When you play poker online at PokerStars it's quite common to have a regular buy-in at tournaments or cash games that you always play. Whether it is $5 MTTs, $1/$2 cash games or $10 Spin & Go's many players will stick pretty closely to the same stakes every time they open up PokerStars and play. There's nothing wrong with this – playing within your limits
, whether it's motivated by finances or skill level – is an essential aspect of being a winning poker player. When your bankroll gets big enough to justify a higher limit you can move up, but only when you are mentally ready for the new challenge.
To ease your transition to playing higher stakes here are some guidelines you should follow before taking the plunge into deeper waters…
Make sure your confidence is high
The perfect time to take a chance playing higher stakes is when you have been on a good, sustained run in your usual games. When you are on a hot streak it's likely that your confidence is high and you are playing good, intelligent poker. This will give you the best possible chance of winning at the new limits where the pressure will be higher and the opponents might be tougher.
Don't go chasing your losses
Ironically, the most common time that players take a shot at higher stakes is not when they are playing well but when they are playing badly and losing. Chasing your losses by increasing the stakes in this way is a recipe for disaster. It can be tempting to do but if you are on poker tilt already and making big mistakes at the table then you will have to get very lucky to win. It's far more likely that you lose more than you bargained for instead.
Use good game selection
It's difficult to game select (meaning to play on tables where your opponents are weaker) when you are playing tournaments – it's just luck of the draw what table you get sent to. Yet when you are playing cash games this is a vital skill. It's even more important if you are playing higher stakes than usual. Don't just jump into the first game that you see; take your time to scan the lobby and find a table where your edge may be higher. You can do this by watching the action unfold and spotting whether opponents are making obvious mistakes. Maybe they are limping in too much? Making bad calls on the river? Or bluffing in really obvious spots? Whatever the major mistake is, if you spot a table full of them then you should attempt to get in that game right away.
Keep your head
Playing for higher stakes than you are used to will conjure up a wide range of emotions. This can include anything from exhilaration to nervousness to outright fear. It's easier said than done but it's important that you try to contain these emotions and treat it just like you would any other game. Sadly, the main way to get over this mental block is purely through experience. The more poker you play, and the more shots at higher stakes you take, the easier it is to deal with the swings in fortune and continue playing your best game. Another top tip is to try and view your chips purely as betting devices and detach the monetary value from them. It's not easy to do but if you believe you are betting half of your chip stack on a stone bluff rather than, say $100, it is much easier to pull the trigger.
For some added inspiration, check out this short video clip
from Lex Veldhuis on Bankroll Management.