5 Signs a Poker Player Should Move Up in Stakes

By Connor Whiteley
September 22, 2022

Moving up in stakes is the ultimate goal for any professional poker player. Many professionals start by grinding online or live $1/$2 NLH until they have a bankroll to play full-time. The first jump for live no-limit (or PLO) professionals is usually from $1/$2 to $2/$5. From there, the goal is to gradually keep moving up in stakes until you are playing the biggest games in the world. While the vast majority won’t make it to the nosebleed stakes, moving up is still the ultimate goal in the poker world.

While moving up is a clear goal for professionals, it doesn’t always translate to part-time and casual players. Many players will stick to their given stakes for a lifetime. Say, for instance, you live in Europe. Home games are less common there than in the United States, so you likely have a local casino with a poker room you patronize with some frequency. Perhaps you’re located in the Netherlands, which recently legalized online gambling, including poker, and you occasionally boost your total number of hands played alongside your fellow low-stakes rec players. It’s pretty common. Find more information about real money poker in the Netherlands here.

Being comfortable in a game is important, but there are clear signs that you may be ready to move up in stakes. It may put you out of your comfort zone, but the bigger the game the more you can win.

moving up

Here are five signs you are ready to move up in stakes:

1. You Are Consistently Winning

The first telltale sign you should move up in stakes is your win rate. You need to be consistently winning at your current stakes to consider moving up. After a large sample size (at least 1,600 hours live or 50k hands online) you should have a decent win rate for your game. Online players can track their results using a Heads Up Display (HUD) and live players have many options for poker tracking apps on their phones. Consistently track your results and if you are winning over a large sample size, you may be ready to move up.

bankroll for moving up in stakes

2. You Have Taken Successful Shots

Shot taking in poker is when you play a larger game than normal before officially moving up to those stakes. If you play live $1/$2 and have been consistently winning, you may be tempted to jump into a $2/$5 game. While this first session in a larger game may be scary, it is necessary in order to gauge if you are ready to move up.

Take a calculated risk by watching to make sure the table you are considering is good. Additionally, make sure you have the bankroll to sustain a larger loss than normal. One thing many players do is sell action when taking a shot at higher stakes. This helps to lower their exposure. If you have taken a shot and feel comfortable in the game, that is another box to check before moving up. If you felt uncomfortable with the money at risk and it threw you off your game, you may want to build the bankroll more before moving up permanently.

3. You Are Bored

If the decision-making in your game isn’t challenging, you are likely better than the player pool. Big bet poker (no-limit and pot-limit games) can lead to some tough decisions. If you notice that you are no longer finding situations difficult and you can regularly identify and exploit player mistakes, you are ready to move up. While it may be tempting to stay where you can make consistent exploits, moving up will benefit you in the long run. At one point you were likely challenged in your current stakes, but now you find exploits easily and are not put in tough spots. When you move up, it may be challenging at first, but you will eventually get to the same point if you work at your game.

4. Tilt Doesn’t Impact your Play

One very important sign you are ready to move up is that tilt doesn’t negatively impact your poker playing. Tilt is inevitable, everyone experiences it. The key is to not let it affect your game and to get off tilt as soon as possible. If losing three buy-ins puts you on tilt and damages your decision-making, you are not ready to move up. Think how much worse the tilt will be when the buy-ins are larger. You must be able to regulate your emotions and manage tilt to move up in stakes.

READ ALSO: 5 Tips to Managing Your Poker Bankroll

5. You are Properly Bankrolled

Lastly, and most importantly, you need to be properly bankrolled before you consider moving up in stakes. You absolutely cannot play stakes you are not properly rolled for. You may be a winning player at $1/$2, but if you make regular withdrawals from your bankroll and are under rolled for $2/$5, you can’t move up. Bankroll management is paramount when moving up in stakes. You must be able to handle the regular swings poker brings, especially when you are increasing your buy-in. A proper bankroll will ensure that you are comfortable playing higher stakes and will give you a better chance of winning in the long run.

Everyone plays poker to make money. Of course, some do it for fun, while others turn it into a career, but either way the goal is to make money. Moving up in stakes is the best way to make more money in poker. While you may be tempted to jump in the big game after a month-long heater, make sure you can check off all of the above boxes before you do. The last thing anyone wants is to drop down in stakes, so use this guide to ensure your move up isn’t overly hasty.



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Connor Whiteley poker author
Written By.

Connor Whiteley

Connor Whiteley is a financial services professional and freelance writer who spends as much time as possible on the felt. Previously, Connor was a dealer in various underground Los Angeles poker games, but left the city and those games to raise his daughter with his loving wife Jennifer. Connor is constantly staying up to date […]

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