Poker is about money, and money is the tool that we use to play this game. The more money we have to play poker with, the more options we have to approach the game. As with any skill, practice and commitment will make you better, but a deeper understanding of the game is needed to appreciate proper bankroll management.
Every time you sit down to play a game, you are either managing your bankroll correctly, or mismanaging it and leaving yourself open to some unforeseen results. The main focus on bankroll management is that you should never risk a significant portion (5 to 10%) of your current bankroll in any one game. This means that if I have a bankroll of about 50k, it would be foolish of me to risk any more then $2,500 to $5,000 in one session. This is also a good way of dealing with the emotional swings of poker: if you lose your 10%, it's time to call it a night. For you No Limit and Pot Limit Hold'em or Omaha players out there, here's something else to consider: You sit down at a No Limit game with the proper 5% of your bankroll - say it's $100, with your full bankroll being $2,000. You go on a nice run, and end up taking down a $600 pot after a few hours of play. Now you are feeling great about your play, and since you are only in the game for $100, it's hard to find a reason to leave, but I will give you one. If you realize that the $600 pot you took down now represents 24% of your bankroll ($600/ $2,500), then you must also realize you are risking too much on what could potentially be one hand of play. There's nothing wrong with getting up from a game and sitting back down in another one with your initial $100; but it would be a very big mistake to continue playing on your $600 stack.
So that's what bankroll management's about, but how do you go about building a bankroll in the first place? Slowly! One mistake I see from players of all ages is that they try to make poker a faster game than it is. They want to be the best, rifling through different limits as their bankroll fluctuates, but almost always, they end back at square $0. Poker is a game of variance, and to be able to deal with these normal swings we must focus on our management of our money; one thing we have complete control of.
Another thing I want to point out is that if you have an income outside of poker, you may approach bankroll management in a different way, as you are able to add to your bankroll if variance goes south, in contrast with a full time poker player, who will only recoup lost money through winning sessions.
So take it slow; enjoy this wonderful game of logic, math, and psychology, and it will be easier to avoid the negative effects of losing all of your poker money!
Cash Out Curse
I have logged as many hours at online poker rooms as anyone over the last eight years.' I've played on almost every site, and feel I have a strong grasp on the ever-evolving online poker market.
With that knowledge, I do not feel that any of the major sites "pull the plug" on a player after a cash out. Instead, I have found that cashing out creates two different barriers to overcome.
The first is a psychological barrier, one in that the player inadvertently creates for himself or herself.' This barrier results from the player putting more pressure on their self to win; as recent success may have skewed how much the player expects to make per hour/day/week etc.
The Second barrier is one that is strictly mathematical.' Playing at your given limits on a regular basis, you are used to the swings that occur to your bankroll'however, after a cash out, even though you have been used to the swings, you have not been used to them with your now smaller bankroll on the site.' This creates larger percentage swings in your bankroll, which you may not have been as prepared to handle.
All in all, the cash out curse is nothing more than something we create in our heads. Manage your bankroll the same as usual and you should never experience these dreaded streaks of bad performance.
note by gank: this article appeared in Bluff Magazine.
Rebuilding Your Confidence
We've all heard people talking about a bad streak that they have had, or about how brutal poker can be sometimes. Often, they'll say they had been killing a game for a long time, only to run into a never ending string of "bad beats." Some of these guys do not let up, let alone take a step back, take a deep breath, and reevaluate their position. You see, at this point, they've probably taken a substantial hit to their bankrolls, but it isn't their bankrolls they need to begin rebuilding; it's their confidence. They may be playing in a beatable game, but it's probably only beatable when they are playing at their best; something that is hard to do after a long losing streak.
So how do you rebuild confidence? It's actually easier than you might think. The first and most important part is to be able to recognize when your game is off. Keep track of your sessions, not just if you won or lost, but also how well you feel you played. If you find that you have been making an abnormal number of mistakes, or have had a bunch of losses in a row, then it is time to boost your confidence. To do this, all you need to do is win. And to do that, you need to play in games that you know you will dominate, even if you have to move down a few levels. It's at these levels that you will find it much easier to get back into the swing of things. Feel what it is like to dominate the table again! You don't have to spend a long time in the lower levels, just until you have some good momentum, and then go back and give it another shot.
Remember, playing good poker is more than just bankroll management, it includes skill management (understanding where your skill level fits in the bigger picture), and confidence management. If you are able to get a grasp on all three, you'll be a very dangerous player, virtually destroying every game you play in, because you are always going to be playing a game that you feel you can dominate, while minimizing the other risks and pitfalls your opponents may fall into.
