Basic Poker Strategy: Stop Loss

Poker is, let’s face it, pretty addictive. The unwary player can find themselves hemorrhaging chips and money without realizing it until it’s too late and even the smartest player can find themselves in the middle of a cold streak that is just plain not going to warm back up. So, what do you do? Do you just quit when you lose? What if you feel like you’re luck is going to change? Set up a Stop Loss strategy that gives you a hard and fast rule that keeps you in the games you should be in and away from the ones that you should avoid.

A “Stop Loss” number is a predetermined amount that says when you’ll stop playing in any given day. Let’s say you set your stop loss amount to $400, meaning that you’ll push away from the table and go do something besides playing poker if you lose that amount. It’s important to remember that this does not mean when you are down by $400, but it means that if you sustain a $400 loss in the course of play, you’ll walk away. For example: let’s say you were up by $2,000 at a cash table. If you found yourself down to $1600, you’d quit then and there.

What are the benefits of a stop loss strategy? You avoid tilting winnings or your bankroll and you play longer sessions when you are winning. You also play shorter sessions when you’re losing and, frankly that’s important for more than just financial reasons. Once you get used to losing that set amount and walking away, you’ll likely find that your attitude about poker improves massively. For players that have problems with losing at the poker table, it’s a great way to make sure they don’t lose their cool very often.

Are there disadvantages to playing with a stop loss strategy in mind? Some players would argue that there are. They say that you may be forced to walk away just when games might be turning your way or that if you’ll play fewer hours and end up profiting less, but in my opinion, hours spent at the table should be profitable ones whenever possible. Now, you may just want to use a stop loss strategy as a temporary “patch” on your game. Even the best stop loss strategy is not a cure for tilt, and if you’re in it deep, it’s sometimes best just to ride it out.

In addition to stop loss strategy, there are some players who believe in stop wins, meaning that you have a preset amount that you will win from a game and then you’ll stop playing for that day. I’ve found that when I play and win, I play better and the cards generally stay warm for some length of time. Applying a stop-win philosophy is too close to thinking of poker as gambling for my taste: if you’re on a strong streak because of your skills, why not maximize it?