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Bankroll Management For Poker Tournaments

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How many buy ins do I need for…?

 This is a very common question for not only beginning poker players, but all poker players.  Bankroll management is one of the key concepts to starting out in poker.  Managing your bankroll lets you budget your money, build a roll, and helps you avoid going broke after some inevitable downswings.

Yes, downswings do happen.  They happen to even the best players in the world.  Your goal is to make the most money you can in the long run.  The problem is things can get rather dicey on the small time scale due to the random natural fluctuations of the game.   This is known as poker variance, a term you should get acquainted with.  If you are not managing your bankroll you may never get the chance to see the long run because you have busted your roll before that.  That is what we want to avoid.  I, myself have gone on sprees where I have lost 150 buy ins over a short period of time.  I have also won over 1,000 buy ins in one single tournament.  My point is had I not been managing my money I would have never gotten the chance to win over 1,000 buy ins in one shot.

The truth is there is no telling when you will sit down and run like god.  Similarly, there is no telling when you will sit down and run like garbage.  Poker is a game of upswings and downswings.  Most players will experience a consistent downswing and then hit a very large upswing.  As I said before there is no telling when the swings will occur.  A huge fish could sit down and play his very first tournament for $20 dollars  and win the whole thing for $10,000 being completely clueless.  He could then start playing $50, $100, $200, all the way up to $1,000 tournaments.  His money would be gone in no time because he didn’t manage his bankroll.  The beauty of poker is anyone can sit down with a “chip and a chair” and win heaps, but it’s how you manage your winnings that will keep you consistently moving up in the poker world.

When you are controlling your money sometimes you will have to move down in limits because your roll cannot uphold the swings of higher buy ins.  It is not an easy thing do, but a lot of times it needs to be done.  It is a very psychological process because many players will think they are “above playing that low.”  In fact, a lot of players will move up in limits to win their money back.  That is a HUGE problem to have.  There is no set rule for how many buy ins you should have before you start to play tournaments.  I would like to have somewhere around 200-300 buy ins.  So, if my average buy in (ABI) is $20 then I would like to have somewhere between $4,000-$6,000 .  That is very conservative, but it also ensures you will almost never go broke.  I would guess most players rules are much lower than mine, but the lower amount of buy ins you have the more risk you run of going broke.

Some basic tips I would go by are:

  • Make a buy in rule.  At least 100 buy ins.
  • Let your limits be decided by your bankroll.
  • When playing online, play fewer tables at a time.
  • Budget your money to build a roll.
  • Understand that variance is part of the game and don’t be afraid to move down in limits.

In conclusion bankroll management is one of the only aspects of the game that we can control.  It takes some self discipline, but trust me it is very necessary.  It is a skill that must be tamed if you are going to become a successful poker player.  It will take some time, but it is very profitable part of the game.  It is always nice to slowly build an empire as oppose to taking a huge risk and going broke.


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  • Alex

    To buy into the WSOPE need a 1 million bankroll 😀 maybe I’ll get there one day…

    • Ivan Y

      Take a shot!

    • Steve T

      Satellite in or get staked. That is the only realistic way with the higher limit live events without violating bankroll management rules.

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