When is it Right to Move Up in Stakes?

When to Move up in Stakes

A question asked by thousands of poker player’s, judging when to move up in stakes is a skill in itself. Without context or analysis, one might think it’s right to move up when you can afford it and have a large bankroll. The question of when to move up in stakes is a little more complex than that though. There are factors to consider that should determine whether it’s correct to make the move to the level above.

Bankroll Management

First and foremost, before moving up stakes, you need to look at your bankroll and ensure you have sufficient amount to play without risk of going broke. There’s a lot of debate over what is the correct level of buy ins. I advocate 50 buy-ins for cash games. If you’re playing NL $50 (25c/50c blinds) and considering whether to move up in stakes to NL $100, you probably should have at least $5,000 in your bankroll. I don’t mean $5,000 in your savings; I mean your bankroll specific for poker. That’s an important distinction, we don’t want you playing with money saved for holidays, do we?

Some of you may read this and be shocked, playing with 5- 10 buy ins thinking you’re conservative. The truth is that there is variance, bad luck and your own poor play you have to overcome in the long run and that means having a bankroll that can sustain the swings involved.


Players sometimes can’t handle moving up, it impacts their game and they hate being out of their comfort level. It causes them to make poor decisions, nit up or tilt easier. Does this sound like you? If you are a long-term winner at your current level with a decent win rate, perhaps it’s best to stay there.

Not everyone is destined for high stakes poker, few can get there and stay there. If you’ve had trouble in the past moving up and have a problem with the psychology, spend some time reading books on the mental side of poker and improve that aspect before moving up.

How Much are You Winning?

It’s staggering that some people don’t track their winnings efficiently. It’s critical to understanding which game is best for you, to track your profitability. Whether that’s ROI for tournaments or hourly rate for cash games. Before considering moving up, you need an accuracy and clarity on what your actual win rate is. I think that hourly rate is the best metric to go by.

Time is precious to all of us. We want to earn the most amount for as little as we can, right? If you need help tracking how well you are doing, click the banner below after reading this article.

Sample Size

If you’ve taken a shot to get to your current level, played a few thousand hands and considering moving up again, forget it. Poker results can’t be judged on 2,000 hands, 10 tournaments or 20 SNGS. Volume is what counts. Its why strong players will look at yearly results, not daily. Look at tournament players, they are playing serious volume, exercising their edge over countless tournaments to prove out their ROI. They know they are a “loser” the majority of the time but the top 3 finishes will be hundreds of times their buy in. You need a solid amount of data to rely on and interpret before taking the decision to move up in stakes.

Final Thoughts

My advice is to move up when you have sufficient information that supports your decision to move up. If you have the right mentality, a sustained win rate, lots of hands and the right bankroll, then it’s probably time to go for it.

Once you move up, make sure you give yourself a proper chance. Don’t lose a few buy ins and drop a limit with your tail between your legs. If you’re a proven winner with the right tools and dedication, there’s no reason you can’t beat the game above.

I also want to point out it’s fine to take the occasional stab at higher stakes to see the standard of play, test yourself against better players and learn.  

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Poker Excel Dashboard – Do You Have One?

Poker Spreadsheet

What’s your spreadsheet skills like? Have you thought to mix poker and Excel yet? I’m a massive fan of spreadsheets, data, reporting and good record keeping so combining the two was natural for me.

The great thing about utilising spreadsheets for poker is it provides you with insights you wouldn’t have discovered. You’re the creator and can customise your tables and graphs how you wish.

Poker Excel
Template Texas Holdem Questions Data Sheet for Poker Excel Dashboard

Facts Don’t Lie

The best thing about data is that it’s factual, unbiased and truthful. Fact’s don’t lie and it’s there, in your face. It forces you to confront areas you didn’t want to before because it’s easier to ignore them. Let’s say you start record keeping your cash game sessions through poker excel spreadsheets and you find out over a year that you lose money on Monday nights. This may be painful to you because you’re off on Tuesdays and therefore love to play on Monday evenings. You like playing in the one game available that runs at a convenient time for you.

What will you do with this information? Will you stop playing that game now or not? Spreadsheets are great in this way as it’s not anecdotal or hear say information, it will provide useful, relevant facts about your game and poker win rate.

Garbage in Garbage out

If you are thinking of starting a poker excel spreadsheet, there are some rules you need to adhere to, otherwise it’s a pointless activity. You may have heard the saying that reporting can be only as good as the accuracy of the data input i.e. if you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out. Here are some basic but fundamental rules to stick to if you are considering a poker spreadsheet.

