Advice if you are of Average Ability
This is where most of us should fall. This is not to say that there are not large variations in ability even among average players. But, by definition, most poker players are of average ability. Remember the guidelines listed below are for the middle of the road average player. If you feel that you are closer to below average, adjust the numbers down a little. If you feel you are closer to above average, adjust them up a little. Just remember to read the advice section for players in the other skill ranges also, so that you do not adjust your numbers too much. We are, after all, talking about fractions of a percent here.
For the math challenged, there is a handy table at the bottom of the article changing percentage values into an easy division problem. Just remember this simple fact though - the numbers you are dividing your bankroll by are also the total number of sessions you can lose before burning through your entire bankroll. So, if you are playing at 2% of your bankroll and dividing your roll by 50 to get your money per session, you can only lose 50 sessions in a row before you are broke.
Another important point is that sngs and cash games typically have a lower variance than mtts. In layman's terms, variance is the swings up or down that, from a math standpoint, are a normal part of random chance. For instance, one decent mtt win will throw your entire bottom line way over towards the positive. This means that if you play only mtts you need to give yourself more chances to win one than you do at sngs or cash. For players who play only mtts I suggest halving the suggested percentages. My golden rule here is that even an expert should only play mtts for 1% of his bankroll.
Use the guide in the section on Donk guidelines to help you convert your money per session into the appropriate cash game level.
1. A losing average player who plays to make money - Any time a player is not achieving his goal there is a problem to be addressed. Before we even talk about percentage values we need to find a way for you to become a winning player. The first step is one you have already taken as an RPT member, get help :o) Any losing player who wants to be a winning player needs to work on their game.
Spend up to 25% of your time and money on improving your game. Continue to play also, as experience is invaluable as a learning tool, but make sure you do everything you can to get your results in line with your goals.
As for your game level, you should try to play as cheaply as possible until you start booking more than a few winning sessions. If you can play less than 1% of your bankroll, so much the better, but do not play more than 1%. Once you start improving your bottom line you can adjust your percentage up, but only by a quarter of a percent at a time. So your first move is to 1.25%.
2. A losing average player who plays for fun - In many ways your case is similar to the one above. If you can have just as much fun playing cheaply, then please do that and stay at 1% of your bankroll maximum. If you really want to move up to higher limits to "make the game more exciting", I still suggest not exceeding 1.5% at the highest.
The safest way for you to make the transition to higher limits is through improving your game. By now it should be clear that I feel investing in proper training is the best move for anyone playing poker. Even experts can benefit from good instruction. Once your game has improved enough to book more winning sessions, your level will naturally rise with your bankroll.
3. A break-even average player who plays to make money - It's 7:00 am as I write this so my usual beer and cheesesteak have been replaced by a Burger King meatnormous omelet sandwich and a coffee, and I am struck by two things. One, my diet really needs work. And two, it's funny how the largest class of players is also the hardest to give guidelines for.
As a general rule of thumb, truly average players should not exceed 2% of their bankroll per session. The real interesting thing is just how much those quarter percents between 1% and 2% change a player's outlook. From the table below this article you can see that a player who plays sessions at 1% can lose 100 sessions before going bust. Bring that up to just 1.25% and the same player can now lose only 80 sessions. At 1.5%, 66 sessions can break you and at 2% that number goes all the way down to 50 sessions!
If you are following along with me you may be thinking that since 100 is much better than 50 you should just stick to 1%. The problem is that your goal is to make money and the higher levels you play, the more money you can make. So there are two fairly incompatible forces here that need to be weighed and balanced. If you are still with me here you now understand the reason why money management is not an exact science and the true meaning of "risk vs. reward".
I strongly believe that poker is a game of skill and that, in the long run, the more skillful player will win the money. So my thought is that you should reward greater skill by taking more risk. But in general I am still very conservative. A good friend of mine and well know professional player believes that my numbers are almost twice as high as they should be. But even he agrees that better players should play higher limits.
My answer then is still conservative. Keep working on your game and adjust your percentages up as you get better. Start with no more than 1.5% and until you get to be an expert do not go over 2%.
4. A break-even average player who plays for fun - I hope you already read case #3 above because I am not going through all that again ;o)
The big difference here is your motivation. If you are playing strictly for fun then you do not have that pressure on you to move up so you make more money. The best advice I can give players who play for fun is this - play as cheaply as you can while still enjoying the game. Anywhere from 1% to 1.5% is probably optimal. As a teacher I also suggest you work to improve your game, but always keep your goal in mind and make it fun.
5. A winning average player who plays to make money - Please read case #3 above to get a better understanding of risk vs. reward.
Now that you have won some money and grown your bankroll a few interesting things happen. First of all, your increased bankroll automatically increases your play level. This is because I base my session amounts on a percentage of your bankroll. 2% of 10k is twice as much as 2% of 5k. I designed my system purposely to do this as I feel it rewards winning without increasing your risk.
Second, you can put aside some money for training and still grow your bankroll. Usually when you pay for things out of your bankroll, there is a trade off. Money spent is money not available for poker. Once you win enough though, you can set aside a portion and still have more than what you started with.
Third, both of the first two things lead directly towards growth in your confidence and ability. So the old saying that success breeds success is very true. So, you get to keep your play at 2%, use a portion of your winnings for training, and still move up in play level. Congratulations!
6. A winning average player who plays for fun - You should also start out by reading case #3 above.
The difference in your case is that, while you still enjoy all the benefits of case #5, you can make some other choices about your windfall. My suggestion is to take an amount equal to your original bankroll and either bank it or use it to buy yourself something. Then, if you are interested in improving your game, take at least the same amount and set it aside for training. You should now still have a lot more money to use for playing than you started with.
Since you are playing for fun, you can also start to explore the various other poker games. Many players find a game of 7 card stud to be very calm and relaxing after the crazy action of no limit holdem. Those who are cardsmiths at heart sometimes prefer omaha, as you need to play your cards much more so than in holdem. Whatever you decide is fine as long as you continue to have fun ;o)
How to figure out a percentage of your bankroll
1% - divide your total bankroll by 100
1.25% - divide your total bankroll by 80
1.5% - divide your total bankroll by 66
1.75% - divide your total bankroll by 57
2% - divide your total bankroll by 50
2.25% - divide your total bankroll by 45
2.5% - divide your total bankroll by 40
2.75% - divide your total bankroll by 36
3% - divide your total bankroll by 33