Articles by Annie Duke

The 30-bet Rule

When I first started playing poker, my big brother gave me a great piece of advice. He told me to never lose more than 30 big bets in a game, give or take. That means I shouldn’t lose more than $180 in a $3-$6 game, $600 in a $10-$20 game and so on. What a great piece of advice that was, one of the most important he ever gave me for money management, so I’m going to pass it on to you here: “Don’t ever go off for more than 30 big bets in a poker game!”

When you are first starting out as a poker player it is very difficult to judge whether you are a good player or a bad one. Until you have a lot of experience and table hours under your belt there is no way for you to effectively judge your skill level. More importantly, until you have played a lot of hours it is difficult for you to judge your level of skill compared to the other players at your table. One thing the 30 bet rule does for you is limit your losses in games where you might be the sucker. Until you are able to accurately judge how you play compared to others in your game, loss limiting with the 30 bet rule effectively stops you from dumping off large sums of money in games you may not be able to beat. This is always a good strategy for bankroll health!

Even if you have enough experience and table hours to judge whether you are good, better or worse than the game you have chosen, loss limiting is still a good strategy. When we are losing it is difficult to accurately judge exactly how much losing affects our play. Even great champions will often be in a game they could generally beat soundly but because they are losing. They become a dog to the game and don’t realize it. When you are losing, your table image erodes and table image is very important to how much money you can take out of a game. Other players are also more likely to play hands strong and fast against you, bluff at you and generally will be more likely to run you down which will take away your ability to bluff. All of this really eats into your earnings.

Not only will your table image erode when you are losing but your skills will erode as well! As you go into the mindset of wanting to reduce your loss on losing hands you will play hands softer than called for, back off hands, and won’t raise when appropriate. And we all know that passive play is a recipe for losing play. Losing generally makes us all more passive. Yet, there are those of us who steam… we chase hands we would normally fold or play hands we would normally never get involved in and the like. Steaming is another recipe for losing.

By limiting your losses to 30 big bets, you are effectively minimizing the time you spend playing with a poor table image, playing passively, or steaming at the table and maximizing the amount of time you spend playing your A-game. If you don’t go beyond 30 big bets, you won’t dump off large sums when you are playing poorly or are in a bad game and might not be able to soundly assess your circumstances. Loss limiting acts as an objective stop-gap.

So always listen to big brother… keep your losses small!

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