'The Mental Game' - Part 1) Bankroll Management

Bankroll managementThis series of articles were written by a talented MTT poker player, Tim Klingenberg. In these he touches on the key areas of self-management in poker and gives clear guidelines which will help you improve your game no end.

There are several things that can interrupt, skew, or simply mess with a poker players mind. After 10+ years of playing the game, recreationally, that we all love I’ve learned some very valuable lessons. There are five simple areas that can/will improve your mental approach to poker: bankroll management, pre-game, in-game, post-game, and maintaining a balanced life. Let’s get started with understanding the role of the roll.

We all want to be poker rock stars, millionaires, legends, etc… this will not happen overnight and takes lots of games to get there. Playing within your skill and $$$ will help you get closer. How do the wealthy continue to remain rich, while the poor struggle? Financial experts can explain this better, but in the simplest terms: money makes money. This is true in poker as well… Own the stake you play!

If you play within your means (a comfortable game, that won’t crush your account if you lose) the fear factor will lessen and will allow you to play optimal poker. Open shoving ATC will not cause ulcers or make you vomit, even though it is an unexploitable shove. So how do we do this? There are a ton of “so-called experts” that will give BR Mgt theories (i.e. 100 BIs for stakes being played); I’m going to tell you that it DOES NOT really matter as each person has various thresholds; it is individual choice! Let me explain…
You must first determine what your threshold is. How much can you lose at your current stake and not cry, sell the house, smash your car into a tree? Now buffer that by a factor of safety (engineer term), I prefer 10%. Let’s use the $6 SnGs as an example and presume if I lose $500 at these stakes it’ll crush me (and I would obviously be VERY bad, but that’s beside the point), so I’ll add 10% to the $500 giving me a minimum BR of $550 to play the $6 games. As you can see I set a realistic threshold and I’m not going to worry about the swings/variance, it is one less thing that will impact my mind while playing.

Moving on up

But what if you start winning and doing well, when do you move up in stakes without destroying your bankroll? You want to take some shots at the bigger games? We all have done this so go for it, it’s a great learning experience and you may actually WIN. Before you do this, visualize the impact a losing session would have on your BR before registering. If your tolerance allows you to do so, then go for it, but ensure not to habitually take shots unless you’re preparing to move up in stakes as this can be devastating to your BR. In the previous example, I would start mixing in some $11 games when I reach $600 but would not move to those games fulltime until I hit $1155 BR. If it is determined that I’m losing >50% then it is time to step back down… NEVER fear stepping backwards, it prevents leaking out all your funds.

On a personal note, I was REALLY bad at BR mgt. Last year, 2010, was my worst year ever! I didn’t have fear because I work full-time and I could reload, but in reflection this was a horrible mindset. I made new goals in 2011, one of which was better BR mgt. Using the ideas above I was able to grind my last $100 deposit (Jan 11) up to >$1K, but is currently locked up in the post Black Friday mess. It takes commitment, discipline, and patience. So now that we can put our minds to rest about our bankroll, what can we do to prepare for our battles on the felt?

Check out 'The Mental Game' - Part 2 - pre-game strategy

'The Mental Game' - Part 3 - in-game strategy


'The Mental Game' - Part 4 - goals

(Many thanks to Tim 'The Chimp' for this fantastic series of articles)