  1. Enter data accurately
  2. Don’t get too excited or too downbeat by short-term results
  3. Don’t keep cancelling and starting again
  4. Stick with it

Texas Hold’em Questions Poker Excel Dashboard

I appreciate not everyone is an excel wizard. Perhaps you’re interested in improving your record keeping, monitoring your win rate and finding out your “niche” in poker but don’t have a knack for spreadsheets. Fortunately, we are highly proficient in excel and can help you. I use it all the time with the players I mentor. It’s a fantastic way to track performance on a regular basis.

At a glance of a graph, I can tell if John Doe is winning this month, whether he’s up year on year and which game is his strongest. These insights help decision making moving forward. If this is something you potentially want, we can certainly help you. Fill in your email below and you can download a template report for free. The template gives you an idea of what what kind of report you can expect to get from us on a monthly basis.

John Doe Report

If you’re interested in a stand-alone product of poker excel dashboard and updates or you want the updates and reporting reporting – we can help you. Just click the free quote option at the bottom of this article to find out how much it will cost.

See some snapshots below for an idea of what the dashboard and graphs can look like.

We can quickly see John started well in January and has been on a decline since. Do you track your monthly winnings efficiently and compare against previous months?

See how John wins in the morning/daytime but loses at night? If there is a lot of data and volume, he may need to consider only playing during day time. Do you monitor whether you play better during day or night?

John wins at NL $50 and $100 but a loser NL $200. At first glance, he should focus on NL $50. Do you track your performance at different stakes?

Are you interested in having a poker excel dashboard? Click below to get a free quote.

Free Poker Cash Game Spreadsheet

If you are already a competent user of spreadsheets and happy to fill in all the data yourself, we also offer a basic poker cash game spreadsheet for free. You don’t get all the cool graphs and advanced insights that our dashboard shows but it does the job in recording your session; highlighting the basic figures like profits and hourly rate.

Interested in a free poker cash game spreadsheet? Just fill in your email below and you’ll be sent the spreadsheet instantly by email.

Why is Poker Table Selection Important?

Poker Table Selection

Poker table selection is identifying the best table(s) to play. You should always carefully select the games you play. Poker is super competitive with strong players and “regs” at all stakes. You want to make things as easy as you possibly can by playing with the weakest players. In order to do this, you need to look at the games available and spend some time picking your game(s). This is not something you can easily do at your local casino but you certainly can online.

How to Table Select

Through process of elimination and filtering, you can find the most lucrative game available to you. This is easy by going through each factor of the games and filtering.

The initial steps are:

1) Open the lobby and find the game you are playing. Is it Texas Hold’em? Pot Limit Omaha or Mixed Games? Pick your best game. It’s better to be a master at one than average at several.
2) What stakes and limit are you playing and with how many players (e.g. $2 blinds, No Limit and 6 max)? Is this the most appropriate level for good bankroll management and your skill level?

Once you have identified the game, stakes and limit type you are playing, you can start looking at the tables available. There are three important stats to look at when picking which game to join.

1) Average Pot Size

The higher the pot size, the juicier the game. In cash games, you want to be involved on tables that have a lot of action not boring small pots with poker nits. Look for the higher average pot size tables as they are more likely to involve crazy players and bad LAGS.

2)Hands Per Hour

The number of hands played per hour are an indication into how quickly the game is flowing. The more hands being played, the better. Decisions are quicker and you are getting through more volume and not with regs who are time banking every decision. More hands equals more volume and less variance. This is always in the interest of the better poker players who know poker is skill.

3) Players Per Flop

This statistic shows how many players on average are seeing the flop. The higher, the better because we know weak players will play poorly post flop. They will make bad decisions, chase draws on the turn with bad odds and are not employing solid hand selection. If you join a table with lots of players at the flop, you’ll need to practice iso-raising properly. This way, you can get heads up with the weaker players.


Poker table selection is vital to your hourly win rate. The biggest factors are the players per flop and the average pot size. Always look at these before playing. Don’t be afraid to wait around. Sometimes you have to be patient and get on a waiting list to get your seat at the juicy table. Remember, good things come to those who wait. Don’t be impatient and jump in the next game if it means you won’t play with the fishes.

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Becoming a Professional Poker Player

Professional Poker Player

A professional poker player is someone who makes their primary living from playing poker. They may do this by playing in casinos, online or both. A few decades ago, it was a taboo career to tell people you had. I remember looking at an apartment for a 6-month tenancy and telling the agent that I was a professional poker player and she was taken aback. Since the poker boom and increase in popularity through poker on TV, professional poker has been a realistic and viable way of making a very good living for some people. Not everyone is going to make millions like Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu but there are many happy to turn over much better earnings than a job would afford them.

