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It’s something that can befall both the greatest players and the worst amateurs – something that has cost millions of people millions of dollars. It’s a thing so evil that it’s probably robbed little children of their Christmas presents at one time or another.

Its name is the Bankroll Donkey, and it lurks in the heart of every aspiring player.

We’ve all, at some point in our lives, been victimized by the whims of this capricious ass. That time when you went all-in on a bad river bluff, with most of your chips already in the pot? Bankroll Donkey. What about that time when you bought in to an online cardroom for $50, and proceeded to lose it all in less than an hour? Bankroll Donkey. How about the time when you rebought into a game that was obviously over your head, just in hopes of getting even?


It’s a sinking, unwelcome feeling with which many of us are all too well acquainted. That urge to get even, that thirst for the instant double-up – these are the pitfalls which have snared many a player. Even those of us who have enjoyed success at the tables can often hear the donkey, braying away in the back of our mind.

So what can we do to tame this unruly beast? I’ve been browsing through the Bible of Poker (otherwise known as “Super System 2”), assembling a list to help some of my buddies who are new to the online game. Thanks to Mike Caro’s excellent contributions to the sacred tome, I’ve been able to do just that. Here are the top two mistakes to which most novice money-managers fall prey.

Rule #1 – Limits, Limits

And I quote, “Don’t treat your bankroll like a tournament buy-in. If you do, you’ll eventually go broke.”

This fine bit of wisdom highlights what is perhaps the novice’s biggest stumbling stone. Too often, new players will buy in for a small amount (say, $20), and instantly sit at a table at which their entire bankroll is the minimum buy-in. This is a huge mistake. The first-timers will begin to panic as their stack is blinded away, terrified by the gleeful raises of players with ten times more money in their accounts.

The smart move, especially for the beginner, would be to start at a limit which more aptly reflects their bankroll. If you start out with $20, sit at a table where the minimum buy in is $2. Once you become comfortable betting and raising, feel free to move up to a larger stake. But don’t skip levels – going from a $2 game to a $10 one is another great way to lose it all. Even if you win big at that $10 table, you’re nurturing bad habits. Those missteps will cost you in the long run, all while feeding the Bankroll Donkey.

Rule #2 – “Caro’s Threshold of Misery”

We’ve all been here, in poker and in life. It goes by many names – “The Junkfood Donkey”, “The Couch-Potato Burro”, the “I-Hate-My-Job Mule”, and the hangover-inducing “One-More-Drink Ass.” We meet these sorry fellows when our chips are down, and we’re too numb to care. One more, whether it’s another bag of chips because the diet is already blown, or one more beer at 4 AM, can always be devastating.

The same principal holds true at the card table. If you’ve taken a bad beat or if you’ve been blinded down without seeing a single face-card, you can reach the point of simply not caring whether or not you lose your money. When this happens, players make poor decisions and enter pots in which they have no business.

Be mindful of the threshold, and saddle this depression once it hits. Otherwise, you’ll be in danger of going bust.

Above all, making smart plays is an exercise in discipline. Learn to control yourself, your mood, and you strategies and you’ll be well on your way to beating the Bankroll Donkey.