Finding Your Sweet Spot
Playing poker is like running your own business. It involves making short-term decisions that eventually translate into making or losing money. The decisions you make will ultimately decide whether your business will be a success or if it will fall short. With this in mind, it is important to approach this game with a plan.
I will give you some insight into some important factors that I continuously apply to my poker business strategy. At the top of my list is bankroll management. In poker, money is the tool we use to play; if you don't have any, you can't play; so protecting your bankroll is imperative to survival. I have seen many very talented players who have everything except a grasp on bankroll management. Most of these players have short careers and never realize how preventable their demise was. I recommend having at least 300 big bets to move up to a particular cash game level, and at least 30 times the buy-in for tournaments and sitn- gos. Also, just because you have enough money to move up to another level does not necessarily mean that you are ready to.
Another important factor is to play in a game that you know you can dominate. The Peter Principle is a business term meaning to rise to a level of incompetence. In corporations, people will continue to be promoted as long as they do a great job at the position they are in, but eventually they get to a position where they have been promoted over their heads. They will not get another promotion because they are unable to excel at this level. In reality, they would be better off going back down a level, where they will be more effective. When we play poker, we want to win, and so we find ourselves climbing the poker ladder, promoting ourselves to higher positions. Well, eventually, we will find that we have moved up too much, and that we are out-classed by our opponents. We may be able to tread water and break even, but if we stepped down a level or two, we would surely dominate at that level, and at the same time put less risk to our bankroll.
So where do you fit in? In this day and age, especially with internet cardrooms that offer stakes as low as $0.01/$0.02 blind cash games and $1 tournaments, it's more affordable to find out where you belong. It is important to keep in mind that poker is a skill game, and that experience and learning will make you better over time. There is nothing wrong with playing small stakes and building up; it's better than not playing at all. So remember: when you decide to sit down at a table, your business is now open. The decisions you make will reflect how profitable your business will be. Take your time and watch your business grow slowly and steadily; and maybe one day, you will wake up to an empire.
Brett "gank" Jungblut is an instructor at www.ProPokerSchool.com, which was the first Online Poker School to give virtual seminars in real-time.
Building a Bankroll
So you want to be Greg Raymer Minus the socks and sandals I hope. But you don't have tens of thousands of dollars to buy in to big tournaments. Who does, besides Wil Wheaton, James Woods and Ben Affleck'
You might want to buy in to a $500 buy in tournament, but can't bring yourself tp pony up $500 when it's a large part of your bankroll. Fair enough. I have some specific recommendations for you.
1. Play freerolls.
Almost all online sites have frequent player point freeroll tournaments, or new player freerolls. Before you say how those have no money in them, let me interrupt. True, but it is free money, and more importantly, it is valuable tournament experience where you can learn to be patient, change gears, and generally refine your game. Frequent player points, as they are sometimes called, can accumulate quickly on some sites, and you may as well use them.
2. Play satellite tournaments.
These are cheap ways to get into larger tournaments while refining your tournament skills and building experience. On some sites, like PokerStars, for example, you can win a satellite and unregister from the target tournament, using your tournament dollars to play more satellites or other tournaments. You could turn $11 into $215, into thousands.
3. Play small buy in tournaments.
Think you can't win big or build in a $20 buy in tournament' Wrong. Just last night, on PartyPoker a good friend of mine was playing a $20 buy in tournament and I stopped by to chat. Over two thousand people played it and first prize was some $9,700! Also, notice big time players like Gank play $20, $10, $5 and even $1 buy in tournaments. Enough said.
4. Search for and play guaranteed prize pool tournaments.
Check out all the different poker sites. Many sites, from big ones to less popular ones, like EmpirePoker, PokerHost or PacificPoker, have tournaments with guaranteed prize pools. On any given day I find many of these where the buy ins don't meet the guarantee. Suppose, for example, a $10 buy in tournament had a $10,000 guaranteed prize pool. One thousand people have to enter to make that prize pool add up. If only 250 people enter, the pool is as big as it would be if you were playing a $40 buy in tournament, but it only cost you $10. The same applies if the tournament is for a seat in a large live tournament. If there isn't the full amount of buy ins to equal the price of the package, it's a good value. I see these everyday, but I have to hunt for them.
note by gank: Jeff Henry is an extremely talented online poker pro.
