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Stop-Loss Limits - Pulling the Ripcord


In this article we will discuss about...
  • Limiting losses at the table
  • How a loss-limit can help keep you from tilting
  • Why a session should end after losses reach 5 buy-ins or 100 Big Bets

A poker player has to play two roles. On the one hand, you are a competitor coming to the table to challenge other players; on the other hand, you have to be your own coach and manager.

The coach is responsible for the player's training and development as a player. He decides when to play and manages the bankroll. Your career lies in his hands.


Managing yourself as a poker player isn't just a matter of patience and discipline. You have to manage your bankroll effectively to be a good poker player.

Bankroll management requires, for example, that you only play limits where you can afford to lose. If you lose at an affordable limit, it won't hurt too much and when you do win, you will increase your bankroll nicely.

Setting a loss-limit is an essential part of managing your bankroll effectively. The term originally comes from the stock market: any time a stock falls below a set "bottom" price it is to be sold immediately to avoid any further losses.

When you buy stock you hope, of course, that the value of that stock will go up. But it can also fall, so if at some point the stock becomes too risky, you cut your losses and sell.

This principle can be applied to poker as well. Setting a loss-limit means any time you have lost a certain, maximum amount, you end the session. A No-Limit player may leave the table after losing 3 buy-ins, thereby having reached his loss-limit.

Why is a loss-limit so important?

The purpose of a loss-limit is to get you out of a situation in which you will inevitably continue to lose money. This means not holding on to a stock too long in the desperate hope that it may one day gain value.


Choosing the wrong table can put you in such a situation. Perhaps you overlooked something, you are sitting with the wrong players, or you just can't seem to hook the fish at the table. Whatever the cause, you will inevitably end up at tables where you simply can't play profitably.

There will always be a reason why your game is not working - sometimes you simply pick a table that isn't profitable. Giving yourself a loss-limit will help you get away from such a table.

Let's face it, sometimes you just have bad luck. Your play is solid, but your draws just don't come and your opponents suck out against your made hands. Tilt is lurking just around the corner.

Tilting isn't something you can simply turn off - everyone is susceptible to tilt. But you can control it by knowing what can put you on tilt and going out of your way to avoid such situations.

Some people think it's best to just keep playing. But why should you keep playing when you know you're in danger of tilting and likely to only end up losing even more? In the course of your career your tilt phases can easily cost you more than all the bad decisions put together.

You can neutralize this danger by hitting the emergency brakes when you've reached your loss-limit.

A loss-limit also helps:

  • ... control damage when you happen to be at the wrong table - either the opponents are too good, or you just can't get your game to work.

  • … get you out of a situation that could lead to tilt.

It's not just the fear of losing more that should lead to setting a loss-limit. Your win rate and bankroll are plummeting due to various factors and you can put an immediate stop to that by leaving the table.

Protecting your profits with a loss-limit

Often enough you sit down at a table and win a few early pots. To protect this profit, you need to "reset" your loss-limit.

For example: A No-Limit player sets a loss-limit of 3 buy-ins, but has soon won 4 buy-ins at the table. He could now lose 7 buy-ins before reaching his original loss-limit.

The question is, does he really have to lose 5 or 6 buy-ins before he realizes that something is now going wrong? And, will he still be playing his best after having lost 5 or 6 buy-ins in a row?

Once you've made a profit it's important to reset your loss-limit. If you set a loss limit of $150 but start off by winning $100 you should set your new loss-limit to $50.

Of course you don't have to reset your loss-limit after every single pot. Once your profit has reached a significant amount, however, you should seriously consider adjusting it.

If you don't, you may easily end up losing your $100 of profit and the original $150 limit before you decide it's time to hit the emergency breaks. You will be kicking yourself for not having left the table earlier.

How should you decide on a loss-limit?


Set loss-limits for both tables and sessions. In one session you might end up at one bad table, while the others can be played profitably. If that happens, then you should leave the bad table and continue your session.

Your loss-limit for a single table will be lower than your loss-limit for a single session - just try to think back to some of your losing sessions of the past. In hindsight, at what points in time would you now say "I should have stopped there"?

