No-Limit Hold'em: BSS - Bankroll Management

The main difference between a short stack and a big stack is, as the name implies, the amount of money or chips they have at the table. With the increasing amounts at the table our bankroll management should change as well, of course.

In the previous articles of the IntelliPoker strategy section we used limit hold'em and the no-limit hold'em short stack strategy to demonstrate which are the basic principles for an effective and stable bankroll management. These principles apply to all poker variants and of course also to no-limit hold'em games when we have a big stack.

The basic principles

These are the basic principles of bankroll management:

  • Moving up in limits

A certain limit can only be played "safely" if we have a certain bankroll (BR).

  • Moving down in limits

If we no longer have a sufficient bankroll for a certain limit, we should move down a limit. This means that we always have enough money available to minimize the risk of going broke.

  • Self-discipline

In poker and especially in no-limit hold'em, it is very important to take a disciplined approach to strategy and not to deviate due to emotional influences (known as "tilting" in poker terms).

  • Maximum profit vs. maximum security

Depending on our own BR management, we can either maximize security or potential profit. Simultaneously, maximizing potential profit also means a maximum loss of security and vice-versa. So bankroll management influences whether we have relatively high win or loss fluctuations or whether we minimize them.

  • Comfort zone

People should play limits they feel comfortable with. No one is forced to play certain limits.

  • Sustainability

Before moving up a limit, we should be sure of being able to beat the current limit for a long period of time.

  • Shot-Taking

If we have an above-average win rate and bankroll for the current limit, good self-discipline, no fear of high amounts and if we are unaffected by emotions, we can attempt to play at a higher limit without having the necessary bankroll. This kind of attempt is known as shot-taking.

If we don't stick to the bankroll management guidelines or misinterpret them, the variance of the game can cause our poker career to come to an abrupt end before it even had the chance to get going. We therefore need to stick to safe bankroll management and should not play at tables that will affect our bankroll too much.

First short stack, then big stack

Another important piece of advice is that we should only switch to the big stack strategy when we have mastered the theoretical basics of the game and have acquired the necessary capital via the short stack strategy. We should switch to the big stack strategy not before we have a bankroll of at least $250.

If we include the switch to the BSS in our SSS bankroll management table, it will look as follows:

Limit Bankroll

- NL10 SSS -

Blinds: $0,05/$0,10

z. B. $80

- NL25 SSS -

Blinds: $0,10/$0,25


- NL 10 BSS -

Blinds: $0,05/$0,10


We should at the earliest start to familiarize ourselves with the big stack strategy at NL $0.05/$0.10. At PokerStars there are two lower limits NL $0.01/$0.02 and NL $0.02/$0.05 – so why not start playing with a big stack earlier? The reason for this is the different buy-in limitations. They stipulate that players can buy-in for a maximum of $5 or $10 at a table. This equates to 250 or 200 big blinds – which is much more than the usual 100 big blinds!

As the game with 100 big blinds differs significantly from ones with 200 or 250 big blinds, we should only start using the big stack strategy at NL $0.05/$0.10.

The 25 stacks rule for no-limit full ring

The $250 as the minimum amount for switching to the big stack strategy at a NL $0.05/$0.10 table isn't just made up – it's based on a rule which is the basis for BSS bankroll management.

As already described in the above principles, a certain amount of money is required to be able to play relatively "safely" at tables at a limit within the inevitable variance. Just as for small stack play, there is also a rule for the big stack strategy with regard to how large our bankroll should be in order to be able to play a limit.

  • The 25 stack rule says that you should always have at least 25 stacks (at tables with a buy-in of 100 big blinds) available for a limit in order to play it.

We therefore need 25 stacks or 2,500 big blinds for every limit, if we want to apply the big stack strategy with financial security. We should never make the mistake of ignoring this rule or liberalising it. In fact a more conservative approach is recommendable, if we want to reduce the risk of going broke to a minimum.

There are of course players who tell stories that they sat down at a table with their entire bankroll and survived one all-in after another. But, even if these stories are true, they are an exception to the rule as such a way of playing is mentally very stressful and not particularly reasonable in the long run. Long-term profit should always be our aim. The idea is not to win as many all-ins as possible during a single evening, the aim is to achieve long-term, constant profit. This can only be achieved if we stick to our bankroll management. For this reason we should ask ourselves what is more important - adrenalin or profit?

Moving up in limits

The primary aim of a successful poker player is winning, of course. If our bankroll becomes bigger, we can theoretically also move up in limits. However, it is not always advisable to move up a limit. The following three prerequisites must be given before considering to move up a limit:

  1. The bankroll comprises at least 25 stacks for the new limit.
  2. We have been beating the current limit for a long period of time.
  3. We are mentally prepared to play for larger amounts of money.

If all of these conditions are fulfilled, then we can move up a limit.
So let's take another look at our table. This overview should give you an impression how a limit increase could look like

Limit Bankroll

- NL10 BSS -

Blinds: $0,05/$0,10


- NL25 BSS -

Blinds: $0,10/$0,25


- NL50 BSS -

Blinds: $0,25/$0,50


From NL$50 or NL$100 we need to adjust our bankroll management and the 25 stack rule. The higher the limit, the more aggressive the games will become. This means that the variance will also increase accordingly. We should therefore take a more conservative approach, which could lead to taking up to 50 buy-ins for a limit as a rule.

If we have already reached the higher limits, we will notice this even more: The number of full ring tables (seven to ten players) will decrease and the number of shorthanded tables (maximum of six players) will increase. At this point we recommend that you take a look at the "NLHE: 6-max" training section in order to find out how to play successfully at such tables since certain strategic changes are required.

Moving down in limits

One of the hardest things a win-oriented poker player has to do is to stick to his bankroll management when things aren't going too well. If we e.g. have beaten NL $0.10/$0.25 for a long period of time but are currently on a bad run and have in fact lost so much that we can no longer stick to the 25 stack rule, then we should switch to NL $0.05/$0.10 and consider playing the short stack strategy, if we continue to lose.

Taking this step is however a knock to one's ego as no one likes having to accept a loss or defeat. Although the reason for the limit increase may not be a lack of skill. Poker is a game of variance and this fact alone can lead to the situation that even the better players at a limit suffer losses over a certain period of time. In such cases we have to be able to accept this variance and drop down a gear to rebuild our bankroll at smaller limits. A lot of successful players use these downswings to analyze their game in more detail and therefore be able to exclude an actual fault and to improve their game.


Bankroll management is an important and difficult topic at the same time. Our bankroll forms the basis of being able to play poker, so we should always aim to protect it. Appropriate bankroll management is therefore mandatory.

There's no point in having the best skills if we aren't able to use them. The rule is – first beat the variance, then the opponents!