Bankroll Management: You Need A Lot
Let's start by pointing out that you're probably not going to like what I have to say on this subject: You need a lot more money in your bankroll than you probably think you do. You need more than most successful professional players say you need. You need more than your wife says, your poker mates advise, and the majority of the advice books, forums, and experts counsel.
The truth is you need a big-ass bankroll if you're going to play no-limit hold'em.
A short Bug Tip like this is not the place to go into a lot of math and statistics on the subject, but suffice it to say that big downswings--even if you're playing perfectly--happen on a regular basis to everyone, even the pros. It's not uncommon for the best no-limit players to suffer 20, 30, even 40 buy-in drops in their bankroll. Variance happens, folks, even to expert players.
And guess what? You're not an expert at no-limit. You are not one of the best no-limit players in the world. You don't play perfectly 100% of the time. Your downswings can be bigger than 20-40 buy-ins. I've know very good players that have lost 50 buy-ins in long, soul-crushing stretches. I know this because I've helped them analyze their hand histories and reviewed their results after the damage is done. And it's shocking how much damage the variance monster can cause.
So let's cut to the chase. How much money should a reasonably competent low-stakes player keep in his bankroll?
Remember, I said you're not going to like the answer. Of course it all depends on a number of factors, including the mental fortitude of the player, the skill of his typical opponents, and a host of other things, but if pressed, my own personal recommendation for bankroll size of a beginning or intermediate player is that you need 100 buy-ins for the stakes you play.
Yes, 100 buy-ins!
This means if you play $0.05/$0.10 no-limit, you should have a cool $1,000 in your 'roll. Like to play the $0.50/$1.00 tables? Better have $10,000 squirreled away. And so on.
Of course you don't have to have all this money online at one specific instance in time, nor does it mean you're supposed to bring that much to Vegas with you if you want to sit and play for a weekend. But it does mean you need at least this much set aside in your walled-off poker-only fund, strictly for poker use and nothing else. The reason is to keep you from ever going broke. And, more importantly, keep you sane along the way.
Poker is chock-full of variance. And your bankroll size is the chief weapon to fight its ill effects. Make sure you have enough, or the variance monster will take your ability to play away.
(Oh, and don't even get me started on PLO variance...argh.)
All-in for now...