Some professional players already leave a No-Limit table after losing 2 buy-ins, but don't end a session until 9 buy-ins have been lost. In practice, there are a few good rules of thumb when it comes to setting loss-limits. A good table loss-limit in Hold'em No Limit and Pot Limit is 3 buy-ins, and 5 buy-ins for a session. You may be even more conservative when using the short-stack strategy.

If you are playing SNGs, don't start any new tournaments after having lost 8 buy-ins. Your table loss-limit in a fixed limit game should be around 50 Big Bets, your session limit around 100 Big Bets.

These are rules of thumb and not carved in stone. The main point is to be conscious of cutting your losses and having the discipline to stick to the limits you set for yourself. Doing so will go a long way and help you have a long-lasting poker career.

Sticking to stop-loss limits won't make you play better poker and it won't help you win back any of your losses - it will, however, prevent you from losing excessive amounts and improve your win rate and bankroll over the long run.


A serious poker player is also aware of his role as his own coach and manager. The player in you might often be irresponsible or blinded by pride. He is focused on the game at hand in which he is trying to maximize current winnings, while not paying attention to the long run. At times, he might even be be willing to lose half his bankroll in an attempt to turn things around and to show everyone else how good he is.

The manager, however, has an overview of all the games you play. He isn't as concerned with winning a single pot, but rather that your bankroll will have increased at the end of the month.

Sometimes cutting your losses is the best thing you can do. You can stay and continue to get beaten - you can also admit defeat when you've had enough. Tacitus said, "He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day; but he that is in battle slain, will never rise to fight again." You will win the money back, just not today.

Set a loss-limit the next time you head to the tables. You may even want to write it down and have it near the keyboard. It won't always be easy to stick to it, but if you can, you will save yourself a good amount of money in the long run.


Comments (92)

#1 sirilidion, 20 Dec 08 12:12

nicw article. This is still a leak for me since I tend to stick around when things are going bad. hope by impliing the loss-limit this would happen often in the future

#2 PetterG2, 22 Dec 08 02:33

very nice article. Following this will really come to help if I'm on a downswing/tilt. thx

#3 spit22, 23 Dec 08 00:00

nice one !

#4 MrPocketSevens, 25 Dec 08 12:09

I really like the metaphor player/manager ... just like in a soccer match or in any other sport, you've players that use their playing skills to try beating the other team but if they didn't have the strategical guidance from their coaches they would be very vulnerable ...<br /> <br /> In other words, Cristiano Ronaldo wouldn't be half the player he is without the help of Alex Ferguson XD<br /> <br /> In poker you have to play both roles which can be very hard but if you do it well, you're bankroll will thank you :D

#5 Koskos, 27 Dec 08 05:17

Great article, Thank you!

#6 TTT241, 28 Dec 08 00:57

Just question here:<br /> <br /> For FL it is recommended that there should be bankroll around 300BB (Big Blinds). <br /> <br /> If session stoploss is 100 Big Bets that would mean 200 Big Blinds... that does not make much sense, because at that time according to BRM you should be playing one limit lower... <br /> <br /> Or do I get it wrongly and 300 means 300 big bets in BRM? <br /> <br /> TTT

#7 TTT241, 30 Dec 08 11:55

Ok, I have a look in the BRM and it talking about BigBets ;).

#8 janissilapriede, 06 Jan 09 20:50

For me, playing shortStack limits are 1/4 buyin' (for table) and 4 buyins for a whole session.

#9 Smileyphil, 01 Mar 09 13:52

I play NL and whenever I get stacked I always close down all the tables I am playing and have a cup of tea or a walk around or something. I feel I play worse if I immediately try to regain the money I have lost. Whereas if I wait even as short as 5 or 10 minutes I have regained a lot of focus and can play correctly again.<br /> <br /> My stoploss for a whole session/day however is 3 stacks.

#10 newsat, 29 Apr 09 01:25

<br /> The concept of stop-loss came from the trading in a market(stock, futures, commodity and etc market). I think poker and trading are very similar.

