Moving Up in Stakes in Poker - A Step by Step Guide [2024]

Moving up the stakes in pokerMoving up in stakes is a big deal for a lot of poker players. It is the subject of plenty of conversation on forums for instance. People want to know what to expect at the next limit, what adjustments they should make and so on.

This article will argue that by making moving up less of an event, you will actually be more likely to succeed. I have a lot of experience from trial and error with this subject so I hope that I can offer some useful advice here.

Have a Good Sample Size Before Moving Up

First things first, make sure that you have an adequate sample at your current limit before moving up. If you only have 10k hands at your current limit and you are crushing it beyond belief, ready to challenge Ivey HU etc, you need to realize how wildly off the mark from your true winrate you might actually be. I would recommend playing at least 50k hands at your current limit with a decent winrate.

What is a decent winrate? Well this is hard to say because the games are always changing and therefore winrates are always changing. I think it was A.E. Jones who said that there is no such thing as a winrate when the games are in constant flux. I would tend to agree with that. However, you should have a winrate which is decent enough that you are more than a marginal winner in your current game.

Your winrate will drop at the next limit usually by at least half a big bet per hundred due to tougher competition and less fish. So if you are only winning at half a big bet per hundred at your current limit, you might be better served to delay moving up and instead focus on getting better at your current stakes because you will likely be breakeven at the higher one.

The Players Aren't That Much Hard at Higher Stakes

Secondly, the most important thing to remember when playing at a new limit (assuming it is the very next one above where you currently play) is that the players there really aren't that much better. There is a natural inclination to think that it is going to be way tougher, no more kiddie pool, when you move up. This isn't true to anywhere near the extent that you think and it is in fact dangerous to your success.

While the players at the higher limit will be better it will only be by a marginal amount. There will be small differences in the best regs. They will have a few more advanced plays in their arsenal. However, most of the regs (breakeven nits for instance) will be at exactly the same level as at your former limit. And fish really are fish no matter the stakes. They just like to splash around a lot and play poorly. The only determining factor on where they play is what remains of their current bankroll.

Play Your Game, Don't Change Anything

So it is important to not go into your new limit all wild eyed and thinking that you have to change a bunch of stuff up in your game. Trust me, I have made this mistake many times myself.

The best thing that you can do at first when you move up is to just keep doing exactly what got you there in the first place.

And I do mean exactly. Do not change anything at all. Once you have several sessions under your belt and have a better feel for how the game plays, then you can look at finding new ways to exploit certain tendencies that you may have noticed.

Another good idea when you move up is to play less tables than you currently play at least for the first few sessions. This is another area that I am all too familiar with. Don't be like me and just fire up 24 tables at your new limit on a Monday afternoon when the games are at their worst and you have no info on anybody. Help yourself out. Make things as easy as possible. You didn't just jump on a bike right away right? Your parents put training wheels on it first and helped you get on and get going etc.

So play less tables than you are used to at first so that you will have extra time to think through hands and table select. Move up on a Saturday or Sunday when the games are the best. And if at all possible do some advanced scouting on your competition before you even sit down. You can use the top winners list on PTR for instance to easily identify who the best regs are before you ever even play a hand against them.

All of these things will give you a better chance at having some winning sessions right off the bat. Nothing is guaranteed with the short term variance in poker but as we know the best thing that we can do is just consistently put the odds in our favor and things will work out in the end.

Don't Be Discouraged If Moving Up Doesn't Work Out the First Time

If things do go bad during your first couple sessions at your new limit it is important not to get down on yourself and think that you aren't good enough. Variance will swing wildly over a couple of sessions and with the larger money amounts that could mean that you lose more than you are used to. It's just a part of the process. You were more likely to win more than you were used to and that is why you moved up in the first place!

But if things go bad it is important to move back down and just continue on grinding out your old stake for a week or two and then try again. As I said, this is a process and you will not always succeed on the first attempt or even the second or the third. You just have to keep putting the odds in your favor and you will stick up there eventually. Always remember that poker is a long term game. And it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. There is no rush.

If you want to take more time between move up attempts or not even move up at all then don't feel pressured. Do not allow other people to pressure you into doing something that you don't want to do. Poker is an individual game, not a team sport. If there is one thing that you will find in no shortage around poker communities it is opinions.

Everybody has one and they will be more than willing to tell you about it whether you asked them to or not. Listen to smart, winning players but at the end of the day listen to yourself and make the decisions that you feel comfortable with at the tables.

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  1. Great article thanks for the tips, might need to use this soon :) :)..Might i suggest also that when you move up you should play just those limits and don't mix them with your old limits when playing.It really messes with you, well mixing limits at the same time, or mixing 9max and 6max at the same time.

  2. Hi ,
    Great article again , i was just wondering tho , i think i spoke to you briefly on twitter a few days ago , what i was planning on dong was (actually i just notised the above response) , but i was planning on maybe just addding a table or 2 on to my current session, so say if like i was playing 6 tables of NL2 , then add 1 table of NL5 , and try not to concentrate on what table this is , and then if all goes well then add another table and then another, ! Do you thin this is a good way of moving up or maybe just play like the guy above says and keep them all at the same level.?

  3. Your way is not a bad idea. I have tried it. I think I would agree with All-in-clubs though that for most people it is better to just move up all at once. I think mixing limits might be confusing for a lot of players especially if they aren't used to it.

    But as the article suggests, I would just do what you feel comfortable with ultimately. Mixing stakes as well as 6max and 9max is just normal for most mid stakes and certainly all high stakes players. So if you go far with poker you will need to do it one day anyways.

  4. Anonymous28 December

    This might as well have been mailed to my name. My experience so far with this blog has been that whenever I needed some questions answered I'd find the answer in the next post. Great article(and great suggestion by NoLimit on the forum)!

  5. Hi Nath ,
    I know this is off topic but i want to ask you what do you think of the new vpp change in pokerstars and how will this affect us micro stakes players.

  6. Thanks Lorant and I hope things are going better for you!


    I am just like a lot of other people trying to figure out what is going on. I see that Stars backed off of the short handed rake increases today, which is a good thing I suppose.

    I know that people are mad as hell about the change to WC though. It seems pretty clear that the VPP's aren't just being redistributed to the fish and a few crazy LAG's. Stars is pocketing a huge amount because these players (especially fish) are at lower VIP levels and thus won't make as many FPP's.

    What all this will mean for micro full ring I have no clue. Until some people start posting hard numbers early in the year of VPP rates I think it's difficult to say. There is just a lot of speculation and emotional rants going on right now.