Taking a Shot in Poker (Read This Before Moving Up)

Taking a Shot in Poker
This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Frank Reese.

Leaving your regular microstakes games behind to take a shot at a higher stakes game is a good way to find out if you can be more profitable at those stakes than at your current stakes.

By “taking a shot” I mean playing at a table with stakes that you do not have a proper bankroll for, and that you are not confident you could regularly beat if you did have a full bankroll for.

By the way, if you want my complete guide to proper bankroll management for small stakes poker games, you can find that right here.

But this article is about shot taking and taking risks to achieve more profit. So let's get started!

How often should you take a shot in poker?

For me the answer is nearly every time that I sit down to play.

My default stakes are 5NL and 10NL. My shot-taking stakes are 25NL and 100NL
You may notice that do not mention 50NL.

I tried 50NL more than a few times when 25NL shot-taking started making money. I got my brains beat in. Every time.

It may be that this is only true on Bovada and Ignition, the only online sites I can play for real money in Texas.

Taking a shot every session has not noticeably changed how often I finish a session winning. But when I do have winning sessions, I win significantly more per session in real dollars.

The converse is not as true. I do not lose a much more per losing session. That is because I apply stop-loss methods to avoid a big loss even at higher stakes.

My six keys to making money by taking shots in poker every session are listed below.

1. Bankroll for a micro limit player taking a shot at small stakes

I maintain a twenty buy-in bankroll for my default stakes. That is $200.00 for 10NL. I also have a shot-taking bankroll of three buy-ins at the highest stakes at which I take shots.

My highest stakes to take a shot at is 100NL. Does this mean that my take a shot bankroll is larger than my main bankroll?


When I take a shot, I buy in for between thirty and thirty-three big blinds. Buying in for 30BB at 100NL means a three buy-in shot bankroll is about $100.

2. Table selection for shot taking at online small stakes

No surprise, right? This key to profitable poker at the microstakes is also a key to successful shot taking. Table selection is even more important when taking a shot at higher stakes.

By the way, you can find my complete guide to table selection ("finding the fish") right here.

I play only full ring when taking a shot. I can take on the more skillful and aggressive 6Max players at 10NL, but at higher stakes, not so much.

If you ever want to make the big money in poker, such as $5000 per month, it is important to understand where your edge lies like this.

I look for a table with at least four out of nine short or odd size stacks. Then I watch them play.
Ideally, I want to see several short and odd-size stacks playing a recognizably exploitable strategy.

I pay an orbit or two worth of blinds, to determine that I have a realistic plan to make money at this table.

Such as: 

Player 5, two seats to my right, is playing more than half his hands by raising pre-flop. He’s bluff re-raised all-in twice already. Two of the three players on my right are folding every time they are in the blinds.

Player 6, the only seemingly tough player is directly across from me, so I won’t get involved with him unless I have a premium hand that flops well.

If I am not confident that I can make money on this table, I do not VPIP another dime. If there is no good 100NL table, I try 25NL. If there is nothing there, I go to my default 10NL.

"VPIP" by the way is term that we use in poker which stands for voluntarily put money in the pot. Or in other words the percentage of hands that you choose to play.

You can find my complete guide to VPIP and all the other best poker HUD related stats right here.

3. Buy-in for small-stakes online shot taking

I buy in for the short stack, because it gives me two chances to shove and get felted without my shot-taking bankroll running out of ammo.

I plan for being felted twice so that I do not make folding mistakes out of fear of being felted.

The other thirty big blinds are not for buying in. They are for “topping off” back to thirty-something big blinds if lose a couple of small pots.

You might want to consider using a short stack poker strategy when taking shots as well.

Are You Having Bad Luck Every Time You Take a Shot at Higher Stakes?

Are you having trouble moving up to higher stakes? Do you want a complete strategy guide to show you exactly how to start making consistent profit in these games?

shot taking poker
That is why I wrote this free little poker cheat sheet to give you the exact strategies to start consistently moving up the stakes and making good money in small stakes games.

These are the exact poker strategies by the way that I have used as a 10+ year poker pro. And I lay them all out for you step by step in this free guide.

Enter your details below and I will send my free poker cheat sheet to your inbox right now.

4. Short-handed tables when taking a shot in poker

A special category of good tables to take shots at are a full-ring tables with less than six players. In fact, the fewer the better.

That has been a very profitable type of table for me, especially short-handed 100NL tables.

My guess is that those players are beginners who just want to play poker and do not understand how the number of players affects the game. There may be six players at the table, but it is not a 6Max table and they sure are not 6Max players.

When I land on a short-handed table, I am less strict about stack sizes and about verifying their fishiness before investing in that table.

If you try this approach, of course you should first study up about what ranges should be played on short-handed tables and how to play them.

5. Minimizing losses by managing expectations at small stakes

I know that I will not come out a winner every time I take a shot. I remind myself of that at the start of each session. If I get felted or lose a chunk of stack, I stop and think.

Before I re-buy or top off, I re-evaluate the table and my play. If I am down more than ten big blinds because I played badly or the table selected badly, the shot is over.

Back to the micros I go. I never talk myself into continuing to play.

The fish at 100NL are often loose limp-callers preflop who play fit or fold on the flop. They do not like to raise preflop, but they will call a small raise to see the flop if they have any kind of playable hand.

It is very easy to exploit these chronic limpers by consistently isolating them in position and hammering on them postflop as is discussed in Crushing the Microstakes.

But I typically keep my range tight, and I c-bet with nearly all of that tight range on any flop that gives me at least one overcard. I limp suited connectors and one gappers in late position if the players to my immediate left are passive.

But, it is the big pair hands that make the money. They can’t resist calling with middle pair, second pocket pair and draws.