Whilst becoming a professional poker playing may be a dream for many, there are some serious considerations before taking the plunge. My goal with this article is not to encourage or dissuade anyone from becoming a professional poker player. This article is only designed to give you pause for thought and ensure you are taking all aspects into consideration before making such a grand decision. I hope the questions in this article help you think through your decision carefully.

How Much Do You Expect To Earn?

Sometimes a decent player with a year or so of consistent winning thinks he has enough to become a professional poker player. You need a lot of data and many months of consistent earnings in order to estimate what you can reasonably expect to earn as a living. The other thing is how much have you played to draw the conclusion? It’s one thing playing once a week for 10 hours and it’s another playing 50 hours.

Take 20% off what you realistically think you can make per month/year from poker. Is this figure an amount you are happy with?

What Are Your Monthly Life/Operating Costs?

You should already have a budget of your monthly outgoings, if you don’t, then draw one up. Look at the standing orders, direct debits and make prudent estimates for costs like shopping and fuel.

Once you know what your monthly costs, add 10% on for unforeseen items like car breakdown.

Now you know the minimum need to bring in every month to pay for your expenses. You can reconcile this with what you expect to earn each month and see if going professional is a no go already.

How Mentally Tough Are You?

You may be a winning player but how do you handle a bad run or adversity? Do your crumble under pressure or on a losing run? Have you experienced a bad a run and came through it? It’s no good being a strong player but going on tilt easily and throwing away your winnings. Being mentally tough is a must for a professional poker player.

A professional poker player knows they will have bad sessions, days and weeks.

They are focused on the long run and know a bad session will happen.

What Does Your Family & Friends Think?

Going professional is a huge decision and whilst some player’s do it irrespective of what others think, its always a good idea to get feedback from your loved ones. If they think it’s a solid decision for you and give you support, it will make the transition easier and help you down the line, if you have a bad run.

Have a chat with your friends and family and take on board their input before making a decision.

They will want what is best for you so it’s worth hearing what they have to say, even if they have little technical understanding of poker.

What is Your Contingency Plan?

You need to have a safety net, a back up plan if it all goes wrong or you change your mind. Think of this in advance and have one in place. Will you back to your old job? Will you look for something else or do you have a side income that you can monetise better?

If you plan on going professional, have a contingency plan in place so you are not completely lost if it goes bad.

Can You Motivate Yourself?

When you are self-employed, no set hours and no boss, self-motivation is very important. You need to balance your work with life. Common mistakes are doing too much work but not at your best, or not doing enough and struggling to motivate yourself. Having a routine and sticking to it is a good idea, but don’t feel obligated to stick to it if you are playing poorly or distracted.

The worst thing you can do is play for the sake of it.

Final Thoughts on Becoming a Professional Poker Player

Becoming a professional poker player is a massive decision, not to be taken lightly. There are very few long-term winners that have the other skills required to be professional. You need support, a plan, a budget, mental toughness, a love of the game and the ability to motivate yourself to pull it off.

If you meet all these criteria, then becoming a professional poker player may be for you. If not, don’t worry! You can still earn lots from poker and have fun at the same time.

Thinking of going professional and want some independent advice? Why not book in a free 30 minute consultation?

“Calculator and Money” by Images_of_Money is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What is Rakeback?

Introduction to Rakeback

Firstly, let’s look at rake. You know how the gambling sites make their money right? The rake is charged on pots in cash games or on top of a buy in an MTT. Every pot or tournament played by an individual contributes to the site’s revenue in the form of rake. You play a $10 tournament and they will probably charge $1, win a cash game pot and they will take a percentage too. Rakeback is kickback from the website to you as an incentive to play more. It is essentially commission paid back to the player.There are two main forms which we will cover here.

Contributed Rakeback

The player’s rakeback is proportional to the pots they are involved in. For instance, if you are involved in a pot that is $25 and the rake is $2, you will receive a percent of this back in form of contributed rakeback. The percentage is dependent on the agreement but often around 25% so you will receive $0.50 for that pot.

Dealt Rakeback

This is where the rakeback from a pot is split evenly by those on the table. For instance, a pot of $25 on a 9 handed table, the rake of $2 with 25% agreement is split between the players, entitling you to approx. $0.22c. The scheme is more beneficial for the tighter player as it rewards you whether or not you are directly involved in the pot. Remember, nit poker is losing poker in 2021. It’s more profitable to adopt a solid TAG or LAG strategy these days.

Who is Rakeback for?