Game Selection at the Poker Tables is Key to Winning... BIG
In my mind, the single most important thing to winning big is game selection. I will sit down to any type of poker game, whether it be No Limit Hold'em, Pot Limit Omaha Hi, Limit Omaha 8 or better, Limit Hold'em, or even occasionally Seven Card Stud. But wherever I choose to sit down I keep table selection in mind.
I started playing poker at an early age. I played with my family, including my quasi-celebrity World Champion brother, Brett Jungblut. My father, Art Young, the well known big limit player, and my mother, Cris (whose big claim to fame was knocking out my dad from a final table of a big tournament in the '80s) played at our family table.
The truth of the matter is that I don't remember every hand or every game we played against one another. What I do know is that nearly every picture I have seen from those games, shows evidence of how I earned the nickname, Chips Bo. I realize now why those family photos always showed me with the abundance of chips (and it's not because of the "never-ending string of beginner's luck" that my brother told me I had). Those mountains of chips often blocked half of my small body in the pictures. The chips were practically given to me by my overly strategic father, my overly aggressive brother, and my overly playful mother.
The reason I mention this family history is to illustrate the concept that I think is the single most important thing in becoming a winning poker player. My family's style of play was very beneficial to me. I have an 'ABC' style of play, so these early games were perfect for me. For instance, my father was and still is like a bull. Often, he is seen charging ahead with unexpected raises and check raises that are to the casual observer very crazy play. But this style of play is actually his way of winning. He believes that there is often a way to win the pot without having the best hand.
Recently, I remember walking up behind my dad while he was playing 75-150 Seven Card Stud hi/low at the Bellagio. They were three handed on the final round of betting. His split queens lost to the man on his right showing two kings that he caught on the middle streets. The kings checked and so did my dad, allowing the obvious low hand across the table to bet, and with the kings just calling, my dad put in two big bets. The low hand smooth called and the kings thought a little while, decided my dad must have made a set or full house or something that his pair couldn't beat, and then eventually folded. It was obviously an expert play. The Kings didn't quite appreciate it as my dad rolled his hand over saying he had one pair. Unfortunately, the final card had brought the low an inside straight and the player with the low hand won the high hand too and raked in the entire pot.
My brother's style, at least at an early age, was one in which he thought it was his God given right to both win and to be the best player. He played very aggressively, often raising every time he felt his hole cards were better then average, or raising purely to bully his younger brother (me). My mom, who played more for the fun then anything else, got married to hands that were her personal favorites, often citing her reasoning for playing the cards was remembering a big hand she once won with them.
Looking back more recently, I can easily remember some of my good and bad sessions at the casino. It is the players in the game that often make the difference between a win and a big win, and for that matter a loss and a big loss. There is a parallel I would like to draw between my younger days and my more recent ones. It is an observation that seems so obvious, yet is often under appreciated. The players in the game and their willingness to 'gamble' is what makes a good game good and a bad game bad. I remember hearing people complain about so and so playing erratically, or that it was impossible to win against him, so they switched tables to find a game in which they feel more comfortable.
But more often than not, these comfortable games tend to be typically too tight. These types of games are where you tend to have small wins and losses because you are now playing against people playing basically correct and your win/loss is more determined by the luck of the cards on any given night. It is very frustrating in these games when you finally flop a good hand and win, but then realize you only won a few bets.
On the other hand, when in a wild game with several players playing incorrectly, your good hands not only win much larger pots, you often can get out much earlier with your marginal hands, figuring they can't beat several players this time.
Last weekend, I was playing Pot Limit Omaha Hi only, 5-10 blinds at the Grand Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was a very good game, with a well known Southern whale (big big fish) seated who was known for his loose calling station style of play. In one of the biggest hands of my life, just his presence at the table made other players play a little looser than normal.
I held the 5-6-8-8, limped in and called a small raise from the whale himself. In early position, I took the flop with six players. The Flop was 4-8-T with two spades. The blinds checked, I bet the pot, $300, hoping to win it right there, but figuring to get at least a little action with that kind of flop. There were three callers with only the blinds folding.
The turn was an off-suit 3, giving my hand an additional straight draw, regardless of which made me decide that I needed to put my remaining 700 plus in the pot. The first caller folded but the other two callers had no problem putting in their money, with the second one saying he "just happened to have $700-plus right here" referring to his stack of several thousand dollars. As it turned out, the river brought me a sweet 4, making me the full house and missing both the nut flush draw and the big wrap straight draws of my opponents. It was a $3,900 pot, and I secretly remembered how it was just like the old days all over again, "Chips Bo" with all the chips and my opponents scratching their heads as to how I did it.
The truth is, I put myself in a position to win big based on my table selection. So do yourself a favor, when choosing a game at whatever limit you choose, make sure there is at least a couple of players whom you can count on that are more than willing to make use of their disposable income.
Note by gank: this article was written by my brother Bo, his favorite games are online pot-limit omaha hi/low and real life pot limit omaha. He also has redesigned the entire Pro Poker School website.
Being Honest with Your Poker Self
Here's the thing' poker is probably one-third skill, one-third luck, and one-third personal accounting. That might sound strange, but it's really a few key concepts rolled into one: bankroll management, game review, and game selection.
Like I said, you can read all the books and play for years, but that is only one-third of what makes you a winning player. One-third is luck'which is actually manipulated through solid play, though on any given night, it will determine if you are a winner or loser. This should be obvious, because if you're hitting your draws that night in regularity and your hands are holding up, you'll win more. If the luck runs bad for you and you can't get AK to beat AQ as much as it should, then you won't win tonight.
However, the other one-third is entirely something each player needs to learn. Some learn it the hard way, which really is a double edged sword. On one side, you need to learn the hard way to learn why all of these things are important, but on the other side, it can wipe you out.
That's why you're reading this, of course. I, and many other great professionals before me, have learned how to manage money, review our own game play honestly and objectively, and how to make good game selection. These are all vital elements to your game and without them, you will never prosper as a player.
I have written an article on the topic of bankroll management, but I wanted to hit a few other ideas about it. This sort of ties into being honest with your game review. When you review your poker sessions, you should be honest with your results in every way. It's very easy to just forget to add in one night of losses or one tournament buy-in you lost. If you're keeping accurate records of your play (which you should for obvious reasons), you can fully dissect your poker game.
After thousands of man-hours of play, it will be impossible to misjudge your game'you're either a winner, or you're in the red. That's how you keep score in poker' there are no points and you don't get anything for the second-best hand. If you consistently turn over a winner more often than your opposition, or at least drag the most chips in the long run, then you will be a winner. That is directly reflected in your long term results, which you should be tracking.
I will point you to my recent review of Professional Poker by Mark Blade, which discusses this very topic. He recommends, as do I, many programs like Poker Tracker and Poker Office. These will help keep your online results regularly and with full statistics, and you can actually see where you are winning and losing. If you're a loser, then you need to use the next topic of discussion to figure out why.
Having good review of your own game is essential, just like bankroll management. You need to learn to be objective with your game. The next time you lose a pot (that isn't a victim of an honest bad beat), then analyze why. No, I don't mean figuring out how your pocket queens lost to ace-king'this is NOT a bad beat. Quit dissecting these hands, because bad beats are just a part of the game.
Start analyzing where you are losing your money in poker. Figure out what you're doing wrong, and study the game more as you do. This is the only way you will achieve an expert status of the game. Thorough self-analysis is mentioned often in poker books, but rarely discussed at length. You really should read Mark Blade's book as I mentioned earlier, to fully understand how to analyze your game.
Finally, game selection and your process for such is very important. This shouldn't sound too strange to you. I mean, if you had the choice between a $20-40 Hold 'Em game with nine world-class professionals and a game of nine complete donkeys from out of town, which one would you choose' Obviously the latter would be far more profitable and the first would probably be a losing proposition for yourself.
This extends into tournament play, online play, and everything in between. Don't start playing the $200 sit and goes when you can't beat the $100. If you can't beat the $5, why are you asking about the $10' No, just because 'these idiots call me with anything,' you aren't ready for the $10. Learn to beat weak opposition before moving forward. You are only as good as your opposition.
Keep all of this in mind as you start playing the game more seriously. Before you even think about quitting school or your day job, learn how to play and how to become the best poker player you can. It's foolish to ignore these areas of your game, because even the luckiest of professionals can't keep from going broke if they don't do these things on occasion!
note by gank: Jon Eaton is a very talented poker player who has had a lot of recent success both in real life and online in No Limit Holdem.
Quit Lying Your a Loser at Poker
If it sounds like I'm being harsh, it's because I am. This ties into another column I wrote this week about being honest with yourself. When it comes to your bottom line, if you are a loser, you are a loser! I read a lot of message forums about poker, and people are constantly coming up with crazy conspiracies, even posting dozens of hands of 'proof' that a site is rigged.
