I am often asked, “How much money is needed to begin playing poker professionally?”, “What is an adequate bankroll?” Poor bankroll management is the number one reason on my top ten reasons players fail to excel.

I started my bank roll with just $16.67. I was fortunate enough to be able to play online at .01/.02 cent tables buying in for just one dollar. I followed Chris Ferguson’s bankroll management strategy and still do to this day; it allowed me to successfully grow my bankroll.

I will never buy into a cash game or a Sit & Go with more than 5% of my total bankroll (the exception being I’m allowed to buy into any game with a buy-in of $2.50 or less). I won’t buy into a multi-table tournament for more than 2% of my total bankroll and I’m allowed to buy into any multi-table tournament that costs $1 .If at any time during a No-Limit cash game session the money on the table represents more than 10% of my total bankroll, I must leave the game when the blinds reach me.

Using this strict strategy I built my original bankroll up to $35,000 over just 4 months of playing online in the summer of 2007. After paying off $25,000 of credit card debt I maintained my bankroll at $10,000 and cashed out anything over that amount. Assuming you are a winning player and have access to online poker, all you need is $20 to build up a bankroll. If you are like most people, playing in brick and mortar casinos or home games, $1,500 would be the very minimum, risking $50-$100 at a time while exercising the rules above.

These rules and requirements for bankroll management assume that you have a job or another source of income to pay your bills. It also assumes you are a winning player. The fact is that most people are not winning players, 90%- 95% of players lose in the long run so it is important you be honest with yourself.  There are several factors to consider when choosing what bankroll works for you.

Everyone’s situation is different. Here are some important factors to consider: your win rate, monthly expenses, style of play and the stakes, your lifestyle, are you playing professionally or semi professionally and do you have another source of income. Additionally, do you possess the emotional stability necessary to deal with the ups and downs of poker? I believe you can’t start making a living playing poker until you have reached $2-$5 live no limit games, or multi-tabling online at the $.25-.$50 and/or .$50-$1 levels. When I played online I sat in $.50-$1, $1-$2 and $2-$4 no limit. I consistently played 12- 24 tables at one time. This may sound overwhelming to a beginner, but like anything else, it takes time to build up the skill and ability to play multiple tables at the same time.

This is not something you can just begin doing overnight. Being a more aggressive player than most of my counterparts, I require a larger bankroll. I am currently playing $2/$5 NL with a bankroll that is a little over $35,000 you don’t necessarily need to have 50-100 buy-ins when you sit at a table, I am comfortable with 50. I buy in for the max which is usually 100 big blinds, sometimes more depending on the casino. I have never had more than a 10 buy-in down swing at any limit playing live poker and nothing more than a 25 buy-in down swing playing online. Also note that if you have a high win rate or are a more conservative player your bankroll requirements can be much less, as little as half as mine. However, I wouldn’t recommend less than 25 buy-ins, if you have a much more aggressive style you will probably require more.

Next week we will discuss variance and how it can make or break your poker career.

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