#11 Ramble, 06 Jun 09 23:52

Before I found PokerStrategy, I had won a couple of freerolls on various sites and quickly built up a very decent bankroll, only to blow it all away because of poor Bank Roll Management - but more importantly, not resetting my stop-loss limit when I was up at the tables.<br /> <br /> Often I would buy-in for $10, get it up to $25-30 and then go broke... If I had just reset my stop-loss limit to between $10-$15 I'd still be playing off those freerolls today.

#12 Sweetlovernr, 14 Jul 09 15:08

To me there is a difference between Big Bets and Big Blinds in Fixed Limit.<br /> Big Bet is the betting on the turn - in .05/.10 this is .20<br /> <br /> My bankroll rules are 300x Big bet - ie $60.00 to play .05/.10<br /> Maybe too cautious but I don't go broke.

#13 shanshichi, 21 Jul 09 01:24

wow ... very nice article

#14 theboydave, 22 Jul 09 16:56

good read very helpful.<br />

#15 peeetooo, 04 Aug 09 22:22

I find all of the articles very helpful so far. I never comment on anything but this site seems to be worth it. Im able to win SNGs and do well on bigger tournaments, but when I do I begin to feel really good and Im able to spend 1/3 of my bankroll on a bigger tournament that I wouldnt normally play and eventually lose it all. Its not much of a loss since I deposit about 25 pounds monthly, but never really make anything since I tend to get attracted by higher profits rather than improving my bankroll in the long run. So I might have another go and try to do more of managing,,, Thanks.

#16 NIONIOS, 27 Nov 09 22:50

"If you are playing SNGs, don't start any new tournaments after having lost 8 buy-ins." for example if i was playing one day about 20 SNGs (4-tables everytime) and i have lost the 8 of them but from the other i have make my profit.I have to stop and play the next day?

#17 WadeFortune, 02 Jan 10 18:49

I am currently playing FL 0.05/0.10 and have a stop loss of $5. The only thing I was not doing was moving my stop when I was in profit. Great article!<br /> <br /> Sweetlovernr the bet on the turn in FL .5/.10 is .10 not .20 mate. .20 is the bet on the turn in .10/.20 limit.

#18 fastroller, 15 Jan 10 04:20

This is probably the best advice trying to win at a table after losing your buy in over and over again is frustrating and at times I wished I avoided it and just admit the table is too strong for me.

#19 HansTheGreat, 10 Mar 10 10:43

Nice article!But sinceraly I think poker is in my opinion a mix of tennis as sport and of course management as a social activity.But you can see everything what you do in management way.Everything that has a target is management and there are many management resorsts so I would say poker could be a management on higher level or strategy management.

#20 AdamLaw33, 01 Apr 10 02:06

i like it.. it's good to have a your mind set before playing.. Just like anything u do better with a plan.

#21 strosdegoz, 04 Jun 10 07:07

Good article, will write it down next time I play!

#22 vesalaitila, 07 Jul 10 12:44

vn article!

#23 p1zzed, 22 Jul 10 17:06


#24 kranck777, 02 Aug 10 11:27

Very good Article !

#25 Edukator99, 24 Aug 10 11:49

Never considered resetting my loss limit. Great!

#26 Charles1337, 25 Aug 10 19:54

nice article i am learning as i read

#27 elalban, 02 Sep 10 14:30

an video example will make this more easy to understand and apply the strategy

#28 argentrole, 03 Sep 10 20:44

Thanks for the article!!!

#29 Alien1979, 06 Sep 10 12:26

Tacitus say it all.<br /> <br /> Survive today, to fight back tomorrow!

#30 cicaboom, 15 Sep 10 22:56

so very true and it makes sense, i like reading this posts! I hope someday I'll discover and improve a true and better poker player in me, Good Luck everyone

#31 phutranrz, 23 Sep 10 09:44

good artical, thanks for help

#32 allysus, 26 Sep 10 02:46

THIS will really help me i think

#33 slo56, 27 Sep 10 07:43

nice one !

#34 ehussain, 17 Oct 10 11:31

Great article, i think this is where many beginners go wrong! You got to have the ability to know when to walk away...instead of chasing loses!

