Bankroll Management – Don’t Go Broke

Important considerations

The next best thing to gambling and winning is gambling and losing. ” — Nick “The Greek” Dandalos

There is one rule by which I live — don’t go broke. Going broke means losing the freedom to work when, where, and how hard I want. Those perks outweigh having a ton of money. I could probably make more working for a trading firm, but who wants to work for someone else? My indirect goal is to earn but my primary goal is to keep myself in the lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to. I won’t avoid risk, but managing it is a tough skill. In this article, we’ll look at strategies to avoid going broke while making enough money to live.

Being +ev (positive expected value) in a game is not good enough — you must be +ev enough to make a living, otherwise you rate to go broke. In online games, you can compile reliable data as to your win rate, and extrapolate your annual earn, providing you with some measure of surety. Even there, you’re using past data, not a reliable indicator of future events — bad players might go broke, good players might move down (or up) to your stakes, you might not adjust, and there’s always some chance you were just running good.


Moving Up or Down in Stakes

If you’re playing more than one table online, it doesn’t make sense to restrict yourself to one stake. Just because you’re comfortably rolled for $2-$4, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play $1-$2 or even $0.50-$1 — those will likely be easier games. My personal preference is to have at least 80 buy-ins for my “regular” level — currently $3-$6, and play the next two levels down, and I’d recommend you do the same. When it comes time to move up, you could start taking shots when you have 60 buy-ins, but keep a strict stop-loss for the higher stakes — five buy-ins is plenty.

If you have a bad run, move down before you need to. Part of the reason for your bad run might be that the higher stakes games are more aggressive with higher variance, populated by tough players. Rebuild your confidence by playing in more passive, lower variance games at lower stakes. That way, if your bad run continues, your losses will be smaller and won’t affect you as much psychologically.


Online, you can buy in for varying amounts from 20 big blinds to 300, depending on the site. Many people legitimately dislike short-stackers, but it can be more profitable to buy in short, depending on your level of experience. Nonetheless, the best way to learn the game is to buy in for at least 100 big blinds. If you have the option, consider (depending on the stacks and players surrounding you) buying in deeper, and exposing yourself to tough, deep-stacked decisions to accelerate your learning curve.

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