The beginners guide to building a Bankroll


Following on form the Chris Ferguson post last week, I thought I’d give a beginners guide to building a bankroll. Some things in this post have been described before, but it’s always useful to see it again as your bankroll is one of the most important things you should be thinking about in poker.

Anyone who plays poker should know the importance of building a bankroll. Novices who play at the play money tables and are just learning the game (and quite possibly becoming hooked!) might not have even heard of a bankroll. Inevitably though, these novices will start to deposit money in poker sites and make a catalogue of mistakes, which will see that money disappear before they know it. Building a bankroll and managing it are important if you want to make some extra cash.

For novices who are just starting out in the game, and have yet to deposit cash into a site, the best way to start out is to play FREEROLLS. A freeroll is a poker tournament that costs nothing to enter, but pays out cash prizes. The prize pool can range from $5 to $5000 depending on the site.

Now these tournaments normally have what I call “bingo players” or “monkeys”. These players will play almost any two cards at any time – even going all-in – just in the hope to double up their chips. It cost them nothing to enter so they loose nothing if they go out. More experienced players hate these freerolls because of the insanely wild actions that take place in them. Don’t be tempted to copy the monkey play. Stick to playing good starting hands. You have to give yourself a good grounding in poker before you hit the higher levels and better players.

Now, that last paragraph might put you off playing these freerolls, but trust me, it is the only way to start off your bankroll if you cannot deposit into a site, for whatever reason. If you play steady, patient poker, there’s a good chance you could make the payout positions. Patience is the key, and trust me, you will need bucketfuls playing these games.

Watch the table and assess each of the players there. Note down if they are wild or tight players. Use this information to your advantage when you happen to hold a monster hand. If you manage to get to the payout positions, that’s your bankroll started.  Keep on playing these freerolls and try and build up that bankroll.

Once you’ve managed to get a few dollars in your account, you can start to buy in to games. Personally, I find the quickest way to make money is by playing sit and go tournaments. The tournaments have buy-ins from $1 upwards and are normally a single table with either 6 or 9 players. You can get sit and gos with multiple tables also, but for the novice stick to a single table in the short term.

You should be playing no more than 5% of your bankroll in sit and go’s. So for example, if you have built your bankroll to $50 you should only be playing games up to the value of $2.50 buy-in. If you decide to play multi table tournaments the you should only risk 2%. Keeping within these restrictions will make sure that your bankroll will last.

When playing a game that costs money to enter, the quality of play at the table increases. For low buy-in games you will still find a lot of poor play but when you start to get to $10 sit and gos you will find more and more good players and a much tougher game.

So, for the novices, stick to a single table with a buy-in of $1-$2. The top 3 finishers usually get paid in a 9 seat table with the money split 50%/30%/20%. And that’s what you are aiming for…. making the money positions. Profit is profit, no matter if it’s only 50c or $50. It all adds up at the end of the day.

The more money you make, the more you will want to move up the buy-in levels. It’s only natural to think that since you are beating, for talking sake, $2 sit and gos, on a regular basis, that you should be playing the $5 games instead. The higher the buy-in the higher the payouts, or in layman’s terms, you can make more money!

However, sometimes it’s not just as simple as that. As I pointed out earlier, the higher the buy-in the better the quality of player you will face. So be prepared to face a stiffer test in trying to reach those payout positions.

If you do move up to the next buy-in level and find you can’t quite compete, then go back down to the level you are comfortable with. There’s no shame in moving back down. In fact it is the sensible thing to do. If you don’t then you could find your hard earned bankroll diminishing very quickly, or possibly gone altogether. Don’t let your ego take over in these situations. If you are struggling at the higher levels, don’t hesitate to move back down.

You should NEVER chase lost money. By this I mean (and have seen it done so many times – even I have done it!) if you have lost a couple of sit and gos, DO NOT jump levels in the hope of getting it back. You will not be focused on the game at hand. You will be focused on recouping your losses. Ask anyone who has done it (and not just at the poker table…fruit machines, horse racing etc…) and they will tell you the same. Your brain is clouded with the thought that if you place a little more money than usual, you can recoup your losses. You forget that playing higher limits means playing better players than you are used to. It’s a fanciful thought and is a sure fire way to go broke.

If you would like to know more about this topic, just leave a comment and I’ll try to reply. Failing that, you can get loads of help with this and other subjects at our league forum.

Once again, comments are always welcome.


7 Responses to The beginners guide to building a Bankroll

  1. zitlips says:

    In paragraph 6 you say “watch the table and the players asses…lmao…I would but I can’t convince them to stand up for a minute…I’ve tried..they wont do it….hehe…ain’t typo’s fun…he means assets folks and this is a very good post for beginners.

  2. netsson says:

    Oboy Lippy Rofl

    Gofer this is one of the most sensible post i’ve read and could only hope that all that wanna learn how to play poker read it, analyze it and read it again a few 100 times! Even I needed a reminder about this vital thing on how to build the bankroll!

    Hmm you’ll get experienced but never fully learned!

  3. Blagger says:

    Dude..! What happened? You shoulda titled it “Get Yah Magnifying Glasses Out”


  4. dagopher says:

    LOL Lippy…. but I was right first time – assess as in assessment – just missed out an ‘s’ somewhere! 🙂 But try and look at all the asses you want mate!

    Netty…. You are right. Even the more proficient players need reminding about how to manage their bankroll, so I do hope this helps them as well as the beginners.

    Blagz…. I drafted the post in Word and just copied it across. It picked up the font I had used in word. All back in order now. You can put the binoculars away again! 🙂

  5. Blagger says:

    Something I noticed.. there seems to be a lot of U.S. players that were previously playing the $5-$10-$20 SNG’s appearing on the $2 SNG tables.

    Some of the $2 games I have been playing with the guys recently are as tough if not tougher than the higher stakes tables. Guess that is just a logical occurance that was bound to happen.

    Sound advice as always Gordon, it really is just a matter of playing to your bankroll. Though the players get tougher as you move up the ladder, yanno the majority of our league players would have nothing to fear in the $10-$20 and higher games.

    The only real discernable difference is there are slightly fewer monkey players and that is it! The only real difference is your stake money and that is basically covered in your post. If your bankroll affords you to play the $10-$20 or higher, then do it.. I know you’d have no probs Goph..

  6. dagopher says:

    You make an excellent point Blagz regarding the US players dropping down the levels to maintain their bankroll. You will see more and more US players doing this.

    But, in taking a positive out of this, it can only help the novice player in the long run as they will surely (should) learn very fast from good players whilst only risking very little of their bankroll. Better still, they should get some analysis of their game if they aren’t confident enough, before taking on the better players.

    Once my ‘recovery’ from the last few months is complete, then yes, I will play the higher buy-ins. I’m confident in myself enough to take them on. But my bankroll needs some boosting first!

  7. I like poker says:

    Cheers man I love those card games, win a bit of money ya ya

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