Stud: Bankroll reader mail

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

I had been hoping to move forward this week to discuss “per game” money management, but, due to your many responses to last week’s blog, which covered bankroll needs, I felt compelled to address your questions on this important issue.

It seems like your two major concerns were:

1) How your bankroll needs change as either a semi-pro (one who plays to make extra money), or a recreational player (one who plays for enjoyment regardless of results).

2) What should be done when you bankroll either goes higher or lower than the standards we have already discussed.

To answer the first part, we have already established bankroll needs in my last two blogs for a professional or budding professional player. The semi-pro, who already has an income from other sources which enables him/her to pay all the bills, has more leeway with regards to how he/she can use his/her bankroll specifically for poker.

For instance, we have used the guideline that as a pro, you need to have put away one full year of living expenses, i.e. $60,000, plus you should have an additional $30,000 to play $30/$60 limit poker online. But, as a semi-pro, if you actually had $90,000, and also have a steady income high enough to pay all of your expenses, you can gamble higher with your $90,000 bankroll, and play limits such as $100/$200. As a semi-pro, that $90,000 would strictly be your poker bankroll, and never used for expenses.

I realize that many of you are playing poker to earn some extra money (beyond your other income), which I appreciate. As a guideline, I would use the 100x the small bet rule as a minimum bankroll, i.e., you should have $30,000 to play $30/$60 limits online. Remember, that’s just your playing bankroll, separate from your other income and your other expenses.

Moving on to your next concern, we already established that as a pro, besides needing one year’s expenses set aside, you would also need an applicable bankroll to play in a high enough limit game to enable you to earn enough money to pay your bills. That is assuming you are a good enough player, and follow the other necessary guidelines I laid out for you in a previous blog.

In my opinion, the minimum limit online that you can do this would be $15/$30 or maybe $20/$40, whether it is in a single game or multiple concurrent games.

But, as a semi-pro, there is no reason that you should not play in games that are either smaller or larger, based on your poker bankroll.

Let’s say you work a standard 40-hour week in your regular job. You can then set aside 15 hours or so to play online, which gives you the utmost convenience as opposed to having to drive (sometimes) large distances to a casino. These 15 “real” hours can actually translate into 25-30 weekly “game” hours if you play in two games simultaneously.

Let’s also say you start with a $10,000 poker bankroll. With that amount, I suggest playing $10/$20 limits. Now, everybody’s goals are different. Some of you may want to use whatever you earn from poker to buy things, or invest. Others may want to just keep building their poker bankroll to get to play higher limits, and maybe accumulate enough money (and skill) to try and turn pro.

What I am getting at is that when your $10,000 bankroll gets to $20,000, you now have the option to play $20/$40 limits, if you want. If it dips under $20,000, you can go back to $10/$20. You have to make a decision as to how much risk is right for you.

For solely recreational players, these bankroll numbers do not have to be followed so closely. They can take $10,000 and go play $100/$200 with it, almost like going to the craps table. Just remember, the higher you play with a smaller bankroll, the higher the “Risk Of Ruin” – the risk of going broke.

Some of you also asked me about “taking shots”, which translates into using a lower than necessary bankroll to play in a higher limit game when it is “juicy.”

As a pro, I would stay away from taking shots, since going broke puts you out of business. One bad session can break you, or force you to play lower limits where you can’t make enough money to live on. As a semi-pro, I condone taking shots only if you are prepared to step down again if you lose in that higher limit game. And, when I say “higher limit,” I mean one notch higher, i.e., trying $20/$40 rather than $10/$20, but no more.

As a purely recreational player, I do not put any strict guidelines on the limits you can play. If you’re there to gamble, play as high as you want, but do give yourself enough of a fighting chance to win in that session, i.e. with a $10,000 bankroll, don’t play higher than $150/$300, which gives you 33x the big bet ($300x33= $9900), which is a standard money management guideline that I recommend you follow, and will begin to cover next week. If you’re there to just have fun, and you don’t want to risk painful damage to your bankroll, then stay playing lower limits. If you’re there to just enjoy yourself, then lower risk (and lower possible reward) is better for you. While discipline and bankroll management are less important to the recreational player, they are still essential poker skills.

It’s also very important to reiterate that bankroll requirements all assume you are a winning player who is trying to avoid going broke (or at least minimize the chances) when the inevitable downswings occur. If you are a losing player, no amount of bankroll will prevent your eventually going broke.

Thank you for your questions and comments. Feel free to e-mail me at, or find me in our $10/$20 or $30/$60 Stud High, Stud Hi/Lo, and Razz games at PokerStars.

Want more? Visit the PokerStars Blog Stud archive.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Strategy