Anyone can sign up for it. Players who put in lots of volume and play regularly will gain the most. It can turn a break even player into a winning one, and a losing player into a break even one with sufficient volume. It also makes a winner, a much bigger winner. In short, it is free money and every poker player should be involved in a scheme.  There are millions of players playing that are turning down free money.


Do You Play Turbo SNGs?

If you’re playing lots of turbo sngs you absolutely need to get on a rakeback scheme. There are lots of sites out there that offer good deals. Turbo SNGs are notorious for high rake so signing up to a rakeback deal will mitigate this and help your ROI. It’s also worth pointing out that there are players around the world that are playing thousands of turbo sngs on rakeback deals. They don’t need to play high or even medium stakes due to the currency conversion.


Now you know, sign up for it. It’s an essential to any and all poker players. Whether you are playing recreationally or professionally, you want to make money from poker and rakeback is way of contributing to this, for free. If you are making full use of your poker tracking software and employing bankroll management, you’ll find yourself moving up stakes in no time with the addition of a rakeback scheme.

ITM Poker Ratio for Tournaments

What is “ITM”?

An abbreviation of “In The Money”, ITM is a term used in tournament poker to quantify the rate at which a poker player will make the money/cash in a tournament.

Benefits of ITM

Keeping tabs on your ITM poker rate means you are exercising good record keeping and on top of your cash rate. It also means you can prudently forecast how many tournaments you will cash in next month based on the number you enter.  It shows you are serious about your tournament poker, keen to monitor and track your performance.

Restrictions of ITM

Calculating your ITM is great, but it is not an indication of how profitable you are. After all, you might cash most of the time but never make it past the 1st or 2nd level after cashing. This would mean you have a poor hourly and poor ROI. Tracking your ROI is far more beneficial than looking at your ITM. I recommend using both methods if you are a serious tournament poker player looking to improve.

How Do I Calculate ITM?

Calculating your ITM is easy. Just use the formula below:

# Cashes/ # MTTS entered Multiplied by 100 = ITM Rate as %
E.G 10 cashes / 90 MTTs entered x 100 = 11% ITM Rate

What is a Good ITM Rate?

I think setting a target of 20-22% is challenging but realistic enough to shoot for. If you are consistently getting above this than you are doing very well. Most MTT experts accept 15 – 20% as a decent cash rate.  If you are recording significantly less than this, than you need to look at the MTTS you play and the strategy you employ.  

ITM Poker
20% is considered a strong ITM rate by professionals

How Can I Improve my ITM rate?

Picking the right moments to move your chips and a survival attitude will improve your cash rate. Our poker training video membership is mostly tournament based. You can watch tournaments and played by an expert who has hundreds of thousands in online earnings, including a Sunday Million final table.

Training video membership also comes with strategy videos to give tips and advice on fundamental aspects of winning poker. Membership is only £49.99/$70.00 per year but you can can trial our service for free by clicking below.

Get unlimited access to every video we upload. Increase your ITM rate and start crushing poker tournaments today!

Another way to increase your ITM rate is by playing on soft poker sites. By playing against inferior players, you will be able to increase the frequency you make it into the money. I recently produced a review of a soft poker site. Click here to read it.


Having a good ITM poker rate is awesome but it’s important to remember that the goal when playing tournaments is to make as much money as possible. If you are adopting a nitty style that eeks you into the money a lot of the time but rarely a deep run or final table, then you need to rethink your strategy.

Tournaments will always reward those who finish in the highest places. To achieve this, you have to take calculated risks, steal the blinds and build a decent stack. You need to be the player taking advantage of those that are trying to survive the next level of pay and not the one that is scared to bubble or not cash. We’re here to make money not double our buy in.

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d like to read our Poker Tournament Strategy or Final Tables Tips?

Have you considered using Excel for your tournament ITM tracking? Do you have a dashboard yet? We produce monthly reporting to help you keep track of your results, make more informed decisions and earn more money from poker.

Poker ROI – Are You Tracking Yours?

Poker ROI

What was your ROI for tournaments last month? If you don’t know and don’t track, how do you know how you are doing? How are you monitoring your performance? 

Beginner Texas Hold’em Questions

What is Poker ROI?

ROI is the abbreviation for Return on Investment. The term used all over the world, particularly for investment and business purposes but also amongst serious tournament poker players. It is a way to track results and understand how you are performing. It can also be used to judge whether a particular game or format is appropriate for you and whether it’s even worth playing.

How is Poker ROI Calculated?

Working out your return on investment is very easy. All you have to do is divide your overall profits/earnings by the amount you spent and multiply by 100 to give you the %. 

