Heads Up Poker Bankroll Management

Posted on Feb 24, 2009 by Gugel in Variance

Heads up poker has a quite a bit more variance than 6max or fullring.  In other words, when you run hot, you’re really making bank, but you also get brutal downswings.  Take a look at my lifetime graph.

Downswing Lifetime Graph

Downswing Lifetime Graph

I’ve had 2 really major downswings.  In a little over 100,000 hands, I’ve had one downswing for 26 buyins and another one for 24 buyins.  This just goes to show how important bankroll management is to a successful poker player.  So, how many buyins do you need for heads up cash games?  Here’s what you need to consider

  1. Psychological Devastation:  If you’re playing with a 30 buyin roll and you lose 25 buyins, you are going to be psychologically crushed.  Your bankroll is down over 83%!  If you have a 50 buyin bankroll and you lose 25 buyins, that’s only a 50% decrease.  Still pretty brutal, but you are much more likely to recover and continue on your poker career.
  2. Moving Down: Some people are very disciplined and move down after a certain stop-loss, say 5 or 10 buyins.  I’ve never been too good at that.  My stoploss is usually 20 buyins…  If you are very disciplined and are willing to move down (unlike me), you can have a smaller bankroll.
  3. Winrate: The better the player the fewer (and less brutal) the downswings.  If I had to guess though, I’d bet you’re overrating your skill level.  You will run worse than you ever though possible.  I guarantee it.

So here’s the gripping conclusion.  I think a 40 buyin bankroll is a good starting point for heads up cash games.  Consider the 3 factors I mentioned and adjust accordingly.

For further reading on dealing with downswings, I highly recommend this 2+2 post.

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    6 Responses to “Heads Up Poker Bankroll Management”

    1. [...] Here’s another post for further reading about downswings and bankroll management. Share the [...]

    2. Alex

      11. May, 2009

      Does this acount for multi tableing? I’m using 50 buy ins as a rule but i just started playing 2 tables and i was looking for advice if this right to follow.

      Also what was the timeline that it took for you to get your account that high. # of hands estimate or sit ngos total played.

      thank you

    3. Gugel

      11. May, 2009

      @Alex
      The more tables you play, the lower your winrate and the higher the variance.

      As a sidenote, I would not recommend playing more than 2 tables of HU and 4 tables of 6max at once.

      Regarding the timeline, I play around 325 hands an hour 2-tabling HU. The graph above shows close to 105,000 hands or about 325 hours of play.

    4. Alex

      11. May, 2009

      right now i’m playing 22+1 at full titlt. i moved up from 11+.50 HU after about 10 days of playing but i was really playing 1 table. now i’m playing 2. keeps me from clinging on to bad beats and moving on because of the speed.

      i play sets of 10 and inside those sets i hope i come out 5-4, 7-3,8-10 hopefully. just be in the positive . but i’m worried how will i handle a big down swing. my most consecutive losses is 8 against a lucky idiot from sweden. What will i do if i hit 20 like u.

      thats what i worry about

    5. Marios

      03. Dec, 2009

      @Alex… Relax and enjoy it!

      I think that when you are prepared for something, then you have no problem when it happens,
      It is like the draws.
      You don’t go crazy every time you did’t give the odds to the fish but he made his draw (If you do, then you need to change your mindset and study more). It is expected to happen.

      To be honest…
      I am curious… How can you handle a 100,000 hands downswing! I mean… You need guts!

      I don’t play HU but I ‘d prefer more than 100 buy-ins for me… lol.

    6. totow

      12. May, 2010

      hi,
      that’s 5 years i’m playing, i’m french, and i’ve never followed bankroll management, thus, i consider myself as a winner as i have raise my bankroll from 50 to 2000 very often before geting broke. by now, i’m fed up with that, and i play 2 tables : it is perfect, more is difficult and you need a lot of skill except if it is the same oponent… i advice you to play 50 buy ins if you feel you cant go to fewer tables after downswings, personnaly, i have started a bankroll management since 40 hours, i had a very big downswing against a big fish, he was so lucky on me, and i raise my 20 up to 180 in 4 weeks with NO bankroll faults. you just have to be concentrated and stop after you feel you begin to tilt. i hope i could have 1 million in 5 years and i’lm pretty confident as i consider myself as a winner. and if you have a challenge like that, i advice you to NEVER withdraw your money or only rarely after you get a nice bankroll and less than 5%.
      finally, i would say that a big downswing is no worry if you feel you are winner at long term, just wait and think further, think about the million you will get ! see you