Sunday, November 27, 2005

Tournament Bankroll/Time Management

Introduction

A few months ago, I realised something wasn’t quite right with the way I approached poker. Despite playing for almost five years, I hadn’t really had much to show for my efforts. I’ve tried to improve my game by brushing up on my reading. I’ve won tournaments and can handle myself at a ring game. I’ve even cashed out cheques. But one thing I can’t state is that playing poker has made me rich. Whenever I cashed out, sooner or later I needed to redeposit an equivalent amount back into my online account. Obviously, something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was.

This guide, first and foremost, is for myself more than anyone else. Sometimes it’s best to see ideas written down, especially for someone as disorganised as myself. I am not trying to teach people how to suck eggs. I am not suggesting that anyone who reads this essay to emulate the techniques I am currently using. I believe that part of the fun about poker is discovering things out for yourself., and that, like most things, the more effort you put into it, the more rewarding the experience.

Oddly, my inspiration to look at money management more closely, didn’t come from poker, but surprisingly from house games such as blackjack and roulette. There are a couple of methods of betting employed by some gamblers. One is called “regression” betting and the other is called “up and pull” betting. Without going into the finer details at the moment, basically it’s all about getting something back for the amount of time spent at the table. In other words, guaranteeing a set amount of money at the end of the week. However, this is poker, a form of gambling, not a nine to five job. There is a significant risk that you could lose, and continue to lose, indefinitely. My advice to anyone in that unfortunate position is simple. Please stop playing for your own sake…. And if you are too stubborn to take that advice, please play at my table, because I could do with the cash.

The reason I am stressing out the importance of losing is because it is inevitable. I base my results on a weekly basis, in other words, a winning or losing week. It’s very easy to end up on a losing streak that lasts 3 months or more. It’s very tempting to chase after money already lost, risking even more money at a time when one or more factors are not favourable. It’s better not risking any money during these times, walk away and come back refreshed a few weeks later. To this end, at the start of my week, I allocate a small percentage (usually 10%) of my overall bankroll, and this will be my weekly bankroll, for example $100. It has to be an amount which isn’t the end of the world if I lose it, but still an interesting amount to double up by the end of the week. I still have the majority of my bankroll in safekeeping, and if really necessary, I can top it up from my full time job.

Single, Multi, or Super-Satellite Tournaments

Now that I have my weekly bankroll established, I can sit back and relax. I know that the maximum I can possibly lose for this week is $100. I’ve done much worse in the past, believe me. Now I can turn my attention to which type of tournaments to play. My personal preference is No Limit Texas Hold Em, for several reasons. Firstly, I am well practiced at this particular version of poker. Secondly, it’s current popularity over games such as Omaha and Stud means that there are a wide selection of games to choose from. Additionally, it is the beginners first choice of game. It is my aim to outplay players with only a few months experience under their belt.

As stated earlier, I base my winning sessions on a week by week basis, not on the outcome of any particular game. My philosophy is that the longer I spend time pursuing one activity, the greater the rewards should be. To this end, I split my time into three separate weeks.

My first week is spent playing single table tournaments (STTs). The chances of having a winning session should be greater than if I played multi-table tournaments (MTTs) for that week, albeit the amount of profit may be significantly smaller than a single multi-table tournament win. My aim is simply to get into profit and stay there, no matter what the amount.

If I have a successful week, my second week is spent playing large field MTTs with a proportion of the previous weeks profit (for example 50%). Note that I always hold some money back. This is my guarantee that the last two weeks haven’t been wasted. Now if I am successful in one or more MTT, my profits are much higher than the previous week, although I have had to spend more time to gain that reward. If I lose, so what? As far as I’m concerned, they are all free rolls.

I adopt a different strategy for the third and final week of a successful run. I’ve already made a nice little profit. I’m probably feeling very pleased with myself. Maybe a little too cocky and arrogant. Two characteristics which has seen many a poker player go broke. For the third week, again I take a small percentage of the previous sessions profit. Now I play satellite tournaments for events like the WSOP or WPT, either with loyalty points or for direct buy ins at either the full amount or at a discounted price by playing super satellites. After this week, the cycle repeats and I return to STTs. Note that week after week, the reward increases, but so does the time invested.

