Any professional poker player will tell you, poker is a game of skill. To be successful in poker requires patience, at least some idea of how to calculate odds, the ability to read your opponents, knowing how to control the pot, and sometimes even all that is not enough.
While it goes without saying to anybody who knows better that poker is indeed a game of skill, there is an element of luck involved. You can do everything right, read every hand your opponent is holding correctly, and still lose sometimes. The secret to being successful despite this element of luck involved in poker is to learn to minimize your losses while maximizing your winning opportunities. In other words, when you can’t win a hand, protect your money. When you can’t lose a hand, win as much money as you can manage. There are a few strategies that can be employed to achieve this goal, the most important of which is bankroll management.
The first rule in bankroll management is never to put any money into play that you cannot afford to lose. Many gamblers will end up playing with money they should be using to pay bills, or buy food. If you ever find yourself in this position, you need to step away from the game. This is the road to ruins that all too many people have traveled. Set aside a portion of money to play with, and do not over-extend that limit… this is your poker bankroll.
Once you have your bankroll established it’s time to play some poker, but don’t jump into the first game you find in which you can play all the money in your bankroll. This is another classic mistake that many gamblers make. You should never sit at any table, or buy into any tournament with more than a certain percentage of your bankroll. As we’ve already mentioned, regardless of how skillful a player you are, there is an element of luck involved, and therefore there will always be losing streaks. It is simply the nature of the game. Laying down most, or all of your bankroll on a single game puts you in danger of losing your entire bankroll on that single game should you find yourself in a losing streak.
The bankroll percentage played will vary from player to player depending on their own style, but you should set up your own bankroll management strategy before playing, and stick to it religiously. One popular strategy is to never lay down more than 5%-10% of your bankroll on any cash game, and never buy into any tournament for more than 2%-5% of your bankroll. This is a sound strategy, but you will have to decide for yourself what is right for you. You may even have to adjust your bankroll strategy until you find one that works well for you.