It's easier to understand if you relate your poker account to that of a bank account that you use for everyday life. Let's say you get paid x amount of money per month and are working out how much rent you can afford to pay. If you spend the whole of your salary on rent then you've got nothing left over to fall back on, so you should find a balance and instead spend a smaller amount that allows you to live comfortably. The same is true in poker – if you always have your entire bankroll in play at the table then you are leaving yourself no room for error. If you lose in a cash game or get knocked out of that tournament then you can't keep playing without making another deposit. Instead, if you play at stakes where you can afford to lose you will be able to withstand a bad run much more easily without having to deposit again.
So, how much money is necessary to exercise solid bankroll management? It depends on the type of poker variant you are playing and how seriously you take the game. Here are some estimated bankroll requirements to play PokerStars cash games responsibly:
As a professional, you should aim to have at least 50 buy-ins for any given stake level of cash game. You need to have this large cushion just in case you go on a downswing – with a large relative bankroll you should be able to drop down a stake or two and rebuild quickly.
Number of buy-ins recommended for any stake level: 50
Bankroll required to multi-table $5/$10: $50,000
Bankroll required to multi-table $2/$4: $20,000
Bankroll required to multi-table $1/$2: $10,000
Serious poker players
You have a full-time job but still play poker 2-3 times per week and aim to be a consistent winning player. Perhaps you one day aspire to become a professional poker player. In this case, you should still have rigid bankroll requirements but they don't have to be quite as extreme as the pros because you have other income coming in.
Number of buy-ins recommended for any stake level: 30
Bankroll required to multi-table $2/$4: $12,000
Bankroll required to multi-table $1/$2: $6,000
Bankroll required to multi-table $0.50/$1: $3,000
Recreational poker players
If you're new to the game or just play poker for fun you require even less discipline than any other type of player. However, it's still not a good idea to always have your entire bankroll on the line. If you can add just a little caution and organisation into your bankroll then you'll find that the money in there will last much longer as your poker skills improve over time.
Number of buy-ins recommended for any stake level: 10
Bankroll required to multi-table $1/$2: $2,000
Bankroll required to multi-table $0.50/$1: $1,000
Bankroll required to multi-table $0.25/$0.50: $500
Having good bankroll management brings other positives too. If you play poker in the knowledge that you have cash in reserve it will allow you to play without fear. This means that you won't be hesitant to pull the trigger on that big bluff or make a hero call when the time is right. Even though bankroll management may not sound too exciting on paper, it will be one of the most critical poker skills that you learn. Try it out today.