First, let's take one element out of this argument. Let's say for one second that all of these crazy hands that you have seen, whatever they may be, and however severe the beat was that you saw, all took place in a casino. Would you start looking for an excuse, saying the dealer rigged the deck' Would you start questioning the validity of the casino' Would your first reaction be how unlucky you are or would it be how badly you played the pot'
More than likely these thoughts wouldn't cross your mind. But when you play online, you can't physically see the deck or table or dealer. You're taking someone's word for it that the game is honest. If you quit squabbling over bad beats and stop trying to place the blame for your losing sessions, you will realize the real blame is to be laid upon yourself.
Like I said, until you can be honest with yourself, you will never be a winner. Plain and simple. Poker is very easy to keep track of who is winning. If you walk away with more money than you had to start more often than not, then you're a winner. If you walk away questioning the software of your preferred online poker site, cursing them for taking your money, then you are a loser and you're searching for excuses.
The purpose of this wake-up call isn't to piss you off, or to even brag that I am a winner. I don't care if you think I am a good player by any means, I am just writing to improve your game (although I doubt you'd be taking my advice if you believed such)!
As for crazy conspiracies about online poker' let's analyze them for one minute. People have been saying since the dawn of online poker that poker rooms are rigging hands so they increase the rake. Now this is absolutely absurd for many reasons, the first being that they don't need to rig the deck to create action! Bad players will always be around to shove their money into a pot with no hope.
As for juicing up the rake, the rake would usually max out (usually only $3) on almost any pot that goes to the flop or turn anyway, so they have no vested interest in creating 'action pots.' Others believe they do this to keep losing players from going broke, but the simple matter is, they are always going to take the worst of it. Unless the site is so rigged that an 80-percent favorite doesn't win even 50-percent of the time, no matter what, the bad players are going to go broke in the long run.
What interest does a poker room have in the action generated at their room' They want you to be happy of course! Do you really think they want to drive customers away by rigging their software and making good players run bad' Do you really think that their business would benefit by making bad players win more often, and casting the shadow of a doubt about their integrity' No!
Just like a brick and mortar casino, their only interest is in getting in as many hands as they can and generating as much rake as they can. They achieve this by providing a good service for their customers and keeping them happy. The Bellagio doesn't have to do anything to get people into the games, other than spreading what games they want and giving them the service they demand. They don't need to have special decks or rig pots to make players win more often and jack up the rake, because players will come and play regardless.
The same goes for online poker rooms. If they spread an honest and fair game, their business will only improve. Degrading the odds of hands holding up will only hurt business. Bad players will always be lining up to lose their money, so good players don't need any extra incentive and bad players don't need any added benefits.
In short, quit telling yourself that you're losing because the site is rigged. Keep studying and playing hard! You will eventually improve your game if you are dedicated and have your heart in it. Subscribe to something like Pro Poker School and improve your game, and keep swinging. The long run is a lot longer than you think!
note by gank: Jon Eaton has improved his no-limit holdem game by learning from me and studying other pros.
What is rakeback?
What is rakeback? is one of the most common questions asked by beginners to online poker. In fact, What is rakeback? is probably one of the most important questions a beginner could be asking if serious about playing online poker. Rakeback is the process of online poker rooms automatically calculating the amount of money you contribute to the poker room and giving you back a percentage of that money. During cash games the online poker rooms take a small percentage of the pot each hand as rake, usually 10% with a maximum of $3. In tournaments, the online poker rooms charge an entry fee in addition to the tournament buy-in. The entry fee is the rake and is usually less then 10% of the buy-in, i.e. a $10 tournament would have a $1 entree fee (rake). With rakeback, a player would be automatically receiving each week a percentage of their contributed rake back to them. This rakeback could be 27%, 33%, or even 40% depending on the poker room and can add up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars for regular online poker players throughout the course of the year. Even better, the online poker rooms still allow the depositing poker player the maximum deposit bonus in addition to the rakeback so a beginning poker player is in a great position to make money playing online poker.
Where do I sign up for rakeback?
Where do I sign up for rakeback? is the next question you should be asking and that is simple. Pro Poker School recommends rakeback offers with the highest rakeback payouts, daily rakeback reports, automatic rakeback payments and free promotions. So now that you are informed about the correct first steps in playing online poker like a pro, choose an online poker room by first finding a reputable rakeback site and signing up through their links to get rakeback because it is like getting paid to play online poker and can make a big difference in your overall success.