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When Should I Move Up Stakes in Poker?

Everyone has heard a story of an "elite" online player making a meteoric rise up through the stakes.

One day he's grinding $1/$2; the next he's at $200/$400 and playing with the best in the world.

For most of us though, it isn't that easy. The road up through the stakes is often bumpy and filled with several wrong turns.

Many players are never sure when it's the right time to move up in limits. Some do it too soon and end up going broke. Some move up too fast, lose most of their roll and are forced to drop back down.

Some wait and wait and wait, slowly wasting equity when they could be beating a higher limit. So when is the right time to move up? There are a few considerations to take into account.

How is Your Bankroll Management?

Bankroll management is something that should have been pounded into your head over and over and over already. If it hasn't, I'm going to pound it in to your thick skull.

Viktor Blom

You must practice good bankroll management if you ever hope to succeed in this game. If you play out of your roll, you may win for a while. But swings are inevitable, and if your bankroll can't sustain a swing, you will go broke.

You will then have to rebuild your roll, costing you valuable time. If you are forced to play at lower stakes than you can beat because you didn't manage your roll well, you are simply wasting money.

How Much Do You Need to Move Up Stakes?

This has been covered in great detail in previous articles. I will go over it quickly once again:

  • For cash games you should have a minimum of 25 buy-ins
  • For sit-and-gos at least 50 buy-ins should do it
  • For MTTs have at least 100 buy-ins

These are conservative numbers. The higher you set your magic bankroll number, the easier it is to stomach swings and the less chance you have of going broke.

Is That All It Takes?

So is that all it takes? Twenty-five buy-ins and it's safe to move up? Yes and no. Twenty-five buy-ins is enough bankroll to move up, but moving up isn't just about having the roll for it.

For starters, you have to be certain you can beat the higher stakes. If you are crushing your current stakes, then by all means take some shots at the higher level.

If you are merely eking out a small profit and have slowly built enough of a roll for the next level, you should take some time, analyze your game and pump off another 15-20k hands at your current level.

If your results improve, then make the jump.

Tom Dwan

Are You Confident in Your Game?

Confidence plays a huge part in your success.

If you are not confident in your game, and you think the players at the new level are going to be leaps and bounds better than you, you're setting yourself up for failure.

You have to have confidence in your game. It's still the same game of poker that you know and love. The only difference is the stakes. Focus your time on reading the players and the table and making good decisions, as you would at your old limit.

With time you will have no problem with the new limit. Take things slowly, and don't be afraid to move down. The jump in stakes can sometimes be mentally trying.

If you jump up to a new level and instantly get stacked on two tables, it actually feels like you've lost four buy-ins. This can ruin a session or more if you start to dwell.

You know yourself best. If this is going to affect you mentally, then drop down. There is no point playing in that state.

Wait until you get on a good run, then try your luck at the new limit again. The games will always be there. 

Set Aside a Certain Number of Buy-ins

If you are really worried about a jump in stakes, a common practice is to set aside a set number of buy-ins.

Say you have 30 buy-ins for the level you want to play. Set aside seven or eight, and if you lose them, go back to your old level.

This way you always leave yourself more than enough for your regular level and it won't take that much grinding to get to back to where you can take another shot.

It may take a few tries, but eventually you will be able to break through at the new level.

Don't Be Too Big to Move Down

Never be afraid to move down. Swings are a part of poker whether you like it or not.

It's poker's gift and curse. If you move up and hit a downswing, it can ruin you mentally and financially.

If you are unwilling to step down, then you can risk going broke. Ultimately all it takes is a combination of bankroll, skill and confidence.

Don't build moving up in stakes into a huge mountain to overcome. Just approach the game like you would any other.

Sit down, find the soft spots and punish them. You will find bad players at every level - there will just be fewer of them.

But if you concentrate on making the best possible poker decision every time the action is on you, it won't matter what level you're playing - the chips will flow in your direction.

More strategy articles from Dan Skolovy:

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2012-08-21 12:33:15

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