The Ultimate Guide to Bankroll Management for Online Poker Players

bankroll management guide by Ontario Poker
Last Updated
May 10, 2023

The Ultimate Guide to Bankroll Management for Online Poker Players

Introduction: What is Bankroll Management and Why is it Important in Online Poker?

Bankroll management is a crucial part of any successful online poker strategy. It involves setting aside a certain amount of money to play with, and then managing it carefully to ensure that it is intelligently allocated and not gambled away recklessly. Bankroll management helps players manage their risk and maximize their profits in the long run by ensuring that they are playing within their means. It also helps them stay disciplined and focused on the game, preventing them from making rash decisions or going on tilt. By taking bankroll management seriously, players can increase their chances of success in online poker.

Bankroll management’s effects goes beyond the mathematical implications of the effect of variance and a players ability to absorb downswings. It can have a significant impact on their psychology and performance. Proper bankroll management can help players maintain a healthy balance between risk and reward, allowing them to maximize their chances of success.

By understanding the benefits of optimal bankroll management, poker players can make better decisions about where to invest their bankroll by practicing sound game selection with these principles in mind. This helps them minimize the risk of ruin while also maximizing the potential rewards they can reap from playing poker.

How to Calculate Your Optimal Poker Bankroll Size

First of all, it’s important to understand that these bankroll management recommendations are assuming you are already a winning player. If you aren’t beating the games you play, no amount of bankroll management can save you from going broke eventually. However, if you are still learning and improving towards being a winning player and you want your money to last as long as possible, using the same guidelines can be effective in letting your money last longer then it would otherwise. If this is you, then this article might interest you.

We will discuss Bankroll Management for Cash Games first here, and then expand into the other variants in the next section.

We recommend 50 buy-ins per limit. 

When playing online poker, a buy-in equals 100 big blinds and is the maximum amount any player can bring to the table. You should have 50 times this amount available before moving up to any given limit.

This suggests the following minimum bankroll for each cash game limit:

  • 1c/2c: $100
  • 2c/5c: $250
  • 5c/10c: $500
  • 10c/25c: $1250
  • 25c/50c: $2500
  • 50c/$1: $5000
  • 1$/2$: $10000
  • 2$/5$: $20000
  • $5/10$: $50000

To calculate your optimal stake level, take your total poker bankroll amount and divide by 50, and this amount is the highest you should risk in any given game. For example, a player with a $1,000 bankroll set aside for poker, would perform the calculation $1000/50 and see that the max risk amount is $20. This would be just shy of the $1250 required to play the 10c/25c games that have a max buy-in of $25. Thus the player should remain at the 5c/10c level until they have accumulated enough to move up stakes.

Understanding the Different Types of Online Poker Variants & their Impact on Bankroll Management

Pot-Limit Omaha

Since Omaha cash games have additional variance compared to NLHE, we recommend a more conservative bankroll management approach of 100 buy-ins per limit.

Multi-Table Tournaments

The optimal bankroll strategy for poker tournaments depends on the field sizes, as this factor has an enormous and exponential effect upon variance. For Ontario players the field sizes are generally quite small, thanks to the geo-restriction feature of the regulatory framework of online gambling in the province. This decreases the variance factor of MTT’s considerably, as I’m sure many tournament players in the province have noticed. Many players were initially skeptical and disappointed with the smaller field sizes until they experienced it’s effect on their bankroll and variance expectations as winning players.

With that being said, we will break our recommendations down by field size.

>30 players - 50 buy-ins

>100 players - 75 buy-ins

>200 players - 100 buy-ins

>1000 players - 200 buy-ins

Turbo Considerations

Another factor to consider here is the structure of the tournaments you are playing.

For example, if your schedule was geared towards turbo and/or hyper turbo structure tournaments, you’d want to pad the requirement to compensate for the extra variance.

If your schedule was heavy with deep-stack freezeouts, then you could perhaps be more aggressive with the bankroll strategy.

Generally, these recommendations are assuming your schedule contains a mix of all offerings.

To Re-Enter or Not, that is the question!

It is our view that if you are sufficiently bankrolled for the tournament you are playing, and you feel you have an edge in that tournament (which is why you entered it in the first place) then you should always re-enter when available. There is no difference between re-entering the tournament or registering for a new tournament with the same parameters, the fact you played it in already isn’t relevant. This advice should be taken in moderation because you don’t want to fire so many bullets that you need a 3rd place score to break even on the thing. Use your judgement, but ideally be willing to fire multiple bullets with a reasonable cutoff point.

Average Buy-In Strategy

Another way to manage MTT bankroll management is to base it on your average buy-in. That way you can mix in some $200 MTTs into your regular $30 MTT schedule and play a whole bunch of $10 MTT’s to balance it out. It mathematically makes sense for you to be able to base your requirement on an average buy-in, but the issue becomes that your overall results become too dependent upon how you run in the biggest buy-ins of your schedule and for that reason we don’t recommend to use this method. We prefer the shot-taking method, as described in the final section, below.


We will only cover HU Hyper SNG’s here because that’s the only format that gets played very often these days. For these SNG’s we recommend a conservative 100 buy-ins to be able to confidently withstand the variance.


For Spin and Go’s and equivalent formats, we recommend 200 buy-ins.

