3 Key Steps To Eliminate Bad Bankroll Management

Poker Bankroll Management (=BRM)

I´m not going to provide you with another rule like “always keep 50 buy-ins”, or “never play underolled”. You know this, it’s like sending owls to Athens, carrying coals to Newcastle, baguettes to France or tacos to Mexico (by the way in this regard, my title “3 keys” does carry along some self-irony). Thus, its completely pointless! Most of you know that stuff. Why do many players still fuck up?

In my opinion one big reason is that you´ve never thought about what BRM really is. You´ve never made a conscious decision/choice about what you actually want from poker. Is it money, excitement, fame, experience, challenge… Whatever it is, be conscious about it!

Rather, instead of following some random rules blindly, think about your situation and what you want. Be your own manager! Which attributes are important for you? For most, the “magic formula” is a combination of both growth and protection. BRM means, play the game with the highest expected value (EV), while minimizing the chance of loosing too much, which could mean that you have to play with a lower EV in the future. Practical example: You have a 5k BR. Lets say Noataima, Scout15 or Nawtstr8 show up. You have a 10PTBB edge on your opponent. It might still be more wise to play NL 200 against your random competition, because loosing one buy-in at 5k, means you´ll have to flip burgers for the near future. In more scientific terms its is known as the Kelly criterion .  Of course this is an extreme scenario and some cases can be really close, but it largely depends on how much security you are willing to sacrifice in order to gain more growth. In our example you might have a friend who is willing to stake you, in case you go broke. It can get incredibly close, but it’s very important to even recognize this in the first place!
In the next paragraphs I´ll sketch out some “systems” pretty quickly and come to the conclusion right after.

a) Brian Townsend System:

Will name it after him, since i have mad respect for his discipline and hard work. When I just started playing poker, somebody linked me to his “The Well Aba20”-post on 2+2 . I don´t know how much value there is today for you in reading it, but check it out anyways. If you read about him, you´ll find out that he´s extremely disciplined. So when it comes to BRM, you´d expect him to advise exactly what?… Exactly…. NOT. Probably at least not what you might think based on the perception of him being a very disciplined worker. He´s not advising, but explaining how he basically used a 20buy-in (=BI) strategy to move up to high-stakes in a very short time.
Basically his system (rough drought) looked like: If he had 23BI of the next higher level he´d move up. If he had below 20BI for the next lower level he´d move down.

That’s basically it. If you expected any rocket science, smart economical theory reasoning, Kelly´s principle and what not, I have to disappoint you. It really is that simple.

Needless to say, this “system” will produce a lot of run-hot one-time-wonders and only time can tell us who really “got what it takes”.

——-> Very aggressive BRM

b) Boywonder/Leatherass System:

Named it after those two guys. If you haven´t heard about them, they are the personification of very skilful grinders. They play huge amount of hands, put in lots of hours and still manage to maintain a very nice winrate. Personally, my poker playing style, my main game (HUNL) and philosophy/goals of poker can´t be more different from those two guys. Also, i don´t agree with many things they “preach”. Nevertheless, look at their numbers. Look at their consistency.  They are good at what they´re doing. Enough praise, critique will follow at some other point. I can´t recall them giving any specific advice, but that’s not really important now. Its safe to assume though that they have 100BI BRM for sure. Most important for these guys though, is not to play high, but to be able to beat the games they play.

——–> Very conservative BRM

c) Standard/Avg. Small/Mistakes grinder System:

That’s basically everything in between the a) and b). If you belong to this group you´re not really taking aggressive shots at higher games, but conservative BRM is also only a word you use when talking about others, not yourself. You´ll be doing mostly fine, more leaning towards average though. There are big winners among this group, but I feel all of us here could be doing better. Not because a modest BRM is any worse or better than any other system.  I rather think most people in this group can improve the most, because most of them haven´t made a conscious decision. Everybody who decided to use a) or b) had no chance, but to make a decision. In practice, there might as well be many profitable opportunities that you have passed up on. In the poker world, I don´t really think moving up too late is a huge problem. Most of the time it’s the opposite ;)

———> very modest BRM

d) BRM, WAT? :

If you have no BRM whatsoever and you just play any game you feel like playing, then you´re most likely supporting the income of a), b), and c). You might have had some soul crushing days, but the German saying “wie gewonnen so zeronnen” applies to you (“easy come, easy go”). There are some incredibly skilled players among this group. For example “Isildur1”, arguably the best NLHU player out there these days. Only the biggest genius of this group will not end up broke. From what I’ve heard, Phil Ivey, who is considered by most to be the best overall poker player, belongs to this group.

——> Does not even know how to spell BRM


Based on the article, the 3 Keys to conscious Proper Bankroll Management are:


1) Understand that it does not matter what you do *

Looking at all those “Systems”, what can we conclude? My conclusion is that it DOES NOT MATTER WHAT YOU DO.  No matter which system you use, you can become a star or go broke regardless. You might ask yourself, “why write thousands of words, when this is the conclusion?”  Valid question ;)

First of all, I cannot point out often enough how important the ability to understand this thought process is. It’s by no means complicated, but if I had written “it doesn’t matter” at the beginning, you would have learned nothing and been as smart as the other 100 times when you’ve read some article about BRM.

2) Actively, Consciously UNDERSTAND what you are doing

It does not matter what you do, as long as you KNOW and actively, consciously choose what you do (as a side note, same applies for playing a poker hand!!!).

*If you know what you do, you can easily (re-)evaluate in case you don´t like the results. Hence, you´ll be able to improve. I´m not worried at all about somebody who consciously makes decisions, that then turn out to be wrong. I´m more worried about somebody who does things right (because he was told so), without consciously knowing WHY. If circumstances change, this person will be completely lost. You might know those people from school. Well known as A-students. They´re the best when it comes to answering questions, memorizing things. And this is definitely a valuable skill. Some (NOT ALL) of them though, don´t understand  what on all earth they´re doing and after they´re released out of school, they´re completely helpless.

3) Find out – actively and consciously – what you want, and then DECIDE

Its about making a conscious decision. Not even about WHAT you decide, its about doing it consciously. This will ensure that you will profit most from it. I´m not saying “everything is equally good”. I believe there is an optimal solution for every situation (as i believe there is an optimal way to play every hand). The problem is, most of the time we don´t know it. So all we can do is wait for divine inspiration or use approximations. Then go through your options, weight them and decide on your strategy. Accept the consequences. Don´t fear them, but welcome them as a possible outcome.

And here the system’s come into play again. You’ve seen how some successful people answered the BRM question for themselves. Find out with which player/system you can identify most. Learn about its strengths and weaknesses. Those are very decent approximations. But don´t try to copy. If you try to copy Aba20, you´ll be just a “not so good” Aba20.  It doesn’t help a lot if a Millionaire tells you to use aggro BRM. He can always reload, but you can´t. On the contrary, why listen to Leatherass, if what you want is to mess with the best and get famous?  Its key to pick´n´choose the good parts from everybody. Mix in your unique personal scent, and then you’ll have a beautiful outcome. YOURSELF.

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