Poker Bankroll Management

Playing poker is similar to investing money. Every investment involves various levels of risk – stock prices may go down, buildings may burn. In poker, it is not impossible to lose five hands in a row with pocket aces, even against 72 off-suit.

Poker bankroll management

Serious investors assess this risk before making any investment so if anything goes wrong, they will be prepared. It is called risk management. There is a similar thing in poker called bankroll management, often abbreviated as BRM.

Poker bankroll management is basically about avoiding putting all your eggs in one basket. If you sit at a table with your whole bankroll, it can be disastrous no matter how skillful you are.

Due to poker being partially a game of chance in the short run, it involves variance. There are times when you win every pot and feel invincible. Another time you just seem to be completely card dead.

This is why you should play only with a fraction of your bankroll so when a bad run occurs, you will not go broke. Below you can see my recommended bankroll management for each poker game.

Cash games

No-limit and pot-limit Holdem

I strongly suggest not starting to play unless you have at least 20 buy-ins for particular stakes. For example, to play safely at NL100 ($0.5/$1), you should have no less than $2000.

The above minimum assumes that you play at a full ring table. Short-handed and heads-up games involve higher variance and your minimum bankroll should be even bigger. I play mainly short-handed poker and my minimum bankroll is 25 buy-ins. For heads-up poker, I would suggest to have at least 30 buy-ins.

Some players like to play very aggressively. They raise a with a wide range of hands and keep betting, forcing other players to fold better hands. It can be good in the long run, if you know what you are doing. However, it further increases variance and even more buy-ins are required to play safely.

Limit Holdem

For limit Holdem tables, I recommend to have at least 300 big bets before sitting at a given limit. For example, for a $0.5/$1 game your bankroll should be $300 or more.

Pot-limit Omaha

Omaha is much swingier than Texas Holdem and a bigger bankroll is recommended. Do not seat at an Omaha table unless you have at least 30 buy-ins for a given limit. For example, if you want to play at PLO100 ($0.5/$1), you should have no less than $3000 in your bankroll.

Short-handed and heads-up tables, as well as aggressive styles will require a bigger bankroll, accordingly.


There are plenty of tournament types. As a general rule, I suggest to have at least 40 buy-ins for the tournament level you want to play. For example, to play at $10+$1 tournaments, the recommended minimum is to have at least $440 in your bankroll.

In case of some tournaments, blinds go up much faster than normally. It increases variance and you will need a bigger bankroll to play them. The same applies to short-handed and heads-up tournaments.

Moving up and down in limits

If you stick to a solid bankroll management, like in the paragraphs above, sometimes you will move up (or down) in the limits. When should you make the move?

Take a shot at the limit above whenever your bankroll reaches:

 20 buy-ins for no-limit and pot-limit Holdem
 300 big bets for limit Holdem
 30 buy-ins for pot-limit Omaha
 40 buy-ins for tournaments

Do not feel afraid of moving up in limits. Entrenching yourself at one limit is one of the worst things you can do for your poker career in my opinion. You will face a tougher competition there but treat is as a motivation to learn and get better. One day you will crush these players and move up even higher.

You should move one limit down whenever your bankroll drops below the recommended minimum for the level and game type, which are described above. Just do not wait with the move, hoping the luck will turn around. If you do, you will stop playing poker and start gambling. Would you rather be called an investor or a gambler?

Conclusion on poker bankroll management

Poker bankroll management can be good for both winning and losing players. For winning players, it will help avoid going broke as a result of a bad run. Losing players will eventually go broke but bankroll management will allow them playing more hands before and having more fun.

Treat it as the foundation of your poker game and you will never have to deposit money again anymore.

More articles on general poker:

 Quick start
 Poker position
 Poker playing styles
 Poker software
 Optimal poker session length
 Poker history
 Poker glossary
 Poker tips

Go back to the Online Poker Strategy.