Many players think about competing in higher stakes games. It’s a natural progression as your skills improve, yet there’s still a lot to consider when moving up in limits.
The first thing to think about is whether you’re truly capable of winning in bigger games. With rare exceptions, you’ll be facing better quality players as you move up to higher limits. So before you even consider jumping to that next level, be honest with yourself about how you fare at your current stakes.
Keeping records is a must. It’s the only way you’ll accurately know how well you’re doing in a particular game over the long run. If you determine that you win handily and regularly at your current limit, then you just might be ready to take that next step.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when you do make the jump to higher limits.
Play shorter sessions.
To play effectively in higher stakes games, especially in your first few outings, play shorter sessions. You simply can’t play at a peak performance level if you’re mentally or physically fatigued. If you normally sit for 8-10 hours at your current game, don’t play for more than 4-6 hours at the higher stakes game until you start to feel comfortable.
Decide on a loss limit and stick to it.
One of the key reasons players fail when they move to higher limits has less to do with talent and more to do with pressure. In higher stakes games, players must be able to endure bigger financial swings. A few bad beats can send even the best players on tilt. Even worse, an unexpected loss can quickly erode your poker confidence and turn you into a scared-money player.
To combat this effect, make sure to set a loss limit that you can handle both emotionally and financially. If you lose that money, even if it’s in the first ten minutes, get up and leave. For example, if you normally play $5-$10 No Limit Hold’em but decide to step it up to $10-$20, don’t risk more than your initial buy-in. A $2,000 loss limit might be appropriate for some, but it’s important to set a limit that’s right for your own situation and playing ability.
Whatever your loss limit, it’s critical that you stick to it! For that, you’ll need self-control. If you don’t trust yourself, never bring more money than your loss limit as this will prevent you from impulsively buying additional chips. Take a walk back to your hotel before you thoughtlessly decide to reload your wallet. The fresh air just might knock some needed sense into you.
Play a low fluctuation style of poker.
If the game you’re thinking about jumping into appears to be fast-paced with crazy action, don’t play. Instead, look for a game that’s more controllable when you decide to step up to higher limits. This way you can comfortably get your feet wet and play a patient game.
It’s important to play cautiously in your first higher limit sessions. Don’t make overly aggressive or tricky plays. Remember, your realistic goal is to not lose big. Use this new experience to get accustomed to the higher stakes and to pick up on your opponents’ styles and tendencies. Only after you’ve logged some hours playing at higher stakes should you take chances with bluffs and more aggressive play.
Here’s one final point.
Determine your own motivation for playing higher limit poker.
Is it ego, the desire to improve your game against better competition, or is it simply about making more money? If it’s all about the money, consider that you might actually do better playing small limit games against weak opponents than you would facing advanced players in high limit games.
Picking the right game is just as important as playing well.
Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.
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