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StrategyTournaments

MTT Bankroll Management

Introduction

In this Article
  • What Bankroll Management and the 1% rule are
  • How much influence luck, good or bad, has in poker tournaments
  • What the term variance means

You've probably already examined the influence that luck, whether good or bad, has when playing poker. Some people think poker is purely a game of luck. That is definitely not true. But those who claim that a poker tournament is only won by the best player aren't entirely right either.

During the course of this article you will find out what precautions you should take to become a successful tournament player and how to keep the balance between holding on to your capital and maximising your profit.

Bankroll Management as the antipole of good and bad luck

A little bit of luck is always needed to win a single tournament. But you never know whether you're going to have it or not in your next tournament.

In the long run you will see that by playing a good game and making clever decisions you will almost surely be successful. Good and bad luck will balance out over time. In the short run, however it can be that the results will only can be quite bad or modest. This is called a "downswing" in poker terminology.

To make sure a downswing never endangers your poker career, you need to manage your bankroll well and should never invest too much money into a tournament. This is called bankroll management. 

Your bankroll is your capital, which needs to be invested wisely, so that you can progress in the game. You want to win a lot, when you win, but not be hit too hard by any losses. This can be done if you keep to the following rule:

The 100 Buy-In Rule

Experience has shown that 100 buy-ins accommodate your desire to have high winning chances and a low risk of loss in the best possible way. Don't play tournaments for which you have not made 100 buy-ins.

In other words:

IMPORTANT
 
Never invest more than about 1% of your bankroll in a tournament.

This rule accordingly shows you a precise approach for when you happen to move up or down a limit.

Variance in Poker Tournaments

If you look up "variance" on Wikipedia, the first sentence of the article will read: "the variance of a random variable, probability distribution, or sample is a measure of statistical dispersion, averaging the squares of the deviations of its possible values from its expected value".

In the world of poker tournaments variance thus comes to mean that the tournament doesn't always operate in a way that seems just. You will play tournaments in which you're on a run. Good cards will just fall into your hands as will your opponents' chips, if you bet appropriately. 

Then there will of course also be tournaments in which everything just goes wrong for you. You will however never know beforehand whether things will go good or badly (or average). The cards are dealt randomly. Many players make an important mistake here: they get too emotionally involved with the question of whether they're on the good or bad end of the variance scale.

You've probably already found yourself in a situation where you said to yourself "Today has just been one screw-up after another!".

If you want to be a successful poker tournament player it is very important, however, to accept this variance as a part of the game and to learn to deal with it. Regardless of whether things have been going well or badly in your tournament at any given moment you should always concentrate on making the best possible decision in the next hand.

Taking this principle to heart is a decisive condition for the success you will have when playing a poker tournament, as it will mean you are not only in a better position in terms of your game (this is called an "edge" in poker lingo) but are also psychologically stronger than your opponents.

Bankroll Management and the right choice of tournament

If you want to play online poker tournaments, you will find you have a huge selection to choose from. New tournament offers are dished out by poker websites practically every minute. But these are not all the same kind of tournaments. Besides the most common formats like the "Freezeout and "Turbo Tournament" you should pay particular attention to "Rebuy Tournaments", as these can become more expensive than the original starting money because of the possibility to buy more chips during the course of the game.

In our Silver section the most common formats, i.e. the "freezeout" "turbo tournament", "rebuy tournament", "satellite tournament" and "multi-table SNG" are all introduced in one article. Your ability to select your tournaments with regard to this aspect and to recognise what format fits you best can be crucial to your success.

The most important thing, however, is to pay attention to the buy-in. Almost every tournament format can be played for any buy-in. During the course of this article you have learned that you will have dry spells, which your bankroll will have to cope with.

Many players have not understood this principle and continue playing the same buy-in tournaments again and again until their bankroll is down to zero. They did not manage their bankroll carefully and end up with not enough money to play further tournaments.

You should aim to avoid problems like these. Good bankroll management solves this problem automatically. You simply need to see your bankroll as an amount of money on the one hand, and as the sum of buy-ins for tournaments on the other. 

$1200 are $1200. You can, however, also see this amount as 24 buy-ins for $50 tournaments, 120 buy-ins for a $10 tournament or 1200 buy-ins for $1 tournaments. Whatever you do, it's still $1200.

You need to think carefully about how to manage your bankroll. If you play $50 tournaments with your $1200, you might lose a large part of your bankroll quite quickly. If, for example, you don't make any money in 12 successive tournaments (and this happens quite often), half of your money will have gone. Do you really want to take this risk?

If you're only paying $1 per tournament, it will be very hard for you to lose all your money. On the other hand you are being overly cautious in this case and are not getting enough out of your money. You do want to progress in the game and have an optimal risk/reward ratio, after all.

