McHaffie: MCU lesson 114 / Small bankroll

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2007.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 114: No-limit: Small bankroll against weak players

When you’re still in the process of establishing an impressive bankroll, caution is imperative. If you enter a no-limit game against weak players, you can’t endanger a budding bankroll with hands that have only a small advantage. Weak players provide big advantages; wait for those.

No limit can be scary when you first jump in and test the waters. You can’t take unnecessary risks with a limited bankroll. Face it — your whole bankroll can be massacred in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re sitting pretty with a satisfactory bankroll and in the next minute wham, that bankroll is just a memory. You’re slinking away with empty pockets.

Some players feel safer playing limit poker and rarely play no-limit. Mike says the secret is to always play the game that is most comfortable for you. Limit or no-limit. Big stakes, medium, stakes, or small stakes. You choose whatever makes you comfortable.

There are many sizes of no-limit games and it shouldn’t be difficult to find one that is comfortable for you. The bankroll that you are seeking to enlarge will stand a better chance of surviving and growing if you play at the level that is satisfying to you. Play too small and you aren’t motivated; play too large and you’re too terrified to call or bet appropriately. So play comfortably, if you want your bankroll to grow.

Big game

Probably one of the most discussed no-limit games is in Las Vegas. This game is played by a handful of celebrity-status poker players that risk hundreds of thousands of dollars — even millions — in a single no-limit sitting. That game is obviously beyond our experience or means. But, you get the idea. You can find the right sized no-limit game for you — from tiny to unimaginably large. Your most-comfortable size is out there.

Mike explains that the amount of money in the pot prior to the dealing of the cards is what determines the size of the no-limit game. That money comes from the blind bets or antes, or both. When the blinds or antes are larger, the bets are going to be larger in response, and the pots build more significantly.

Jason was a regular in limit games and had built his bankroll to a comfortable level. One evening he decided to try his hand at a no-limit game. He found out, to his chagrin that playing the medium-strong hands that he normally played against puny players didn’t result in the monetary satisfaction that he expected. Instead the result was a sadly depleted bankroll. Had Jason only played the stronger hands, he could have survived without damaging the money he had taken such care to accumulate. In no-limit games, you either need a bankroll that’s big enough to allow you to dance around and take chances with small edges or you need to stop betting with medium-strength. With a marginal bankroll that you’re still building, play it safe — or stick to limit games.


Eventually the weak players’ money will transfer from their stacks to yours, if you play only the stronger hands and avoid the pitfalls of risk-taking. Hunches or reckless play is the quickest way to part company with your bankroll, which results in the need to begin building from scratch. That is time consuming and totally unnecessary. If you practice discretion and make good decisions, there shouldn’t be a need for rebuilding.

Additionally, weak opponents probably have a limited bankroll as well. So, you can be gradually acquiring theirs if you were playing only your impressive hands, practicing patience and avoiding questionable situations. Fold those debatable hands.

So, to recap, with a limited bankroll, when you’re involved in a no-limit game against weak players, discard most of those hands that only have a small advantage. Don’t risk your mediocre bankroll on dubious chances. When facing weak opponents in a no-limit game, patience and good decision-making builds bigger bankrolls faster. — DM

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