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No matter how good your strategy or abilities are, if you don’t learn to manage your bankroll, you will go broke and fail to realize your EV at the tables.
One of the biggest obstacles that poker players face is tilt. And one of, if not the biggest reason for mental tilt is being under rolled. When you are playing at a stake where you are greatly impacted by losing a few buyins, it is hard not to tilt when your opponent sucks out on you on the river. Especially when you are already down a few buy-ins.
Understanding variance, and managing your bankroll correctly is one of the biggest factors in being a successful poker player. And if you want to become a winning player, it’s a skill you must master.
Managing your bankroll properly isn’t just about keeping enough buy-ins behind to avoid losing your roll. It is about maximizing your hourly rate and it’s about climbing up the stakes while capping your downside.
Everyone knows the stories of players who get knocked out of poker because they lose their entire bankroll in just one or two sessions. However, you rarely read stories about players who move up too slow. The reality is that being too careful can drastically slow down some people in their journey to climb the stakes, and they ultimately lose interest in playing at all.
It is time that you learn how to realize your poker goals as soon as possible while minimizing your downside…
First of all, we have to understand variance in poker and more specifically for PLO cash games.
Simply put, variance is the representation of how much results can differ from expectations.
Let’s say you are going to play in a game where you expect to win $50 an hour. You are going to play a 4 hours session, so you are expecting to make a profit of $200. At the end of the session, you find yourself $200 down. This can happen often, and it can be extremely frustrating.
Variance is a big part of the game and in most cases, your edge will be impacted by how well you run. There are very few players in the world who are not affected by variance and who are playing just as good when they are on a big downswing as to when they are on a heater. Very often, players who are losing money are starting to play worse, and because of this, they can lose their edge and become losing players in the games in which they are usually a winning player.
To protect yourself from ending in this minus EV situation, you want to stop thinking about yourself as either a winning player or a losing player. You want to ask yourself: “In this game, at this time, with these players, and with this level of focus and confidence, am I a winning player or not?”
Players often ask me two different questions related to downswings:
1. What my worst PLO downswings have been like?
2. What they should do if they’re in a downswing?
For online poker, my worst downswings have been around 50 buy-ins and I have had one of them about every year or two since 2011. In my worst sessions online I have lost almost 20 buy-ins, but that doesn’t happen nearly as often now because I usually just stop playing after I lose ten stacks. I don’t play enough live poker to experience any serious swings, but I have won and lost 20 buy-ins in single sessions.
A 6-max PLO player with a win rate of 8bb/100 has 3% chance of losing after 100,000 hands. Playing 100,000 hands can take months for some online poker players, just imagine how your confidence could be affected when you are losing for 3 months straight. Such a big downswing might even hurt your confidence and your poker abilities so much that you actually become a losing player, which only extends your downswing.
When you are losing after such a sample or in a downswing, it’s also very tempting to drop down in stakes or to quit playing entirely because you feel like you are a losing player, and it might feel like there is nothing you can do that will change this. The only thing that you can do to improve your chances of getting out of a downswing is to keep playing more hands and to keep constantly improving.
The probability of going on a big downswing heavily depends on your win rate. The higher your win rate, the smaller the chance is that you will go on a long downswing. To accurately assess your win rate you need a big sample, but during such a large sample your strategy and thus your real win-rate might even change. These factors make it very challenging to assess your current win rate. You can only get an average of your true win rate because it changes over time, so don’t worry too much about it.
Focus on making the best decisions at each point of each hand. Study strategy, and execute it. That’s all you can do, and that’s all you must do.
It’s important that you realize the impact that variance can have, and that a big downswing can happen to anyone. The best way to know whether you are in a downswing or just losing because of poor strategy is by identifying variance and identifying your opponent’s mistakes and your own thought process.
Everyone has different poker goals and motivations, which means that it’s hard and often inappropriate to provide standard bankroll advice on how much buy-ins “you need” to be able to play a specific stake. The truth is that everyone’s situation is different and that every different situation requires a different optimal bankroll management technique.
If you play non-professionally, a lot of it depends on your income and on how much money you are willing to “spend” on poker. If you play recreationally and you don’t mind adding some money to your bankroll if a risky move turned out bad, you might not need strict bankroll management rules. I would still recommend that you play within your means, play at tables where you see other players making big mistakes and that you only play with money you can lose.
