One of the core skills in poker is simply not going broke, which you can do with a good stop loss system.
Setting a loss-limit is an essential part of managing your bankroll effectively. The term originally comes from the stock market: any time a stock falls below a set “bottom” price it is to be sold immediately to avoid any further losses.
When you buy stock you hope, of course, that the value of that stock will go up. But it can also fall, so if at some point the stock becomes too risky, you cut your losses and sell.
This principle can be applied to poker as well. Setting a loss-limit means any time you have lost a certain, maximum amount, you end the session. A No-Limit player may leave the table after losing 3 buy-ins, thereby having reached his loss-limit.
Why is a loss-limit so important?
The purpose of a loss-limit is to get you out of a situation in which you will inevitably continue to lose money. This means not holding on to a stock too long in the desperate hope that it may one day gain value.
Choosing the wrong table can put you in such a situation. Perhaps you overlooked something, you are sitting with the wrong players, or you just can’t seem to hook the fish at the table. Whatever the cause, you will inevitably end up at tables where you simply can’t play profitably.
There will always be a reason why your game is not working – sometimes you simply pick a table that isn’t profitable. Giving yourself a loss-limit will help you get away from such a table.
Let’s face it, sometimes you just have bad luck. Your play is solid, but your draws just don’t come and your opponents suck out against your made hands. Tilt is lurking just around the corner.
Tilting isn’t something you can simply turn off – everyone is susceptible to tilt. But you can control it by knowing what can put you on tilt and going out of your way to avoid such situations.
Some people think it’s best to just keep playing. But why should you keep playing when you know you’re in danger of tilting and likely to only end up losing even more? In the course of your career your tilt phases can easily cost you more than all the bad decisions put together.
You can neutralize this danger by hitting the emergency brakes when you’ve reached your loss-limit.
A loss-limit also helps:
- control damage when you happen to be at the wrong table – either the opponents are too good, or you just can’t get your game to work.
- get you out of a situation that could lead to tilt.
It’s not just the fear of losing more that should lead to setting a loss-limit. Your win rate and bankroll are plummeting due to various factors and you can put an immediate stop to that by leaving the table.
Protecting your profits with a loss-limit
Often enough you sit down at a table and win a few early pots. To protect this profit, you need to “reset” your loss-limit.
For example: A No-Limit player sets a loss-limit of 3 buy-ins, but has soon won 4 buy-ins at the table. He could now lose 7 buy-ins before reaching his original loss-limit.
The question is, does he really have to lose 5 or 6 buy-ins before he realizes that something is now going wrong? And, will he still be playing his best after having lost 5 or 6 buy-ins in a row?
Once you’ve made a profit it’s important to reset your loss-limit. If you set a loss limit of $150 but start off by winning $100 you should set your new loss-limit to $50.
Of course you don’t have to reset your loss-limit after every single pot. Once your profit has reached a significant amount, however, you should seriously consider adjusting it.
If you don’t, you may easily end up losing your $100 of profit and the original $150 limit before you decide it’s time to hit the emergency breaks. You will be kicking yourself for not having left the table earlier.
How should you decide on a loss-limit?
Set loss-limits for both tables and sessions. In one session you might end up at one bad table, while the others can be played profitably. If that happens, then you should leave the bad table and continue your session.
Your loss-limit for a single table will be lower than your loss-limit for a single session – just try to think back to some of your losing sessions of the past. In hindsight, at what points in time would you now say “I should have stopped there”?
Some professional players already leave a No-Limit table after losing 2 buy-ins, but don’t end a session until 9 buy-ins have been lost. In practice, there are a few good rules of thumb when it comes to setting loss-limits. A good table loss-limit in Hold’em No Limit and Pot Limit is 3 buy-ins, and 5 buy-ins for a session. You may be even more conservative when using the short-stack strategy.
If you are playing SNGs, don’t start any new tournaments after having lost 8 buy-ins. Your table loss-limit in a fixed limit game should be around 50 Big Bets, your session limit around 100 Big Bets.
These are rules of thumb and not carved in stone. The main point is to be conscious of cutting your losses and having the discipline to stick to the limits you set for yourself. Doing so will go a long way and help you have a long-lasting poker career.
Sticking to stop-loss limits won’t make you play better poker and it won’t help you win back any of your losses – it will, however, prevent you from losing excessive amounts and improve your win rate and bankroll over the long run.
To learn more about stop losses, check out this article or watch the video below: