Moving up the Stakes in NLH
Moving up the stakes in no limit holdem cash games is a common theme amongst poker players, and there are tons of threads posted around poker communities of this nature. In this article I am going to explain when you should move up the stakes and a few tips for doing so.
Benefits of Moving up the Stakes
First of all, every poker player should have their eyes set on moving up the stakes as quickly as possible. Moving up the stakes can effectively double your profits, for example moving from $0.25/$0.50 to $0.50/$1 will mean twice as much profit if you can maintain the same bb/hr win-rate. This in turn lets you build a bankroll faster.
When you move up the stakes, your profits can double but it the difficulty doesn’t become “twice” as hard. This means you should be willing to move up the stakes as quickly as possible so that your profits can massively increase and make your time playing online poker much more worthwhile.
An additional benefit of moving up the stakes is of course that you will learn new moves and become a better player. Playing at a higher level forces you to step up your game and make more steals or plays. Forcing yourself to play more aggressively in this nature (by blind stealing, 4betting, and 3betting light) will only help you to earn more.
When to Move up the Stakes
OK so now that we’ve concluded how important it is to move up the stakes, we need to work out when is the right time to do so.
First of all, a decent bb/hr win-rate at your existing level is a prerequisite, after all there is no point moving up the stakes if you are not maximising profits from your current level and leaving potentially big holes in your game. I’ve found that most players in micro-stakes games who want to move up the stakes haven’t yet fully got their head around positional play and the pre-flop. For example, their 3betting range will either be too tight or loose, and they won’t be blind stealing from the CO enough, or even they won’t be semi-bluffing enough drawing hands on the flop/turn.
A good win-rate at any level is around 7bb/100 or 3-5bb/hr. This of course changes depending on if you’re multi-tabling or not. But in general, I think that if you have not yet managed a consistent win-rate of 3bb/hr then you are leaving gaps and opportunities on the table. In this case, I would definitely recommend reading a professional poker ebook like The Poker Blueprint or The NL Workbook. Both of these will teach you how to exploit regulars, maximise winnings (e.g. hand selection, bluffing scenarios, semi-bluffing, value betting the river, combating different playing styles, and combanatronics).
Finally, it’s in your interest to move up the stakes whilst your young. This isn’t because time is precious or anything, it’s because when you are young you are more willing to take risks like moving up a level. As you get older, you become more risk averse. For example, when you are 30 yrs old and making large income from poker, you are less likely to take a risk when you are trying to support a family than if you were a teenager at university trying to move from NL100 up to NL200.
Tips for Moving up the Stakes
As I mentioned, the two books The NL Workbook and The Poker Blueprint are excellent for helping you move up the stakes in cash games (particularly from NL50 to NL300).
Asides from this however, a good tip is to try difference tables at the higher stakes, perhaps spending 10% of your time playing at higher stakes, whilst spending the rest of your time at your current level. This allows you to gain some experience at the higher levels, without suddenly bursting onto the scenes and hitting a brick wall. There is always a certain climb you have to make and adjustments in your strategy for each level you move up, interestingly I think the biggest void is between NL50 and NL100 (most NL100 players are regulars who can make a living off $30,000 per year, hence why there is such a difference between the “amateur” NL50 and professional NL100 games).
When it comes to being rolled to move up the stakes, most poker bankroll management articles will state you should have at least 20 buy-ins for each table. In the case of moving up the stakes, Tri “SlowHabit” Nguyen states that you can reduce this to 15 buy-ins, as long as you are prepared to move down the stakes again when lose a couple of buy-ins. He argues this strategy is entirely sustainable and allows you to take greater risks for the benefit of moving up the stakes faster.