MTT Strategy: Bankroll Management

Just as in a classic cash game, good bankroll management is also a prerequisite for long-term success in tournament poker. The goal is on the one hand to maximise profit and on the other hand to minimise the probability of losing the entire bankroll.

The average buy-in

As opposed to sit-and-go's, with MTTs it's hardly possible to play only tournaments with the same buy-in. The reason for this is that there are too few tournaments with the same buy-in and those few are temporally far apart from each other. We should therefore set ourselves a standard buy-in, while at the same time playing interesting tournaments where the buy-in is perhaps slightly higher or lower.

  • Example:
We normally play $4.40 180-player tournaments. If a $5.50 or a $2.20 multi table tournament gets under way, the deviation from our standard would be acceptable and we could play them too.

The 100 ABI rule

In general, our bankroll should be 100 times the size of the average buy-in. If our bankroll gets smaller, we should slowly reduce the size of our average buy-in as well. This can't be done step by step as in SnGs or cash games, but is as a rule fluid.

The 100 ABI rule applies to normal freeze out tournaments. Especially for re-buy tournaments, which are very popular at PokerStars, we need a much bigger bankroll! Depending on strategy and buy-in, the requirements of a bankroll in re-buy tournaments vary. The rule of thumb is: for a re-buy tournament we should calculate at least with three re-buys and one add-on. An $11 re-buy tournament therefore corresponds to a $51 freeze out tournament

Variance in multi table tournaments

A lot of players think that the main aim in tournaments is to make the money. Of course we'll make a profit if we reach the paid places in every tournament. But thanks to the variance that we can't escape in tournaments, that's hardly possible. In order to compensate the many buy-ins for tournaments where we don't win any prize money, we have to make it to the final tables, and especially the top three places, because only these promise really big returns.

Here is a screenshot of the payout structure of the Sunday Million:

Sunday Million Tabelle

It can be very frustrating if we don't have good results over a long period of time. It can happen that we make the money but then get eliminated, shortly after the bubble has burst and the bankroll therefore continues to get smaller. On the other hand we can be unsuccessful overall and then win a lot of money with a single, very good placing.

Consequently, we have to think in the long-term with regards to tournaments and not be scared off by single failures. Even months may go by between big successes!


Satellites are a good opportunity to play a big tournament when we only have a small bankroll. PokerStars and other sites offer all kinds of satellites, from (turbo) rebuys to double shootouts to normal freeze out tournaments.

There is a wide range of tournaments for which players can qualify via satellites. From 100k GTDs, (where 100.000 dollars are guaranteed) with a buy-in of $11, to the WSOP main event buy-in including complete package worth $12,000. From the point of view of the buy-in, satellites can be regarded as normal tournaments.

The winner of the satellite is automatically registered for the tournament. If we win and for some reason don't have time to play the tournament for which we qualified for, it is possible to unregister. As compensation we'll then be credited with $W or $T.

$T can be used to buy into normal tournaments or SnGs. $W can be used to play satellites for big live tournaments such as WSOP, EPT and APPT or even to buy directly into these tournaments.

Please note: $W and $T can only be used for tournaments! They cannot be paid out or used for cash games!

We thus have to make a decision: play the tournament we qualified for, or use the corresponding $T/$W for our normal tournaments