In last week’s edition of Hold’em with Holloway, I spoke to mid-stakes pro Todd Breyfogle about bankroll management, which followed the theme of a recent PokerNews strategy article by my friend Andrew Moreno, husband of former PokerNews hostess Kristy Arnett.
This week, I speak to another cash game pro about the importance of bankroll management.
“Prudent bankroll management is the nucleus of a profitable poker player.”
Those were the words Daniel Arfin told me when I asked him what contributes to his success playing $5/$10 to $10/$20 no-limit hold’em.
“The name of the game with bankroll management is patience,” Arfin continued. “Even if you sometimes play impatiently at the table, if you’re doing so while patiently managing your bankroll, this is less dangerous than the careful in game player that doesn’t mind putting a huge portion, if not his entire roll in play. Disaster is always just a hand away in no limit.”
Arfin admits that he has made plenty of bad decisions that resulted in costly sessions, but at no time did it put a significant dent in his bankroll. That’s because he was never taking too big of shots on a night-by-night basis.
“I’ve always been a proponent of being over-bankrolled no matter what the stakes,” admits Arfin. “Winning at poker is going to be a long and often painful journey. Trying to run it up to the sky too fast usually leads you to the felt, and this can be the start of a vicious cycle — one that can be hard to get out of, and you don’t want that.”
Arfin recommends having at least a 25 buy-in bankroll when playing $1/$3 or $2/$5, but if you really want to be responsible and play it safe, then it should be closer to 50 buy-ins.
“Is it impossible to get yourself going with 15 or even 10? No. Impossible and poker seldom go together. But why assign yourself that kind of pressure? Anyone can take a bad run of cards at any time,” he explains.
“The idea of good bankroll management is so that every time that happens you always have a big cushion underneath you containing your stress level. Bankroll stress will hurt your play. It’s a great feeling living with no matter how bad you’ve been running your roll never leaves you feeling like you’re in any kind of trouble.”
While these are good numbers to keep in mind, Arfin admits they are not rules set in stone. But if you ignore them completely you will pay the price.
“You just have to make a choice as to what kind of poker player you want to be. Some guys seem to live for the wild lifestyle ride of going from zero to hero, and then back down to broke. All because they have to live in the fast lane and don’t care about being a yo-yo with their roll. Take huge shots and party hard. That’s what they want. When they have money they go hard with it and when they don’t they look for ways to get back into the scene. They end up doing nothing but going in circles. Is that what you want? If you do, fine. Just don’t ever confuse this lifestyle with that of the foundation of a professional.”
Arfin continued: “We’ve all heard stories of gamblers running small pittances into fortunes. What’s important to recognize is the only reason these people were even able to run up that much money in the first place is because they eventually lost it. The ascension and descent went hand in hand. Someone more balanced wouldn’t be able to win that much. They would stop at less, much less, to prevent themselves from losing it because they know they are eventually supposed to.”
For Arfin, one of the best ways to combat this is to establish a stop-loss and stick to it.
“Your biggest losses should be in some of the best games you’ve been in, but I think we all know no matter who you are, we all play at least a little, if not a lot worse when we’re stuck. Let’s save what we got for tomorrow or the next day when our brain and emotions are fully recharged. You can make money at poker if you approach the game patiently and respectfully, the way any true professional handles their game. Poker doesn’t care if it’s your infinite trust fund or your last dollar that you’re playing with. If you’re at the table, you can lose.”
Finally, Arfin echoes the sentiment that it’s imperative to track your results.
“I highly encourage to diligently track your results. It’s part of being professional about what you’re doing to see how much you’ve been worth in all the hours you’ve put in. However you choose to keep track is up to you, just be sure that you do it. I feel like a lot of poker players don’t want to hear this, but bankroll management is what’s going to keep your career afloat.”
Follow Arfin on Twitter @DanielArfin.