This is probably the most important topic in poker. It doesn't matter whether you're a recreational player or a professional, a losing player or a winning player, you should always have appropriate bankroll management.
So what is bankroll management? Well basically it's managing the money that you set a side for poker. So if you are playing for fun and are a losing player, it should basically be the amount you are prepared to lose in a certain time frame. But when you take poker seriously and want to win money and play higher and higher stakes, you should know how much money you need to overcome the swings that everyone experiences in poker.
It's hard to determine actual swings for a specific player since they depend on everything from their style of play, game selection, tilt control and so on. That being said, you can follow a few guide lines that will keep you from going broke in most cases, provided you are a winning player and that you keep working on your game.
GENERAL GUIDE LINES:
These are guide lines for the most popular formats, but you can work out guide lines for other games as well or adjust them to other NL and Limit poker games. Just keep in mind that the softer the game is, the bigger your edge should be, the less money you need. This always applies. For example, if you are playing in a really soft NL holdem home game, you won't need anywhere near 50 buy ins to overcome the swings.
Moving up and down the stakes
So if you take poker seriously, your goal is probably to move up the stakes as far as possible or at least to stakes where you can make some decent money. Doing this online is easy, in live games it's a bit harder, but possible. Anyway, while moving up keep the bankroll guide lines in mind. Basically move up when you have a big enough bankroll and move down when you still have a big enough bankroll for the lower limit. Don't be afraid or too proud to move down stakes, it will keep you from going broke.
Taking shots means playing stakes above your bankroll in the hopes of catching a hot run and either move up permanently or make some extra money. This can be a good thing if you do it correctly. First of all you should only use a part of your bankroll for taking a shot at higher stakes and leave enough to comfortably play your current stakes. If you lose the money that you set a side for taking a shot, don't go chasing it with the rest... let it be and continue playing your regular stakes. Also another useful piece of advice, only try taking a shot at higher stakes when you find a really soft game where you are sure you have a big edge over the other players.
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