Poker Tips by George: Moving Up

By George Epstein
August 29, 2022

Phil Ivey is a poker celebrity. Among his accomplishments, he has won over $30-million in tournaments, while earning 10 World Series of Poker bracelets. He has also won a number of other major poker tournaments, and he has done extremely well in high-stakes cash games, both online and live.

Last year, Ivey was interviewed by Joe Ingram (a.k.a., Chicago Joey), a well-known podcaster of high-stakes poker pros, as well as a tournament player.

One of the key topics they discussed was moving up in playing stakes. It caught my attention because, over the years, I have given much thought to doing that. However, I resisted making the change, sticking to low-limit, especially $4-$8 limit Texas Hold’em. In the same way that some online gamblers prefer to stick to the sites they know rather than try out new online casinos, I prefer to stay within my comfort zone.

There are advantages and disadvantages to playing for higher stakes. For one thing, with bigger bets going into the pot, you can win a lot more money in higher stakes games. On the other hand, you stand to lose more.

In the interview, Ivey cautions us: “People have gotten into a lot of trouble playing over their head, playing for too much money, and putting themselves in bad financial spots. It doesn’t have to be this way,” he told Ingram. His advice is to “pace yourself, and move up in stakes at the right time; then it’ll be a much more enjoyable experience for you.”

Easier said than done. Let’s give it some thought…

Be the Best at your Current Stakes

Moving up in stakes is bound to involve more astute – tougher – players. The more skilled your opponents, the less likely you will beat them. Time spent to better learn poker strategies and tactics is bound to help. Learn to play a bit more aggressively, how to build the pot when you catch a monster, and how to bluff and semi-bluff. Also learn to use the math of poker to have a positive expectation when playing drawing hands while reading your opponents and looking for their tells.

When you reach the point that you are consistently coming out ahead, you are ready to move up to the next level. But stick to your favorite game.

Money Management

Be certain that you have enough money in the bank to more than cover all your financial needs – and then some. Recognize that there will be times when variance goes the wrong way. (You have no control over luck.) Your financial well-being is essential.

Avoid Tilt

We are only human; our emotions can influence our behavior. Satisfy yourself that you have the self-control needed to avoid going on tilt after a bad beat or two. Be prepared to take a break if you find yourself tilting or losing track of your goals.

READ ALSO: Moving Up a Level in Online Poker

Have Self-Confidence

I have noticed that when I play at a table and am well ahead, my confidence seems to grow. And, as I gain confidence, I win more often and can build bigger pots. Makes good sense. . . I wouldn’t consider moving up if I did not have high confidence in my ability.

Take Notes

I keep notes as I am playing. Some folks prefer to take notes on apps like Poker Notes Live, but I carry a small 4×6 inch piece of paper in my shirt pocket, on which, using shorthand, I keep track of my opponents’ playing traits, starting hands (A-x and K-x), chips, chasing, tilt, and drinking. I also track how many hands I play and fold preflop, and how many I won or lost at the showdown, bluffing results and wins and losses for the session.

When you have mastered all of the above, you will likely be ready to try moving up in stakes.

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George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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