The (Aggressive) Guide to Moving Up in Stakes

Most poker players can’t wait to move up in stakes. And can you blame them? For one thing, there’s a feeling of accomplishment when you move up — it means your game is improving. Then there is the money. You have the ability to make more of it, and you don’t have to put in as much volume to get it.

Now, the thing is with moving up is that players either don’t wait long enough, or they wait too long. Both can be expensive mistakes.

If you move up too fast, you might not be good enough to play at higher stakes. You’ll lose money because you suck. This can lead to busting your entire roll.

You can also lose money if you wait too long to move up. If you moved up sooner (when you were ready), you’d be playing higher stakes, therefore earning more big blinds per hand or more dollars per game.

So in short, moving up in stakes is a balancing act. Lose your balance and you’ll lose your money.

But there is a method that I used when I was playing/coaching that helped me with this balancing act. I want to share that method with you today, in hopes that it’ll help you move up faster too.

Moving Up in Limits Faster By Blending Games

The method that I used to move up in limits faster is to blend the games I played.

By blending, I mean to mix two different buy-ins. For example, if you play $3 SNGs, and the next level up is the $6 games, then you would load up a set of tables consisting of both. The ratio will depend on you, your bankroll and skill level. If you’re just barely beating your current stake, I’d do something like 80/20 or 60/40 in favor of your current stakes. As you improve, increase the number of tables at the higher stakes until you’ve reached the point where you can load up 100%.

I like this method because instead of needing a full 40 or 50 buy-ins to move up, you can take a shot at 25 or 30. For example, if you play $3 SNGs the rule of thumb would state that you need like $240 or $300 to move up to the $6 games (minimum). However, if you blend stakes, there’s no harm in having $180 and taking a shot.

With all of this said, I do want to point out a few things:

You need to be able to stop blending stakes and/or move down entirely if your shot doesn’t go well. I suggest moving down entirely if you lose around 25% of your roll. The great thing is that it won’t take long to regain that 25% back so that you can take the shot again.

It’s important to still put in enough volume at your current stakes before trying to move up. This is so that you can be sure you’re good enough. Just because you have enough money to play higher stakes, it doesn’t mean that you should.

I would also avoid blending different types of games. In other words, don’t load up 45s and 18s together (at least when you’re first starting out). While much of the early game is the same, the late game strategies are not.

Another Method to Move Up in Stakes Faster — Mass Tabling

Another method you might try to move up in stakes faster is to mass table. Meaning, you load up as many tables as you can handle. (I don’t recommend this method for a few reasons, which I’ll get to in a second.)

To make this method work, you will need to have a heads up display and a hot key program like Table Ninja or AHK. These programs will help you keep track of tables, bring tables that need your attention to the front and allow you to program things like betting amounts. This is in addition to having hot keys set up.

Something else you will need to do is adjust your strategy. You won’t be able to play poker — you’ll have to play using a push/fold strategy. There just isn’t enough time to think and make a logical decision with so many tables up.

Now, the upside to this strategy is that if you play $3 games and you’re averaging $.75 a game, you can play 40 tables and average a little over $30 an hour. This will add up quick, allowing you to move up faster.

The downside, in my opinion, is that you don’t learn anything by doing this. There is very little thinking in push/fold poker besides when to shove, and when not to. You also take thinner spots, which increases the amount of variance you see.

Put simply, I don’t recommend using this method to move up fast because you don’t grow as a poker player. You stunt the education needed to truly excel at the higher levels; at the very least you make this education harder to obtain.

So I’d only use this method if my blending method above doesn’t work for you.