Every serious poker player gets to the point where it seems like a good idea to play higher stakes. However, playing higher stakes isn’t as easy as it sounds. Things can go wrong quickly once you put more money on the line, and there are plenty of things to consider before moving up.
When you’ve played at the low stakes long enough, things might become boring, and playing higher might be the solution. But there are many things to consider before you move up. The first thing you have to answer is why you should play higher stakes in the first place.
Why move up to higher stakes?
The main motivation for playing higher stakes is of course the prospect of winning more money. Sometimes, grinding at 0.02NL may be too slow of a way for you to reach your goals, and the obvious answer is moving up in stakes.
Another reason to play higher stakes is to improve further as a poker player. As the stakes go higher, the players get better, and challenging yourself might be a great way to boost your development.
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These factors combined make the decision to increase stakes a complicated one. It is indeed enticing to rake in more money, but on the other side of that coin is the risk of losing more as well, and quick losses may mean going bust if you don’t manage your bankroll correctly. Plus, while it’s great to improve as a player by playing against better competition, you also have to make sure that your skillset is ready to hang around with these skilled players.
Before moving up in stakes, take these things into account to make sure that you find success in poker.
Things to consider
Your Current Performance
Are you crushing it at your current limit or not? If you still find yourself not winning consistently in the current stakes you’re playing, your best bet is to put off moving up until you’re a consistent winner. Think of moving up in stakes as leveling up in a game, where you have to gather experience points before you can move up the ranks.
Before you increase the stakes you’re playing in, you must first be sure that your skills are developed enough and that you have a good enough feel for the game to keep up with the competition. Your skillset is your foundation, and your performance at the stakes you’re currently playing at should be a reflection of your level as a player. You have to find success at the lower stakes first before moving up.
Apart from your performance, another crucial consideration is your bankroll. You can have all the skill in the world but if you only have a handful of buy-ins, chances are you won’t last long at higher stakes.
Variance is an inherent part of poker, and losses will definitely come your way. Before you put more money on the line, you want to make sure that your bankroll can handle these losses and not leave you broke. A good number of buy-ins to have in your bankroll before moving up is at least 20 for the increased stakes. Of course, it’s better if you set the number higher based on your own bankroll management scheme. This will enable you to handle early losses without putting your bankroll in critical condition.
Your Mental Game
Playing at higher stakes means upping your mental game as well. When you move up in stakes, you’re going to be winning more money for sure, but you’re also going to lose more money than you ever have before which may lead you into thinking that your bankroll is in danger.
Before you make the decision to move up, you have to make sure that you’re going to be able to handle much bigger swings without spiraling down or tilting your money away.
Don’t Be Afraid of Moving Back Down
Every seasoned poker player knows that downswings can catch you at any time. These downswings may come just as you move up in stakes, and this can mean that your bankroll will reach a level below that 20 buy-in minimum.
You wouldn’t want to force the issue at a higher stake and observe poor bankroll management at the risk of spewing all your money away. There’s no shame in moving down in stakes and grinding your bankroll back up until you’re ready for another shot at the higher stakes. Becoming a successful poker player means knowing how to roll with the punches.
Adapting to Higher Stakes
Once you’ve reached the higher stakes, you may think that you have to drastically level up your game and try to make fancy plays to outwit the competition, but this is hardly ever the case.
You’d want to adopt the same sound strategy that brought you success in the lower stakes. It’s still the same game and going by the book is still the best way to win consistently. Only make adjustments once you’ve already made solid reads on the competition.