Playing poker for fun is different than playing poker seriously or for a living. If you lose your entire bankroll while playing for a living you could be facing serious consequences such as not being able to pay your bills and having to go back to a j.o.b. So clearly, managing your bankroll while playing (semi) professionally is important.
However, if you play poker for fun, bankroll management doesn’t need to be taken that serious. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to hold on to your money and increase your bankroll whenever possible. But it’s not as if you have to worry about buying into 10 tournaments at once, or making enough profit to pay your rent.
So with that in mind, I thought I’d provide some tips for bankroll management for players who play poker just for fun, versus the generic advice you see online for (semi) professional poker players.
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7 Bankroll Tips for Playing Poker as a Hobby
Here are a few tips that can help you prolong and/or build your bankroll while playing poker as a hobby.
1. Play Fewer Tables
Although it might be tempting to play 4, 8, 12 or more tables at once after seeing your favorite poker pro do it online or in a video, what you might not realize is that playing more tables at once is volatile, especially for the inexperienced.
The goal for playing several tables at once is to increase your hourly rate. However, that comes at a cost — usually your ROI, or dollars you earn per game. It’s ok for pros though, because they make it up by playing in volume. But since they play so many tables at the same time, they don’t play their absolute best and push all of their big edges. Thinner edges equals more swings (in your bankroll, as well as your mindset).
So by playing fewer tables, you can push your bigger edges and earn more dollars per game. You’ll still lose, but the swings you see in your bankroll will be much smaller in comparison.
Note – If you’re still confused, think of playing fewer tables like going all in with AA vs. KK. In the long run you’ll only lose 20% of the time. Compare that to going all in with 88s vs. A9 where you’re at 56% favorite. Unlike the pocket AA where you’re making long, consistent strides up in profit, being nearly a flip means you’re making hard swings up/down while only making a small profit.
2. Play Freerolls or Tournaments With Overlays
Another way to pad your bankroll is to take advantage of games where there is a lot of extra money in the prize pool compared to the number of players involved/invested. Freerolls and overlay tournaments fit this bill.
Freerolls might not sound like they’re worth your time, but they can be if you find small enough ones with a reasonable prize pool. In other words, find a 1,000 or less field that offers a $15, $25 or $50 prize for first place. These will take you a couple of hours, but you’re massively +EV in them for one thing, and they’ll add nice chunks to your bankroll.
Overlay tournaments are guaranteed tournaments that don’t have enough players signed up to make up the guarantee. So the poker site makes up the difference, and you have less players now going for the same prize.
3. Only Play With What You Can Lose
Cliché advice, I know. But (especially) since you are only playing for fun, it doesn’t make any sense to load your account with your car payment or rent money. In fact, that’s why I make some of my other suggestions here about playing freerolls or tournaments with overlays. That way you can pad your bankroll and continue to play, even if you’re still learning. Trust me, it’s way too easy to load your poker bank account. At one point I had my card number memorized — at this point you can burn through $xx or $xxx without realizing it.
4. Go Bonus Hunting
Bonus hunting is another way to easily, and fairly quickly add extra money to your bankroll. That’s assuming you’re a breakeven or slightly winning player (losing players lose money).
The idea behind bonus hunting is to take advantage of as many bonuses as possible. Once you finish a bonus at poker site A, you go sign up to poker site B for their bonus and then poker site C and so on. You continue to do this until you’ve visited each site and finished their bonus. By the time you’re done you can easily have a bankroll consisting of hundreds of dollars, even thousands.
5. Take Advantage of Reload Bonuses
This is the one exception to my only load what you can afford to lose rule. Reload bonuses are promotions that poker rooms offer to players to encourage them to redeposit more money and play at their site again. These bonuses aren’t very big usually, only something like $25 to $100. But if you are playing already, then it only makes sense to take advantage of the bonus. Keep in mind that most sites reload bonuses require that you deposit money to take advantage of it.
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6. Avoid Casino Games
A temptation for many poker players, whether playing for fund or professionally, is to let off some steam in the general casino or sports book. However, these games aren’t the same as poker where there is room for skill. In other words, when you sit down to play a casino game or bet on sports you’re likely to lose. So if you want to hold onto your bankroll and play poker for as long as possible, I highly recommend avoiding the casinos and sports books that are attached to some of the poker site online. In fact, I would go as far as to remove them from your tables if the options available.
7. Setup a Stop Loss (High / Low)
My last suggestion is to set up a stop loss. A stop loss is a limit that you set for yourself expressed in dollars, games or hands. For most people it dollars.
An example of a stop loss would be limiting yourself to losing no more than $100. If you walk into a casino, sit down and play poker, you must leave after you’ve lost your $100.
An even better way to set up a stop loss would be to leave after you’ve lost $100, even if you won a couple hundred dollars before that. For example, say that you sat down with $100 and quickly won a $100 pot. Instead of playing until you’ve lost all of your money (your winnings plus original $100 stop loss), keep the same stop loss and leave when you’ve lost $100. That way you always leave with money in your pocket (or your poker bank account).