Please note that profits mean the amount above the buy in e.g. if you buy in for $100 and cash for $125, then your earnings or profit are $25.

ROI Formula


ROI Example

What ROI Should I Expect?

I don’t think there’s a universal target for poker ROI but obviously the higher, the better. Think of it this way, for each $1 you invest, how much do you hope to make from it? 30 cents, 40 cents? I think the key is to monitor and improve your ROI over time.

It’s worth noting, that you need data and a decent sample size to draw interpret ROI. A sample size of 10 tournaments and a 500% ROI is unlikely to be sustainable. Data doesn’t lie and you need a decent amount before you can brag about having a massive ROI. 

How Should I Track ROI?

The best way to track tournament ROI is to record your results every time you play. I recommend recording it on an excel file, a column for date, spend and earnings. This can easily be converted to graphs or charts over time. The important thing is to make a habit of recording your results every time. After all, the information will only be as good as the data that is entered. You must be honest and accurate and it will reveal amazing insights over time. If you’re not used to excel, read our poker spreadsheet article. We offer bespoke dashboards, updates and reports for monthly fee.


Tracking and monitoring performance is an important part of being a serious, winning poker player can’t be overlooked. You need to treat your time, effort and tournament playing as an investment. Once you do this you will look at you can expect to yield from it. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing poker in Bulgaria, USA or South Africa. It’s only by tracking your ROI will you understand how you are performing and whether you are playing the right games and if it is time to move up stakes. You will also know how much money you can realistically make in the long run.

If you have any questions about poker ROI or advice on how to implement, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help.

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Poker Bankroll Management

Good Poker Bankroll Management

It doesn’t matter how good you are or what games you’re playing, solid bankroll management is a must for any and all serious poker players. That’s a universal truth that is attested to by those amazing poker players we know that end in up debt. Look at Stu Ungar as an example. In this article, we will explore some important aspects of bankroll management and what you can do to ensure you don’t go bust.

Going Broke

One of the most common reasons a poker player will go broke is exercising poor bankroll management skills. Many a strong, technical poker player will play the wrong stakes and with too few buy-ins and scratch their head after they lose their bankroll.

Size Matters

Proper poker bankroll management is understanding that the size of your bankroll dictates the games and stakes you should be playing. You may very well be able to beat a high stakes private game, but if it costs you your entire bankroll to sit in that game, clearly you shouldn’t. The reason is simple, poker has a large element of luck in the short term. By exercising poor bankroll management and playing with an insufficient number of buy ins, you are putting your bankroll at stake every time you play.

How Many Buy Ins?

There’s differing opinions on the number of buy-ins required for cash games and tournaments. It’s widely accepted amongst professionals that games involving higher chance require more buy ins e.g. playing turbo sit-n-go’s are very high variance due to the fact that blinds go up quickly and you are playing more all in before the flop poker.

The table below can be used as a guide for the minimum number of buy-ins you should have for different formats of No Limit Texas Holdem.

Game Format Minimum Buy Ins
No Limit Texas Holdem6 Max Cash Game 50
No Limit Texas Holdem Full Ring Cash Game 50
No Limit Texas Holdem 9 Player Sit-N-Go60
No Limit Texas Holdem 180 Player Sit-N-Go100
No Limit Texas Holdem Turbo Multi-Table Tournament (MTT)200
No Limit Texas Holdem Regular Multi-Table Tournament (MTT)100

If you find yourself going broke alot and you’re playing with less than 50 buy ins in your bankroll, you need to think about moving down to a level that your bankroll can afford.

Poker Money & Personal Money

Another aspect of poker bankroll management is the ability to separate poker money from personal money. We all love withdrawing and using the money we win on luxuries and that’s great but not if it means restricting your ability to move up stakes or worse, move down. Why not implement a rule where you cash out 10% or 20% of winnings at the end of the month?

Sound bankroll management means you are able to play you’re A game regularly without pressure. It is recognising that you are focused on the long term. It also means knowing the right time to move up and down stakes and finding the right level for you. There are players playing higher stakes than they should be and players too scared to move up. Recognising your skill level and reconciling this with your bankroll and the appropriate stakes is a skill in itself. Feel free to contact us if you want a consultation on this. We offer 30 minutes consultation for free.


Poker bankroll management is a key element to being a long-term winning player. It’s importance can’t be overstated. It mixes common sense with budgeting skills and self-awareness. Assess your poker bankroll management today and ensure you are properly equipped next time you play.

If you enjoyed this article perhaps you’d like to read our article on poker excel spreadsheets?

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