January 14, 2010

Moving down when running bad? Not me….

Bankroll management is the key to winning in the long run in poker. Strategy comes a close second. Edges are so slim nowadays that if you get your buy in level wrong, you can go broke and it can be very difficult to get back to where you were.

Part of that, and rarely disagreed with, is the link between physcology, a downswing, and the idea of moving down limits whilst you steady the ship.

I strongly disagree with this notion.

Let’s assume you are a small winner at a given limit, say 1ptbb/100 before rakeback, over say 150k hands.

Then lets say you go on a 10buy in downswing over 5k hands and lets assume you continue to play solid poker, as you were when you were averaging 1ptbb. Common thinking is to move down a limit or 2. But I don’t get that. That means you have to double your win rate to get back to where you were. Or play twice as many hands at the same win rate but at the lower level. What I do agree with is that variance evens itself out over the long run. Which means that, provided you are adequately bankrolled and still playing your best game, it will even out, and therefore, without, changing anything, you will naturally “catch up”.

All this may seem obvious, but it surprises me just how low the perceived bankroll limits are in the forums, and therefore isn’t obvious at all if you are actually in the middle of a downswing. Many talk about 20 buy ins before shot taking. I can, on a good month, win 20 buy ins within 15k hands. Does that mean I am ready to shot take at, say, 400nl. No. I would get owned. I have lost 14 buyins in one day before, in 2000 hands. Imagine if that was the day after I took a successful shot at 400nl.. Maybe at 10nl and below that’s fine, but in order to cope with the swings, you need to have 100 buy ins. Taking shots is fine, but if you want to avoid tilting when the bad variance kicks in, and I am talking a downswing of 10-15 buy ins over a few sessions, and it inevitably will, you need to have this factored in to your bank roll.

So, after your downswing, when your EV line evens out , as the maths dictates, and having moved down to a lower limit, as you had to do because you were not adequately bankrolled with your paltry 20 to 30 buy ins, then you are effectively cutting your dollar win rate (as opposed to your BB win rate) by half.

So when you have the inevitable doomswitch, don’t move down, grind through it. Just don’t be at a level that you cannot cope with 10-15 buy in down swing.


  1. My current thinking is 100 BI. Currently I've not got that though...

  2. For once I'm seriously considering taking this advice!

  3. is my 135 buyins for 10nl enough lol

  4. Interesting post and I have wondered the same, BUT . . . I think the point of stepping down is when you drop say to 80 BI's or 70 BI's of your roll. Stepping down achieves two things your roll jumps to 100+ BI's of your new level, so meaning you are secure and your mindset will improve as you will inevitably fell more in control.

    Even though you may feel you are playing optimally a 20/30 BI downswong is going to affect you (Look at Clarkatroids blog on my blog roll! He hit a 30 BI dip in Dec 2008 and it was really hard for him) and dropping stakes where you BB/100 is probably much higher than your current level due to ability of the average player at that level, means you will increase in confidence as you play securely against potentially weaker opposition and you will get back on track once back up to say 90 Bi's of your previous level step up again, with your A game back on track. Also if you then continue to drop BI's it isn't as bigger dent in your roll a level down and it gives you the space to re-evaluate your game and review your play which may have subtly changed due to your bad run?

  5. i wont dispute that a 30bi swing wont affect you. my point is, provided you have the roll, as you should, and you know you are a winner at the limit, playing through it is more profitable if you do the maths, despite your feeling like death.

  6. Interesting point, I tend to use the 100Buy in rule as DoV says but i suppose it's whatever people feel comfortable withthemselves