When is it Right to Move Up in Stakes?

when 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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Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: info@texasholdemquestions.com