The money a poker player uses to fund his playing activities is known as his bankroll. If your goal is to improve as a player and move gradually from low-stakes play to higher-stakes play, your bankroll needs to be viewed as your working capital, and be kept as a separate account from your day-to-day expenses. When you win, your bankroll grows. When you lose, the losses come from your bankroll and don't affect your ordinary standard of living.
Growing and nurturing a bankroll is a key skill for a cash game player, perhaps as important as knowing when to raise and fold. Handle your bankroll well, and you need never go broke. Handle it badly, and you can be out of action pretty quick.
Who Needs a Bankroll?
If you're a casual player for whom the occasional poker game or tournament is just a form of entertainment, like going to a good restaurant, and the stakes are modest or even trivial compared to your income, then you don't need to worry about a bankroll. Just continue to play at stakes you're comfortable, and you'll be fine.
Another time you don't need to worry about your bankroll, when you are playing for more serious money, is if you're a losing player. If you don't have the skills to win, your bankroll won't last. This is true no matter what sort of "money management techniques", such as limiting your losses, quitting when you win a certain amount, or always playing an extra hour if you're losing, you may employ.
If, however, the game is your main hobby, and you have become a serious player, and you want to someday play for stakes that will not be trivial compared to your net worth, then bankroll management becomes important. Let's lay out a plan.
The flop normally indicates to the table what sort of high hand is likely to win the hand - and whether a low hand is possible at all. Consider the following possible flops:
1. If three unconnected cards appear, say A, 9, and 2, the best high hands are those that can make a set, a straight or flush, or a long-shot four of a kind. Failing that, having a pair of aces or kings among your downcards or the connecting J-10 with a draw for a straight leaves you inclined to bet.
Don't stay in by calling with only a draw for a low hand if the flop comes with two high cards, and don't call with only a draw for a high hand if the flop comes with two low cards. It doesn't pay to chase drawing hands, especially in a big pot where other players may have unbeatable hands, even if you do make your hand. And there's nothing worse than making your draw and still losing.
2. If a flush draw comes tip, consisting of two or three cards in the same suit, any time you have two high cards in that suit, you'll be inclined to stay in, and with the nut flush draw (the ace or perhaps the king of the suit among your hole cards), you should bet (especially if you're two cards are A-2 through 8 so you can win the high and low). Two low cards in the suit aren't nearly so attractive, of course; the odds are that someone can make a better flush than you.
When trying to calculate your chances of winning after the flop on a draw, realize that every successful draw, or out, gives you about a 4 percent chance of winning the hand either on the turn or the river. For example, if you have six outs, you have about a 24 percent chance of improving - less than 1 in 4 odds.
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Beginners and intermediates lose too much money playing their blinds. And we are not talking about the money you have already put in before the hand starts. That money is gone. It's not yours anymore.
Why is more money lost in the blinds? Several reasons. First, the inexperienced player calls a small blind because he can get in for what he perceives to be a cheap bet. Second, if he doesn't hit a hot flop, he tends to stay in the hand too long chasing. Third, even when he hits, his payout is less than if he were in late position. Last, and this is the most important reason, inexperienced players do not realize how much risk they have when they play a blind or any hand in any early position.
Risk is determined by how much information you have and how much you must bet. In the blinds, and obviously the big blind, your risk is low for the first round of betting. You actually have more information preflop and are required to bet either nothing or a small amount to stay in the hand during this betting round. Your preflop risk in the blinds is either nothing or extremely low.
The deposit process breaks into clumps with a few possible points where you have to just... wait. Be patient and begin the process with the following steps:
1. Pick a quality online poker room.
2. Select your transfer method of choice from the online poker room's cashier.
3. If the transfer method involves a third party (meaning any method that doesn't send your online poker room a real-life paper check), go to the third party's Web site and register appropriately.
Make sure to follow the site's directions for account creation and verification to the letter. (If you send a check straight to the online poker site, skip to Step 9.)
At this point you may encounter a time lag. If you use an online holding company, its tickle (the amount the company initially puts toward your account to make sure it has the correct bank info) and your verification of the account balance could take as long as a week.
4. Check your online poker room for first-time bonuses. Weigh this figure against how much you're willing to use as a poker stake and determine the amount you want to deposit into your online poker account.
Many sites give you bonus money to play with for making their site your room of choice.
5. Transfer the necessary funds from your real-world account (checking account or debit card) to your online third party (the ACH provider or online holding company).
Don't forget to move enough money to account for any service fees that the poker site or holding company charges you along the way. You may experience a delay of a day or two as your funds seep from one account to the next.
6. Verify that your online third party deposits the correct amount of money and that your real-world account reflects the withdrawal properly.
An error anywhere in this entire process is unlikely; but if one occurs, it may be something like a double withdrawal.
Your principal playing expenses in poker are the very chips you're wagering and the money that they represent. That's why it's called gambling. There are, however, some additional expenses associated with playing poker in any kind of organized setting, whether in a casino, an independent cardroom, or at an online poker site.
Some of the online-specific expenses have already been covered, such as the transaction fees and other costs associated with establishing a real-money poker account. Add to these a couple of traditional poker-playing expenses that have migrated from the real world to the virtual realm: tournament fees and the rake.
You've learned already that online cardrooms do not make their money by accepting wagers from players. Instead, their profits depend on charging a fee to all players for facilitating the games themselves. These fees come in two varieties, the first of which is known as the rake (or sometimes the table rake or the pot rake).
The rake is the amount of money that is collected by the house from each cash game pot (see figure). Each online poker room has different policies here, but they are stated up front and in fact are pretty similar. A typical rake is five percent of the pot, rounded to the nearest $.25, up to $3 per pot. Many online poker rooms have carefully calibrated rake charts that take into account the betting limits and the number of players in the game.The rake is often reduced when there are fewer players at the table; at some micro-limit games, there is no rake at all.
You don't have to keep track of every single play at your table, so don't get carried away with your notes. You are, after all, a poker player first and a private detective second, so you should focus the vast majority of your efforts on playing the game. However, you do want to get in the habit of keeping your unblinking surveillance eye on unusual plays and unusual players.
As your tournament gets going or as you play a few orbits during a ring game, you should watch for patterns your opponents start to display. You can exploit patterns if you discover them. Here are a few areas to keep an eye on:
A tell is a hint that a player gives you as to what the strength of his hand may be - either through the way he bets, or the way he physically behaves around the table. Successfully interpreting the tells of your opponents will make a huge difference in any given session you have at a poker table.
It almost goes without saying that in order to watch for tells in the first place, you need to be watching people. This tends to be easiest to do when you're not playing in a hand, but rather just sitting back and taking it all in. Although the other players not in the hand are watching television or reading the sports pages, you should be keeping an eye on your opponents. See how they face each other and how they react as they win or lose, bet or fold.
See also General Poker Tips (Part I)
See also General Poker Tips (Part II)
Two things that separate the good player from the bad player: