Let’s talk a little about bankroll management and tournaments, an area that sometimes trips up even experienced poker players who aren’t as mindful as they should be of how the variance of MTTs should affect what buy-in levels they choose.
MTT bankroll management: Why have a bankroll?
It goes without saying — a “poker bankroll” refers to money set aside for poker only, and should not overlap with living expenses or other funds designated for other uses.
Most poker players who are successful over the long term practice strict bankroll management in order (1) to ensure they can play their best at all times (and not be “scared money” playing above their heads and worried about losing), and (2) to help lessen their “risk of ruin” by avoiding getting involved in games that can threaten to deplete their entire bankroll and force them to quit altogether.
If you’re only a casual poker tournament player, perhaps jumping in MTTs once in a while for fun as a way to break up the monotony of cash games, you needn’t worry too specifically about tournament-specific bankroll management. But you shouldn’t ignore it, either.
The only real bankroll concern the casual MTTer should have is not to play a tournament for which the buy-in is so high it will disturb your ability to play without worry of losing what you’ve paid. If you typically play a $1/$2 no-limit hold’em cash game where you might win or lose as much as a few hundred in a night, playing a $5,000 NLHE tournament is probably a bad idea, both because of the higher level of competition you’re likely to encounter and the possibility that your fears of not cashing and losing that big buy-in will negatively affect your play.
Some pros suggest cash game players should never risk more than around 1/20th of their cash game bankroll when playing a tournament. In other words, if you have $5,000 set aside as your cash game bankroll, you really should limit yourself to playing tournaments with buy-ins of $250 and below. If you wish to play a higher buy-in tournament, you can consider selling action in order to lessen your risk.
You can adjust that 1/20th figure up or down depending on your own risk tolerance, but be cautious about risking too much on a single “shot” at a high buy-in MTT. Only 10-15% of those playing tournaments tend to cash, and even if you’re an above-average player in the field your chance of not cashing is going to be greater than your chance of making the money at all, let alone enjoying a big score.
For players who are more serious about playing tournaments — especially if you’ve chosen to specialize in MTTs to the exclusion of cash — you need to think specifically about your tournament bankroll and always be mindful of how a given tournament fits or doesn’t fit into the requirements you’ve provided for yourself.
MTT bankroll management: How is it different from cash games?
Cash game players set bankroll requirements based both on the stakes of the games they wish to play and game types.
Obviously higher-stakes cash games require a larger bankroll than do lower-stakes ones, but perhaps not so obviously certain game types require deeper bankrolls than others because of the increased variance or “swings” they cause.
If you wish to play short-handed (6-max.) or heads-up cash games, you need a deeper bankroll than you would if you stick with full-ring games. Similarly, playing a game like pot-limit Omaha is going to require having a larger bankroll than playing NLHE at the same stakes, since PLO typically tends to cause wider swings.
Similar principles apply to bankroll management for multi-table tournaments. That said, those familiar with managing a cash game bankroll may miscalculate what it takes to maintain a sufficient MTT bankroll.
Someone who regularly plays $1/$2 NLHE cash game for which the typical buy-in is $200 might reasonably think a bankroll consisting of 30 buy-ins or $6,000 is plenty (although more conservative players may opt for an even deeper bankroll).
However for a multi-table tournament player who plays $200 MTTs, a bankroll of $6,000 is not going to be adequate. Given the variance of MTTs, even good players can occasionally go 30 tournaments without a cash, a possibility that is much more likely to occur than for a good cash game player to blow through that many buy-ins.
MTT bankroll management: How many buy-ins do you need?
A typical recommendation for tournament players is to have at least 100 buy-ins in your bankroll for any tournament you play, although it should be said right off that is often a minimum recommendation. Even so, you can see that for a player of $200 MTTs, that means having a $20,000 bankroll at minimum to absorb the swings of MTTs — much higher than the bankroll of a cash game player whose buy-ins are the same $200.
The same advice goes to the online poker player who sticks with $5 multi-table tournaments, for which a $500 bankroll would represent a comfortable minimum. You can take shots at those $10 or $20 tournaments once in a while, but know that in order to move up to those buy-in levels permanently, you’ll need a bigger roll.
Meanwhile, there are several other factors that can push that 100 buy-in suggestion even higher.
For one, if you’re on the cautious side you may want to have at least 200 buy-ins or even as much as 500 buy-ins in your tournament bankroll. Also, if you mainly play large-field MTTs, you’ll also likely want to have more buy-ins given the higher variance of those events when compared to smaller field tournaments.
How you approach tournaments — that is, your playing style — also matters when it comes to MTT bankroll management. While we’ve been recommending “going for the win” in this series, many tournament players place a greater emphasis on simply cashing than focusing on trying to make final tables where they can play for real money. Such players tend not to win the big prizes up top, but may overall experience less variance and thus can get away with having smaller bankrolls. This is where many recreational MTTers end up, with bankrolls of 60 buy-ins (or even less) and cashing enough to stay in the game.
The more serious professional tournament players who do play for the win are going to need deeper bankrolls in order to handle those long stretches between final tables when they aren’t cashing at all.
MTT bankroll management: How does your ROI affect bankroll decisions?
Finally, if you keep good records (as you should) you can calculate your win rate in tournaments — commonly referred to as your return on investment or “ROI” — and use that figure as another guide helping you decide how deep of a MTT bankroll you should have.
Your tournament ROI is calculated by dividing how much you profit in tournaments (your “return”) by the amount you spend on buy-ins (your “investment”). Usually the result is then multiplied by 100 and shown as a percentage:
(winnings – buy-ins) / buy-ins *100 = ROI%
While it’s somewhat subjective to say what a “good” ROI is for MTTs, obviously anything above zero percent marks you as a winning player. Having a 10-15 percent ROI is good, and anything from 25-30 percent ROI and above is going to be better than many MTTers. Meanwhile only the top pros tend to reach and sustain levels higher than those.
Having a relatively small ROI means needing a deeper bankroll so as to ensure you’re able to stay in the game during those dry stretches, while having a consistently high ROI means you can get away with less.
One important word of caution, though — don’t be overly affected by small sample sizes when looking at your tournament ROI. One big tournament win can inordinately skew a player’s ROI, sometimes inspiring false confidence about the sustainability of such a rate.
Don’t let a ROI percentage calculated from just 10 or 20 multi-table tournaments inspire wild adjustments to your MTT bankroll management strategy. In fact, some say you need at least 1,000 results for the sample size to be significant enough to be meaningful, so while you should keep track of your results, understand what they mean when you do.
Most of us learn early on in our poker education that having position on our opponents is always much more desirable than being out of position. It’s a fundamental strategic truth of all poker variants, and especially true of no-limit hold’em. With position, we get to act with the knowledge of our opponents’ action, and as a result have more information available to us than when we have to act first.
There are certain mistakes many no-limit hold’em players make time and time again when playing from out of position. Becoming familiar with these mistakes can both help us avoid making them and perhaps help reinforce the lesson that it is better to play in position than from out of position.
What follows are five common mistakes no-limit hold’em players make when playing from out of position. These mistakes occur often both in cash games and in tournaments, and can be detrimental to the players making them in both.
Mistake #1: Playing Too Many Hands
First and foremost, as a general rule you should be looking to play more hands from later positions (the hijack seat, the cutoff, and the button) and fewer hands from under the gun and UTG+1.
That doesn’t mean you should never be opening pots from early position, whether with strong starting hands or even occasionally with medium or weak holdings (to balance your preflop raising range). But some players overdo it, and as a result set themselves up for further mistakes when stuck having to play from out of position after the flop.
Mistake #2: Calling Too Many Three-Bets
Sticking with preflop problems, some players who are willing to open-raise from early-to-mid position with non-premium starting hands subsequently have difficulty folding to reraises coming from players in the later positions.
For instance, it folds to a player in middle position with who notices three tight players to his left decides to open with a raise. But the player in the cutoff then three-bets and it folds back to the original raiser. Letting such a hand go is perfectly fine to do, and in fact can affect your image in a useful way when you later raise with a legitimately strong starting hand from early-to-mid position and get reraised again.
Depending on the opponent doing the three-betting, folding hands as strong as or middle pairs can be acceptable as well. Even calling a three-bet with pocket jacks from out of position is not going to be a play that makes you money in the long run. Don’t be stubborn when calling three-bets from out of position with hands that become difficult to navigate without having hit a perfect flop.
Mistake #3: Playing Overly Passive
Moving to post flop mistakes, it is natural (and even correct in many cases) when playing from out of position to become passive — that is, doing a lot of checking and calling in an effort control the pot and prevent getting raised out of hands. But too often players having to act first on the flop grow accustomed to such passivity and fail to recognize when it is right to make more aggressive plays like leading with bets (or “donk betting”).
Playing a lot of hands “OOP” might even cause some players to begin playing a more passive game in other spots, too, including in hands when the player has position on an opponent. Often when out of position it is necessary to play a “defensive” style, but if that becomes your default mode you’ll find it difficult ever to pressure opponents as you’d like to be doing.
Mistake #4: Not Check-Raising
This mistake could be regarded as a variety of the previous one — that is, letting your passive play from out of position rule out the idea of check-raising in spots when doing so would be profitable.
Whether done with a strong hand (like two pair, a set, or better) or as a bluff, check-raising is a show of strength that puts an opponent on the defensive. Say your opponent opened from the button with , you called from the blinds, then check-raised following a flop. It doesn’t matter if you have it or not, your opponent who missed is going to have a hard time staying after your aggressive play.
However, players who play lots of hands from OOP are often also not aware of other fundamentals, like how check-raising can be a powerful way of grabbing the initiative away from an opponent who has position on you, enabling you to take charge of a hand post flop. The fact is, if you’re going to play hands from OOP, you have to be comfortable with check-raising and be able to recognize when you should employ the move.
Mistake #5: Check-Raising Too Much
Finally — and on the other end of the aggression spectrum — is the player who check-raises too frequently when playing from out of position, thinking it’s the only way to manage a hand post flop when OOP.
In some cases, check-raising a lot is just an extension of the loose (or reckless) mindset that encourages someone to play a lot of hands from out of position. Occasionally those with a limit hold’em background might check-raise more than they should in NLHE given that it is a more commonly seen move in LHE.
In any event, check-raising all the time can become a very exploitable pattern, with opponents knowing they can check back to get free cards or bet big hands knowing you’ll be helping them bloat the pot.
Sometimes you haven’t much choice when it comes to playing post flop from out of position, such as when you raise preflop and someone calls you from the cutoff or button, or when getting involved from the blinds. But be wary about getting involved in hands too often from out of position, and when you are playing from OOP remain mindful of other common mistakes players make to hurt their bottom line.
One of the more rewarding things to learn in poker as a beginner is the importance of position. Once you grasp this concept your time at the tables will be a lot more comfortable and very likely more profitable as well.
Why is position important?
Playing hands in position has a some great benefits. First of all, the other players in the hand act before you so you have more information to base your decisions on than your opponents.
Secondly your have more ability to control the action, take initiative and put in the last bet or check.
What this gives you is a much better chance to realise the equity of your hands as well as to push your opponents off their equity. Strong hands will be fairly easy to play both out of position and in position but marginal hands will be a lot easier to play in position due to the factors mentioned above. Because of this, bluffs will also work better in position.
Pick the right hands
Which hands you put in your pre-flop ranges will be key in putting yourself in the right spots post-flop. Generally look to play tighter from early positions as well as from the small blind and to some extent the big blind.
When you are playing a hand which you are likely to be playing out of position, you want to pick hands that are easy to play post flop. Avoid playing hands that will be difficult to get to showdown and choose hands that can either flop strong hands or make strong hands on later streets. This is generally pocket pairs, strong Broadway hands and suited connectors.
Now let’s look at some examples:
Example 1 – playing a marginal hand in position:
It’s folded to you on the button. You open to 2 big blinds (bb), the small blind folds and the big blind, whom you think is a fairly tight player, calls.
The flop is and your opponent checks to you.
In this spot it’s very unlikely you will be called by a worse ace if you bet. Versus a nine or a pocket pair between KK-TT you can’t expect to get more than one or possibly two bets called, and you can do this on later streets.
You also hold a backdoor flush draw and a straight draw so there is value for you in seeing the turn as some cards will increase the equity of your hand drastically, and if you bet the flop you risk getting check-raised by a stronger hand or a bluff/draw. At the same time you don’t need to bet to protect your hand as few turn cards are bad for you.
Therefore, you check the flop.
The turn is the making the board , giving you both a flush and a straight draw. Your opponent makes a 3/4 pot bet and you call since you have no reason to raise here as you will only get action against a better hand if your do.
The river is the making the board and your opponent checks.
Since you expect him to bet a flush on the river you go ahead and make a half pot value bet with your straight and get called by a set of nines.
This example should hopefully illustrate how you used position to realise the equity of your hand.
• Checked behind with the worse hand on the flop
• Called the bet on the turn with a disguised hand and a spike in equity
• Used the information from your opponent’s river check to put in a nice value bet on the river
To make the importance of position even more clear, let’s imagine the positions are reversed.
