Today you'll learn two new concepts: Money Management and Bankroll Management. They might sound like the same thing, but they're not, especially if you want to be a professional poker player.
You'll hear a lot of theories relating to money management, such as "quit while you're ahead" and "set stop loss limits." However, since one of the key concepts to winning at any form of poker is game selection, why would you voluntarily take yourself out of a good game, simply because you have won or lost some arbitrarily predetermined amount of money?
Here's the only facet of money management that's true: if the game is good and you are a favorite, continue to play; if the game is bad and you are an underdog, you'd be better off quitting. Even if the game is good and your skill level matches or exceeds that of your opponents, if you're not playing up to the best of your abilities, just go home. Never mind whether you're winning or losing, the game will still be there tomorrow.
How Much Do You Need?
Bankroll management, as opposed to money management, is not bogus and has serious implications for whether a player can expect to sustain him or herself if they choose to play poker for money, to earn a living.
When making a career is your intention, you need to view poker not as a game, but rather as the launch of a new business. If you are under-capitalized, you significantly increase your risk of ruin. Instead, just continue to build your bankroll until you are adequately capitalized. You'll give yourself the best chance to succeed if you do.
In real numbers, this translates into a bankroll of at least 300 to 400 big bets. 500 to 600 is even better, particularly when you first begin your poker-playing career. Remember: this bankroll is for poker only; it's not for food, rent, utilities, clothing, or your car payment. You'll need a separate bankroll for that. We advise having 12 to 18 months worth of expenses in store to cover these costs. At the end of that period you should be earning enough to allow you to treat some of your winnings as income. Once you're able to do that, then you can consider yourself a real professional.
How Much Can You Expect to Earn?
With an increased interest in poker and more and more players entering the game, opportunity abounds, and if you're looking to turn online poker into a career there's probably never been a better time to give it a go than now.
If you play cash games and you play them well, you should expect to earn approximately one big bet per hour, but that expectation is predicated on excellent play. Not good play, mind you, but outstanding poker, each and every day. That's $40 per hour in a $20-$40 game and $60 an hour in $30-$60 games, and whether that's sufficient to support the lifestyle you desire is a question only you can answer.
You can probably earn more per hour in lower limit games, and you'll make substantially less in larger games because the players are better. At bigger limit games, such as $100-$200, don't figure on making one big bet per hour. In fact, if you're an expert player you'll probably win more on the order of one-half to three-quarters of a bet each hour.
These figures are net estimates, and represent what you might expect to win after you've accounted for the rake and dealer tips. While the rake is a much larger percentage of an average sized pot in smaller games, the playing skill of your opponents is so far below what you can expect to find in bigger games, that you should be able to more than compensate for it in your winnings.
Online Versus Land-Based
If you're playing for a living at land-based casinos that are not located in major poker centers, you will have a hard time finding games at higher limits. You might find that the biggest game in a casino near you might be $20-$40, $10-$20, or even less, and then the "big game" might not be spread on a 24/7 basis.
If you want to play very big games, such as $80-$160 and above, you will have to relocate to a major poker center, such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or Atlantic City, or else you'll have to go online to find the high stakes games you need in cyberspace. Are there high stakes games online? You bet. There are $200-$400 no-limit games on a few sites, and these are very big games indeed.
Further Reading: Odds Calculations 3
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