In other words the point is to sensibly invest a certain amount of your bankroll into a tournament in such a way that your risk of loss and your chances of winning have a good ratio to one another.

Conclusion

Having read this article you will have understood that poker is not only about playing your hands well. You must also be able to deal, psychologically and financially, with the influence of luck, whether good or bad.

On the one hand you should never lose your nerve or go on tilt when you're having a streak of bad luck. See this ability as a strength of a good poker player and aim to be able to laugh about your bad beats while you're having them at some point.

On the other hand you should make sure that your streak of bad luck doesn't pull on your purse strings too much. This should no longer be a problem after you've read this article. The answer is bankroll management and is the easiest way to becoming a successful poker player. The only thing you need to do is avoid the tournaments that are too expensive for you. That shouldn't be too hard.

 

Comments (38)

#1 usun, 26 Aug 09 13:53

Nice article. But is 100 BI rule is good enough? It's the rule for SNG, but variance in MTT is MUCH higher.

#2 Tim64, 15 Sep 09 15:22

@#1 I thought the SnG rule was 50BI? Anyway, good article. As always, the exact percentage (1%/5%/0.25% etc) is mainly a matter of preference - just so long as it gets you thinking about the inevitability of swings and having to ride them out and sometimes move down limits.

#3 Koshburger, 29 Jan 10 09:39

ok

#4 Navrark, 07 Feb 10 21:40

Tim64:<br /> <br /> SNG's are much different than an MTT, even if the same percentage of players get paid off.<br /> <br /> Example numbers: Losing 3 out of 9 SNG's is a lot different than losing 30 out of 90 MTT's. It won't be uncommon to lose 30 in a row with MTT's but that would be very nearly impossible with SNG's.<br /> <br /> Nav

#5 Pugulis, 15 Feb 10 21:08

Actually br management in MTT's differs for each site because prize structure is different in every site as well as blinds structure.

#6 BennyG2007, 01 Mar 10 07:25

This is a very good article =)<br /> Thanks for the help!

#7 Rap1d007, 31 Mar 10 11:37

important one...

#8 zebadie, 07 Jun 10 17:46

Basically iv got the jist, control my buy-ins in order to protect my BR.<br /> P.S it is nowhere near impossible to lose 30 sng's in a row, do not think this or you will eventually run down your BR.

#9 D3SP3RAD0, 18 Jun 10 19:01

Good artical. 1% rule is simply because, you may get good exposer to the kind of tournyes you wants to play, expertize in that and then move to higher level. Good one.

#10 dzakup, 22 Jul 10 11:47

Nice article..but it is still very very sick on these tournaments. I'm playing mtt sngs and i'am still knocked out as percentage favorit. So many times in row i loose with AA vs lower pair. AK vs other dominated hand. AA vs KK lost. KK vs AA (ok AA is better, but its unlucky too to meet it)..and so on.. very very frustrating to be good solid player with profit on low mtt sngs.<br /> <br /> It seems to me you have to wait for good hand and after that you are still gambling with other crazy players.<br /> <br /> And another thing is final table. So many times other players have all-in between them. So many times (80%) the worser players wins and beacause of it he remains in tournament. And whe i have all-in and i'am better i almost always (95%) loose.<br /> <br /> MTTs ARE RELLY VERY VERY VERY FRUSTRATING. DON'T BE NAIVE ABOUT IT. :)<br /> <br /> Good luck to all (event the one with AA). :)

#11 IvanColakovac, 19 Oct 10 15:20

i agree with dzakup, very very frustraiting

#12 eighty5ive, 10 Nov 10 11:48

If people are calling your all-in AA with KK, you should be happy.

#13 Huckebein, 12 Nov 10 12:00

Thanks for your nice comments. The 1% rule is really essential for MTT, since the variance is higher than in SnG.

#14 bangmesilly, 04 Jan 11 05:12

Be realistic the 1% rule is good if you play in tournaments with less than 100 people in them but if you play in tournaments with 1000 players plus you need to rethink this bankroll management. All in all I agree that until you get good at avoiding difficult spots in tournaments then stick to SNG multi table tournaments.

#15 Huckebein, 01 Apr 11 12:42

You are totally right, but keep in mind that the 1% rule is recommended as the absolut minimum BRM. If you want to play tighter, we appreciate it. It will make you more resistent to even hard swings.

