Poker Bankroll Management and Moving Up Stakes

Most of you are probably catching on to the fact that I approach poker in a somewhat systematic way. To me, this is the act of treating poker like a business. If you treat it like a hobby – well, it will likely come with all the traits that any other hobby does. It costs you time, and it’s not free – but most the time you enjoy it, because it’s a hobby. Whereas your business or job is like an investment of your time, to gain a return on that time invested, but not necessarily to be enjoyed all the time like a hobby.

What if you could treat your poker like a business while still enjoying it like a hobby? That’s what this article is going to aim to help you do better. I am writing this from pure experience. Not the ‘I did this once, so I know what to do now’ kind of experience either. I am talking about more than a dozen years of blood, sweat and tears (just go with it) to get to where I am today – with dozens if not hundreds of mistakes made along the way. The plan outlined below is designed to remove the possibility of a lot of BRM (bankroll management) mistakes from ever happening in the first place.

The Beginning – I love analogies, so let’s start there. You are fresh out of college, a real sharp kid and everyone wants to give you their money so that you can start a hedge fund and not only manage everyone’s money, but provide a return on their investment with intelligent and savvy investing tactics. This is a massive responsibility! You have to make sure that you are investing into (almost) nothing but +EV spots, otherwise the partners of the fund might get upset with you. You can’t be super risky, but you need to make some profits to keep everyone happy. You need to ‘game select’ in this scenario just like you do with poker. If you don’t you might lose everyone’s money and ruin your reputation.

The same thing happens in poker. Players routinely build themselves up to be very solid winning players who can compete in a lot of different games and formats (similar to going to college) and then once they arrive on the scene and are ready to play, they make terrible decisions about what games to invest into and end up losing money, losing confidence, and losing the opportunity to continue playing.

The idea of playing poker for a living usually involves a lot of hype that isn’t really relevant. Everyone thinks it’s about the big scores and huge paydays, but it’s just not. It’s about managing risk, making good bets, staying consistent and continuously improving. Just like all the major companies who earn the most profits do, it’s hardly any different at all.

Rules to follow

So, with all this treat poker like a business stuff aside, let’s get to the how-to part of this system that I teach and enforce on all of the players I coach, stake ormentor. Throughout this I will be referring to the system I use and am most familiar with, but the concept can be applied to any format with a little creativity. Here is the situation…

You are new-ish to the game, but not a noob. You know you can compete, but know you need to get better. You have a little dough, but need more and losing isn’t really an option anymore. You have time to play, but you haven’t organised that time and made a plan of action yet. You have poker goals, but they aren’t tangible because you haven’t broken them down into small, achievable goals yet. You see so many other players doing exactly what you want to do, and wonder why it’s not working for you. Here is what you should do:

1. Swallow your pride and be honest with yourself about what you need to do to prove that you are indeed a winner at the game/format you want to play.

How? Play enough tournaments to gather a sample-size large enough to make reasonably accurate assumptions about. How else can you know if you indeed a winner, and to what degree you win at? This MUST be done if you ever want to move up stakes like a pro. So here is what I tell my guys:

“Play 1,000 $2.50 180-mans before you come up for air. If you come up for air, I will cut you. If you talk about variance before the 1,000th game, I will cut you. If you lose after 1,000 games, we will drop to the 50 cent buy-in 180-mans and try again. Oh and if you miss coaching routinely, I will cut you.”
It’s super simple. I send them a bankroll, I tell them what to play (but more importantly, what they CANNOT play), I provide coaching and mentoring daily, and together we execute. There is no room to screw up because this is setup just like a real business is setup. There is a boss watching over you. You are expected to act a certain way and there are consequences if you don’t. This is treating poker like a business guys and girls. I am simply enforcing rules that I know provide desired results.

Cliff notes: Play 1,000 $2.50 180-mans first – before you play ANY other game, and don’t let anything get in your way of accomplishing this goal. Take pride in the results but have a ‘win or learn’ mentality. This is business, leave your emotions at the door.

2. After you have completed #1 successfully with a positive ROI, it’s time to take your new bankroll, new confidence, new skill set, and new business-minded approach a step further.

Here is the first part of the formula:

Each time you win a $2.50 180-man from game 1,001 on, you will load 2 $8 180-mans. You will do this for your next 3 wins and will use $48 of the profits to ‘take shots’ at the $8s. Winning an $8 does not change the formula, sorry. But it does get you a nice cashout!

3. Now that you have played 1,000 180-mans with a positive ROI, are attending coaching daily and are surrounded by like-minded players – you can feel the momentum happening.

You are still winning $2.50’s and building the bankroll, and have played 6 $8’s, it’s again time to amp up the progression again.

Now instead of playing two $8 buy-in’s each time you win a $2.50 (which is not very often), you will take 2 shots at the $8 each time you get heads-up in a $2.50.

So you will play two $8 buy-ins the next 6 times you get heads-up in a $2.50.

4. After you have accomplished #3, you will have played 18 $8 buy-ins and several hundred more $2.50s, your bankroll will be well boosted, your confidence will be sky high, and you will have been attending coaching now for at least 2 months.

If you are anything like me, you are probably itching to play a lot more of those juicy $8 buy-ins that have $400 up-top for the winner. If you made it this far, you have earned it, so let’s again amp up the progression and put you in a position to fire off more $8’s and continue gradually moving up stakes with effectively zero risk! Here is Step #4’s plan of action:

Each time you final table a $2.50, play 2 $8’s. Simple, right? Now get to work, you have to make 25 final tables before you get to #5.

5. Nice work. You have now played several hundred more $2.50’s, attended lots more coaching, have a lot more experience under your belt, you’ve cashed out some profits, the graph is looking up and this poker thing is starting to feel like a money-printing business. Now let’s amp it up!

This is the fun step. This is the one that makes the grind a lot more exciting on a daily basis. This is what you have worked so damn hard for, so don’t stop doing what got you here. A popular saying in Texas seems fitting here – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Plan 5’s call to action:

Load up 2 $8’s each time you simply land inside the money of a $2.50 and do this for your next 25 cashes.

6. This is the step where it becomes clear that there is still a lot of work to be done, or clear that the work that has already been done was very effective and that you are now ready to officially move up stakes.

It really just depends on how the results look at the total sample size from all the $2.50’s you have played during the first 5 steps. Because to get to step #6, you have to play several thousand games at the $2.50 level. That’s what I care about the most, because it’s a true tell of your skill set. The results you had over the small amount of $8 buy-ins doesn’t impact my decision to move a player up stakes or not. Literally, I do not care if you profit $1,000 at a handful of $8’s while barely maintaining a 10% ROI at the $2.50’s. You will not be moved up unless the results at the $2.50’s are 25% ROI or better after 2,000 games. This is what it looks like when it all comes together…

I know it seems like a lot of work, or maybe it doesn’t, we are all different. But the point is the approach. The perspective. The organized, business-minded, no bull-s*** approach. It’s data-based. It’s numbers. It’s not hoping and tilting and bouncing around the PokerStars lobby like a pinball.

No matter what your game of choice is, this concept can be applied in some way. I highly recommend that you add some structure to your approach if you are starting out even if you don’t go ‘all in’ and take this bfizz-blueprint and apply it to your own poker business. I would wish you all good luck, but with an approach this solid, all you need is a good coach and an internet connection.