General concepts

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Playing According to Your Bankroll

The term “money management” is one of the most misused and over used in gambling.  Most people say that good money management is the ability to quit a poker game after losing a certain amount. 

They likewise say that good money management means pushing a winning streak and then quitting after you have lost back a little from your peak.

Unfortunately, all of the above is almost complete hogwash.  As long as you are clearly the favorite in a game you should usually keep playing your poker game regardless of how you are doing unless you are tired or have to go somewhere. 

If you discover that you are not one of the favorites in the game you should quit, once again regardless of how you are good poker hand you have (unless you are trying to hold a game together in hopes it will get better).

There can occasionally be some good strategic reasons to quit a game when you have the best of it.  If you are winning in a private game you may decide to quit in order to be sure that you will be invited back. 

If you are in a good casino game one reason to quit would be if you think there is an even better game somewhere else.  You should also not play all night in a fairly good game if this will not allow you to play the next day in what figures to be a better game. 

(I see pros make this mistake all the time, especially when they are losing.  They can’t seem to get it through their heads that tomorrow is another day.)

There are a couple of poker strategy to set a limit on your losses.  If you are losing quite a lot in a particular game you should consider quitting, not because your luck is running badly, by because you may be taking the worst of it. 

You may have underestimated your opponents or you may even be being cheated.  A good guideline would be not to lose more than about $ 400 in a $ 5-$ 10 game, $ 800 in a $ 10-$ 20 game, and so on proportionally. 

I’ll increase these figures upward a little when I am in what appears to be a very good game. A second reason to quit when you have lost of money occurs when the loss has diminished your bankroll to the point where you can no longer afford to play these stakes. 

Do not risk going broke.  If you quit at this point you will still be able to play in smaller-stakes games and grind your money back in a week or two.

You may say that one should not be playing in high-stakes games when one cannot afford to take a big loss.  I agree with this to a point, but there is an important exception which I have never seen discussed before.

It is true that when you are on a limited bankroll you should play games you can afford.  For instance, I would normally recommend having at least $ 5,000 before playing in a $ 10-$ 20 game. 

(This assumes, of course, that you are a good enough player to beat it.  Slightly less money would be required if you are far and away the best player.)

Unfortunately, if you are a good poker player, restricting yourself to smaller games will cut into your profits.  You might be able to beat a $ 10 limit game for $ 15 an hour, but can beat a $ 20 limit game for $ 25 an hour. 

Your bankroll, however, forces you to play the smaller game.  Is that all there is to it?  I say not always. Let me explain.

There is an optimum way to play in a poker game. This optimum method should yield the greatest profit. You could play tighter than this optimum strategy, but it will cost you money. 

The only advantage to this tighter strategy is that you will incur smaller fluctuations.  What good does that to you?  It does do some good when you are on a limited bankroll. 

If you have enough money to play optimally in a $ 50 –$ 10 game you might be able to afford to play tighter than optimally in a $ 10-$ 20 game and still make more money than in the $ 5- $ 10 game!

In spite of what the poker play expert might say, it is not always true that if you can’t play your best, you shouldn’t play.  If you find a very good game at stakes a little over your head, the correct play is not to pass the game. 

Neither is it right to take a “shot” with your normal-style game.  Suppose you think the game is worth $ 80 an hour.  It might be right to play in a way that will win $ 50 an hour if this will drastically reduce your fluctuations to the point where point where you can afford them. 

With a limited bankroll, this is your best alternative. The specific technique that should be used is generally to play tighter than normal. When in doubt, fold. A second aspect to this strategy is to avoid slowplaying. Try to thin out the field, even with your very good hands. 

Playing this way may reduce your expected profit, but will insure winning a high percentage of the pots you play. As long as the game is good, this strategy should still beat the game quite nicely without putting your bankroll in too much jeopardy. Keep it in mind.

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