Taking shots

Taking a shot at a higher limit is definitely a legitimate route to boosting your bankroll

Your focus should be on improving and playing to the best of your ability. Winning will follow if you give it enough time

For many players, poker rhymes with dreams and easy money. Many started playing because Chris Moneymaker turned $33 into $2.5 million. The idea of turning rags into riches is very exciting, and one of the obvious ways to do so is by taking shots at the bigger games.

But as always in poker, you can’t let your emotions get the better of you. There needs to be a legitimate reason to take a shot, as opposed to greed or lack of patience. Here are my top tips for taking a shot at the higher limits.


From my online cash game experience, the main reason you should play higher limits once in a while is because the field is extraordinarily weak. Very often, it could be because you want to follow a tilted player who is trying to break even by playing higher games than he’s used to, or if there are other players you have a very good read on.

For tournaments, it would be because it’s a special one that doesn’t occur too often (like the WCOOP main event on PokerStars, which comes around once a year).


While I can hardly recommend playing a game in which you know your expectation is negative, you might want to take a shot at bigger games just because they are tougher and you improve faster that way.

It can be very instructive to play with top players – as long as you study their game, try to put yourself in their spot and use online hand histories to your advantage.

Of course, every player has his or her own style, and many actions are related to the image a player has at the table they’re playing on, so it would be different for you. Most of the things they do have a reason though, and you should try to identify it.

You will learn more by experiencing rather than studying, so make sure you turn even a losing session into a mine of information and knowledge for your future games.


You need to be very careful when you take shots, and you have to be honest with yourself about many things. The first thing is your confidence level. You need to feel really good about your play, and not second-guess yourself for tough decisions.

Don’t take a shot when you are on a bad run, unless you have an extremely good reason to. Bad runs will cause you to make less than optimal decisions, whether consciously or not.


You also need to be able to ignore the financial aspect, as always in poker. A big win or a big loss shouldn’t affect you, and I think one of the dangers of taking a shot is having a bad run which would cost much more than usual, due to the higher limits, and thereby shake your self- confidence.

At high levels, poker is a lot about being strong mentally. If a big loss will put you in a tough financial position for a week, what’s the point? You need to balance the possible effects of good or bad results and ask yourself if the game is still worth playing.


In terms of bankroll, it actually depends how much you are comfortable playing with at your main game. If you are a very aggressive and mainly short-handed player, I suggest you have at least 40 buy-ins.

Whatever exceeds that amount could be used to take a shot without endangering your bankroll in the long-run. You need to stay in your comfort zone. Playing with scared money is pointless because it colours your decision-making.


When you take a shot online, focus as intently as you can on the table you’re taking a shot at, because you might be playing with unknown players and the dynamics overall will likely be different. This is even truer if you move up many limits at once.

That is, if you are a $1/$2 no-limit player trying $5/$10, the difference will be much greater than if you are a regular at $2/$4 taking a shot at $3/$6. Being in touch with your gut feelings is very important. You must be able to quit as soon as you feel discomfort or an inability to play your A-game, for whatever reason.


The bigger the stacks, the more your poker skills will influence the outcome of the game, so you always need to sit down with a full buy-in if you want to improve.

You need to have at least three or four buy-ins ready for the table you are playing at, because short sessions don’t make much sense in poker. What gives you an edge is your ability to analyse the situation and adapt. The longer you play, the more material you have to analyse, and the more able you will be to read your opponents.


I’m always opposed to the idea of setting a time window for your poker session, and taking shots is no different. If you just followed a bad player who’s been losing a lot to a higher game, and he leaves, you need to reconsider your position in that game.

There is usually a reason why you don’t play that game all the time. If you start making big mistakes or losing focus on the game, you should also quit. But if things go well for you, which doesn’t necessarily mean you are winning a lot, but rather you are playing your best and outplaying most of the table, you can’t quit.


You need to objectively analyse how the game went before making conclusions. You might have played really well, but been cold-decked and ended up losing. In that case, there is nothing wrong in taking another shot soon.

You might also have ended up being a big winner, either because the players were weak, or Lady Luck smiled on you. One of the hardest things in poker is to accept that you got outplayed, but luck saved you. Knowing that, you should work harder on your game and wait for a while before coming back.

While it’s important not to be results- oriented, it is even truer when taking shots. Just review each important or interesting hand and use that experience to improve your game. Your focus should be on improving and playing to the best of your ability.

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