Cash game bankroll management is a skill just like understanding equity or pot odds. Once you have read through the general poker bankroll principles here, it’s time to move on to more specific strategies to help with sustaining and building a bankroll.

Cash Game Bankroll Building Guidelines.

  • Consider how your schedule will look and what site/s are going to be the best for you.
  • Start with at least 20 buy-ins but ideally 60, at a level lower than the one you think you can beat.
  • Take a shot at moving-up in stakes when you have achieved a buy-in goal you have set for yourself (between 20-50 buy-ins is a good target). Ease into the new stake by adding tables to your regular game, and playing when you are on your A-game and ideally at a soft time of day.
  • Move down in stakes if you lose a set number of buy-ins (maintain enough buy-ins to step down to the lower level and still have an adequate bankroll).
  • Maintain discipline and focus, don’t get stubborn or tilt. Remember poker is a life-long game!



Having a good poker set-up is important, as well as no distractions.

A student has a holiday break coming up and has really been getting into poker. They’ve decided to take poker more seriously over their break, and decided to try to beat online games. They have a bankroll of $400 they want to use as a dedicated poker bankroll. They haven’t been tracking their results but feel they could mix it up with the players in the $25 buy-in game where the blind level is 10 cents-25 cents. A $400 bankroll is only going to allow for 16 buy-ins ($25 buy-in game). They are better off dropping to a lower level, in this case the 5 cent-10 cent game where they will have 40 buy-ins. This time will be a great opportunity for them to improve their chance of building their bankroll by considering the following.

  • 40 buy-ins will offer a significant buffer if they have miscalculated their ability (frequent occurrence). If your bankroll reflects a more significant amount of ‘real world’ money to you, consider having 60 buy-ins.
  • Ensure a HUD is being used to track results, and help with decision making.
  • Review sessions and take learning the game more seriously – Balance play with passive and active learning.
  • Establish some realistic goals and/or reach out to friends or poker communities to share goals, set competitions or at least assist with the learning process.
  • Maintain discipline and focus, don’t get stubborn or tilt. Remember poker is a life-long game!

This period also allows for the player to become more accustomed to playing potentially longer hours, as frequently happens when players start to take the game more seriously. It’s important to have the right poker set-up. Grinding on a mobile device will be difficult, most players like to have a PC with a dual screen set-up along with a comfy chair and mouse.

Moreover in order to have a better shot at beating the games, consider playing at poker sites with more fish than strong winning regulars. Pokerstars typically has tougher games than sites like say, 888Poker or iPoker. Just keep in mind if you are planning to multi-site, be aware of the withdrawal time frames and try to keep your money as ‘fluid’ as possible. This will offer relief in case you feel concern over a diminishing bankroll on a certain site.

Along with making a good site choice, be aware of what times are best to play to increase your winrate. You’ll notice times of the day when significantly less strong winning players are sitting at the table (typically midnight to 8am EST). If your time-zone permits, play at an optimal time to increase your winrate.


Tracking tools for collecting opponent data and player reporting are important.

Moving up in stakes

After factoring in bonuses, our bankroll building student is up 20 buy-ins. They’ve found they can now 6 table comfortably, are more familiar with HUD use, have found soft games on sites they like and have a good schedule where they balance play with learning. This is a great time to consider mixing in some games at the 10cents-25cents level. Although their poker bankroll now affords them 24 buy-ins (600/25=24), which is a little on the light side, they’ve developed good playing habits which will give them a great chance at moving-up in stake.

This new level should be added in slowly for the following reasons.

  • It can take a little time to get used to the new stake buy-in and betting patterns.
  • A new player pool means less data available. Start to acquire information and reads on players at the new level.

It’s a good idea in this instance to take a 5 buy-in shot. This includes loses occurred whilst grinding your old stake too, since it’s all part of an overall bankroll. Keep in mind players frequently don’t move up the first time they try. Typically games will be harder, but in some cases it can also take some players time to adjust to what they feel like is larger sums of money being risked. This could be a time to consider getting a poker coach to assist with the transition. One tactic that can help with this more mental element is to vary your buy-in size. For example 100bb’s deep, at 10cent-25cent that’s now $25, $15 more than the buy-in level below at most poker rooms. One option is to buy-in shorter stacked. This allows a player to feel they are playing closer to their previous regular level, whilst still providing them with the opportunity to obtain valuable data on their opponents at the higher stake. Varying your buy-in in this way can be a good technique to use.

Furthermore by expanding the stakes you play, this also promotes better game selection. It’s a good idea to keep your options open. If you find a game you normally play is filled with regulars, but a stake lower is stacked with players you’ve market as loose-cannons, always go where you can make the most money. This part of the reason why playing at multi-sites can be an advantage. Whilst it may permit you from obtaining higher VIP tier at a poker room, unless you are a super high volume grinder the advantage to sift through a bigger playing pool is going to far outweigh any loss in bonuses.

As you develop your poker game, consider a larger bankroll buffer if you play more aggressively, or have a lower winrate. If you play a very aggressive game, and have a lower winrate (<2.5bb) , err on the side of caution when it comes to setting a buy-in level. Aggression will effect how likely your results are to deviate from an expected winrate. For further analysis on how playing style and winrate can effect variance and therefore bankroll management,  run some simulations using this poker variance calculator, varying standard deviation and winrate.