#35 aronax5, 20 Oct 10 11:48

Awsome article. This realy sets my tactics straight. Thanx

#36 livo26, 24 Oct 10 04:16

Every time i play online i put in an amount. Recently i put in $100 on stars. Ran really well at 50c and ran it up to 960. tried hard to break the 1k mark and in doing that hit a bad beat or two which tilted me. Then i was only at like 800 so i was desperate to get it back. Played $2/$4, lost my mind and lost my roll. Story of my life.

#37 gintenslv, 26 Oct 10 05:02

Very nice that's helpfull thank you !

#38 tydzc, 04 Nov 10 02:06

I'm a beginner..nice article..thanks for your post guys...I'm learning!!

#39 andiperusko, 04 Nov 10 11:36

Thanks for this article .

#40 Niks123, 04 Nov 10 13:53

tHanks for this article.. Its great. :)

#41 ionelasexy, 10 Nov 10 16:02

excelent article

#42 chitic58, 11 Nov 10 13:01

good article;)

#43 sindreangel, 16 Nov 10 17:28

like it :d

#44 imagexo, 17 Nov 10 01:57

I would really like it if i can get a cheap rate for coaching... I just signed up to fulltilt. and used to play on pstars :) help someone pleaseeeeeeeeeee :P

#45 bata011, 18 Nov 10 22:36

nice :)

#46 verion87, 21 Nov 10 20:21

very nice article.. congratz :)

#47 olapjnc, 23 Nov 10 12:22


#48 mecxses, 24 Nov 10 12:58

nice one...

#49 JHTAN, 29 Nov 10 00:22

"A good table loss-limit in Hold'em No Limit and Pot Limit is 3 buy-ins, and 5 buy-ins for a session." Is that also apply to multi-tables? Let say I play 18 tables, should I stop the session after loss 5 buy-ins? Thanks.

#50 SzpakowskiRS, 24 Dec 10 00:47

very helpful

#51 liathorpe, 11 Jan 11 11:23

Was a good read for me.now all i need do is put it to use...easier said then done,tilt is hard to walk away from...That PRIDE gets the better of me...thanks again for a good read.

#52 vladimir800, 12 Jan 11 12:03

nice one ;)

#53 robo2o1o, 28 Jan 11 02:17

time to crush the tables!

#54 schoolgirl41, 10 Feb 11 05:13

nice article

#55 marvinsytan, 12 Feb 11 23:12

if only i read this earlieri wouldn't have busted my $500. My bankroll is already at $800 from $200 which i worked for several months only to lose more than half of it sucks. I should have stop at $650. But my anger to get back in the game is my leak in the game. i want to reover my loses as fast as possible threrefore gaoing all in preflop wiht mediocare hands like poket 9's and AJo only loses.Damn it. BRAVO TO THIS ARTICLE. I need to learned my lessons the hard way hope you guys not simply follow these advice.

#56 Bookiebasher82, 19 Feb 11 16:27

Absolutely spot on this article.I've been playin nearly 2 years now but still month after month when i start 2 build my bankroll it all goes 'pete tong'.I lose a couple of pots 2 a donk with an ALL-IN fetish,then a red mist starts 2 form around my brow then i black out.Next thing i know my bankrolls empty,computers lobsided & the mouse is in the opposite corner of the room.Ok maybe i've strayed a little from the truth(the mouse stays put lol)but you know where i'm coming from.Well starting from 2day with the help of u guys i'm pretty confident i can cage the beast.gl all

#57 smithyshark, 06 Mar 11 21:51

i know the feeling man.....

#58 OrianCristian, 20 Mar 11 17:05

time too lisen of Bankroll management

#59 longvan, 20 Mar 11 18:27


#60 Pets777, 18 Apr 11 09:56

nice one !

#61 RobertsKazlausks, 02 May 11 20:28

This article got my attention from the part where "Let's face it, sometimes you just have bad luck." So true, but majority of people still do not think any luck is involved.

#62 dangman13, 18 May 11 02:19

after reading this a few days ago when I was on a bad run, it came in very handy and has made me approach my sessions of poker differently, and reading the comments made me feel better knowing I'm not alone on a run of bad luck, stick in there peeps you can turn it around and gl.

