As we get started on our series introducing Short Handed Limit Hold 'em (LHE) I think it makes very good sense to discuss Bankroll, Bankroll requirements, and Bankroll management for the newer player. One common mistake I see most beginning players to any level of poker is playing beyond or outside of their bankroll constraints.
To understand what we mean by bankroll constraints it is first important that you have a firm grasp of what a bankroll is. Quite simply, a bankroll (BR) is the amount of money that you have set aside to play poker with. For most beginning online players, their BR is what they have most recently deposited into their online account.
Another point to recognize is that when I talk about BR I am referring to the money that you have to play with, not just the money you have online. Most beginning players have the means to "reload" their bankroll, and this is part and parcel to the mistakes I see them make that can lead to more problems down the road.
My contention is that when starting out, you need to think realistically about your BR and your ability and willingness to "reload". To assume that you are going deposit once and then never to deposit again when just learning poker is not very realistic. Learning poker is a journey; you have made a very crucial set in accelerating the journey by joining PSO, but the path is set and all must walk it (or run it as the case may be).
What is the right amount?
One topic of discussion that you are bound to get several different answers to depending on whom you ask is the size that the bankroll must be to play a given limit. When starting out, I generally advise that one start with a bankroll they are comfortable with and able to maintain if not through their own ability through other means by ways of "reloading".
Traditionally the figure for limit poker has been 300 to 400 times the big bet, so for $1/$2 it would be between $600 and $800 to play comfortably. If you are just starting out with limit I suggest you start out in the full tables and not the short handed tables that this lesson is written for. Short handed poker is predicated on your ability to make better decisions more often than your opponents. While this is true for ALL poker, this is especially true when you are seeing another 25 to 50 hands per hour that you do on short handed tables.
Because short handed can have more short term volatility I suggest increasing this bankroll requirement by increase in the number of hands you see per hour (this is rough as some tables and some sites are quicker than others). Generally on a full limit table you will see about 60-70 hands per hour (that is a little better than twice what you see in a brick and mortar by the way), on a short handed table it is pretty save to say that you are going to see between 80 and 90 hands per hour or an increase of roughly 30%.
So to stay on our $1/$2 example above, that would mean that the bankroll requirements that you need in order to play what I would call "correctly" you will need between $780 and $1,040 (390 x $2 and 520 x $2). Like I indicated earlier, this does not mean that you will necessarily have that much on one site or in any all your sites combined, but you will need to be prepared to reload if you are much below that given amount. Swings and bad runs can last weeks and even months, the reason for this padding is to accommodate just those types of swings (or variances) in your session by session results.
A word on luck
I'm certainly not the first to say this, but hand by hand, poker is very if not solely reliant upon luck. It is only in the long term where you and your opponents get the opportunity have luck work for you and against you evenly (as it does eventually) that the winning poker player inside you will prevail.
As I always say, if you aren't having fun playing poker and enjoying the challenge regardless of whether you are running good or bad, I highly recommend that you consider a change in your game of preference. Poker is just a game and one that when played well and consistently can be very rewarding, not just financially but emotionally and intellectually. Have fun or move on, you (and those around you) will like you better in the morning.