Example 2: playing a marginal hand out of position
So a fairly tight player opens the button to two big blinds, small blind folds and you call the big blind with .
The flop is and you check. Your opponent bets 3/4 pot and you call.
On the turn the action repeats as you check-call a 3/4 pot bet expecting to be up against a strong range consisting mostly of flushes, two pairs and sets. You make the call since you have good equity against most hands and expect to get paid off by a worse flush on the river some of the time.
As the river completes the board you check and your opponent check behind.
In this case you:
• called a big bet on the flop with the worse hand
• called a big bet on the turn knowing you have the worse hand hoping to improve on the river
• had to check to river once your hand improved to the best hand allowing your opponent to check behind
Sure you can bet into your opponent on the river here but you will most often get called by a flush when doing so, which makes it an unfavourable option.
Playing against aggressive opponents
Position becomes even more important when you are up against aggressive opponents. This will allow you to play a much wider range of hands than you could out of position which is very desirable if one or more of your opponents are weak and aggressive.
Sitting in position on a weak player of any kind, passive or aggressive, tight or loose is a very good spot for you. It gives you the best chance to exploit their weaknesses and isolate these players to play more hands against you than any other player at the table.
So, if you are about to sit down at a table with only a few players, try to pick a seat directly on the left of a player you suspect to be aggressive or weak.
If you’ve ever played a session of blackjack, then you know the advantage that comes with being able to act second. It’s the main reason the house has an edge in the game, and if you make a priority to act second in poker – by having position – then you’ll enjoy a similar advantage.
Acting second is so important that position and stack sizes are the two most relevant factors in determining which hands you should play pre-flop. Players who make a habit of playing out of position are quickly punished; for many beginning players, it’s the single most-common leak in their game.
Being able to see what your opponent does first is one of the few pieces of telling information we have that helps define their range of holdings. For example, if a straight-forward opponent raises in early position, and then checks to you on an uncoordinated flop like Q-7-2, then you can likely eliminate the strongest and weakest holdings from his range because his combinations with top pair and better would likely bet for value, while his combinations with no pair would likely bet as a bluff. With just one street of information, we can make a relatively accurate assumption that he has something with moderate showdown value that doesn’t want to bloat the pot (perhaps a holding such as pocket tens or jacks).
As the hand continues, the power of your position becomes even more apparent. Take the turn for example, where it’s common to see the pre-flop raiser continue their aggression with a continuation bet on the flop, passive players will be more reluctant to fire again on the turn if they’re not confident in their holding. This is especially true when the most obvious draw on the board completes. Unless your opponent is holding the nuts (or creative enough to slow-play a relatively strong hand), you can infer that a check from your opponent means he’s concerned about the draw. In situations like these, it’s possible to turn a hand that’s behind his range – such as a small pair – into a bluff if you believe he’ll give you enough credit.
Of course, you can’t always be the one in position. Take the small-blind for example; any time you enter the pot you’ll be out of position, so you’ll need to mitigate the disadvantage whenever possible. In the event you’re facing a raise from middle or late position, you’ll often adjust by three-betting pre-flop so you’ll have the lead in the hand, and the opportunity to win by betting the flop when you don’t connect. This doesn’t mean you should always three-bet from the small blind – and if your opponent is weak it may be better to just call pre-flop and keep the pot small – but against capable opponents, it’s a major leak to be just calling often, particularly in heads-up pots. If you do just call, make sure it’s with hands that play well post-flop, such as suited Broadway holdings.
Check out this video clip to see the power of position in all of its glory.
“What do I want to do with my life?” I bet you have had that question rattling around in the dusty recesses of your mind for quite sometime right?
Let me guess.You don’t want a boss because you hate authority, you don’t want to work very hard… because… who does right?Getting dressed and leaving the home is not so much as a drag, but a complete write off in terms of costs, the thought of attending an interview scares you to death, and you don’t really know too much about anything, and everyone new in the world of business always starts out on the lowest rung on the ladder meaning lots of work for minimal pay.
Does that sound about right?
Well have you ever heard of online poker? We present you with nine online poker strategy tips from nine different people who had the same question swimming around in their head and found the solution to their troubles on their computer, tablet and mobile phone.
If you want to become great at anything then there needs to be the right blend of dedication, motivation, skill, willingness to learn from your mistakes and sheer volume.
Sam Grafton believes volume is one of the most important concepts any new online poker player should grasp if they want to earn a decent wedge at the table.