#16 svendeucer, 06 Apr 11 01:48

Be realistic the 1% rule is good if you play in tournaments with less than 100 people in them but if you play in tournaments with 1000 players plus you need to rethink this bankroll management. All in all I agree that until you get good at avoiding difficult spots in tournaments then stick to SNG multi table tournaments.<br /> to quote<br /> and add your odds and variables expand

#17 belayd, 06 Apr 11 12:44

The rule I've heard elsewhere is to have 200 buyins for the MTTs you play. That, however, is recommended for pros who can't afford to reload, and casual players can play with 100 buyins. <br /> <br /> The only thing that isn't clear from this article is whether the 100-buyin rule really refers to buyin+entry fee or just buyin.

#18 Huckebein, 07 Apr 11 15:28

@16,17: The required BRM is the absolute minimum. MTT are always higher variance than SnG, so if you feel more comfortable with a tighter BRM, just do it. Especially pros have a way higher BRM for MTTs, because they depend on their Bankroll.

#19 KennyPhan777, 24 May 11 16:58

thanks

#20 purplefizz, 21 Aug 11 00:00

what about if you have $100 so you start with $1 tourneys, right? unless you're really lucky you wont ship the first 10 (or 20), then now you have <100 BI but there's nowhere to move down. then what?

#21 Huckebein, 22 Aug 11 15:45

@20: You are actually right, but PokerStrategy.com doesn't advice you to start your career with MTT only. <br /> <br /> Your Bankroll should be built in either NL BSS, FL or SnG. <br /> <br /> If you want to start with MTT anyway, then find the guidelines here in this article in order not to burn your BR.

#22 CRI4BRA, 27 Aug 11 00:33

is frustrating to see how many people here weep and tears i see in their eyes<br /> <br /> have your own rules and live by them, nobody will protect you but yourself<br /> <br /> pokerstrategy sure can help, but if you cannot play by the rules of your own , you're meat for the sharks . in poker and in life<br /> <br /> you want protection? mafia will protect you, but you have to pay a tax every month for protection

#23 FlipFlop123, 14 Oct 11 01:46

Good article BR management is very very important for success

#24 tally49, 25 Oct 11 04:54

Thought I would revisit this article as i am experiencing a long downswing with MTTs (Variance rather than bad play,I hope)Have played BI from 55c to $33-00 and have a 20% mid/late finishes stat. Just can't seem to get to where the serious money is. Will stick to what BI (1%)I should be playing and hopefully rebuild the bankroll

#25 dyeti, 10 Aug 12 03:00

This is fine for a starting point but I feel that a lot of people would benifit from a much more in depth artical. <br /> <br /> As was mentioned by svendeucer the number of people in the tourney really matters! There is a direct corralation between the number of people entering a tournement and the varience that you will have to deal with.<br /> <br /> there is a very good website called ev++ which has some usful tools for this kind of thing.

#26 2flipflop69, 19 Nov 12 17:40

Hmm, Example 1$ buy in 500 players or 10$ buy in 45 players? Now whatever the buy in may be I try to play the cards I'm dealt the best I can, later in the game having made notes on players obviously can be rewarded...BUT for every player that I note as being tight aggressive there will be 20 loose canons playing rag Ace's or low pairs after being raised or re-raised, now this % decreases drastically when the buy in increases, and this is my dilemma, my KK being busted by AA after I go all in preflop is acceptable, KK being called by some donk with 55 and hitting trips or worse someone calling with say Q 5 suited and hits a straight with the 5 or hits a flush ..<br /> Keeping your cool in these situations is not easy, we all know that but surely not only do we have to protect our BR we also need to put it to the best use....

#27 Mickeymano, 29 Apr 13 19:02

I think a larger consideration for variance is the type of tournaments and not the number of players. Mainly how many hands you get to see before being forced to play is key. It does not matter so much whether it is 20 players or 20000 but how fast the blinds are going up and how many BB or M you have. I have cashed without doubling up in very large tournaments before simply because so many players just shove and pray you hardly need to play to reach the money.

#28 NextChamp, 24 Aug 14 20:35

well understood...good article (Y)

#29 Socialhabit, 16 Oct 14 16:19

still readingg.., and understanding

#30 Dedees89, 20 Oct 14 01:40

Hmmm... I need to work on it

#31 BenBlakeIsTilting, 20 Nov 14 06:55

So hard to be disciplined

#32 drjekkyle, 10 Nov 15 19:36

I am the biggest foe to myself.

#33 20121964, 19 Nov 15 14:27

well i just strted my mtt challeng and started with the 180 turbo sit and goes on pokerstars starded with 10 dollers up too 347 dollers do i carry on in the 2 dollers or move up

#34 gasm87, 31 Dec 15 20:02

nice article

#35 Nhoxalone, 18 Feb 16 15:53

thanks

#36 joskroket, 14 May 16 08:08

Nice article, again. This is the one place to go for beginners.

#37 Freelemon, 30 May 16 10:34

:)

#38 muska411, 12 Sep 16 16:21

okj