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(This is the seventh in a series of articles about avoiding poker mistakes. Our Claude Pepper Seniors Center Poker Lab considers Money Management Failure as 6th in the Top 10 mistakes.)

Money Management in poker may mean different things to different people. For my students and me, it’s part of Basic Rule No. 1 for Winning at Poker: “Set Your Goal and Limits; Use Money Management.” (There are Four Basic Rules for Winning described in The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners! by Epstein and Abrams; see ad on page 7 of GamingToday.)

This applies when you have reached your goal for winning at that session. Some “hit-and-run” players quit when they reach their goal. But if it’s a “good” game and you are not tired, it makes sense to continue at that table; you could win even more. … My late wife used to say: “Winning is great fun. The more I win, the more fun it is!”

Do you agree?


There is one problem with this advice: Poker is a game of variance – a mathematical term related to statistical variation in value. Applied to poker, it simply means the ups-and-downs during a session. The cards are in your favor; you’re way ahead. (It’s exhilarating to watch your chips pile up higher and higher – until they topple over onto the table.)

But then the Poker Gods decide to frown upon you; or perhaps you get carried away with your good fortune and start to make poor decisions – mistakes. You lose back all your winnings and then some. You think to yourself: Why didn’t I quit when I was ahead?

Money Management

To avoid that situation, use a Money Management concept as described in my book. Remember, you are well ahead, winning more than the goal you set for yourself. Just move one or two stacks of chips a little to the right of the rest of your chips. These chips represent your “playing money” … the rest is your “money in the bank.” (You might put those chips into racks as a matter of convenience; or exchange them for higher-denomination chips. I don’t recommend the latter because having lots of chips in front of you can intimidate some of your opponents who then make mistakes to your advantage.)

The “playing money” is a relatively small portion of your winnings. Example: You’re playing $3-$6 limit and started with $100 in chips. Your goal was to double your money. After an hour of play, you find yourself ahead by more than $100. You decide to continue playing because you are one of the best players at that table; it’s the kind of game you favor – lots of loose players and little preflop raising; and you are not tired. Move two stacks of 20 chips each just to the right of your “money in the bank;” this now is the money with which you are playing for the rest of that session. If you lose it, you quit and go home a hefty winner.

Meanwhile, you may win even more money. (It’s easier to win when you are well ahead. Your opponents respect and may even fear you. Then it’s easier to get free cards when you hold a drawing hand on the turn. And your bluffs are more effective – especially if you use the Esther Bluff.) After scooping the pot, replenish the chips in your “playing money” and place the rest in “the bank,” adding to your winnings.

Self-Discipline is Needed

The only problem with this strategy is the ability to quit when you lose back your “playing money.” It takes considerable self-discipline – willpower and determination. It’s been a pleasant evening; you want it to continue.

At the very least, check out of that game; cash in your chips – and take a walk around the casino or go for dinner. If the night is young and you’re not tired, it’s OK to get into another game – another session – using Money Management.

Submit your candidate for one of the Top 10 Mistakes at limit hold’em; briefly describe how to avoid making that mistake. A copy of my Hold’em Algorithm booklet will be awarded to the winner. (There may be several!) Contact: George “The Engineer” Epstein at [email protected] Please include your name, address, and where you play poker. We may use your name in a column if your “mistake” is selected.

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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