High-stakes poker is a game that involves high risk, which comes with high rewards and losses. At this level, players tend to have a high-six-figure bankroll — usually at least $500,000 — so that they are able to withstand losing a lot of money, which reflects the natural variance of high-stakes tournament poker.
High-stakes poker is available online or in live casinos. Online high-stakes poker is quicker and more aggressive than live poker, as you typically get many more hands in per hour. Another striking difference is that in online poker, you can’t see your opponent, while in live poker, you can.
Unlike low-stakes and mid-stakes poker, high-stakes poker players almost always tend to be more skilled and experienced. This article shall discuss what it takes to play at this level. Read on.
High-stakes poker naturally tends to come with a lot of pressure because there is a lot of money at stake. For this reason, players need to have people reading skills to outsmart their opponents.
You need to have the ability to read the body language of an opponent. For example, though most high stakes players tend to have their behaviours and mannerisms under control, a player who has a weak hand might show signs like fidgeting, avoiding eye contact, tapping their legs and slouching.
Another important live poker skill is reading facial expressions. People communicate their emotions through facial expressions. An anxious player may have darting eyes, head swivels or tight lips.
You can also predict the betting patterns of an opponent by their behaviour. An aggressive player is likely to project having strong hands, while a hesitant player may appear to have a weak hand.
The ability to read your opponents can give you an edge over them.
Bluffing is when you make a bet to induce a fold to an opponent holding a better hand. Simply put, bluffing is deceiving your opponent. And as we all know, part of what makes poker sure a pure game is a good bluff; i.e., that a skilled player may get opponents with superior hands to fold, and thus win with inferior holdings.
Timing is very crucial when it comes to carrying out a good bluff. You need to know when use your table position when it’s most advantageous. Here are some other things to consider when bluffing:
- Your opponent(s): You must be wise when choosing the opponent you want to bluff against. It’s best to bluff against good (i.e., experienced, thinking) players because beginners are playing “ABC poker” and will just act in a straightforward manner without considering whether you’re bluffing or not.
- Your image: How you carry yourself throughout the hand will determine if your bluff sells. If you are aggressive, your opponents will think you have a strong hand, and your bluff may sell. If your image is loose, the bluff won’t sell because the opponent will be more likely to call you down. Importantly, you must remain consistent with your “storytelling” throughout the entire hand.
- Chip stack sizes: When making a bluff, be prepared to fully commit to it with your chip stack. There are times when a big bet size sells the bluff, and sometimes, a small one suffices. Just keep your stack size (and your opponents’ stack sizes) in mind when deciding to make a play.
Game Theory Optimal (GTO) Play
GTO is an advanced poker strategy that makes one unexploitable and balanced in a game. This strategy does not adapt to your opponent’s play. Instead, it puts your opponent in a position for them to exploit you, which becomes impossible. GTO ensures that your opponent cannot improve their expectations by deviating one way or another.
The objective of GTO is to maximize chips based on the probability of hands and run-outs. It only takes strategies that maximize chips for every single hand.
GTO is widely used in the best gambling poker apps by online high-stakes poker players. For this poker strategy to work well, know how to mix hands for value raising to prevent your opponent from profiting in the long run.
A poker range is a combination of hands your opponent might be holding at a given time. Knowing the hand of your opponent is likely holding can give you valuable insights into their playing patterns, actions, betting size and player type.
Studying poker range charts and using apps like RangeTraingerPro and RangeConverter can help you get confortable with accurately placing your opponents on a range of hands. Another way is paying attention to your opponent’s pre-flop actions and how often they take those actions (pay attention to when they show their cards at the end of a hand).
Knowing your opponent’s range may help you understand how to counter them.
5 Tips for Becoming a High-Stakes Poker Player
If you are looking to break into high-stakes poker, besides accruing that massive aforementioned bankroll and practicing the other items we’ve discussed, you need to sharpen these five skills.
- Critical thinking: Know what you are thinking and why and break the norms if necessary. As you think of your strategies, analyse your opponent’s game and remember all the critical facts.
- Find a mentor: Look for someone with experience playing high-stakes poker. You can also follow elite players like Daniel Negreanu and learn their strategies.
- Positive attitude: Loses are inevitable in high-stakes poker. It would help to have a positive attitude to avoid getting discouraged easily.
- Fold if you are uncertain: When playing, you will stay on hands that are not very good most times. When you feel unsure to call or fold, it is safer to fold.
- Confidence: Believe in yourself and your strategies. If other players catch wind of weakness, they will exploit you.
High-stakes poker is a highly competitive game with many intricacies. You need mental and emotional strength to play at this level. If you work hard on perfecting the strategies discussed in this article, the sky’s the limit for you.