I think that the concept of bankrolls in poker is something that is misunderstood by the vast majority of poker players. In fact I have read more opinions and articles on the subject of bankroll management and earn rates than I can remember. I find most of the information to be wrong or at least misleading and this can only lead to poker students misapplying what they have read or heard.
I think that one of the most important reasons for being properly bankrolled is in how it allows you to open up and play far more effectively in numerous situations that arise. Having an adequate bankroll behind you is not just to allow you to be able to withstand the variance within the game. But yet this is the number one reason quoted as to why bankrolls are important.
As poker players progress through the levels they will encounter play that is more and more aggressive. However we are also looking at changing dynamics where it will be imperative for their own games to become more aggressive as aggressive play will be needed in order to counter aggressive play.
So in order to be successful we must be prepared to increase the amount of variance within our game by upping our aggression. Let us take a look at an example to highlight exactly what I mean. We raise from the button and your opponent calls from the big blind. You flop nothing but a straight draw and make a continuation bet after your opponent checks.
The turn does not complete your draw or improve your hand and your opponent checks again. You fire another barrel and your opponent calls you again. River card is another brick and your opponent checks. Here the value of a large bankroll can be clearly seen if you were to fire a third barrel on the river. Few players at the lower limits of even the intermediate levels are actually capable of three barrel bluffing.
One of the reasons for this is fear of losing money and taking big risks with nothing more than fresh air in their hand. If a player is taking shots at a certain level with just one buy-in or several buy-ins then in many cases they are going to be forced into playing a far more restrictive and defensive style of poker. In some instances where they can easily and continually replenish their bankroll then this may not be the case.
Let us look at the comparisons with a player who has five buy-ins at the $400 level to a player who has forty. The player with 40 buy-ins is basically risking only 2.5% of their total bankroll in any one game. This should in theory allow the player to be creative and aggressive in many more situations. This is one of the most rarely understood concepts of playing poker on a limited bankroll and even many players who have theoretically adequate bankrolls still do not use their bankroll in the most optimal way possible.
I have seen players with as many as fifty buy-ins play defensive set mining style poker that was far too weak for the level of bankroll that they had. In fact it’s fair to say that these players simply do not need that bankroll size, they could easily operate with as little as ten buy-ins.
Beyond any shadow of a doubt many poker players treat variance as their number one enemy. Do not get me wrong here, I have written numerous articles on this very subject in the past and variance can destroy the overall mental equilibrium that a poker player has when they are either winning or breaking even.
The game of poker is such a fascinating topic to actually study that it attracts its fair share of risk-averse individuals. These people then take this overall attitude to risk into their respective poker games and end up with overly defensive styles of play. It is this fear of loss that a skilled player can exploit when he is properly bankrolled and has an aggressive game. So remember that your bankroll is not there just to allow you to withstand the variance within the game.
It is there to allow you to create as much variance as you possibly can and make it as uncomfortable for your opponents as possible. You use your bankroll to drag your opponents out of their comfort zone and force them to risk far bigger percentages of their bankroll than you are doing.