Stud: Session money management

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

Prior to beginning this week, I would again like to thank all of you for your positive support with regards these blogs. I appreciate your feedback, and that many of you find these blogs useful. But I would like to make clear that the concepts I am giving in my blogs are mine, and not necessarily the views of anyone else at PokerStars.

In my last blog, we finished up discussing necessary bankroll for all types of poker players, i.e., professionals, extra money earners, and recreational players.

I would now like to cover another very important topic, one that is important to follow to enable you to have a fighting chance to be successful, which to me means maximizing your potential winnings every session.
Per session money management is a very underrated and under-emphasized topic. It is a concept that seems to be ambiguous in its nature, but shouldn’t be.

You will usually find three disparate views of this topic. The first is strictly mathematical. It is where someone considers each hand completely independently, and does not believe in “rushes,” either positive or negative, in any way. These players generally feel that over a certain amount of hours (let’s say 2,000), their earn will be the same whether or not they stayed or left the table winning or losing, never changed seats while playing, never used “instincts” when to stay or leave a game, and basically played the same amount of hours in the same type of game and limit every session no matter what the circumstances. There is no consideration given to the ebb and flow of the game.

The second type of player is one who uses “rushes” or “instincts” to determine when he/she should stay at or leave a table. These types of players tend to change seats a lot in a game, and will even gamble in certain hands less or more, depending on how he/she is doing at the table or how he/she “feels.”
The third type of player is one who sets strict win/loss guidelines, using monetary upside and downside to determine whether to stay or leave a game.

I tend to fall into a combination of all three categories.

After tens of thousands of hours playing in all different type of poker games, limits, locations, etc., I feel that there should be specific monetary stopgaps as to when you should stay and leave a table for a given session.

I feel that this applies to online poker even more than live games, because there is so much availability of different games, and the waiting time to get into a game online is usually substantially less than in a live casino. Also factoring in not having to travel when playing online makes this style of money management even more prudent.

In a live casino, where sometimes you have to travel long distances to get there and wait to get into your game of choice, you may tend to “overstay” your time at the table because you dread the ride home or the wait time to get back into the game. This can sometimes be a negative thing when it comes to making rational decisions. Online, there is almost always a game of your choice available, at your limit.
Using my many years of experience, I have come up with a blanket rule of per session money management, both for upside and downside, which works well for me. Whenever I sit down for a session, I try to get a “decision,” win or lose. This means I am looking to win at least a certain amount, but I understand that I can lose a certain amount as well. On both of those sides, I am looking to get a “20 times the big bet” decision. If we are playing $30/$60, that translates into $1,200 either way.

On the downside, I am committed to not losing more than that amount. On the upside, winning that amount is my goal, but I will stay longer if I am already ahead that amount and my profits are still growing. You should have no stop limit as to how much you can win, as well as how long you should stay to win as much as you can.

But, once you have earned 20x the big bet in a session, you should never lose back more than half of that amount. Therefore, if we are playing $30/$60 limit poker, once you are ahead $1200 or more, you may decide to play on if the game is good, to try to continue your rush. But should the tide turn, you should allow yourself to lose back $600. You should never lose back more than that amount.

It should not matter how that $600 is lost, i.e. getting grinded out with antes or small pots, or losing one large one. If you have lost back $599, ante up. If you have lost back $601 (or more), quit. It’s that simple.
This works for me for a couple of different reasons. First, since I do believe in “rushes,” I feel that 10x the big bet is a good number to determine if you are beginning to get on one -- as an upswing or a downswing.
Secondly, it will be very demoralizing to give back a nice win if that in fact is happening. Even if you do not believe in the “rush” concept, and just look at every hand as random, it will still be mentally (and potentially financially) demoralizing for this to occur.

On the downside, I use similar principles. If I am down $1,199 or less, I ante up. If I am down $1,201 or more, I quit.

I also use another related principle, which applies when I was at some point losing between 15-20x the big bet, and have now gotten back to even. When that happens, I will keep playing if I keep winning, but once I have gotten even after being stuck that big amount, I give myself one hand to lose and then quit. Again, I feel that it is too demoralizing to have fought so hard to get back to even (which can sometimes takes hours), to then risk getting stuck again.

I have no concrete reason as to why I use the 20x stop-loss other than finding, in the research that I have done both from my own experiences and speaking to numerous other successful professional players, that is a good general guideline to follow. It works for me. The reasons are psychological, but perhaps you will also find that these psychological thresholds work for you, too.

There are two principal reasons why this works for me. When I am losing, no matter how solid I am still playing (which is a formidable task within itself), the other players at the table are winning, which makes them play better. They are looking at the losing player as a “target,” making it that much harder for me to win, regardless of how well they are actually playing at the time. They have been emboldened by success. While the threshold is psychologically important for me, the psychological advantage that my opponents have when they are winning is very real – they can play without fear, and that’s very powerful.

The other reason is that it is very hard to recover from being stuck over 20x the big bet in a session, especially if there is a chance that the game will break or that you will get too tired and lose focus at the table. The stress of losing does take a toll. When things go sour, I find I’m much better off booking a loss and coming back fresh the next day, or even just a couple of hours later, and start anew.

I also do tend to change seats if I am “running bad” In a casino. There is no strong mathematical reasoning for this, but it has sometimes worked for me. Even in Stud, positional advantage is important, so if someone has a positional advantage at the table (real or psychological), it can be helpful to change that relative position. On that note, if you have a choice of where to sit at a table, you should generally try to sit directly to the left of the weakest player at your table. This gives you the best chance to isolate him/her, to enable you to hopefully play the hand that you are both in heads up, which gives you the greatest chance of winning the pot.

Feel free to contact me further with any comments, questions, and suggestions about this, or any other topic. I can be reached at

In the meantime, you can generally find me in the Stud High, Stud Hi/Lo and Razz sections, playing in the $10/$20 and $30/$60 limit games which we spread daily, as 'STUDstood'.

In addition to PokerStars offering a weekly $215 buy-in Stud Hi/Lo tournament with a $10k guarantee every Saturday at 16:45 pm ET, PokerStars will also soon be offering similar weekly tournaments in Stud High and Razz. Please be on the lookout for those new events, and give them your support.

Hope to see you at the tables soon!

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Strategy