One of the major things you should ask yourself before you play poker is: how much money should I invest?

Note the word “before” in the previous sentence. We think it’s a great idea to set limits for yourself BEFORE you start a game of poker, not DURING. You need to have a clear idea of what you can afford to lose, and you simply must have control over yourself when you reach that threshold. It’s as simple as that. Still, there are two possible answers to the major question of “how much to invest.” Keep reading.

If you’re looking just to have fun, then don’t invest any more than it’s “fun” to lose. If you’re comfortable blowing $100, put $100 in and see what you can do with it. Of course, there’s a good chance you’ll make some money (or even a lot of money) from that original $100, but if things are going badly, walk away while you can. It only gets harder if you go past that magic number.

The second possible answer of how much to invest is a result of different circumstances: namely, making money. If you are playing poker because you want to make money, you should be able to bank about 200 big bets at the limit you play. Hence, if you’re playing at a $2-$4 table, you should have a bankroll of $800—that’s a big bet of $4, times 200. For a $5-$10 table, your target range should be $2,000, following the same system. These are good numbers to keep in mind, because they will keep you from blowing your entire bankroll in one bad run.

Some websites or poker experts might say that 200 big bets is too low for shorthand, but we believe that moderation is better than going over the top. If you want to invest more than 200 big bets, fine. But we recommend at least waiting until you’ve been successful at that limit. You’ll be happy you did in the end.