Moving Up in the World – Jumping Limits Successfully

Content: Poker > Poker Strategy

Moving Up in the World – Jumping Limits Successfully

Most players play poker for the money. Granted, some are in it strictly for the fun, or to lighten the weight in their wallet, but most serious players want to make a profit. It goes without saying then that most serious players are looking to move up in limits as quickly as possible. After all, higher stakes means increased potential profit. Players can move up at all sorts of different paces. Some rise unbelievably fast, for example online phenom Cole South, known as 'cts' online, who made his move from micro stakes to nosebleed stakes in less than a year. Some take it a bit slower, due to a less dense playing schedule, or more preparation time. No matter how fast a player moves up, all who have been successful in their jumps have followed a few basic principles in order to enjoy a lengthy stay at the top. It is critical to plan for your rise, and this article covers the basic steps you need to take to ensure your success.

1.Assess your performance at your current level.

If you aren't a solid and consistent winner at you current limit, you can't expect to find riches just by moving up. Everyone has heard the saying “move up to where they respect your raises,” and nobody wants to live out the parody that this saying embodies. Generally, a player is considered very successful at a given limit if they earn somewhere at or above the mark of 5ptbb/100 hands, or 5 big bets per 100 hands played. Anywhere from 3-5ptbb/100 is considered good, but not mastery, and anywhere under 3 is considered a sign of a game in need of improvement. Keep in mind that you should assess your success over a decent sample size- anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 hands should suffice. Too small a sample will skew your perception of your play, perhaps embellishing your results due to a temporary hot streak. Nobody wants this, as premature analysis has too often led to rude awakenings at higher limits.

2.Make sure you are properly bankrolled.

Bankroll management is a term that's almost become trendy- it's like the Sushi of the poker strategy world. It's cool to talk about, but few know what it actually entails. Moving up in limits often means you're entering a territory of more aggression and a different style of play. As follows, variance will increase. You need to make sure that you protect yourself by having enough buy-ins at your limit to cover losses. The general rule of thumb at stakes .50/1NL and lower is that one should have 20 buyins to be rolled sufficiently. Any stakes higher, and 40 is recommended. Of course, not all players are going to have the same exact requirements- some might feel more comfortable playing over rolled. That's fine- as long as you accurately asses your skill and potential as discussed in section one, you should know what you need to feel comfortable. Remember- as you move up, variance will increase, and you need to protect your bankroll from going bust!

3.Adjust to the games, but don't over-adjust.

You've talked to forum members who play the level you're targeting, and they all say the same thing: “the play gets much more aggressive... More floating... More 3-betting...” It is unbelievably important to take these musings worth a grain of salt. Sure, players at higher limits like to make fancy plays. Sure, postflop play becomes more important, and you'll need to improve your reading skills. But the number one mistake players make when moving up is over-adjusting to the game. Rather than sticking to the strategy that made them so successful at their previous limit, many opt to tighten up significantly in order to deal with the heightened aggression. This is bad! Good players know how to exploit this, and a good player can tell when you're new to a limit if you're changing your game. You will be visibly playing weak-tight, and often with scared money. You will make folds when you would have previously raised, you will put villains on hand ranges much tighter than what they really hold, all because of fear.

The idea is to stick to what's proven to work for you- if you're a winner at 50NL, play your 50NL strategy at 100NL, and make minor adjustments as you see fit. If you notice regulars floating your continuation bets more often, continuation bet less, or try a new show of strength on the turn. Don't tighten your preflop range to AQ,QQ+ simply because your opponents are playing a little bit differently. In the grand scheme of things, they aren't playing that differently from what you're used to- it's all in your head.

4.Move down if you lose.

If you lose some buyins, that's fine- don't get discouraged. Tons of players move up and down a couple of times before finally getting the hang of a particular limit. The worst thing you can do is stick it out when you are clearly not ready. You will end up losing your case money, even with proper bankroll management. A general rule of thumb is to move back down if your bankroll falls at or below 20 buyins for the level below you. This is not a particularly conservative rule, so you should adjust it as you see fit. If you're uncomfortable losing 10 buyins at any level, move down if you lose 5, and have no shame. Simply work on your game, grind it out, and fly back up in no time.

Following these 4 simple principles will ensure a smooth and bump-free jump in limits for any player. It's all easier said than done, though. Moving up requires more psychological strength than actual poker skill, and it's a talent in itself to be able to adjust. Don't get discouraged if it takes you a couple of times to successfully move up, and remember, if you start to lose, don't let your pride keep you out of your comfort zone. Move back down to where you know you can win, work on your skills and your mind, and move up when you regain confidence! Good luck on your jump!

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