Knowing When To Cash Out

In this article, I'm going to explain how to keep the cash flowing with ease and how you can avoid making poor withdrawal practices that will compromise your bankroll.


So, you've amassed a modest enough profit at the tables to be in the sweet position to take some of your hard-won money and put it in your pocket. But, how much? Should you bank all of it? Put it in your sock drawer? Invest it in rotary phones? 

Like everything in poker, there's a strategy to cashing out. If you want to keep building your bankroll, you can't just cash-out every time you find yourself with a healthy pile of coin.

In this article, I'm going to explain how to keep cash-flowing with the ease and abundance of your Uncle Jack's homebrew at a family reunion.  

Let's take a swig of this tasty knowledge as I break down the dos and don'ts of cashing out. 

When to Cash Out

DON'T force yourself to drop limits.

If cashing out means that you won't be able to play the limits that best optimize your strengths and maximize your profits, don't do it. Ideally, you want to gradually move up limits and bring home more bacon. You don't want to be taking a step backwards. 

Of course, ‘ideally’ is the operative word here: life happens, unforeseen expensive crop up and sometimes, a nasty streak of tilt can make it so taking out all (or most) of your money is not only necessary, but advisable. That's life. However, if you don't need to take a huge slice out of your pie, don't. 

DO let the money marinate.

This piece of advice is aimed especially at newer players who often want to cash-out after a moderate or big win. That money is a reflection of an investment you've made in yourself, and you want to use that money to develop as much skill and experience as possible. 

Having a cushy bankroll will help you withstand those learning loses, which are about as inevitable as the pain and regret of eating a pound of gummy worms by yourself.  Once you begin to feel more confident about your ability to make money consistently, that's when you're going to start making withdrawals. You're going to need to pay your dues and work your way up; you're not going to hit a big win right away. By resisting the urge to cash out and delaying that gratification, you're going to be experiencing even greater gains down the road. 

This next chunk of advice is directed at cash game players, so listen up:

DON'T cash out when shot-taking (even if it goes well).

Here's the thing: cashing out when you've taken a shot encourages you to take shots when you shouldn't. Winning shots is great, don't get me wrong, but it is not the stuff poker futures are made from. Rewarding yourself for this risky move is not a behaviour you want to reinforce. 

Make no mistake, taking shots has its place when you're trying to establish yourself at the next limit - not just play it and hope you run well. Cashing out after a big score at the next level will just hinder your ability to stay at that limit since your buy-ins become that much tighter. In the end, you've just destroyed your cushion, and you know what they say: you need more cushion for the pushing. OK, not the same context as the original adage, but it works. 

DO treat it like a salary.

Whether you play full-time or part-time, you're playing with your money - your hard earned money. This is not disposable income: this is your bread and butter, buddy. Respect it.

DON'T cash out randomly.

Have a schedule. Maybe you'll cash-out weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, whatever, just make sure you have a regular time so you'll have something to work towards that will keep you on track. Now, bad runs happen, you may occasionally have to skip a cash-out, but, if you're always cashing out the same amount, your good run will build up enough of a cushion so you can cash out since you didn't overdo it before. 

This brings me to my next point...

DO have a target minimum cash-out amount.

Even if you are just a recreational player, setting a minimum cash-out amount can help keep you on target. Structure is the secret weapon of any good poker player - professional or not, so while these points aren't as important for someone who plays for a hobby, they will still help you make the most of your time at the tables.

Now I'm going to talk tourneys, which are less steady and far more tumultuous than cash games and therefore require different approach to cashing out.

DO cash out whenever you have a big score.

Since the gains in tournaments can be huge but far between, treat yourself with you win. Leave your baseline, but take out a huge chunk of that money - you don't need it online. Reward yourself. Buy yourself something tangible to remind yourself why you've been putting in those hours. 
I'm not saying to blow it, but a meaningful reminder of how your hard work has paid off is amazingly motivational. Even a small item: a new jacket, a trip, a gift for someone you love. Unless you plan to play bigger limits, it's cool to take out 80%-90% of that score. If you're planning to move up limits after  a big win, just make sure you have 100 times whatever your new average buy-in is (ABI) in your account. 

DON'T forget about the variance in tournaments.

You're going to experience long, dry spells. It's important to approach tournaments realistically. You're not going to win every time you play and there will be long periods of just breaking even or losing.

DO leave at least your baseline bankroll in your account.

This is going to be about 100 times the average buy-in (ABI). Doing this protects you against total ruin (i.e. losing your entire bankroll)

Make sure you have a baseline of buy-ins you need to play the limit you want to, and make sure you don't cash out more than that amount. You can drop limits if you have to and cash out, but otherwise, your money should stay put. Put in some volume of play, keep your nose to the grindstone, and build your bankroll back up. You'll be golden.

Cash-Out Methods

There are a ton of methods you can choose from, and which you’ll want to use depends on how fast you want it, how much you're cashing out, and how much you want to spend to get it. For instance, if you want a couriered cheque that will get there over night, you have to cash out around $1,000 if you want to get it for free, or you have to pay about $20 for less. Or, you can wait a week or two for a normal cheque and there is no fee. 

Generally, however, the amount of time saved to use a method that charges a $2 or $5 nominal fee is worth it. You'll get that money earlier, and that's an extra couple of weeks you have to put that money to work and do things with it. I prefer bank-wires as opposed to cheques, but in the end, it's just a matter of personal opinion. If you want to save yourself some time researching the options on your own, you can check out my rundown of the most popular e-wallets.

In the meantime, use this advice to keep the cash-flowing and your goals realistically on track. Any questions? Hit me up in the comments.

Photo Credit: Ken Teegardin | Flickr