If you are a professional and cannot add to your poker bankroll from other income sources, you need to minimize your risk of ruin. I recommend that professionals use a minimum standard rule of 100 to 150 buy-ins. This might sound conservative, but it will also prevent you from having mental game issues because you are under rolled. When you are appropriately rolled, you are way less likely to tilt after losing a few buy-ins which helps to improve your win rate and your income. Being conservative also helps minimize your risk of losing your income due to having to drop down in stakes, or to losing your entire poker roll.
Let’s say that you are playing online PLO $500 with a $50,000 bankroll (100 buy-ins). You should move down as soon as you have only 100 buy-ins for the next lower limit left, which is, in this case, 100 buy-ins for 200PLO, which equals $20,000.
The higher your win rate is, the lower your variance is going to be. This means that if you have a big win rate, like in live PLO games, you could be less strict and go as low as 50 buy-ins. If you have a small win rate, you should be stricter because you will experience bigger downswings.
If you can be confident that you are a strong winner at your regular game because you can see the edge difference and quality of average decisions made at the table, you can be less strict and you can go as low as a 50 buy-ins bankroll schedule. If you are going to take a more aggressive bankroll management approach, you need to be more self-aware about your mental state, and about the softness of the game to keep your risk of ruin low.
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Taking a shot is a high risk – high reward scenario. To justify it, you should look for situations where you have a big edge. When you are taking a shot, you want your success rate to be as high as possible.
You never want to just take a shot. You want to take the perfect shot. To take the perfect shot, you must consider multiple factors. When are the regulars at the new stake playing? When are the recreational players playing? At what time am I in the optimal mental state to take the perfect shot? How do I need to do to prepare myself to get into this state?
Let’s say you want to shot take PLO 200 online. You set aside $800 or $1000 to do so. Then, you want to think about what the best time to take the shot is. For example, Sunday evening is the time where most of the recreational players are playing. But the regulars are also online on Sunday to make use of all the recreational players who are playing at that time.
Most of the regulars might play long hours on Sunday. If you come in towards the end of the night, most regulars might be very tired because they have already been playing the entire day. This means that the regulars are not playing their best game. So, you have potentially found a timeslot where a lot of recreational players are online, while the regulars are not playing their A-game.
The next step is to make sure that you are showing up in a good state; you want to be well-rested and sharp at the start of your session. If you can make these factors come together, it truly is a shot worth taking, and that is how you maximize your chances to successfully move up to the next stake.
Before taking the shot, you want to ask yourself: if I will lose all the money that I have set aside for this shot, am I going to regret it? If the answer is yes – you are probably not taking a good enough shot. If the answer is no, you have optimally prepared yourself, and you are ready to take the shot.
After you have gone through all of the above steps, all you can do is focus on playing as well as you can, move down when you lose the money that you had set aside for the shot, and try it again if you fail. Eventually, the shot will work out, and you will find yourself playing at a higher stake when games are good.
When taking a shot, you want to make sure that you don’t have to drop down two stakes if the shot goes wrong. For example, you are playing PLO 200 and you are making $100 an hour. You are confident that you are crushing this stake, and you have a bankroll of 100 buy-ins ($20,000). You want to start taking a shot at PLO 500, the main thing that you must make sure is that you can always keep playing PLO 200, even if your shot goes wrong!
You don’t want to risk too much of your bankroll If you would take a big shot at PLO 500 and lose 20 buy-ins, you are left with a $10,000 roll. This would mean that you would have to drop back down to PLO 100, where you might only be making about $60 an hour. To prevent this from happening, set aside a reasonable amount like 5 buy-ins and try it out. You can win back $2,500 at PLO 200 and it doesn’t affect your ability to play your main stake.
Remember, you shouldn’t wait until you have 100 buy-ins for the next stake and then play the higher stake every day. You should decide before whether you should take a shot, then find a good scenario to do it. It will take some time to get used to the new stake because you are facing new players, and you need to adjust to playing for larger sums of money. By being in this shot take mentality, you will gain experience at your new stake, and you will have a chance to move up and simultaneously limit your risk.
As discussed earlier in this article, your win rate has a crucial effect on the amount of variance that you will experience and on how aggressive your bankroll management can be. One of the fastest and easiest things that you can do to boost your win rate is to choose a poker site that fits your current situation. Switching to a new site with a good rakeback deal can drastically improve your win rate and your rakeback.
But on what site should you be playing to maximize your win rate?
The online poker landscape is ever-changing. Networks are closing down, sites are moving to new platforms, changing country regulations and so forth.
If you’re a mid- or high stakes player, active at PLO100 (blinds $0.50-$1) or above, Partypoker and PokerStars are your best shot.
