Moving Up: Is a 300 Big-Bet Bankroll Enough?

by Lou on April 24, 2005

A player recently posted this question to the Internet newsgroup rec.gambling.poker, and it’s one I’m asked all the time, so I thought I’d answer it here, as well as on RGP.

His concerns were over the nubmner of big bets your bankroll should have when moving up in limits, and he wondered whether the generally accepted 300 big-bet bankroll was sufficient.
Here’s how I respopnded:

The oft quoted 300 big bet requirement for a given limit is an ESTIMATE, not a FORMULA. Is it enough? It depends on a number of things.

First, if you are not a winning player 300 big bets will never be enough. Neither will 500. In fact, if you can’t beat the game you’ll need enough big bets to outlast your life expectency.

Second, if you can really pound the game and win at the rate of two BB per hour or more, you’ll probably need significantly less than you would if you’re just managing to keep your head above water, perhaps to the tune of 1/4 BB per hour.

Third, if the game is very volatile, you’ll probably need a bigger stake to outlast the variance you can expect to encounter, as compared to the significantly less volatility you can expect to find in a very tame game where you’d expect to find only a few players in each pot, not much rasing, and most of your opponents calling far too deep into a hand once they decide to play. Of course, there are very few games like this, but it’s an example of how the texture of a game can play a part in determining the amount you’ll need to sustain yourself in the game.

If I recall correctly, the 300 big bet estimate was first promulgated by David Sklansky or Mason Malmuth, and I believe they qualified the estimate and never said that it was a formula that could be applied by every player in every game. But I’m not sure. It’s been a while since I read that and I don’t recall where I read it. Perhaps one of them can comment on the “300 BB” estimate, if they were the ones who developed this estimate in the first place.

My own suggestion to the moving up question is to simply take a shot at a bigger game, and here’s the best way to do it. Many of the regulars at any limit will also play one notch above and one notch below their limit of choice some of the time, depending on whether a game looks soft, how well funded they are, and on such prosaic matters as where the open seats are. Thus you’ll find $20-$40 players sitting in $15-$30 games, as well as in $30-$60 and $40-$80 games too.

Why not wait until you find a bigger game with a few players you know from your game, and take a shot at that one? At least some of your opponents won’t be a mystery to you, and that ought to help you navigate your way into a comfort zone at those limits.

If you take a shot a few times and feel comfortable in the game and figure you can beat it, then it might be time to give yourself a promotion.

Do any of you have any comments about moving up in limits, and how large a bankroll you’d recommend for players thinking of promoting themselves?

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