Like most things in poker, there’s no set rule about when and how to move up to the next stake. Different players have different skill levels and risk tolerances, so each individual will handle moving up differently. There are some guidelines that apply universally, however. Here are some things to keep in mind when thinking about taking a shot at the next big game.
We all know that having a big enough bankroll is critical, but what constitutes “big enough” varies from person to person. Individuals with a low risk tolerance will need bigger bankrolls than individuals with a high risk tolerance. Similarly, individuals who play a high variance style will need bigger bankrolls than individuals who play a low variance style. In addition, recreational players who are able to replenish their bankrolls from other sources of income will have lower bankroll requirements than professionals who play as their sole source of income. As a baseline, I have a moderate risk tolerance and play a relatively high variance style so I like having at least 20 max buy-ins when shot-taking a bigger game.
Edge Over Opposition
Just having a sufficient bankroll isn’t enough, however. You have to have an edge over your opposition also, which isn’t always easy as games get progressively tougher as stakes increase. As a personal rule of thumb, I tend to avoid tables unless I feel like I’m the best or second best player at the table. When shot-taking bigger games, it may be hard to tell at first where you stand, but it’s safe to say that if you’re one of the best players in your current game, you’ll probably have a fighting chance at the next bigger game. If you’re not totally crushing your current game, however, there’s no point moving up even if you have a sufficient or excessive bankroll. You’re better off staying at your current game and getting better rather than waste money playing a bigger game you can’t beat.
Once you have decided to move up, it’s important to move up gradually rather than all of a sudden. Start out playing the bigger game only occasionally when there are soft lineups, then very gradually start playing it more as your bankroll grows and you get more comfortable. This way, you allow yourself time to get used to playing with more money and different players. It’s also important to mention that no matter what your usual game is, you should remain flexible. Don’t think of yourself as strictly a “2/5 player” or a “5/10 player” but rather simply as a poker player. It’s your job to play in the most +EV game around. If that means playing lower when your usual game is full of solid players and nits, then so be it. In the end, it doesn’t matter what game you play as long as you’re making the most of your time.
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