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Ask Huggie

How Can I Build My Poker Bankroll?

Welcome to the first “Ask Huggie” column! I’ve had some viewers of my poker vlog reach out to me with questions, and while I’m still a learning poker player myself, I’m happy to discuss strategy, think through hands, and see what ideas resonate.

Recently, a viewer wrote in to ask:

I’m down like 3 grand on the year and I don’t know what to do. I have a good job, but I find myself taking out of my pay checks to buy my buy-ins. Do you have any advice on how I can try to build my poker bankroll so I can stop touching my income?

Sometimes beats happen, and it’s unfortunate.  I’ve had a few in some of my vlogs along the lines of what you ran into too, and sometimes you can just chalk it up to bad variance.  The best thing you can do to counter that is to just practice proper poker bankroll management!  Play within your means, only play the stakes that your bankroll suits, take shots at moving up when your bankroll is big enough, and be willing to move down in stakes when you take some losses.

If you’ve got another source of income, sometimes you don’t have to follow these hard and fast rules, but it’s generally good advice.

Not all losses can be blamed on variance or bad luck though, so be willing to take an honest look at your game.  Vlogging is the best thing I’ve done for my game since I’m forced to take a second look at hands I play badly, and I’m able to adjust my game accordingly!

It takes me about an hour and a half to get to the poker room, and I feel like I’m trying to get it all-in instead of grinding over a couple days. I was up like $150, and instead of just leaving after dinner, I go back to the table and lose all-in.

I know for a fact that I generally tend to play worse when I’m constrained on time.  In order to not feel rushed, I try to give myself long sessions — either full days or evenings.  If I feel rushed, I’m more inclined to try to play more hands than I should rather than waiting for good hands or good opportunities.  Basically, I force things I shouldn’t.

Try giving yourself longer periods of time to play whenever possible, and maybe consider staying home or doing something else if you won’t be able to play for long.

I’m going to give you the run down on the all-in hand. Lojack raises to $12, I 3-bet with KJo on the button to $30, SB calls. Flop comes Q73 rainbow. I bet $25 hoping to rep an over pair. SB calls. Turn is a K, and I bet $50. She calls again. The river brings another K, and I jam all-in. She calls and shows pocket 33 for a boat. She didn’t even realize she had a boat, she thought she lost.

Thanks for sharing the hand history. I’ve got a few thoughts here.

First, KJ is a good hand, but it seems like you maybe overvalued it a bit here, especially with both the lojack and small blind showing interest.

Second, if you’re going to 3-bet pre-flop, I would recommend raising a bit larger. 3x is considered a standard raising size, but I generally add a multiple to that for every limper + one more if I’m out of position. By not raising much more, you’re not going to necessarily scare some questionable hands out, and they’re still going to be inclined to call at times. Even if you do raise more, and they still call, you need to play a bit more cautiously as more players enter the pot.

Third, the SB showed interest in the hand by calling you on both the flop and turn, which demonstrates some amount of strength.  What hands could she be repping that is willing to call multiple streets?  Even though you hit your K on the turn, it’s a good opportunity to check back for pot control. Generally, you want the pot size to be relative to the strength of your hand, and top pair is good enough to take pots a lot of the top, but it’s not a strong hand that warrants a big pot. Slowing down would here might help you save some money in these kinds of spots. Any time you save money in a hand, you’re ultimately helping your poker bankroll to grow long term.

I don’t think you can ever put someone on pocket 33 here, can you?

I think it’s possible to put someone on a specific hand or a range of hands based upon the story over the course of the hand.  Obviously it’s not always going to be right, and I also think that is more true for players who know what they’re doing.  If she legitimately didn’t know she had a boat, then maybe it’s less true for people who can’t read their hands.

Just to give one example, I put someone on a set on the turn in episode #25 of my poker vlog, but it was based upon a specific set of actions and a very specific board arrangement where only a set made sense. Specifically, there were no possible draws or 2-pair combinations that made sense. It was set over set (with me holding the bigger set), and with my holding two of the possible cards that could have paired the board, it helped me to rule out a number of possible hands my opponent could have.  Could I do that every time?  Definitely not.  But I just wanted to demonstrate that it’s doable under the right conditions.

When you play, ask yourself on every street of every hand what hands make sense for an opponent to be making such an action.  On each new street, as more information becomes available, see if the hand ranges you put your opponent on still make sense.  If they don’t, what hands do make sense now?  If you’re blindly betting/raising/etc. without considering what your opponent has, then you’re going to run into trouble more often, I think.

Hope my perspective helps you grow your poker bankroll. Thanks for writing in, and good luck at the tables!