The Pros: Chris Moneymaker, Brock Wilson, and Kahle Burns
Craig Tapscott: Can you share the lessons you’ve learned regarding bankroll management over the years? What are the leaks you’ve come across that many other players are making?
Chris Moneymaker: Proper bankroll management is the most important skill in all of poker. The best poker players go broke and need backing all the time, mainly because they cannot master this skill.
As a general rule, you need 100 buyins to play tournaments consistently. So, if you play $1,000 buy-in events regularly, then you need at least $100,000 for a proper poker bankroll. Of course, you can take shots here and there and play something bigger at times, but even then, it should not exceed 10% of your bankroll.
Brock Wilson: Bankroll management is something I have been mindful of since I began playing poker. When I worked in finance after graduating college, I played poker on the side. During that time, I definitely took larger risks, due to the fact that I had a stable job to rely on. That was key in the beginning of my poker career.
Once I had a net worth of about $25,000 that I built from playing poker, I decided that I wanted to be a pro, instead of working in finance. I took a shot, $10,000 of that bankroll, and played in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event. I would have played the World Series of Poker main event, but I had to intern during that summer. So, it was the PCA in January during winter break instead.
I really thought I was destined to win, but I busted early day two and was devastated. I rebuilt my bankroll, but had other income along the way. I felt it was okay to risk this investment at the time into one event and take a chance.
This relates only to pros, but once poker becomes a main source of income in our lives, it is important to separate your living expenses from your poker expenses. You must quickly realize that if you take too many huge risks, and go broke and need to be backed, that you may need to give a lot of your expected earnings to a backer.
In some situations, it does make sense to be backed if you can be supported by a good player, because it can be mutually beneficial to have a coach to give you feedback and allow you to play bigger and grow. But you will have to give up some profits by making such an arrangement.
I think that some poker players take unnecessary risks within their bankroll management parameters. But the biggest risks it seems are those players who get involved in cryptocurrency trading. It seems that is a common trend now and I personally choose to avoid it.
Kahle Burns: When I first started playing poker, I played for zero money. It was only play chips until I thought I had a handle on the strategy. I was a risk-averse person. I had never gambled on anything before.
Once I started playing for real money, I was already familiar with bankroll management. I was somewhat aggressive early on in my career by taking only 20 buy-ins to cash games at the lower levels. When I started to get to the higher stakes, where the players were a lot better and variance was much higher, I upped that to 40 buy-ins, which I thought was enough considering how soft the games were back then.
I did break my rule once in a particularly soft game when I was already on a downswing, and it went absolutely terrible. It was the first and last time I ever did that.
For tournaments, you need a lot more buy-ins to not go broke. I would say I am now on the stricter side of managing my roll. Looking back, going against my own bankroll rules was probably the best thing that happened to me, because I decided to take the game serious from that point on. And never looked back.
I think bankroll management, as well as being immune to tilt, are two of the most underrated skills for a serious poker player. Now managing both those skills is something I pride myself on. No matter how good you are at the game, if you play outside your limits, eventually variance hits, and you will blow it all. Believe me, I have seen many talented players fall prey to that trap. I encourage you to learn these valuable skills. You won’t regret it.
Craig Tapscott: Poker can be long, grueling hours at the table. What do you do in your life to foster a sharp mind and body to be able to have the energy and focus to grind through those long days? And do you have any personal habits or secrets that keep you focused on the table?
Chris Moneymaker: Poker is such a tough game mentally, day in and day out. You need to stay focused deep in events because that is when the money matters the most. You should treat your body like you’re an athlete.
I strongly suggest that you sleep well, eat healthy, and work out. For me, I am just a competitive person, so the “grind” of the game does not bother me. I relish in it and do not have an issue staying sharp for 15 hours or so ongoing.
Brock Wilson: I have recently gotten into the habit of walking and running before and after my sessions. As we all know, in online tournaments, there are five minutes breaks every hour. During that period, I make it a point to keep my body moving during those five minutes, as it makes me less sore overall, and my mind feels sharper and more refreshed.
I have also learned a lot from a good friend of mine, Michael Rossitto. He actually walked 20,000 or more steps a day. It was very impressive to see him lose 170 pounds (down from 370 to 200). He really touts it as a way to stay sharp, as well.
In Vegas, I also enjoy swimming on my rooftop, as it feels like a good alternative to running, given how hot it is. Running after a Sunday session when I lived in New York was a great way to clear my head and really exert built-up stress and energy I had from the long day.
I am not the greatest with focus at the table, as I have been known to use my phone too much. I sometimes can feel myself reaching for my phone time and time again. Recently I’ve been trying to just put it in my bag and focus on every hand.
I think the top players in those big events really just watch everything that happens at the table. I’ve come to understand that even small reads can make big differences in various tough spots. For example, seeing a player check back a clear value bet on the river makes you realize that on a river that changes the board, they may have too many bluffs if they aren’t capable of value betting wide. And being able to leverage that accumulated knowledge in an important all-in decision, it could very well change everything.
Kahle Burns: Poker can definitely be a lengthy and mentally exhausting game at times. I think I have a natural, undesirable advantage in that I am actually a bit of an insomniac. I can naturally stay up for very long periods of time and my mental state and focus is quite good.
But, I am well aware that long sessions are not healthy for me overall. I feel in tournaments you are just a slave to different, odd hours, based on when you bust or how deep you run. This isn’t great for the circadian rhythm and makes it harder for someone like me to sleep.
In the past I have done some very long sessions, some over 30 hours. I recall doing an 82-hour period in three back-to-back sessions in Macau once. I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone, it probably is shortening my lifespan to some extent. During a session, I like to stand up often and stretch. I think that’s pretty good for your hips and lower back, which can become quite locked up if you do extended periods of sitting down.
I do exercise a few times a week on average. I am never really that unfit, but I have to be honest, my diet is polarized. I’m either on or off the wagon, eating perfect or eating crap. I find that if you are eating bad, the microbiome in your stomach sends messages to your brain craving more of that stuff. My solution is that when I’m playing, I try and eat lighter foods overall. I have theorized that your body will need to use a lot of energy to break down denser food. I compare it to draining some of your CPU’s resources, and I don’t want to be slowed down when playing. ♠
Chris Moneymaker is a member of the Poker Hall of Fame and is among those credited with sparking the poker boom. The former Tennessee accountant won the 2003 WSOP main event for $2.5 million and has spent the years since traveling the worldwide tournament circuit, working as an ambassador for the game. Chris is a team pro at Americas Cardroom, and you can find him on Twitter @CMONEYMAKER.
Brock Wilson broke onto the high roller scene in 2019 with runner-up finishes at both the $25,000 buy-in Caribbean Poker Party and the WPT Rock & Roll Poker Open. The New York native has kept the momentum well into 2021 with numerous high roller final tables, totaling more than $3.7 million in cashes. Follow Brock’s poker journey on Twitter @BWilson9999.
Kahle Burns has been one of the most successful poker pros of the last few years. The Melbourne native is second on Australia’s all-time money list with $10.7 million in career tournament earnings, along with another few million won online. He has wins at the partypoker Millions UK, Poker Masters, Aussie Millions, and World Series of Poker Europe. Find Kahle on Twitter @ROFLshove.