In case you’re playing PLO10 to 50, Natural8 is a great option. Unfortunately, a lot of players find themselves in strictly regulated markets and have little to no options to play online poker. An attractive opportunity for these players is the poker apps, like PP Poker and Pokerbros because they offer worldwide access and the games are soft.
In their attempt to capture the Zoom (fast-fold format) traffic from Pokerstars, Partypoker is going all-in. One million dollars per month is distributed through their weekly leaderboards. As a result, traffic increased significantly in the Fast Forward pools, Partypoker’s fast-fold variant.
At lower stakes, Party’s rake structure is worse than a lot of competing poker sites. From PLO100 and upwards rake structures among all sites converge. Given the extra leaderboard cash rewards on top of the weekly cashback of at least 20%, Partypoker is the best option to play mid- or high stakes at this moment.
At these stakes, it’s relatively easy to earn at least 30% rakeback or even more. If you’re a high volume player the benefits from the initial rakeback plus the leaderboard earnings can be huge!
In case you play lower stakes but higher volume, Partypoker might still be the best place. The leaderboards are split per stake level and they offer big cash prizes. If you manage to hit the top spots the rakeback plus cash earnings are outperforming the rake structure disadvantage big time.
You can increase your rakeback (and win rate) by linking your Partypoker account to the PLO Mastermind Black Card program. You’ll can earn a variety of extra rewards without losing any of the site’s benefits.
For example new accounts earn 40% rakeback for the first 3 months!
PokerStars is still the largest poker network of the world and is still a decent option to play PLO.
Number one in traffic and action in their Zoom pool 24/7. During recent years PokerStars has been shifting their focus more and more towards attracting recreational players. The rakeback has been cut drastically and as a consequence, many serious grinders have left the site. But due to the high-quality software and great user experience, it’s still the home of a large group of poker players.
The rakeback by unlocking chests comes down to approximately 5% long term. That is a lot less than most other sites.
Generally speaking, a lack of rakeback leads to softer games. Pro’s and high-volume grinders prefer to have some stable variance-free income based on their volume. Therefore they tend to stay away from low rakeback sites. As a result, the games can be a lot softer nowadays. For the highest online poker stakes, it’s still the best option in the market to find action.
What makes Natural8 different from other poker sites is their uncapped rake structure for PLO. 3% Uncapped rake scares a lot of players and if you’re playing mid- or high stakes you should be cautious. For low stakes, it’s a lot better compared to other sites that effectively charge 5% uncapped rake. They provide rake caps on their website that are in reality never met.
Next to their beneficial rake structure, the GG Network is one of the highest trafficking poker networks with action running around the clock. A lot of the game features are incentivizing to gamble it up. Examples are the option to straddle as well as a minimum buy-in amount of just 10 big blinds!
Your rakeback percentage is based on different tiers in their internal reward system called the Fish Buffet. The more rake you generate, the better the rakeback in general but a PVI (Player Value Index) score is used to determine your actual percentage. If you’re a crusher you will receive less rakeback than a losing player. This is their way to protect the ecosystem and balance the pros to recreational players ratio.
When you sign up a new account or redeposit on an inactive existing account at Natural8 you’ll receive a deposit bonus of 200% up to $1688. It clears at a 20% rate ($50 in rake = $10 bonus cleared) without expiration date. Therefore it’s 20% extra rakeback on top of your Fish Buffet earnings.
You can also link your Natural8 account to the PLO Mastermind Black Card to earn extra rewards.
When playing from a heavily regulated country or restricted market your options might be limited to play online PLO. If this is you, it’s probably best to check out poker apps like Pokerbros, PP Poker and Upoker.
There are some important benefits of the apps that make it a great opportunity even for players that can play on the regular sites. First, the apps are accessible worldwide. Therefore it attracts a lot of players in regulated countries like America, Australia and parts of Asia.
Second, the great mobile phone functionality, it’s an app after all, makes it a popular tool for live players to get some extra hands in. Third, if you want to try 5- or 6-card PLO there’s no better place than the app sites! Those games are insanely popular and hardly offered at regular sites. The games are crazy soft and will remind the die-hard players of online poker’s ‘Golden Age’ ten years ago.
So, how do you start playing on these apps? A whole network is built around those app sites with club owners, agents and players. It’s important to join via a reliable setup since the number of scams with agents or club owners is numerous. We have a long time affiliate partner that can offer that trustworthy who guarantee your funds and offer great customer support.