The first step to playing poker as a hobby is learning about poker strategy bankroll management. This will ensure that you survive the ebbs and flows that are inevitable with a game of incomplete information. It will also ensure that your play isn’t affected by fear of loss. 

That’s because poker bankroll is money you can afford to lose. Unless you’re a pro, it’s separate from your living expenses. That way, if you experience a cold spell, you won’t start playing from fear, which can result in impatience and tilt. Cold streaks are inevitable and shouldn’t affect the way you play. 

If you read about poker bankroll management online, you’ll see that it’s all about playing within your bankroll’s limits. Different types of games require different bankroll sizes and knowing the minimum bankroll requirements for game types will dictate whether or not you can afford to play them. We’ll begin with Texas Hold’em. Hold’em tournaments, no-limit cash games, limit cash games and sit-n-go’s all have unique bankroll requirements, because they each have unique levels of variance. As a rule of thumb, the more variance a game has, the larger your bankroll needs to be.


Multi-Table Tournament Poker 

If your plan is to become a poker tournament pro, you’re going to need a bigger bankroll than cash game players. There’s more variance with tournaments, and the more people competing, the higher the variance. You should aim for a bankroll with at least 100 buy-ins for regular tournaments, and double that for tournaments with over 2,000 players that have top-heavy payout structures. For example, Bovada’s Golden Spade Poker Open Event No. 111 has a $33 ($30+$3) buy-in. To play at these stakes, your bankroll should be at least $3,300.


Cash Games

To practice effective poker cash game bankroll management, you should take into account which poker game you’re playing: Texas Hold’em, Omaha, or Omaha Hi/Lo. Each of these games brings a different level of variance to the table. For the same reason, you should also note which betting structure the game uses: fixed-limit, pot-limit, or no-limit.


NL Cash Games

The most popular games at Bovada Poker – and around the world – are the no-limit games, especially no-limit Texas Hold’em. As a quick rule of thumb, you should have a bankroll of 20 buy-ins for no-limit Texas Hold’em. The buy-in for a cash game can be anywhere up to the max amount allowed, although most people choose to play 100 big blinds deep.

The cheapest cash games at Bovada are 2NL, or 1c/2c blinds, which would require a $40 bankroll using the recommended guidelines for Hold’em. However, consider using even more buy-ins if you’re playing at 6-max tables rather than full ring. Fewer people at the table means you’ll be in more pots, so you need to account for that higher variance.

It’s also a good idea to adjust your buy-in levels higher or lower when you’re playing games other than Hold’em. As a split pot game, Omaha Hi/Lo has by far the least variance, since so many of the pots you play will be chopped between one player with the high hand and another with the low hand. This will allow you to play NL comfortably with fewer than 20 buy-ins. Omaha, on the other hand, can get really swingy – fortunes can rise and fall dramatically, since the difference in value between the best and worst hands is a lot smaller than it is in Hold’em, and more pots end up going all the way to showdown. Bring more buy-ins to the table when you play Omaha so that you can ride out these swings and avoid going bust.


Limit Cash Games

Another great way to smooth out the variance in poker is to play under a different betting structure than no-limit. Most Omaha cash games are played under pot-limit rules, where the most you can bet at any one time is the size of the pot. That will lessen the impact of a bad run of cards. Even better, try playing Fixed-Limit cash games, also known as Limit games for short. The biggest bet you can make in limit poker is the big bet, which is twice the size of the big blind.

Limit poker is the most popular way to play Omaha Hi/Lo, making this arguably the best game for building a bankroll – provided you play well enough to have an edge on your opponents. Limit Hold’em used to be the most popular version of that variant until the no-limit games took over sometime around the early 2000s. Limit Hold’em cash games require a much smaller bankroll than the No-Limit version; 300 big bets is a safe starting point. 

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Bankroll Management for Sit-n-Go’s

Sit-n-go’s are the happy medium of poker variance. They compress the time commitment and the payout structure of larger tournaments, allowing you to put in more volume while also reducing the highs and lows of your bankroll’s progress. Again, your buy-in requirements will depend on which games you’re playing. The vast majority of sit-n-go’s are no-limit Hold’em, but the number of players at the table will differ.


Single-Table SNG

If you’re playing a classic Single-Table sit-n-go at a full-ring table, you should have a minimum of 30 buy-ins before signing up, compared to at least 100 buy-ins for a Multi-Table tournament. Bring more buy-ins to the table if you’re playing a 6-max or a short-handed SNG.


Heads-Up SNG

This is as small as a sit-n-go can get. You can play these more quickly than other SNGs and put in more volume, but all the prize money goes to the winner, so variance can once again rear its ugly head. Try 50 buy-ins or more with this format.

Keep in mind, learning the basic bankroll requirements for all the different games is just a starting point. There are other factors that affect how to manage poker bankroll considerations properly, such as style of play and quality of opposition. As you improve at poker, you’ll be able to account for these differences better and adjust accordingly, but for now, stick with these guidelines. Best of luck at the tables.