When I do get a big hand and double up, I jump off the table to let that nice pot go into my bankroll.
About one out of four sessions, I get felted. If I was outplayed, I take a break and then go back to 10NL to start refilling my bankroll.

When I start losing small pots at 25NL or 100NL, my default assumption is that I misjudged the table and these players are not as bad as I thought, so I should stop.

That assumption is the key to minimizing losses when I do lose. If you are thinking that spending two orbits each at 100NL and 25NL is not really “taking a shot,” but just testing the waters, that is a fair point.

But it is much cheaper than stubbornly sticking to a shot until my bankroll runs dry.

The goal is to make 25NL my default stakes by staying with the table even after my stack grows to close to full size. That is how I made the move from 5NL to 10NL.

6. Bluff twice, then value town

I have a set strategy for shot-taking at small stakes. You will hopefully develop your own. I am a bit of a one-trick pony, especially at 100NL.

This play is a consistent profit maker:

I bluff a couple of times early in the session to create a weak fit-or-fold image. For that purpose, the timing of the bluffs is more important than position or equity. I plan to fold to the first aggression, anyway.

In this recent hand, I doubled up courtesy of an aggro-fish at 100NL.

Having limp-folded and bet-folded once each in the first orbit, I was down to $27 and change. I raised 3X ($3) in middle position with: AJ

Cutoff called, with just over $50 in his stack. Everyone else folded. Pot was then $7.50.
I flopped top pair/top kicker: 37J

I clicked the bet half pot button and subtracted one BB to bet $2.75. I like to click the “bet half pot” button and then subtract one or two big blinds.

Pot was then $10.25. My stack was $21 and change.

This small bet strategy seems to induce villains to raise with a very wide range.
Cutoff mini-raised to $5.50. And I re-raised all-in.

Villain tanked, then called with Q3 that flopped bottom pair and a backdoor flush draw.
I call this play the “Lazy Masseuse,” because I so often get called by suited queens that barely touch the flop.

Sometimes, of course, it turns out that villain called with a better hand. This is poker, so sometimes I also get sucked out on by a miracle flush or two-pair.

When that happens, I keep calm and re-buy!

Hopefully some of these tips will help you succeed the next time you are taking a shot in low limit poker games.

Lastly, if you want to know my complete strategy for crushing small stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.


Let me know what you do when taking a shot in poker in the comments below. Have you successfully taken a shot and moved up yet?

This article was written by Frank Reese. Frank has been playing poker part-time for two years, primarily 5NL and 10NL full ring cash games.  Frank (Seymourflops2020) plays anonymous online tables and builds a bluffy, but weak, table image in order to induce calls by a wide range of hands when he has a strong pair or better.

Shot Taking in Poker


  1. i had 3750 bankroll started earlier of this month,
    now feb 28th i had around 49000 bankroll...
    started playing 5/10, do you suggest playing 9 handed/or 6 handed? Cause i could lose over 5 buy-ins 6 handed im playing at pppoker recreational application.

    Thanks, keep grinding...

    1. Hey Tom,

      Wow that is some incredible growth! How did you grow your bankroll so fast?

      I would caution against stepping up too fast unless you feel confident at 5/10. As for 6max vs 9max, I think that is more of a personal decision.

      I do think it is best to try and learn both, and play both once you get into higher stakes games though because the player pool is typically a lot smaller.

      All the best at the tables.

  2. Hi Nathan,

    Since you keep good records of your play, do you have any idea as to *why* you got beat so regularly in 50 as opposed to stakes above and below it?

    1. It's just variance. For some bizarre reason NL50 has always given me trouble while I beat stakes above and below it easily. This is why I always say that the long run in poker is much, much longer than most people think :)

    2. My theory, and it is really a guess, is that people who move up to 25NL and get comfortable there will try 50NL and stay awhile before moving up to 100NL. A one dollar big blind may be a psychological barrier that makes them wait until they are really good.

      Meanwhile, the fishy players at 100NL are people who are clueless about online poker and a dollar big blind that they treat as if it were an ante in their home games makes more sense than nickles and dimes at the micros.

      I thought exactly the same way when I first started. I was watching one of Nathan's videos and he was telling a hand review requester that his eight cent preflop raise should be ten or twelve cents. I thought, 'is he really debating a difference of four cents?'

      Lucky for me, I played play money on poker stars until I had studied enough to catch on or I would have been a 100NL fish, I'm sure.

  3. What I like about shot taking is, that it encourage you to focus on quality rather than quantity. Instead of just firing up a number of tables at XXX limit, because this is "the limit I play", you are looking for a reason to be at a table. Which in principle is something, we should always do in cash games.

    Also while I think, its a bit wild to take "shots" at 100NL with a 10NL bankroll, I also feel, people sometimes get to hung up about bankroll management in the micros. Sure we should not sit down and play, until all our deposit is gone. But if we live in a rich country and have a dayjob, it is a little silly to think about 300$ as a "bankroll". This kind of money can be replaced from paychecks, so in the long run it is more important, that we use our time effectively.

  4. I have read a lot of your blogs, and I love and respect what you write. This article and the one about online poker not being rigged probably spoke the most to me. Just last night I "took my shot"... Going from a .50-1 game to a 2.5-5 game. I was up considerably... Then got aces cracked by 97. I was initially upset, but realized it is the opponent's money to bet with however they choose. I want 97 to call my AA 100 out of 100 times. You have mentioned tilt control, and it is so important to learn. My question is, at what point do you call it? 2x buy in, 3x, when cards start turning? I never know when to stop. Many nights I play, I would have lost out on a lot of profit had I stopped playing due to a bad beat or two... And many a night I would have been up had I stopped at a set point. I want to rebuild my bankroll and would appreciate any insight on this... Thanks!

    1. I am glad my blog posts help you! :)