Thursday, December 7, 2006

Your Stakes Level DOES Matter: Bankroll Psychology II

After I posted my original idea about "Poker Bankroll Psychology", I got to thinking that there was more. More to how the human brain reacts to visually seeing a number (the total amount of one's poker bankroll) fluctuate up and down. Gains and losses. Bigger and smaller. I wrote about how keeping a smallish bankroll of around $210 pooled on only one site until it gets bigger could help the brain deal with seeing the amount fluctuate, thus helping to avoid tilt. But what about the amount a player sits down with at a table at one time or even while multi-tabling online? This is also a "chunk" of our total, right? There's no way to avoid "chunkage" (lol). So how big of a chunk should we break off when we sit down at a table?

First off, I've read a few poker experts say that a player should never sit down with more than 10% of his total bankroll. I say it is a matter of comfort and confidence. Some players may feel fine risking 20%. Others (like me) might only like 5%. Other than learning the hard way, the best way to find out this comfort level is to look at the amount one has and then think "How would I feel if I lost $xx?" Would tilt rear its ugly head? Would the player have the confidence that he could make up the loss in a calm and timely manner? The answer depends on the person and their skill level. The key is to find a number that the player would say "It's OK. No problem. Now let's make it back." Now, my opinion is that this is NOT a negative train of thought. I believe in preparation. "What would I do if my house caught fire?", "What would I do if a robber broke down my door?", and "What would I do if I lost my stack at a poker table?" All preparation (yes, we hope the first 2 are much, much more rare).

After finding this personal comfort amount, a player then has to set out and find what stakes level is appropriate to fit that amount. Many experts have a pat answer, which is anywhere from 100 times to 500 times the big blind. My opinion is that it depends on the site, both live and online. For example: I played $2/$4 Limit Hold'em at the Reno Cal Neva a few weeks ago and my stack of only $40 was just fine. But there's no way I'd play a table at Full Tilt at that level with less than $140. But I'd play a 2/4 table at Titan with about $80, no problem. Skill of competition and hands dealt per hour are the major factors. Unfortunately, the only way to find out the right stakes level to play at a certain site is to try different ones. So one should be careful! Some levels might be harder to figure out or take longer to sample than others. A significant dent in the bankroll might occur before the realization comes about that a stakes level is the wrong one. It should go without saying that a player who plays STT's and MTT's doesn't need to go on this fact finding mission since the buy-in amounts are cut and dried. What needs to be considered in this case is a player's skill level, winrate, and how many losses in a row at $xx buy-in he could handle comfortably.

What this breaks down to is a tip I've learned by experimenting (yes, I learned the hard way). Again, this is much more psychological and has very little to do with poker strategy. I'm an average poker player, so the strategy posts may be years down the road. But I'm also a problem solver and I seem to have cured many aspects of my tilt through self-analyzation and trial & error. I hope these "brain tips" relating to one's poker bankroll can also be of some help to readers. Cheers.

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