Building and Maintaining a Bankroll by Paul Wasicka
For most players, the lure of playing in high-stakes ring games or tournaments is a sirens’ song that’s hard to resist. While there’s no doubt that these games can provide huge rewards, the sad truth is that many beginners often leap into the deep end before they look, destroying their self-confidence and leaving their bankrolls scattered on the shore.
My advice to these players is simple; stay in the shallows until you and your bankroll are ready to venture into deeper waters.
Team Full Tilt’s Chris Ferguson recently completed an amazing exercise where he created a bankroll from nothing by playing a combination of tournaments and ring games. His tip on his progress provides some solid fundamentals on how to create and grow a bankroll, and I wouldn’t want to presume that my advice is any better than his. Instead, consider this another point of view drawn from my personal experience and observations.
I started playing professional poker in January 2006 and though I had seen some success at local ring games, I didn’t have a huge bankroll behind me. Looking at the poker landscape, I believed the fastest way to remedy the situation would be to enter – and hopefully – cash in good-sized tournament. For me, that meant entering the WPT Reno event in March 2006.
I bought into the tournament for $5,000 – a significant expenditure – and promptly played my way to second in chips at the end of Day 1. When I busted out of the tournament on Day 2 without making the money, I was pretty devastated. While the outcome of that event wasn’t what I wanted, it taught me a valuable lesson about playing at limits I couldn’t afford and putting too much of my bankroll into play in a single event.
By taking my shot in such a large buy-in event, I put a huge dent in my bankroll that took months of hard work to repair. When I finally tried my hand at another large tournament, I hedged the potential damage to my bankroll by playing for my seat at the WPT World Championship in a satellite tournament.
Because I didn’t have as much of my bankroll invested in my tournament entry, I played the event without fear that I would be crippled again if I failed to cash. As it turned out, I took 15th place and walked away from the table with a sizable cushion for my future poker sessions. Limiting my downside by satelliting into the event let me concentrate on the poker and play a more solid and confident game than I could have if I had bought into the event directly.
While satellites are one of the most common and popular ways to secure your entry into a big buy-in event, they aren’t the only option. For players who don’t want to take their chances in satellites, securing backing from a friend, family member or event another player can be a viable way to play in bigger events than they can afford on their own. Before you go down this path, however, be sure to consider all aspects of the deal being offered and determine how much of your potential winning you’re willing to give away.
No matter what path you choose, I fully recommend that you never commit more than 10% of your bankroll to an individual event or ring game. To be truly safe, I’d follow Chris’ advice and limit your investment to between 2% and 5%. Remember, the more of your bankroll you risk at any one time, the bigger the blow you can take if you catch a run of bad cards or bad beats.
Remember, building up a bankroll represents more than just the funds you have at your disposal. It’s a constant reminder of the hours of work it took to build and, as such, it’s something that deserves protection. Treat your bankroll properly and it will pay you back many times over.