“Volume is the key. If you look at all the best players: Phil Galfond, Chris Moorman, Chris Brammer – there was at least one point in their careers where they put in huge volume. Sadly there’s no substitute for hard work.” – Sam Grafton
2. Time Management
If you have ever played Football Manager, Tomb Raider or Resident Evil you will understand the power the video game has over your senses. Normal sensible people are dissolved into agoraphobic crazies as the game consumes their lives for months on end.
Surprisingly, this type of behaviour doesn’t necessarily bode well with those ‘other people’ who are crucial to your life – a point that Paul Zimbler believes is important to note if you want to make online poker an important part of your life.
“You need to play within your means and manage the time you spend playing wisely. It’s all about finding that right blend of work, rest and play.” – Paul Zimbler.
Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt?’
Well in online poker that phrase has been changed to ‘familiarity breeds cracking online poker players.’
I’m not talking about learning the game in a generic kind of way. Instead, I am talking about moving online poker into your life in a routine sort of way. Turn everyday into a ritual. Tell your brain to expect the expected and slowly but surely you will get into that pokercadian rhythm.
Super High Roller star Philipp Gruissem concurs.
“You need to prepare properly and get into a routine. It doesn’t matter if that routine means eating, sleeping, getting errands done, showering, turning your technological distractions off… whatever you need to get into gear and focus. I always make a bulletproof coffee mix for example.” – Philipp Gruissem.
4. Start Small
Always remember that the giant Oak that pulled the kids out of the window and ate them in Poltergeist started life as a tiny, innocent looking acorn.
Great achievements take time, something that John Eames knows only too well.
“If you are just starting out in the online poker world then play for tinier amounts than you might want to. The little monster in your head will be telling you to play higher, but if you do you will probably lose too much too quickly and give up. So if you deposit $20, don’t immediately play for $20, play for $2 or something similar, and give yourself a chance to gain experience,” – John Eames.
5. The Right Equipment
Everyone knows the importance of making sure your equipment is in good working order, but do you have the right equipment to start out with?
When you start out in the online poker world you probably have no idea that there are technological ways to improve your game. Something that Bodo Sbrzesny thinks is an important point to understand.
“Make sure that you experiment with your equipment until you find something you are comfortable with. Take your screen view for example. I play with a black table background layout and coloured cards for maximum overview. The card backside is bright and this helps me understand how many players are in the hand. I hide all other unimportant stuff like avatars which takes my focus away from the hand.” – Bodo Sbrzesny.
6. Never Play Tired
You will know within yourself that the best levels of performance you have delivered in any area of your life have come when you have been full of energy. It’s admirable to stay awake for 48-hrs at a stretch but not very advisable as Richard Trigg explains.
“You should never play when you are tired and I have learned this the hard way. I find when I am tired I start telling myself off and going on tilt. I also find that at the extreme I start to not care if I win or lose just because I want to go to bed. So stay sharp, prepare and make sure you are full of energy and focused when you play. “ – Richard Trigg.
7. The Right Mindset
The greatest thing about online poker is you can play it whenever you want, but this doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to use it as a vehicle to blow off some steam after arguing with the dragon.
I will let Mathew Frankland explain…
“You should only play when you’re in a good frame of mind. You should never force yourself to play, and if you get this feeling then switch off and do something else. It’s so difficult to make decent folds when you are slouched down in your chair wishing you were on a desert island somewhere.” – Mathew Frankland.
The online poker-sphere can be an intimidating place for someone who is new to the game. There are so many bells, whistles, lights and colours that you could be forgiven you are at a fairground.
Take a deep breath and relax…
“The first time you play poker online can be intimidating. There are so many buttons to press and more exciting noises than a Vegas Casino! Just relax. Don’t try to play every pot, or bluff every hand. Patience is a virtue, the longer you’re initial deposit lasts you; the more experience you will get. The more experience you get; the higher your win rate. This comes ‘full circle’ enabling you to play more with your money, and hopefully win a bunch of Wonga!” – James Sudworth.
9. Pay Attention
Technology has become such an ingrained part of our life that your good lady can be forgiven for tweeting whilst you are on the nest.
It’s become a part of life to wake up and check your e-mail before kissing those that matter to you.
This can be a disaster for an online poker player as Matt Ashton explains.
“Pay attention. Every bit of information you can take in is very valuable for the learning process. Watching every bet and thinking why each person is doing what they’re doing is great for considering how to play your own hands in future and for getting reads for the present. I think too many players fail to use their downtime between hands to continue learning from others.” – Matt Ashton.