Poker Bankroll Management Tips, Tools, and Apps

If you’re looking to improve your poker game, learning how to properly manage your bankroll is essential. Poker bankroll management is the process of managing your money so that you can make the most of every session and ensure a long, profitable poker career.

There is one very important thing to keep in mind when it comes to poker bankroll management: do not bet more than you can afford to lose. This may seem like common sense but it’s easy to get caught up when you’re on a roll.

What is poker bankroll management?

A good poker bankroll management system is essential for being a great poker player. In addition to game skills, you need to have discipline and money management abilities.

Sometimes, even the top players go bankrupt. Doug Polk once felt that he had reached the end of his rope.

Many potentially great players fail to move up in stakes due to the lack of a proper poker bankroll.

Poor bankroll management can stop even the most talented poker players from moving up in stakes.

In this article, you will learn how to build your poker bankroll, manage your money, and find the right tools and apps for effective poker bankroll management.

3 practical tips for poker bankroll management

poker bankroll management

Tip #1: Treat your poker bankroll as an investment.

Before you can grow a bankroll, you must have a bankroll to start with.

It is important to be very strict about the amount that you invest. If you think that $2,000 is enough and you can simply reload anytime you want to, then you are setting yourself up for failure.

Assuming you can reload your bankroll continuously is a sign that you don’t have the discipline to manage a bankroll. It would be foolish to assume you could afford to invest 100% of your net worth in the stock market. Why treat poker differently?

Another reason to treat your bankroll as an investment is that it will allow you to play your best poker when you understand the value of every choice. Find the right amount to risk and stick to it. This will help you keep the mindset that every decision is important.

Tip #2: Game selection is important, especially when you are just starting.

You should look for games with the lowest average rake and not switch between game types. It is difficult to beat a specialist in any format. You want to be that specialist.

Taking risks by playing games that you have no edge is an option that most bankrolls cannot afford. It’s nice to know you have an edge in the format you’re playing in case your bankroll starts to shrink.

Remember to consider more than the softness or players of the games. Look for a game with a beatable rake and/or rakeback bonus. This can be difficult with today’s online environment, but it is possible. For example, low-to-mid stakes MTTs are generally soft, and you can find plenty of them with a reasonable rake.

Tip #3: Never play beyond your bankroll.

It can be difficult to stay disciplined when it comes to betting. It can be tempting to try harder when things are going well, or when things aren’t so well.

If you have been winning your regular game, why not try a higher-stakes game? If things aren’t going well, a quick win at a larger game could turn the tide.

If you don’t follow a disciplined strategy, your bankroll will shrink before you know it. Never play beyond your bankroll. If you have to start at the micros, then so be it.

Now how do you know when your bankroll is ready for higher stakes? This depends on the game you choose.

Multi-table tournaments (MTTs), for example, have a higher variance than cash games and offer a greater chance of winning. You don’t have to win a lot in MTTs to move up in stakes. MTT specialists will need to adjust their bankroll to accommodate MTT variance.

In general, the higher the variance the more buy-ins you should have. Accounting for variance also includes determining the skill level in the player pool.

More variance comes with more skilled poker players. The variance is usually higher for higher stakes. The variance is also higher for MTTs with more players.

The greater the variance, the more contingency plans are required and the higher the bankroll. As you increase your stakes, you may need to increase these numbers. This will ensure that you have enough room to breathe after downswings.

It is important to know when to lower your stakes during a downswing. This is where discipline and humility are key.

Although no one wants to admit that they need to lower their stakes, sometimes it is the right thing to do and rebuild the bankroll.

Let’s take a look at Doug Polk’s Bankroll Challenge to see how these tips work in real life.

Doug Polk’s $10,000 Poker Bankroll Challenge

poker bankroll management

Doug Polk launched a poker challenge in August 2016 intending to turn $100 into $10,000. Doug worked hard during the first few months of this challenge, but progress has slowed down to a crawl. Doug streams bankroll challenge sessions sporadically now, and likely won’t complete this challenge anytime soon.

Doug managed to increase his $100 to $1,364 in just 40 sessions. Doug demonstrated and explained the principles in these challenge sessions.

Plan your bankroll and treat it as an investment. Doug started with $100 and received 50 buy-ins to NL2 and 100 buy-ins for $1 tournaments and Sit & Go.

Determine the games you want to play. After a few days of hopping around in different formats, Doug concluded that tournaments and Sit & Go’s were his best options, even though he is a cash game player by nature. This is your chance to capitalize on this advantage.

After playing a micro-stakes cash game for the first challenge, he realized that the rake was too high for him to sustain a satisfactory win rate. Twitch fans were also looking to play against him at a discounted rate.

It was clear that tournaments were his best option to survive the challenge.

Stay within your limits. Doug started this challenge to stay within his limits. But, he soon realized why they were there in the first place. Doug was getting bored with the micro limits, so he took some shots. Some paid off big, but one threatened Doug’s chances of completing his challenge.

He began the challenge by playing NL2 cash games. He then moved slowly but steadily up in stakes. After finding the rake too high, he quit cash games and decided to move on to tournaments.

This strategy worked until session 13 when Doug decided that he would jump from NL4 to NL20 heads-up cash.

His reasoning was sound as he had a huge advantage over any average heads-up player. But variance had his number. After a bad run in several matches, he lost $269, almost 75% of his bankroll.

Doug taught his Twitch viewers a valuable lesson: he almost lost his entire bankroll by playing under-rolled. Doug was only doing this as a short-term experiment, but in real life, you could lose everything if you take a shot like this with your bankroll.

Top poker bankroll management tools

Today, there are poker tools that can help you manage your poker bankroll. No longer do we need to use pen and paper!

Poker Charts is an online service that allows players to manage their bankrolls and analyze their results via their website. This is a paid service, but you can try it for free.

Other options include:

  • Poker Dominator
  • My Poker Bankroll
  • Poker Bankroll Tracker

These tools are only for live players. For online players, you can try PokerTracker 4 and Hold’Em Management.

A bankroll spreadsheet is a simpler way to track your bankroll. Anyone can create one of these spreadsheets. Users can freely record and share their progress online.


Part of becoming a great poker player is exercising discipline in sticking to poker bankroll management principles. Click To Tweet

Not only do you need good poker skills but also excellent poker money management abilities to ensure a prosperous poker career.