#63 xkaiminshx, 25 May 11 13:50

100 % Truth. :)

#64 tranthe1509, 31 May 11 02:26

may be

#65 madkarteek, 31 May 11 15:15

Great article, only if there was any to play tournaments and actually win something,

#66 ExpertsLV, 07 Jun 11 10:24

Very helpful. Thank you!

#67 valo111, 08 Jun 11 09:48

Really nice article

#68 princess201, 21 Jun 11 16:52

seems bankroll management is a must. x

#69 Filosnoof, 25 Jun 11 14:01

I can take this very personal I have to admit! <br /> But the frustration or anger I could have now would be only fair to adress it to myself. <br /> Made it with a $100 deposit as far as $1900 thanks to 2 final tables in tournaments in just 3 days.<br /> <br /> Thanks to a very very very bad bankroll management I lost it all in less then 2 weeks.<br /> <br /> I now know what I did wrong and the learning a lot about all aspects of poker really helps me a lot to get more aware and so becoming a much better poker fanatic.<br /> <br /> Very thankful for this site and the information it provides.<br /> <br /> I wish for everybody to get awesome @ the tables, and maybe to run into some of you this lifetime @ high stake tournaments around the world!!!<br /> <br /> <br /> Cheers<br /> <br /> Filosnoof!

#70 BURVAKA, 09 Jul 11 23:07

please, tell me how can i get free 50$?

#71 BURVAKA, 09 Jul 11 23:09

i try it durin hour and crocks nothing <br /> :(

#72 monkeyozzy, 09 Aug 11 02:06

Good article! I havnt recieved my bonus yet, so i will utilize this strategy when I get it. Thank you!

#73 Pouserly2, 09 Aug 11 20:27

Good article! I havnt recieved my bonus yet, so i will utilize this strategy when I get it. Thank you!

#74 Gunn56, 14 Aug 11 13:00

reading this article helps currently reading all these psycology articles to get the right mind set even bought he poker mindset book recently ..

#75 Strongsl, 17 Sep 11 17:55


#76 LeatherBoots, 05 Nov 11 12:33

Very nice article.

#77 AGLearning, 09 Nov 11 21:17

It came right on time for me. Last night I lost some money, but not enough to hurt my bankroll, thanks to loss-limit control.

#78 stoke81, 27 Dec 11 13:53

Very good info, sometimes you need to see it writing before it hits home.

#79 jojo2978, 12 Jan 12 04:34

Nice. This will really help.

#80 brogac, 31 Jan 12 12:27

Nice article, very helpfull:)

#81 ToilaHung, 13 Feb 12 06:47

Nice one, I read this article just after I had my bankroll tilted, so I think it seems a remedy to reduce my hurt.Hope that it will be useful for me from now on to protect my bankroll and for a long -last poker career !:D

#82 Jigzee, 22 Mar 12 14:54

I knew I was not the only one to suffer the red mist, and am glad to have read this article, before losing a significant.

#83 zestaponeli, 21 May 12 19:30


#84 bettingstation, 11 Sep 12 01:03

i will do it

#85 kingreigns, 19 Jul 13 18:14

good article,there's a great seminar that has helped me so much and i suggest everyone watch ALL this video.it will completely change your mindset on downswing's and bad beats http://www.pokerstrategy.com/video/29593

#86 cedhabs, 14 Jan 14 02:59

true enough, it would have prevent me to make past mistake

#87 WpIoNker, 07 Jul 14 19:24

Thats helpfull

#88 Jaquare, 04 Aug 14 16:54

thanks a lot!! A new concept for me!! How do you think I should apply this to mgt as I play only mtts'?

#89 eddymurphy, 11 Jan 15 05:03

helpful to control myself when im at downswing...fight another day with more luck than today

#90 mirth, 27 Mar 15 20:45

this has always been one of my problems, and is now on my list. quit when winning was easy, now have to quit when losing too much.

#91 Karla9516, 20 Jun 15 02:59


#92 KIIWIIKIID, 03 Oct 15 12:07

thanks :)