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When to Move Up/Down in Stakes

It can be both fun and depressing to shift around in limits, depending on whether you are going up or down. There are few experiences more rewarding than being able to take a shot at the next limit up the ladder, but being forced to move back down can be incredibly frustrating. For a good poker player it will be natural to move up or down depending on what games are running and how they are doing.

Sometimes you have to be willing to put your pride to side in exchange for profitability. If you had crushed 100NL for ages and then got killed at 200NL, it might be aggravating to have to go what feels like backwards. Nonetheless, this is all part of the natural progression of any poker player. You need to be willing to accept that moving up in limits generally goes hand in hand with moving down.

Hopefully there will be situations where you get to move up and never have to jump back down, but it doesn’t always go this smoothly. Failure in poker is another step on the never ending path to success, however cliché that sounds.

Taking shots at a higher limit game will sometimes translate to “I’m moving up” for certain poker players. You shouldn’t convince yourself that any higher limit shot is a permanent transition. There should be a figure where you need to move down, and if you never hit that number you can stay in the same game. Once you find prolonged experience at any limit, you will then be able to take another shot at even higher games.

It is isn’t quite this easy, though, because you will inevitably run into spots where you clearly need to move back down and try again. The difference between a poker player and a gambler is the will power to make the correct financial and long term decision, not the quickest route to a potential payday.

After all, it is much better to win $20/hour at 100NL than it is to lose $30/hour at 200NL. If you are embarrassed or ashamed at needing to move back down in limits, you probably weren’t cut out for poker in the first place.

When You Should Move Up in Limits

Moving up is something that you should do after you are very comfortable with your current limits and bankroll. There is no place for taking shots on a light bankroll. You don’t necessarily need to be fully bankrolled for the limits one step above you, but you should also be able to handle a few buy-in downswing.

If you play in a game that you don’t have enough money for, there is an increased chance that you will be playing scared. Never take a shot if you can’t handle either the emotional or financial swings. Being nervous is normal, but feeling the highs and lows with each and every action is not good.

Beating lower limit games is always more important than taking shots at higher limits. The general rule of thumb for cash games is beating any given limit for 100,000 or more hands. It can take quite a bit of time to play 100,000 hands, especially if you are not playing a ton of tables at once. The point of this guideline is to ensure that you really know what you are doing before you take a chance in tougher games.

It is always possible for a weak player to go on a heater for 10,000 hands where they will come up with an exaggerated win rate. You need to make sure that you are actually winning and not just in the middle of a random hot streak. There have been plenty of players who were fooled by a bout of good luck and thought that they were destined for millions. When it comes down to it, you need to have a sample size that is significant enough to prove that you actually know what you are doing and that you are ready for the next step (higher stakes poker games).

When You Should Move Down in Limits

Moving down is usually more clear cut than moving up, however odd that may seem. You should have a set number in your bankroll for when you will take a step down to the lower limit games. This might be a buy in threshold or an actual dollar amount. For example, you could have $2,500 for a 100NL bankroll and decide that you will move down if that number ever hits anything below $2,000. This would be a five buy in downswing and would be enough to indicate that your problems are likely to extend beyond the realm of some bad variance.

It is always better to play it safe when it comes to taking shots and re-working your skills. There is very little harm in moving down in limits, but staying in games that you can’t beat can be extremely detrimental. A lot of players try to stay in higher limit games because they want a chance at winning back the money that they lost in a shorter amount of time. Instead of gambling it up, earn it back slowly at the limits that you know you can beat with consistency.

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