That’s great… when I’m winning. What happens if I don’t win? Quite often, I will have a profitable first week, enter the MTTs during the second and make a loss. It’s bound to happen. The amount of competition is much tougher and more difficult to finish on a final table than a STT where, in effect, you are already there! Well quite simply, I revert back to STTs and start again. Taking this step back after a losing session has another effect. It means that when I am at the stage where I am looking at entering super-satellite tournaments, I have also built up quite a few frequent player points, which can be used to buy into the event. Yippee!! It’s another free roll event!

Buy-In Range - Tournament One

I believe that it is a mistake to buy-in to tournaments at the same level all the time. In other words, I think that sticking to, lets say, $5+0.5 STTs severely limits my options. I can’t employ “regression” or “up and pull” strategies, which I will address in a moment. Basically, I’m backed into a corner and that’s it…. It doesn’t have to be a $5 tournament. It could just as easily be a $50 or $500 tournament. If you stay at the same level, all the time, you are solely relying on hitting more tournament wins each week than losses. Plus, it can become incredibly tedious playing the same level, week in and week out. I feel that it is a reasonable assumption that the higher up in limits, the greater the skill and experience of your opponents (although some people I’ve played go to great lengths to convince me otherwise). If I want to develop as a poker player, I need to push back the boundaries of my playing abilities, by occasionally playing at higher limits than I regularly play at.

So when I am considering which game to play, I am looking more at a broader range of games, rather than one specific limit to play at. To play at the bottom end (where I normally reside) of my favourite online poker site, I’m looking at the $5+0.5 to $50+5 range. An important factor is that I know I can stand my ground in the $50+5 games (I used to play at higher levels - unsuccessfully!) If any raw beginners are reading this and thinking of trying it out, please, please, please…. don’t! $50+5 games do not play the same as $5+0.5 ones! Instead, I would recommend playing $5+0.5 and $10+1 games and gradually move up in limits once more experience is gained.

Time is very important to me when playing. I don’t want to spend all week logging 30+ hours and end up breaking even. How dull is that? I’d rather lose $100!!! When I make a good result, by getting into the money obviously, I want to be in profit….. instantly. It means that every time I decide to play, that it’s worth my while. It keeps me interested and focused in what I’m doing. I don’t have the attitude of, “Well, if I win this tournament AND the next, then I’ve got my money back” Bear with me on this because I can already sense some people thinking, “Uh oh, I can see where this is going!”

Likewise, when I’ve won some money, I don’t really want to give any of it back. Aside from being selfish, to add to my sins, I am also greedy. I always want more. Unfortunately, I have to put some money down on the table first to even have a chance of doing that. Now this is where the good stuff starts! How many people, after winning a STT, decide to play another one at exactly the same level of buy-in? I would imagine it’s quite a lot. Now I’ve also read somewhere on the internet of someone suggesting going up in limits as soon as you record a win. Newsflash: You are going to go broke! A good STT player is only going to make it in the money (note I didn’t write win) approximately 40% of the time. (No doubt somebody, somewhere, will contest that figure and chirp in that they make it 70% of the time. Well good for you, and mine’s a peach schnapps with ice and make it a double.) So if you go up in limits straight after a win, buoyed with success, feeling a little too chip-happy, facing tougher opponents who are ready to rip you to shreds, what do you think will happen? Do you think you have the discipline to step down to lower limits afterwards, or will you chase the money after it’s gone? After a result, instead of staying at the same level, or going up one, I prefer to drop down a level or two, depending on what position I finished the STT. The reason why is because I want to retain some of that money which I’ve just won as a guarantee (regression betting). In order to do that, my first STT of the week cannot be a $5+0.5 game.

So, which level to choose? Do I go for a $50+5 tournament? Well, not really. I don’t want to risk 55% of my bankroll in my first tournament of the week. Besides, if I lose, the only tournament which gives me a profit, and only if I win, is a $30+3 tournament. If I finish in second or third place, I’m not even breaking even. Conversely, if I decide to play a $10+1 game, it’s not too bad if I win making $34 profit (this being a nine handed game with a 50/30/20% payout for first to third place respectively). But if I finish in second or third place the profit made is so marginal that I may as well not bother playing. It gives me little room to regress downwards. Plus I would like to double my bankroll for the week to $200. This leads to the conclusion that the best choice for my first game of the week would be a $20+2.

