If all has gone according to plan, I’m starting to get you psyched to try your hand at card room poker. If you’ve been following these columns, you already have a basic grasp of Texas hold ’em, the game you’ll likely encounter in most public card rooms these day. If you’ve been doing your homework on the side, you have even more than a basic grasp of strategy; you’re ready to go. (If I start another sentence with the word “if,” the “if” police will come and haul me away, so I’d better not.)
Before you brave the big bad world of card room poker, though, there’s one important topic that remains to be addressed. And that topic is: Money! How much do you need? How much should you expect to put into play at any given time? What happens if you go broke in the middle of a hand? Fear not, gentle reader – the answers await you here.
First let’s talk about the limits you’re going to find in card room poker game. Limits, you’ll recall, refer to the least and the most amount that you can bet in any given game. A $1-2 limit game has a minimum bet of one dollar and a maximum bet of two. A $3-6 game has a minimum bet of three, maximum bet of six. And so on. If it’s your first time playing casino poker, you should probably try to find the lowest limit that you can, and get your feet wet there, where the cost of swimming is low. For the sake of conversation, I’m going to assume that you can find your way to a $3-6 limit game, because this limit is pretty widely available pretty much everywhere. If I were you, I wouldn’t play much higher than $3-6, or at the most $4-8, to start.
So then the question is, how much money do you need to compete in a Slot Online game like this? In most places, you can buy into the game for ten times the minimum bet, which, in this case, would be $30. But I wouldn’t recommend that! Any time you buy in with short money, you present yourself to the rest of the table as some one who is fearful – afraid to put your money in play. That’s not an image you want to project! Besides, smart players always attack short money, and you certainly don’t want to leave yourself open to that attack.
Most players buy into a $3-6 game for $100. $100 equals one rack of $1 chips, and it seems to be the right amount of money for the game. If you play your cards right (suddenly not a cliché, but a matter of practical interest!) you can make that $100 last as long as you need it to. If you bought in for just $30, by contrast, you could go broke in one or two hands, and face having to rebuy right away. Not good for your image, nor for your peace of mind. For both strategic and psychological reasons, then, always have a buy-in that is more than adequate for the limit you intend to play.
Limit poker in public card rooms is always played for table stakes, which means that you can only wager as much money as you have on the table at the beginning of the hand; you can’t go into your pocket or your wallet for more until the current hand ends. So what happens if you run out of money in the middle of a hand? Fear not! They won’t take the pot away from you. If you have committed all of your chips before the hand is concluded, you are said to be going all in. An all-in player is eligible to win the whole pot up to the point where s/he ran out of money. Any other money that goes in after that goes into a side pot, and the winner of the side pot will be determined before the winner of the main pot is decided.
For example, let’s say you have just $6 left when the hand begins. Someone opens the betting, someone else raises, and you call. The blinds both call, so there are now five players in the pot, for six dollars each, and a total of $30. This is the main pot, and you are eligible to win all of it, assuming you have the best hand when the cards are all dealt. But the other players continue betting throughout the deal. They may build a side pot of, say, $60. The hand that wins that pot may be weaker than yours, but since you ran out of money in the middle of the hand, you’re not eligible to win. Oh well, at least you won the main pot.
You can see from this example why it’s a good idea to have enough money on the table at all times. Many is the hold ’em player who has been down to his last few chips, only to pick up pocket aces and not be able to make the most of them. Don’t wait until you go broke to rebuy! Make sure you have sufficient chips on the table at any time to see a whole deal all the way through to the end.
This does not mean that you should throw your money recklessly into a game. If you’re not doing well, or if the other players are better than you, gently extract yourself from competition and wait for a time or a table more to you liking.
On the other hand, if you’re in a game you think you can beat, and if you’ve got good concentration and a good attitude, by all means continue to play. In deciding whether to play, your key consideration should always be the quality of the game, not the size of your stack. (By “quality,” of course, we mean “lack of quality,” but we’ll talk more about table selection next time.)
So, back to your bankroll. How big a bankroll do you need for, for example, a weekend poker trip to Southern California? If I were you, attacking the $3-6 tables for the first time, I would calculate the number of sessions I intended to play, multiply that number by $100, and let that be my bankroll. Suppose you arrive on a Friday night, planning to play Friday, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday morning. That’s four sessions – $400.
Just as you would with any other money management scheme, protect your bankroll! If you lose your first buy-in, take a break! Don’t commit tomorrow’s money until tomorrow. Otherwise, you might find yourself visiting your friendly neighborhood ATM tomorrow, and that is no way to play poker – or any other casino game – responsibly.
Okay, now you’re armed with information, bankrolled with cash and ready to attack a game in earnest. But… which game should you attack? The answer to that question falls under the category of game selection, and as I said, that’s the topic we’ll tackle next time. Until then, keep practicing your poker in free games on the internet or in the lowest-limit cash games you can find. Don’t forget to read a poker book or two along the way. Poker glory is just around the bend!