Poker Bankroll Building – taking shots

Whether you’re a small stakes player looking to move up stakes quickly, or you’re someone with a good winrate looking to take the leap into full time; maybe you’re a seasoned pro looking to build up your poker business, exercising proper poker bankroll management will often determine if you succeed or fail in your objective and even career. There are no ‘industry standard’ methods of maintaining and building bankrolls, so in the next 3 articles I will go through different challenges each player will face, the steps they should take and ones they shouldn’t. Pay attention now, there’s a freebie at the end…

Small stakes shot taking

There are two things, almost universally, all small stakes players says to me when I ask them what they want most from poker:

  1. I want to move up
  2. I want to move up fast

Let’s take a second to examine these statements.

I want to move up in stakes

The reasons are simple: money and progression. Moving up means playing for more money, ergo more winnings. It also is a sign of a player’s progression and a way of keeping score. Because we know short term results are not a barometer for success, moving up in stakes is like a sign of moving forwards.

I want to move up fast

Poker bankroll building takes patience and is one of pokers key traits, yet most people lack it. They wanted to be playing high stakes yesterday. For the vast majority of players, moving through the stakes takes several years of blood, sweat and tears (and a couple of desktop keyboards : 0)

How to take shots in poker

Ex: BluffaloBill is holding his own at 50NL and has developed at steady 2bb/100 winrate over the last 150k. He plays part-time, but aspires to play full time one day so he can ditch his wretched day job. So he wants to move up ASAP.  How much should he risk? How much should he buy in for when taking shots? When should he move back down? This obviously depends on a few things:

  • Winrate
  • Bankroll
  • Risk aversion
  • The scared money factor

Winrate – Taking shots is pointless (and –EV) if you are already struggling at your current stakes. Higher stakes means better regs. And better players make fewer mistakes, which means even less money for you.

Bankroll – Over-rolled is obviously better than under-rolled. Many players play better with that ‘cushion’ too.

Risk aversion – Just how much would it suck to top-up or reload if you had to? Are you comfortable with that risk?

Scared Money – If you cannot play a higher stake without worrying about the money, you are playing with ‘scared money’. That is, your decisions are often emotionally based and not EV oriented. You must take measures to avoid this situation. I would typically advise buying in short while you get used to the bigger monetary swings.

Building a bankroll fast

So all things considered, I like the ‘20 buy-in bonanza’ approach. Simply, when you have 20 buy-ins for the next limit, move up. When (or if) you drop back to 30 buy-ins for the previous stake, move back down. It’s one of the most efficient ways of poker bankroll building.

Ex: BluffaloBill has a $2000 bankroll. Using our 20BIB approach, he can play NL100 until his bankroll dips back down to $1500 (he’ll then have 30 buy-ins for NL50), at which point he stops playing NL100 and builds back up. Rinse, repeat. It’s a good rule of thumb, but it’s a little rigid and tricky to estimate on the fly especially when a grand opportunity presents itself.

Consider this: Our Bill is on a NL100 table and the biggest 92/64 whale he’s ever seen is running over everyone including poor old Bill. It takes several decent pots, stacks 3 regs’ …and promptly bolts with $435 in tow. Bill curiously checks the lobby and see’s that the whale has jumped straight into a NL400 game with the ‘Jesus seat’ remaining. Should he follow? It’s 8 times his regular buyin! Can he afford the risk? How much should he buy in for? Does he have a decent chance of success?

There are easier ways to solve this conundrum…

The Turbo Bankroll Builder (TBB) – my very own custom-made poker bankroll spreadsheet!


Just enter your current total bankroll, custom buy-in size, safety net amount and the Turbo Bankroll Builder does the rest. It will even estimate your success % if you so desire! No more calculations, no more guess work, no more bankroll worry! Poker bankroll building has never been easier and what’s more, it’s FREE to all thepokercapitalist subscribers!! Just subscribe to our monthly newsletter below and we’ll send you a link. We’ll never share your email address, that’s not how we do things.

If you’re already subscribed you will receive an email in the next few days with a download link. You don’t have to thank me : )

There’s always risk when there’s money on the line and as a solid player, you’re right to take the necessary precautions. But always consider your ‘opportunity cost’. That is, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action… a shot.

I’ll leave you with a Matt Damon line from Rounders:

“I’ve learned to win a little at a time, but if you’re too careful your whole life can become a f***ing grind”.


Up next…Poker bankroll building: part 2- The Aspiring Professional

P.S Subscribing will also get you the latest tips, news and views straight to your inbox from

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  1. Phillip says:

    thanks, a useful little tool here.

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