Bankroll Management Strategies for Different Skill Levels

If you are crushing the games at a high level above the standard and your ROI is very high than you can get away with playing much more aggressively with your bankroll then we recommend. Conversely, if you are only just barely beating the game at the stakes you are playing, you may want to go more conservative than we recommend to minimize your risk of ruin and optimize your mindset by eliminating pressure and aiding in being a disciplined player. This really depends on what your personal goals are and how comfortable with additional risk you are. Generally, sticking to our guidelines will be the best bet. If you do decide to make a skill-level adjustment in favor of playing a more aggressive bankroll strategy, make sure its based on sound data like a high ROI over a considerable sample size and not wishful thinking or you’ll be a victim of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Benefits of Using a Professional Online Tools or Software

I’ll be straight up here, I personally use a basic spreadsheet I made to keep track of various bankrolls and weekly/overall profit and withdrawals. It’s a simple format and it serves the purposes of what I need it for perfectly. Since I am focusing on MTT’s, it uses the simple formula of dividing my total bankroll by 100 to get my maximum MTT buy-in, I’ve also been using a conservative /100 despite the field sizes I play being smaller and my ROI currently being ridiculously good, because I prefer to minimize my variance now that my roll has reached a critical mass. I was more adventurous on the way up, which might not be ideal for everyone’s tastes.

If anyone wants a copy of my simple sheet, you can email me with a request.

Cash-Game players can use tools like Hold-Em Manager  to track their results at the tables in detail along with keeping track of various stats on yourself and the other players you play against. The overall benefit of these software is beyond the scope of this article, and they are mentioned here because determining your win-rate and profitability is a pre-requisite to optimal bankroll management practice, and this type of software will do that for you with nice graphs.

For MTT players, you can opt-in on Sharkscope to track your tournament play in MTT’s and SNG formats. Over a large enough sample size, you can determine an expected ROI and use that to make good bankroll decisions. Use this tournament variance calculator to help with your understanding of variance and bankroll requirements and to play around with the model to suit your own unique situation.

How much should you cash out of your winnings?

The first thing to understand is that you can’t just keep cashing out all of your profit or you have no cushion for a downswing when it inevitably comes. The next thing to be aware of is that before you can even begin to estimate how much you should regularly withdrawal, you will need a decent sample size and good estimation of your ROI. If you’ve grinded Ontario Poker tournaments since they became available in 2022, you might just be getting to the point where your sample has any meaningful data towards what to expect for your ROI (return on investment).

Once you have an idea of your average monthly profit, based on your ROI and volume, you should cash out between 0% to 50% of the amount per month depending on your long-term goals. On the 0% extreme is if your goal is increasing your bankroll to move up in stakes and you have other income or several months of expenses on reserve (like you should anyway). On the 50% extreme is if you have immediate needs for cash and no goal to increase the size of your bankroll.  Your sweet spot is likely somewhere in between, depending on your individuals circumstances and goals. I recommend you make this cashout even if you didn’t do well in that specific period, as long as you’re leaving a good portion of the profit in profitable months to build the roll, a cushion will develop that will absorb those cashouts on negative months, if you haven’t overestimated your ROI and average profit in the first place. With the current field sizes and low variance in Ontario MTT’s, it’s possible to not even experience very many negative months for some of the top players. Despite favorable conditions for a professional player using bankroll management, if you are running good for a few months you still need to be careful to maintain realistic expectations and be prepared for downswings to emerge. Winning players on a downswing should maintain confidence in their grind by adhering to these principles and the effect of such variance can be minimized.

Taking shots, when and how to make an exception to the rules

If you’re an up and coming player building a bankroll, there is always tournament series and bigger games going on that can be tempting to get involved in. While it’s important to maintain our commitment to being disciplined players, it’s also not that exciting or stimulating if you never take a shot in a bigger game. For some, it can be unrealistic to expect that they’ll never stray from their well intentioned rules set for themselves because they just feel like “taking a shot” or rewarding themselves in this way. What I want to tell you is that there is a way to do it that makes sense. What you do is follow the step immediately before this one, and after you’ve set aside your portion for cashing out, if this amount is higher then you need for your monthly expenses, why not take a portion of this money already designated for cashing out and use it to take a shot? It’s a guilt free loss because it was already subtracted from the bankroll and you already determined you didn’t need it for anything else. It’s a portion of a portion of your expected profit. If it’s enough to play a tourney or buy-in to a table outside of your standard range, go ahead and do so and if you win with it, cash out half and use the other half to take another shot or multiple shots. If you lose with it, it doesn’t matter and you’ll try again next time.

In conclusion, take this seriously as it's crucial to your sucess

Bankroll management is an essential aspect of online poker success. By managing their bankroll effectively, players can mitigate their risk, stay focused on the game, and maximize their profits in the long run. Optimal bankroll management involves calculating the right size for their bankroll and allocating it intelligently. Moreover, players should consider different factors such as the type of online poker variant they play and their skill level, as well as using professional tools and software.

It's also important to note that bankroll management goes beyond the mathematical considerations of variance and downswings. It has a significant impact on a player's psychology and performance. By maintaining a healthy balance between risk and reward, players can minimize their chances of ruin while maximizing their potential rewards from playing poker.

Ultimately, successful bankroll management requires discipline and focus, but it pays off in the long run. By taking bankroll management seriously, players can make better decisions about where to invest their bankroll, leading to a more sustainable and profitable online poker experience.

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Ryan Fisler
Ryan Fisler

Ryan is a poker enthusiast and entrepreneur currently living in Kingston, Ontario.

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