Subsequent Tournaments

There are a couple of factors which help me determine which level to play at. Firstly, the result of the previous tournament, and secondly, which is perhaps more important, how I played during that game. If I played well but simply were unlucky, then I’ll continue to play additional games. However, if I played badly, then I’ll cut my losses and stop playing altogether for the remainder of that week. My underperformance is most likely influenced by extraneous factors, such as work pressures, or events occurring in my personal life. Whatever it is, it’s effecting my play and I should cease immediately.

Let’s assume the worst and I end up on a losing session. I’ve lost my initial $20+2 STT. I played well, but still didn’t win any cash. Consider where I stand at present, and the games I’m considering to play :

Initial Bankroll = $100
Current Bankroll = $78

$20+2 payout structure (Nine handed game)
First Place = $90
Second Place = $54
Third Place = $36

$30+3 payout structure
First Place = $135
Second Place = $81
Third Place = $54

$50+5 payout structure
First Place = $225
Second Place = $135
Third Place = $90

It would make sense to play the $30+3 game if I am to rigidly stick to my guidelines of always being in profit when I make a top three result. A problem arises in that my bankroll is so small at this moment in time, is that the only tournament I can play after this one, assuming again that I lose, is another $30+3 game, which I have to win outright. In this case, I elect to play a $20+2 game instead. If I lose that game, I jump up to a $50+5 game. I more or less break even if I finish in third place.

After winning a game, I can now employ “regression” and “up and pull” tactics, by falling down a few levels. If I continue to be successful, I can gradually “up and pull” by moving up a level and then back down again to suit. The key is to separate a guaranteed amount of my winnings which I’ll keep no matter what the outcome. “Up and pull” simply means I play at a higher level with a proportion of my winnings, which I can accept I may very well lose. If I win a tournament, it’s important to constantly add more money to my guaranteed amount.

A typical week may go as follows:
(Corrected 15th January 2006 due to my wonderful adding up ability... or lack thereof!!!)

Bankroll = $100
$20+2 STT - No win

Bankroll = $78
$20+2 STT - No win

Bankroll = $56
$50+5 STT - Second Place = $135

Bankroll = $136
Guaranteed Profit = $25
Expendable Bankroll = $11
(Regression betting)
$10+1 STT - First place = $45

Bankroll = $170
Guaranteed Profit = $35
(Note I’m always putting something back into the guaranteed profit section)
Expendable Bankroll = $35
(Up and pull betting)
$20+2 STT - Third place = $36

Bankroll = $184
Guaranteed Profit = $50
Expendable Bankroll = $34
(Regression betting)
$5+0.5 STT - No Win
PLAYED BADLY - STOP PLAYING

Final bankroll = $178.50

For the second week, where I am focusing on MTTs, I may take $40 out of that $78.50 profit. That way, my time hasn’t been wasted. By stopping playing after a game where I under performed, it means I can focus on other activities, and come back the next week refreshed and ready to do battle once again.

So there you have it. Consider carefully the amount of time spent at the table, and what you hope to achieve by doing so. Protect your bankroll. Rest assured, if you don’t, someone else will.

3 Comments:

Blogger snafutoo said...

I'm confused - in your hypothetical analysis above, you calculated a $191 bankroll after a second place in a $50+$5 tournament, which earned £135 from a bankroll of $56. My confusion is that surely you would have spent $55 of the $56 in entering the tournament, so the profit is only $80? This should mean that your resulting bankroll is only $81 or did I miss something?

1:47 pm  
Blogger Eyeofsauron said...

Opps, sorry. You are correct. I got my numbers mixed up!

I'll correct this post as soon as possible.

However, despite the fact that I've forgotten to add up, I think the idea of keeping some money behind in reserve after a win is a good idea.

3:52 pm  
Blogger snafutoo said...

Cheers for that - although I managed a bit of my own mental dyslexia (...why is that such a difficult word to spell??) If you win $135 dollars, the PROFIT may be $80, but your bankroll is now $136 as you have correctly calculated. Somehow, if they kept your entry fee no matter what, I think I'd find another tournament!! :)

11:03 pm  

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