Friday, December 1, 2006

Poker Bankroll Psychology

What I'll be writing here won't be your basic "Poker Bankroll Management" article. There's plenty of folks who've already done that. I've decided to write about something I've learned on my own. I'm not sure if it's already been written about or not. But here's my take on what I call "Bankroll Psychology".

I believe the size of one's bankroll has an effect on how he plays. This is especially true in online poker because the numbers are usually right there on the screen. There's also more fluctuation in an online bankroll since more hands are dealt per hour. Seeing these numbers going up and down erratically can directly influence a player's style of play (Though it can happen live, also. Especially if you are like me and are constantly counting your chips to keep up to date).

The number I'm referring to is the amount of chips with which a player sits at a table in relation to their bankroll ON A SINGLE SITE. I used to believe in spreading my smallish bankroll out amongst 2 or 3 poker sites. It does fight boredom. This made for separate bankroll numbers on each of the different sites. If I were to sit down and lose a stack on a bad beat, it would appear worse in relation to the amount I had on just that site.

For example: Let's say I have $70 on each of 3 different sites. I then sit at a 5c/10c NLHE cash table with $20. A few hands in, I push with a King-high flush and get beat by the Ace-high flush. The effect on my bankroll appears to be worse than it really is. That $70 went down to $50, which is almost a one-third loss. It doesn't always register in the brain that it was a loss of $20 from the whole $210 bankroll. A player like me could see that near-1/3 loss of that one site's total and go into desperate mode. Looking for the homerun ball. Playing any 2 suiteds, trying to hit the flush. Slowplaying aces to bring in more money, dangerously allowing cheap draws. Etc., etc.,etc.

I've found that most people would be better off putting the whole $210 on one site and getting a better mental picture of how they are doing. To see that $210 go down to $190 should be less of a shock and more of a motivation to excel. I say "most people" because there are a few out there who, for whatever reason (poker panic, drunkenness, etc.), would be less apt to plow through their whole bankroll if it were separated into more parts. But I believe they are quite the minority.

Now this psychology can work in winning, also. Take the $70 X 3 example: If I sit at table with $20 of my $70 chunk and leave the table with $50, I may get a false feeling of security. I may think "Hey! I'm at $100 now." Then I might loosen up to "keep the rush going" or I might move up a stakes level. This dangerous behavior could happen because I saw this large jump in the small chunk of my bankroll. I may not realize that $30 is less than 15% of the total bankroll and can be as easily lost as it was won.

Now many experts advocate keeping track of total bankroll progress with a spreadsheet (as do I). This works great for goal setting, problem solving, basic accounting, etc. But unless a player has it in view while playing (not practical), the spreadsheet probably won't help in keeping the mental bankroll perspective in the heat of the battle. It's just too easy to forget that magic overall bankroll number while check-raising the supposed nuts. The other little numbers seem to take over. Remember, I'm referring to BR "psychology" not BR management. That's a different subject and well written about by people more qualified than I.

Anyway, this "philosophy" on "psychology" seems to help me keep things in perspective and helps limit my tilt factor. If you are having management problems with your smallish bankroll, maybe try this to see if it works for you. Then, when your BR gets large enough, multi-site play is the way to go. Keeps the boredom away.

No comments: