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Tony Murtagh

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Poker Tip of the Week: You Must Be Able To Afford To Lose
8/20/2007 12:49:01 PM

In addition to my fantasy sports career (see my page on's Fantasy section), I also make my living playing small-to-medium stakes poker on several different sites (including I am a winning player overall, and I will share some weekly tips with you that help put some food on my table and some extra zeroes in my account. 
 The two types of poker I play are No Limit and Limit Hold'Em, both cash games and tournaments. I've been playing for about four years, and to me the most important thing to remember when trying to be a successful poker player is to stay within your bankroll limits. It doesn't matter if you play $2-$4 Limit or $100-$200 No Limit, if you don't have the funds to enter the game, you can't win. 
Poker has great variance, and your bankroll must be able to sustain a prolonged streak of losing. Even the best players will have bad runs lasting months, and in some cases years. When you make a big score in a tournament or have a good night in a cash game, keep that money aside and save it for when you need it. Don't go out and blow it all at the blackjack or craps tables. If you must play other table games, then have a separate bankroll for that, but don't use your poker money for anything but poker. 
The beauty of playing online poker is how quickly you can win money compared to sitting in a home game or at the casino. You see probably 3-4 times as many hands online as you would playing live, so on a good night you might make a ton of money. The flip side, of course, is you might lose your whole roll in one night, and trust me those are bad times. I speak from experience, as I've had to rebuild my bankroll several times (fortunately it hasn't happened in a long time). Truly successful players, and by that I mean people who are playing poker to make money (as opposed to those just there for the social aspect of the game) will put their winnings in their bankroll and not take it elsewhere. Obviously at some point you'll want to take some out to pay bills or whatever you are playing for, but the key is to keep your bankroll at a nice, consistent number. 
Other experts have recommended you have 300 times the max bet at whatever level you're playing at as a basic bankroll. This is for Limit poker and tournament play. No Limit cash games are a different ball game, and I'll discuss those in future columns. If you are playing $20+2 Sit and Go tournaments, you would want to have a bankroll of at least $660. If you are playing $2-$4 limit, for example, you'd want to have a $2,400 bankroll, the max bet being $8 in the final two rounds of betting in a $2-$4 game. I would advocate having even more than that, because with the speed of the game online, you can run through 300 bets pretty quickly if you're not careful. 
 My personal bankroll is always going to be 500 times the max bet, so if I were playing $2-$4 limit, I'd be holding $4,000 in my account, or if I were playing $20+2 Sit and Go's, I'd have $1,100. Once I win at least that amount, then I put half of it in my bank and use the other half to move up a level in play. For instance, if I won $4,000 playing $2-$4, I would stick $2,000 in my bank account and take the $6,000 still in my account and move up to play $3-$6 limit. If I lost $2,000 (taking my account back down to $4,000), I'd move back down to $2-$4 until I was back at that 500 max bet number to move up. 
Obviously not everyone is going to have $4,000 or even $1,000 to use as a bankroll. I have friends who have played $2-$4 with $100 in their account and blown it in about 15-20 minutes, and then they wonder why they can't win. It is much easier to play poker if you have the comfort of knowing that one losing session is not going to cost you your whole bankroll. You have to look at it like a long-term investment. 
Future columns will discuss specific strategies in Limit and No Limit, but for now just know that in order to be a winning player, you have to feel comfortable at the table. The easiest way to do that is to know that you can afford to lose, and a well-managed bankroll can give you that.

By Chris Goudey contributing writer

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