Tournament tips: Adjusting to a bigger poker bankroll

Your bankroll isn’t just your means to play poker, it’s a reflection of your consistent hard work (unless you binked a big score right off the bat, in which case, salut to you!).

The bigger our bankrolls become, the easier it becomes to play bigger buy-ins. After all, if the goal is to keep that ‘roll growing, the most efficient way to do so is to increase your average buy-in (ABI) in line with your bankroll and play tournaments with larger prizes and fewer players.

But doing so requires two things: 1) we have to ensure we’re definitely winning in the new games we’re rolled for. If not, that bankroll can dwindle pretty quickly, and 2) we have to be able to adapt to bigger buy-in sessions, and therefore the potential for some relatively big swings compared with what we’re used to.

Adjusting to a bigger poker bankroll is something all players who study hard and find success go through.

BBZ community member Calum “Caldimus” Williams is going through it right now, having built a four-figure bankroll in 2021 alone. Williams, a 29-year-old Big Data Engineer from Glasgow, Scotland recently posted his story in the BBZ Brags section of the BBZ Poker Discord.

We sat down for a chat with Williams to find out how he is adjusting to a bigger bankroll, what it’s like playing the biggest sessions he’s ever played, and how he’s coping with the swings.

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BBZ Blog: Hey Calum! How did you go about building your bankroll?

Calum “Caldimus” Williams: Hey! It was mostly through small to medium wins, rather than one big score. Like most people, I’ve always hated depositing so I’ve always treated the bankroll management aspect of poker like a game itself, a challenge of building up from freerolls.

I won a bankroll of about $150 on GGPoker from freerolls in April then had lots of sub-$100 wins to get me up to $500. I then won a PartyPoker UK community freeroll tournament for some cash and a $109 ticket which I cashed, then I took third in a WPT $5.50 for about $400 which I won a ticket for on Twitter.

Sounds like it’s been a great year! You mentioned you were still getting used to having $100 buy-in days. How did it feel the first time you settled in for a $100 buy-in session?

I actually didn’t realise until I only had a few tables left and saw my balances had taken a swing bigger than I’d normally see. I treated the session just as I would any other though, thankfully a deep run at the end made it a profitable session!

You mentioned you have to remind yourself that you’re rolled for a session like that now. What bankroll management do you follow? Do you have strict rules for buy-ins, satellite buy-ins etc?

I’ve always followed strict bankroll management, as part of the fun for me was spinning the bankroll up. I’m fortunate to have a good job and I think a lot of people in my position would just fire and top up their bankroll if needed, but I always wanted my “hobby” funds to be isolated.

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I’ve actually become stricter now. At the micro-stakes, I’d play with about 50 buy-ins for MTTs, while also looking for particularly good games as I know my ROI is good there. Now that I have a bankroll of around $2K, I generally cap myself at $11 buy-ins, maintaining around 150 buy-ins, as best I can.

I’ll play plenty of $5.50s and the occasional shot-take in a $20-30 buy-in if it looks particularly juicy. I’m targetting small fields as much as possible to reduce variance. As for satellites, I’ll generally try to stick to the same ABI to keep things simple but I’ll shoot a bit higher if I see satellites with good opportunities, such as lots of overlay or if there’s not a lot of players left with registration closing.

I recently picked up two $109 tickets where both satellites had about 40% overlay. There’s lots of free money in the system if you keep your eyes open.


TIP: If you’re unsure what tournaments you should be playing, check out our article: Game selection in poker: how to decide which tournaments to play


Does it feel strange to be playing in a new environment where players are better on average or do you feel like you belong?

I have noticed an increase in the quality of opponents on average but I’ve definitely had the thought of “Why wasn’t I playing these games sooner?!”. Then I remind myself that that was the point of the bankroll game for me. If I grow my bankroll to a certain amount then I unlock a new tier of buy-ins, and that reinforces what I’ve achieved to be playing at that level.

I’ve felt way less intimidated since I’ve been studying more. There are always new spots to figure out in poker but the fundamentals I’ve picked up from the Quantitative Strategies series and the Apestyles Bundle have dramatically improved my ability to analyse a situation. And I can’t overstate how beneficial it is to have a community like BBZ to lean on for hand reviews, study sessions and even to celebrate achievements with.


TIP: Sign up for the BBZ Poker Discord for free today and join the BBZ community. You won’t find a more supportive group of like-minded players anywhere else.


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How are you dealing with the swings that playing higher brings?

As part of my bankroll management strategy I try not to expose myself to too much risk, and I’ve actually adjusted so I have more buy-ins in my bankroll at any one time. So this helps with the sessions as I can re-affirm “you’re not going to go broke”.

As an amateur that plays in the evenings/outside of work and life commitments, I get regular breaks from the tables and I know that I’m not dependent on the income from poker so it makes it easier to emotionally detach and focus on the game. If I have a particularly bad night I’ll maybe take a session to drop the higher end of the buy-ins and add in more satellites like $2>$22 or $3>33. This lets me get a very low-risk session in, employ some things I’ve recently studied, and hopefully lock up some shot-take tickets for next time.

When you have a losing session, what do you do to make sure it doesn’t get to you?

I’m fortunate that I don’t tilt too often, and if I do it’s normally at my own play where the “I should have known better” thoughts come in after a bad call. If this happens mid-session and I’m lucky enough to spot that it’s affecting my play, I’ll stop registering immediately and try to just regroup for the remaining tables.

I remind myself that I can only control a small set of factors so I’ll try to look back on the hands logically. After the session, if it was particularly rough I tend to reach out to people for their opinions on certain hands. If I get feedback that my play was logical enough (but the outcome led to tilt) then I’ll tell myself–sometimes out loud–that “I played correctly but I can’t control the runout or my opponents decisions”. I think the combination of external feedback to ground you and affirmations to yourself can be quite useful in validating your play and decompressing from the tilt/upset. I’ll also make a commitment to a bit of extra study before my next session for the confidence boost!

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