How and When To Move Up Stakes

Learn how and when to move up stakes

Do you have plans to move up stakes but are unsure of when to do so? It is a common problem online poker players face. They dream of rubbing shoulders with the pros in bigger buy-in games but lack an actual plan to make that happen.

We are about to give you that game plan.

The money you have available for poker determines what stakes you play, or at least it should if you follow solid bankroll management. The general consensus is a bankroll of between 100-200 buy-ins is sufficient for multi-table tournaments. A buy-in is the total cost of entering the tournament, so $11 for a $10+$1 tourney.

Let us work with a 100 buy-in bankroll, meaning we need $1,100 to play at the $11 buy-in level. Most online poker sites have many buy-ins available, but the next logical level is $22. Our bankroll needs to double in size to $2,200 before we move up stakes. Doubling your bankroll is no mean feat, but needs must.

But, and here is the but, you will not only play $11 buy-in games when you have a $1,100 bankroll. There will be some $3.30, $5.50, $7.50 games thrown in there simply because most poker sites do not have dozens of $11 tournaments running simultaneously. This is where you can take your average buy-in and use it to move up stakes.

Move Up Stakes By Manipulating Your Bankroll

Using your average buy-in can help you move up stakes temporarily. Play 10 tournaments costing $11 each, and your average buy-in is, obviously, $11. But what if you play five $11 games, three $5.50 MTTs, and two $2.20? What is our average buy-in now? It is $7.59, way under the $11 we are bankrolled for.

Being willing to play some smaller stakes games opens the door to taking a shot at some higher buy-in events. For example, you are bankrolled for $11 tournaments but decide to play two $22 buy-in games. Balance this out by playing some $5.50 and lower games to keep your average buy-in around $11.

Consider Moving Up Stakes During Poker Festivals

Every online poker site worth its salt runs at least an annual tournament series. Tournaments have larger guaranteed prize pools during these series, making them more attractive. Fields are larger and, therefore, softer when prizes are juicer. Do not go crazy and start firing into $109 games when you usually play $11. But consider entering some $22 and $33 buy-in games.

This is especially true during massive live festivals like the World Series of Poker. The lower stakes WSOP events, by that we mean the $500-$1,000 level, are ridiculously soft. They are definitely worth taking a shot at because the majority of players in them are terrible at poker.

Taking Shots Is Recommended

Taking shots is similar to manipulating your bankroll we mentioned earlier, but with two key differences. First, you never take a shot to win back any losses you incurred. Second, you move back down to your regular stakes once your shot-taking is complete.

Shot-taking is an excellent way to move up stakes when you almost have a bankroll for the next limits. For example, you have $2,000 and want to play $22 as your main game. Feel free to take a few shots at the higher stakes games, maybe five tournaments, and see how they go.

Taking a shot is not only limited to actual tournaments; you can apply it to satellites too. You should play satellites that are within the constraints of your bankroll, but there are some satellites you must try to play.

Mega Satellites to major events are the perfect example. Online majors, such as the colossal Venom at Americas Cardroom, have dozens of satellites you would not ordinarily play. Some are dripping with value thanks to the number of seats offered. Not to mention winning a seat gives you a shot at a massive event that could see you move up stakes forever.

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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