Bankrolling Small Stakes: What to Know

Bankrolling Small Stakes: What to Know

In today’s article, I want to talk about how to approach a bankroll for small stakes poker, and things you need to pay attention to. I want to discuss what I would do with a $5,000-$10,000 bankroll. I chose this article and bankroll numbers because I feel there is a large population in this range and they are not sure how to build their bankroll effectively. Too many factors are against you when playing with a small bankroll – variance, rake, and game selection. Hopefully after this article I will help you in brainstorming a plan to help build your bankroll.

The Rake

Rake is one of the biggest issues with low stakes, live poker. In a typical 1/2 no-limit live poker game, the average person will buy in $200, that is anywhere from $1800-$2000 on the table. The typical rake is going to be $3-$5 per hand depending on the pot size. Lets use $5 per hand just to make it clear how rake is impacting us. At 30 hands per hour, that is $150 coming off the table. In just 3 hours, if no new money has been added to the game, almost ¼ of the money has been raked by the casino off the table, this severely caps your win-rates in these games. If you are playing live 1/3 no-limit, your goal should be to move to 2/5 NL as soon as possible.

Your Bankroll and Low Stakes

Bankroll for live 1/3 to 2/5 games is always an issue. A 10 buy-in downswing of 3-5k is surely possible even for the biggest of winners in the games. A 20 buy-in downswing is also possible even for skilled players. The lower your average win-rate, the greater your chance of one of these larger downswings is. For 2/5 I wouldn’t feel comfortable with less than a $15,000 bankroll. For 1/3 anything less than a $5000 bankroll is gambling and likely 7-8k is the minimum. The point is, minimum bankroll requirements for low stakes, live cash games are very high. Low stakes live tournaments are even worse in terms of bankroll requirements.

The point I am trying to make is, your risk of ruin at 2/5 no-limit live with a 10k bankroll is very high. I think your risk of ruin playing 1/2 online is much lower and you can make roughly the same hourly rate. You will also progress your game much faster playing in tougher games and be forced to study. All of this is much better for your poker game then grinding 2/5 no-limit. For me personally, I am using stats I have from playing on in Nevada, I am fortunate to play on legal, regulated sites. WSOP offers me 33% rake-back and normally has monthly bonus reloads that help my hourly rate. While I don’t endorse other none legal sites, do your own research, there are options for Americans to play on very soft sites.


With a small bankroll, it is important to think about your risk reward of busting your bankroll and the hourly rate you are earning. You will be gambling on a short bankroll because of variance, but I believe online poker is the way to go with building your bankroll. If you are playing online, look for bonuses and rake back to help your win-rates. If you are playing live, look for promotions and rake to determine where you will play.

No matter what option your choose, playing small takes is a volume game. You need to put in tons of hours and just grind it out to build your bankroll.

Best of luck at the table,

1 thought on “Bankrolling Small Stakes: What to Know”

  1. Avatar for Vladimer Tsitlidze
    Vladimer Tsitlidze

    What would you recommend for rec players who have $3K a week income from a real job and only play on the weekends, live and/or online?

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