up think.

Your most important thoughts should be about your bankroll. Is it big enough for the limit you want to play? And how big is big enough?

Most medium and low-limit players never consider the question of bankroll. They usually just sit down and play with the money they happen to have in their jeans. If it’s enough for a buy-in, they play.  If it’s not, they don’t.  their “bankroll” is whatever cash they happen to be holding at the time. For many of these players, a loss breaks them and they can’t play again until they acquire more money, probably by waiting until payday. For the most part, medium and low-limit players are recreational players who sometimes win, sometimes lose. Mostly, they manage to stay about even or run a little behind-nothing really serious or they couldn’t keep playing.

But they all eventually look across the room to a higher-limit game and think about walking over there to have a seat.  This thought usually occurs to them when they’re scored a nice win. It’s just a short walk from over here to over there.  But keep in mind, it’s a long walk back.

When you go over there, plan ahead, so you’ll be able to stay over there. A bankroll.  What is it?  A bankroll is not the money you happen to have on you at the moment.  A bankroll is a specific amount of money you have set aside for the purpose of playing the game of poker.

Your rent does not come out of your bankroll. Neither does gasoline, shoes, or trolley fare. Your bankroll is playing money. Period.

Why do you need a bankroll? If you’re playing with whatever money you happen to have with you, the first loss will send you right back to the lower limit, or even out of action entirely.  So you have to be prepared for a loss.  That’s why you need a bankroll.

Your bankroll is “where you go ” to get back into action.  If you’re not in action you can’t win.  And if you don’t have a bankroll, you can’t be in action. How much money should you have in your bankroll?  As much as you can muster.

The more you have in reserve, the more comfortable you’ll feel about playing at the higher limit. And if you’re not comfortable, it’s going to be difficult to win. Feel at ease when you sit down so that you could, if need be, afford some short-term reverses.

Don’t play on a short bankroll, especially when you’re moving up to a higher limit. It’s too tough psychologically.

If you take a few losses, you could be devastated. Be comfortable. Consider these amounts as minimums for playing regularly at the indicated limits.  To play $1-$4 or $1-$5, you’ll want a bankroll of at least $1,500 devoted exclusively to playing poker.  At $3-$6, $2,000.  To play regularly in the $4-$10 limit games, sock away $3,000 before you sit down.  At $10-$20, you’ll want $6,000.

I want to stress again that there are minimums and this money is for playing poker only. Where do you get this bankroll?  The absolute best way to acquire it would be to save it out of your winnings from the lower-limit games. There’s nothing like playing on someone else’s money.

So here’s an incentive to increase your poker skills and sharpen your play. Your wins are going toward a bankroll so that you can move up in limits and build an even bigger bankroll and then move up again.


Student poker players often ask how much they should lose before quitting a given game.  And how much to win.  I have no formulas or set amounts, but I do have some thoughts. As for how much to lose-poker authorities used to give percentages and amounts and formulas to set limits on your losses.  But I make it much simpler than that.  Now I say:

Quit when it begins to hurt.

The amount is completely subjective.  For one person it might “hurt” at $20.  for another it might be $20,000.  The number isn’t important.  What is important is the effect it has on you and your playing ability. If you’re hurting, either financially or emotionally, you won’t be playing your best poker.

Consider too that when you are losing it’s possible that your game is off somewhere.  Maybe you took a bad beat and it has affected your play without your even realizing it.  (It happens, even to the pros.)  You might have become a big less aggressive after getting a couple of hands cracked, so you don’t make the raise where you normally would.

Maybe you’re just being outplayed Or maybe your game is right on, in top form, but your cards just aren’t holding up. If you are losing, something is wrong somewhere. Unless you can discover what that something is, I think you’ll be better off getting up and absorbing the loss. Tomorrow is another day hopefully a better day.   As for how much to win, no more formulas here either and no limits.

If you’re winning, and are favored to keep winning, keep playing.  I personally like to play from four to six hours in a session, and make my decision about staying or leaving during the last two hours.  But if the people I’m playing with are having a party and giving away money, I’ll stay as long as the party lasts and I’m getting the most favors.

Most professional players don’t let their winning or losing be the deciding factor in whether they play or leave.

Rather, they make their judgment on the basis of whether the game is potentially a good money maker, or a dull, grind-it-out affair. So it appears that the only reason for leaving a good poker game, other than discovering that you are not up to playing your best, is one of personal considerations. You may be tired, or hungry, or have a commitment elsewhere. Remember the old saying: “If it’s raining money, turn your umbrella upside down.”


Has Mr. West gone mad?  Care he not for the rewards of skillful poker?  The transfer of monies from unskilled players to those of skill?  What does he mean: losing is meaningless and it just doesn’t matter? Winning is not usually a problem for a poker player.  But losing can be.

You don’t have to cope with winning, but you do have to cope with losing.  So let’s consider losing. It’s meaningless.  It just doesn’t matter. Consider that you will play in only one poker game during your entire lifetime. The game of poker was being played for many years before you were born, and it will continue long after you are gone.

The game is always being played, somewhere.  We can consider, then, that in terms of your lifetime, poker is continuous game with no beginning and no end.  There is no conclusion.  Therefore, being ahead or behind for a certain session is of no real importance. Poker is not like baseball where, when the game is completely over, there is a winner and a loser.

Poker is more like comparing the third inning to the fourth inning.  Or, as another example, it is like going for the pennant.  In that case, you have to play something like 162 games.  So if you win or lose the first few game of the season, it’s not conclusive.  You still have 155 games to go.  You don’t have to win all 162 games. If you win somewhere around 100, you’ll be in the playoffs. So your play is not based on winning every day, but on winning in the long run. With that in mind, you won’t consider a loss on a given day to be important.  You’ll be back tomorrow to continue winning.

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