Moving Up In Limits Poker Strategy

Moving Up In Limits Poker Strategy

By Paul “RegiTime” Regan


Moving up a limit in poker is often a daunting prospect for many players. I have noticed several problems players seem to have had and some of which I have experienced personally, so hopefully this article will help some people make a smoother transition and help make shots taken at higher limits more successful.

Common Mistakes and Misconceptions

Mistake 1: Players move up too soon before they’re sure they’re winning at their current level.

Solution 1: Be sure to have played a significant sample size at your previous limit for a decent win rate of at least 4bb/100. If you’re not beating you current limit for at least 4bb/100, it’s unlikely you will win at a higher limit because a reduced win rate usually = lower confidence and higher variance, both of which can be debilitating in the long and short term.

Mistake 2: Players don’t tighten up when they move up.

Solution 2: It’s logical to think that the game you had at a lower limit will beat the next limit up and most of the time, it will but if you’re not tightening up a little when you first take a shot at a higher limit, you’re going to find yourself feeling the pressure more with the marginal hands/close spots and the pure $$ amounts involved will often force you to play much weaker, particularly post flop. So, try to protect yourself from some of the tougher spots until you’re more comfortable with the extra money you’re playing for.

There is no shame in being nervous or anxious about playing for extra money and we don’t get anything extra by beating our chests and trying to suppress our anxiety. Protect yourself and your bankroll when you first move up and you stand a far greater chance of making the move permanent.

Mistake 3: Players overestimate how much more loose/aggressive the next limit up is.

Solution 3: Look at the numbers. Speaking from experience, I have never noticed a significant difference in how games play as I have moved up steadily through the limits.

It is often an illusion that games are looser and much more aggressive when we move up and if you looked at the difference between $2nl and $200nl, it is obviously quite stark but the incremental differences if we move up slowly and steadily are much less pronounced.

Of course, players at a higher limit are likely to be playing increasingly better the higher we climb but the numbers don’t actually change that much.

When you move from $5nl to $10nl for example, you’re not suddenly going to find yourself in games where players routinely have an 8% 3bet, an aggression factor of 4 and way better hand reading skills.

It often feels that way but it’s just not true. What you are experiencing is the expectation that games will be much harder, so you’re hyper sensitive to aggression and over-react thus sometimes making the expectation that games will be much harder a self fulfilling prophecy as you lose confidence in your own game.

Mistake 4: Players don’t game select/reduce volume until they acclimatize.

Solution 4: When you first move up, be prepared to sacrifice your expected hourly rate increase for a little while whilst your get your bearings at your new limit.

As previously discussed, you’re likely to be nervous/anxious, so reduce both of those emotions by easing the pressure of both feeling as though you’re in tougher games (by table selecting carefully) and rushed because you really should be taking more time over hands when you’re dealing with numbers you’re not typically used to dealing with.

If you were 8 tabling $5nl, start by 4 tabling $10nl OR drop to 6 tabling $5nl whilst mixing in 2 $10nl games, slowly increasing the ratio until $10nl becomes your main game.

There is no rush when moving up, games aren’t going anywhere, so you don’t need tp make it such a huge leap. Make life easier for yourself in he short term to allow yourself the best chance of long term success.

Mistake 5: Players move down again too quickly.

Solution 5: Plan ahead before you move up. Set goals and plans of how to execute them. If you’re bankrolled to take a 10 buy-in shot at the higher limit, don’t be quick to move back down if you lose 5 buy-ins in your first few sessions.

If you are sufficiently bankrolled, you feel your skill level is high enough and you’re emotionally ready to push yourself, don’t bail out of the plan because you hit a bump in the road.

Unless we run well, the first few sessions of a move up in limits can feel very challenging. This is where having a documented plan to fall back on and go over after a rough session is invaluable.

Did you stick to the plan? If not, what derailed you? If you did but found it hard, does the plan need adjusting? Did you game select hard enough? Did you put too much pressure on by having too many tables?

Moving straight back down would be a comfort to you but it also makes the next time you take a shot that little bit harder, so see the plan through and if you bust your 10 buy-ins, by all means, move back down and rebuild but don’t move down earlier than the plan. Have faith in yourself.


Finally, it’s just poker. If your financial affairs away from the game are in order, then moving up and losing is no big deal.

If your bankroll represents a large percentage of your life net worth, or poker profits represent a large percentage of your net income then you need to practice extreme bankroll management and protect your hourly rate to reduce pressure.

We can do this best by operating off a 150 buy-in bankroll and by instead of moving up in one step, just adding the new limit one table at a time to help ensure a much smoother transition.

If you do move up soon, good luck with it and I hope this article will be of some help to you.