Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: The Buy-In: What

Whether it’s a Friday night game with your buddies, a weekend trip to Vegas to play in a casino, or a daily cardroom game where you’re trying to make a living, the amount of your buy-in can have a significant long-term impact on your results.

When playing in a No Limit cash game, the appropriate buy-in amount will actually differ from person to person. You need to consider several factors.

Are you an experienced player or a beginner?  

Be honest with yourself. This can be difficult, especially if you let your ego get in the way. Unless you have at least one thousand hours of play under your belt in any particular game, lean toward buying in for the minimum amount. In a typical $5-$10 blind No Limit game, the minimum buy-in would be $200. That’s just where a beginner should start.

How do you handle pressure?

This is an extremely important factor that is too often ignored. Always remember that the more chips you start with, the more likely that you’ll end up facing large bets on the river.

So, if money is a concern, or if you don’t trust yourself to make the right decisions under pressure, buy-in for the minimum. Alternatively, if you thrive under pressure and like to push around your opponents, go with the maximum buy-in. If there’s no maximum, buy-in for an amount so that no one at the table has more chips than you.

How tough is the table in comparison to your skill level?

Okay, you’re a solid, winning player. But if you find yourself at a particularly tough table, protect yourself by buying in for less than you normally would. The more chips that are in play, the greater the advantage is to the most skilled players at the table.

How big is your bankroll?

It can be a scary proposition when you’re trying to build a bankroll in No Limit Hold’em. It’s imperative that you limit your maximum loss on any given hand to achieve that goal.

Let me illustrate that point with a very unlikely scenario.

Suppose I’m dealt a pair of deuces and you’re sitting on pocket aces. You have $100,000 to your name and I decide to put you all-in on this one hand. It appears to be an excellent bet for you as you’ll double your money four out of five times as A-A beats 2-2 approximately 80% of the time.

But there’s a problem. If you take this bet every time that it’s offered, you’re destined to go broke. When your aces get cracked – and trust me, eventually they will – you’ll be left with nothing.

Sure, calling the bet is a fast way to double up, but you’d get there with much less risk by making ten smaller bets of $10,000 each. You’d only risk ten percent of your bankroll on each wager as a 4-to-1 favorite. Over the long haul, that’s the way to safely build a bankroll.

Who has the big stack at the table?

Your buy-in should take into consideration the amount of money in front of every player at the table. So, if two highly-skilled players at the table have $2,000 each and four novice players each have between $200 and $500, how much should you buy-in for?

If you’re a solid player, buy-in for $500. Make sure you have the weak players covered while limiting your risk against the real threats at the table.



Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.


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