Four Poker Habits that Will Break Your Bankroll

Playing the Wrong Limit

While there is no absolute formula for deciding what percentage of your bankroll you should use to buy into a given tournament, Sit and Go or cash game, there are a few guidelines that you’d do well to heed to make sure you don’t go bust due to a run of bad luck.

Let’s use Sit and Go tournaments as example here since they are generally agreed upon to be a great way to build up a bankroll.

Choosing your table and your limit is a crucial poker skill that any pro will tell you can’t be overlooked. So how do you know how much of your roll to risk? A good guideline for playing single-table Sit and Go tournaments is to buy in with between 5%-10% of your total roll.

Now, 10% is pretty high so unless you’re very confident in your game you should probably stay under that. And remember to never ever go over that. Even somebody like Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu wouldn’t go there. Because they know that no matter how good you are you need to be prepared for variance. Variance is basically another word for the luck factor in poker. Poker players of all skill levels run hot and cold and every buy-in you make should account for the possibility that some donkey could get hit square in the face by the deck and make every draw and hit every flop.

The good news is that sometimes that will happen to you, hence the term variance.

The danger that some donkmaster might destroy you through sheer luck is what often leads even the most disciplined players to the next bad poker habit – tilt.

Playing on Tilt

The math on this equation is simple: The more often you play on tilt, the less you will win at poker. Tilt is when you play with your emotions instead of your reason.

Think of it like you’re a Star Wars Jedi in training. Darth Vader will tell you to let your anger loose. Push people around, put them to the test over and over again. But Yoda will tell you to keep your anger in check. Sure the path of anger might get you some chips for a while as people bow before your aggressive angry bets, but sooner or later you’re going to walk right into a patient little Jedi who has flopped a straight and is happy to take all of your chips.

Poker players, perhaps more than most other groups, have a tendency to overestimate their skill level, and part and parcel of this is a tendency to think that tilt doesn’t affect them. But the truth is, unless you are a Zen master you probably are still subject to the occasional bout of tilting.

So take a cue from cognitive-behavioral therapy and watch yourself objectively. Note when you’re starting to play emotionally and make an effort to rein it in and return to your old, calculating and dangerous self.

Playing Drunk

Playing poker drunk sounds like fun, right? Well it is. That is until you call an all-in push with the nut flush only to realize that wasn’t the ace of hearts in your hand, it was the ace of diamonds. Yeah, not so much fun anymore is it?

Whether you’re sitting at home playing online poker or you’re at the casino with some buddies, you will have much more fun in the long run if you don’t overdo it. Sure, have a few drinks and loosen up. It’s supposed to be about having fun too, right?

Not Multi-tabling

Once you start to find your game and get into a pattern of winning the next logical step is to multiply your rate of winning by multi-tabling. This is an extremely good idea as long as you build the number of tables you play at once slowly. Begin with two and don’t increase it until you are completely comfortable.

And remember, if you’re playing a tournament or Sit and Go then things are going to heat up pretty fast when the final table starts shrinking. It’s very tough to make smart decisions if you’re heads-up in multiple tournaments at once. So instead of playing four six-handed Sit and Go tournaments, break it up with some large multi-table tourneys so you don’t find yourself fighting for first place on multiple fronts at the same time.