One of the questions I'm frequently asked is, "How do I know when to quit?" For this column, I decided to give my answer, as well as the perspectives of a couple other professional poker players.
Growing up in Las Vegas, I had my first gambling experience at a very young age, and the first lesson I learned was about "stop loss" vs. "stop win." The concept is simple and yet often tough to stick with. The general principle is to set a maximum amount that you can afford to lose for that session, but not to put a cap on the amount that you can win. During your positive gaming sessions, you want the sky to be the limit for your winning potential.
Let me give you an example of how I utilize this theory.
Let's say I set my maximum loss for the day at $500; if at any point I am down $500, I quit. However, in order to maximize my wins, I will continuously adjust my stop loss amount. During my session, if I get to plus-$500, I will then set my stopping point at plus-$350 while still attempting to increase my upside. Later on, if I find myself at plus-$700, I then adjust the stopping point to plus-$500 while still allowing myself the chance to increase my profit.
Effective use of this gaming strategy will allow you to stay within the parameters of your bankroll and give you the opportunity to book some huge wins.
"I quit when I get tired, I'm playing bad, or when the game is bad," three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Mike Matusow says. "But as long as the game is good and I'm playing good, I stay. Always leave when you're off your game, no matter what."
Dutch Boyd, a two-time WSOP bracelet winner, offers the following advice to the students who take his online classes:
"You'll hear it all the time that bankroll management is a big part of poker success. Knowing when to quit a cash game is a big part of what bankroll management is all about. I suggest to my students at PokerClinic.com that they buy in for the minimum when playing in a cash game. That minimum buy-in represents your stop loss for that particular table. If you lose your buy-in, just get up and leave the game. You don't necessarily have to stop playing for the day ... but don't rebuy back into the game you just busted in.
"If you do decide to move to another table and again lose a minimum buy-in, that's a good time to call it a day. As you win at a table, keep your stop loss the same as the minimum buy-in. Don't increase it as you win. If you are sitting in a $2-$5 no-limit game, having bought in for $200, and at some point find yourself with $500 in front of you, now you should be committed to leaving the game if your stack dips down to $300. You can stay in the game as long as you're winning, but once you take a minimum buy-in backslide, it's a good indicator that it's time to get up."
Since I have been playing cash games more frequently lately, I decided to start sharing a "bad beat hand of the month." This happened recently in a Vegas casino: I raise preflop with A-A. I get one caller, and we get all in after a flop of A-10-10 rainbow. Turn: 2. River: 10. My opponent has K-10. Ouch.
Scott Fischman is a professional poker player who has won two World Series of Poker bracelets and has accumulated more than $2 million in career earnings. He is also the author of the poker book "Online Ace." Send your poker questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Poker Pros will appear every week.