Manage Your Poker Bankroll

Poker BankrollBankroll management is key in poker, and with staking it’s no different. You need to treat staking like it’s a business, because that’s essentially what it is. You’re investing money into players in hopes that the player will return your investment plus a profit for the both of you. So you need to manage your poker bankroll well enough so that you have money on hand to invest into new talent, as well as keep existing talent running.

Most of my experiences stems from working with a partner managing a stable, but my partner also staked players on his own. So my advice below on how to manage your staking bankroll will reflect that.

Note: I don’t have a name for investing into players not in a stable, so for the sake of clarity I’m just referring to this as staking “individuals.”

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Bankroll for Individuals

First off, I don’t have a specific amount that you need to stake individual poker players. However, as I mentioned in my article about how to stake successfully, I wouldn’t recommend getting started with anything less than $500. My opinion is that’s really the least you can get away with while still dealing with the variance and not going broke.

Now from my experience, many investors have a very unorthodox approach to investing in other players. They’ll invest $5 into this guy, $20 into this one and $100 into this one because he “looks good.”

With this type of approach you’re not doing anything other than gambling. On top of that, you might have tens of investments to manage. I’m not sure about you, but having to deal with tons of messages, votes (anyone who has equity can vote for decisions), shipping funds and making new deals isn’t what I want to spend my time doing. My goal was (would be) to make the income as hands off or passive as possible.

To achieve that, what I suggest that you do instead is invest in no more than 15-25 players. From here, take your entire bankroll and divide it by the maximum number you choose to invest in. This gives you the maximum amount you’re going to invest in any one player – good players. For example, if you decided you were going to invest in no more than 20 players and your bankroll is $500, then you’d invest no more than $25 into each one.

Next you need to decide on a low amount for players that are higher risk – either because they’re sample is low, they don’t have much reputation on the forums or the cut isn’t very generous. If your high is $25, then I would do $15 for the low end.

Does that seem too uptight to you? I understand, but look at it from my point of view. Doing your investing like this does a couple of things for you:

  • Gives your investing some structure. By having set amounts to invest you’re not gambling, but trying to make informed, +EV investments. Your investments and incoming/outgoing funds should be more consistent, as opposed to the erratic $5 here, $50 here approach.
  • You have fewer investments to handle. This means that once you get the ball rolling, you should be able to create a semi-passive income source.

Last, for most intents and purposes you should go ahead and invest all of your bankroll. I used to think that I should save some money “just in case,” but there isn’t any “just in case” to worry about, unless maybe you’re making enough to have to pay taxes. Other than that, you should invest all of your money – assuming you make an effort to make solid investments, you should see some returns.

That said, if you invest a mixture of high and low investments, you might have some money left over by the time you get to your maximum number of players. That’s ok. Just save this amount in case a player tanks your investment, and you need to re-invest in order to collect on the money owed.

Note: I explained makeup a little bit in my other article. You should always take makeup when offered, except for investments that are higher risk. That way you can try to collect your (lost) investment back. Keep in mind though, that in order to collect your money you will need to re-invest into that same player.

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Bankroll for Stables

Investing in a stable is different than investing into individuals. You’ll be investing into players long term, so you’ll need more money in order to handle swings and bring on new horses.

Again, I don’t have an exact amount of money to recommend, but let me explain how you should handle bankrolls and reloads. That should give you some perspective.

How Much Money to Give Your Horses

Ok, so one mistake that a lot of backers make is thinking that they need to give their horses 50 or 100 buy-ins for their games. After all, that’s the rule of thumb for bankrolls for players diming their own games.

Eh, wrong!

There are multiple reasons why this is wrong or pointless:

  • First and foremost, you don’t need to give your horse a full bankroll because if they bust, all they have to do is ask you for money.
  • The more money you give your horse, the more at risk you put yourself. What if they run? You’re better off losing 30 buy-ins than 50, 75 or 100.
  • The more money you give to one horse, the less money you have to invest elsewhere. You could be costing yourself opportunities.
  • If you think you need to have 50-100 big blinds for every player you want to invest, you might think you’re not ready to invest in poker players. Again, you could be costing yourself money.

Instead, the amount of money you give to your horses will be on a case-by-case basis. First, what games is your horse playing? One player in the 180-man sit n go’s is going to need a different bankroll than someone focusing on 18-mans. Also, how many tables does the player have going in a full session? A player that has 20 tables going at once is going to need more than someone who plays 5 tables.

What I suggest doing is giving them enough money to cover a full session, plus 1/3 a session. For example, if your horse plays 20 tables of $60/18-mans, a bankroll of about $1,500 should be ok. However, a player at the $60/180-mans will need something closer to $2k or even $2.5k.

You Need Enough Money For Reloads

Another thing to be prepared for is giving your horses reloads. Let’s face it, players run bad due to playing poorly and/or variance. And since you’re giving them just enough for a full session plus a little extra, a bad run can bust your horse. So you need extra money on hand for when that happens.

Note: Don’t feel bad or think you made a bad investment if you have horses that need one or two reloads in a row. Remember that we’re only giving them 25 buy-ins (and probably much less for the majority of players). If they were diming their own games they would actually need 50-100+ buy-ins for their games.

It’s hard to say how much, because on one hand, you would think you’d get by fine with 150-200 big blinds per player, but that player could go on a bad run. However, if you’re sitting on too much money for “just in case,” you’re possibly missing out on other +EV opportunities.

My recommendation is to keep more money than you think you need on hand. Especially when you’re first starting out. As your stable grows, bad players will be balanced by better players. In other words, the swings you see earlier on will be evened out some with the more players you have. This is assuming you have invested into some good players, of course. As time goes on, you should have enough incoming money to keep less money – per player – on hand. That leaves more for you to invest, or to add to your personal income.

Collecting Profits

Here’s the fun part – collecting your profits. It’s very important too.

I recommend having a set time for bankroll resets. This is when the player counts up his money, resets the bankroll back to the original amount and then splits the profits between the two of you.

The reason why you want to set a date for resets is twofold:

  • You give yourself “paydays” to collect your money. You’ll know when you have an influx of cash to reinvest into your stable and other players.
  • To reduce your risk. You don’t want your horses to be sitting on large amounts of your money. Clearly, you trust them since you’re backing them in the first place, but some people change when they have lots of cash in hand – especially the higher the stakes they play.

To start off with, I would split the profits with your horses together. Show them how to figure it out if they don’t already know, and explain to them how you want them to keep track of their games and win/loss. We just had our horses copy/paste their Sharkscope stats, but you might want it done different or have the information put into a special database or excel sheet. Whatever the case, be sure to show your horses how to do it so that your life is easier down the road.

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Smart Bankroll Management in Poker

I know I just threw a lot of information at you about how to manage your staking bankroll. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be.

Managing your bankroll doesn’t have to be hard. Just be smart about the investments that you make, how much money you give to your horses and how often you collect your money. So long as you keep in mind that you need to keep enough money on hand to handle reloads and bankrolls, without putting your overall bankroll at risk, you’ll do just fine.