Texas Hold'em No Limit Beginner

How Not to Lose Your First Poker Bankroll

1,841 Views 2 Comments on 2/1/18

Losing your bankroll can turn into a vicious cycle and in this article, we're going to explain how to avoid that.

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Poker players have many things in common with each other. Most of us like the freedom associated with playing poker, we welcome the challenge that the game provides, we're not too fond of the old 9 to 5 job formula and... most of us lost our first bankroll. Despite what the interviews with famous pros would lead you to believe, "I deposited 50 bucks and never looked back" is far from being a standard story.

The loss of the first bankroll is almost a right of passage for the vast majority of poker players and it will happen to you if you're not careful - odds are certainly stacked against you in that regard. Furthermore, if you fail to learn from your mistakes and from the mistakes of countless players before you, losing your bankroll can turn into a vicious cycle and in this article, we're going to explain how to avoid that. 


Bankroll Management is for Winners

Even if you're a total beginner who barely had the chance to read an article or two about poker, you most likely already heard about this wonderful thing called bankroll management. Bankroll management is supposedly the very thing that separates professionals from gamblers, making poker a game of skill instead of the luck-based crapshoot all the other casino games are. There's, however, one small catch - you have to be a winning player in order for any bankroll management strategy to work and this bit is kinda tricky given how only about 8-10% of poker players are winners at their respective stakes.

Bankroll management strategies are calculated based on one's risk of ruin (or - to put it bluntly - the probability that you'll lose all your money) assuming certain win rate, and guess what, if your win rate is below 0 your risk of ruin by definition rises to 100% (given a long enough time period). It takes a lot of time and dedication to become a winner and that makes losing your first bankroll (and every subsequent one if you don't learn from your mistakes) very likely. This is why you have to be honest with yourself, realize that you're not going to become a winner overnight and plan for that. The one thing you can do as far as bankroll management is concerned is maximizing the amount of time it will take you to lose all your money by playing the lowest stakes that are available to you until you're reasonably sure that you can beat them and advance to the next level.

You can lose a 200$ bankroll in a few click playing NL50 games, but the same amount of money will last you a whole lot longer at NL5 even if your skill level isn't very high.



Bad Math Dies Last

While we're on the subject of misconceptions regarding bankroll management let's briefly talk about another one. Even though it's 2017, many beginner articles still use bankroll recommendations that were barely applicable in 2006 when any smart person with some free time had the ability to win at micro stakes almost right of the bat. There's this idea that 20 or 30 buy-ins is an adequate bankroll for no-limit hold'em cash games and it's probably the worst piece of advice that anyone who started playing poker after 2010 ever received.

Don't get me wrong, even 15 buy-ins can be plenty if you're a 10bb/100 crusher but first of all, you're most likely not and second of all, you have no way of knowing even if you are. 20-30 buy-in bankroll recommendations are based on the old 5% or less risk of ruin calculations, designed for 5-10bb/100 winners which means that they aren't applicable for most semi-pro or even professional players in the current poker landscape not to mention the absolute beginners.

50-100 buy-ins should've become a standard recommendation a very long time ago and the fact that it didn't, tells us a lot about poker players tendency, to overestimate their skill level.



Study and You Shall Receive

Let's inject some optimism into this article. Delaying a certain demise by playing the lowest stakes possible is not your only course of action. It's just a necessary insurance based on realistic assumptions. Even though winning at poker is not as easy as it was a decade ago it's still possible, even in a reasonably short time frame, assuming you're committed enough and humble enough to start at micro stakes where the water is still plenty warm for the potential cold-blooded sharks.

The key lies in the proper study to play ratio. As a beginner, you should study at least one or two hours for every one hour of gameplay. Even something like three to four hours of studying might be a good idea depending on your personality, though you most likely shouldn't go beyond that, otherwise you can become gun-shy and that can be a tough issue to overcome. Most beginner players fail to hold on to their first bankroll because they lack self-awareness and patience.

Given the fact that these two qualities are essential for any successful poker player, you might want to get an early start on developing them and instead of going in guns blazing, playing NL25 with 100$ bankroll you should take a deep breath, one step back, read a few articles, watch some strategy videos and test your newly gained knowledge in a relatively safe environment of NL2-10 games.

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Matt VIP

Matt is predominantly a mental game and planning expert, with a terrific knowledge of science, meditation, practical methods of improvement and of course, a good level of poker skill! Look out for his strategy articles and follow him for his nobel-prize winning forum po ... Read More

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CycleVancouver

CycleVancouveron 4/1/18

Great article Matt. Q for you: do you have a source for the 8-10% are winners per stake stat? I'm sure you do, I'd just love to see it. For live players we have zero idea how many people are winners; likely all of our estimates are way too high, esp with higher rake and tips.

MattVIP

MattVIPon 10/1/18

Given how the result of those calculations would be different in every specific environment (the higher the poker room rake the lower the % of winners etc.) and there's very little incentive for entities with access to all the data to make them, I can't really point you to anything specific. That said, this meme is strong enough to persist throughout poker literature and if it's good enough for guys who wrote "Poker Mindset" it's good enough for me. I'm using the range (8-10%) to convey the fact that specific values aren't all that important, what matters is the reality of the situation that all poker players find themselves in, courtesy of the existence of rake. Hope that helps. Feel free to make a follow-up comment if you want to talk more about this. Have a nice one!

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