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What Stakes Should I Play?

One of the questions you need to ask yourself as a poker player is what stakes, or limits, should you play? In today's poker world, you have a very wide variety of limits to choose from. With the online options poker players have today, you can play anywhere from $.05 and $.10 limits to no limit at all. How can you decide the best limits for you to play?

You should play at limits where you are comfortable enough to play your best game, but not so comfortable that a loss would not mean anything to you. If you are playing $1 and $2 limits out of a $50,000 bankroll, it is unlikely that you will be able to stay focused and interested enough to play well.

On the other hand if you are playing $30/$60 out of a $1,000 bankroll, you may not be able to make correct plays because of the money at risk. Furthermore short term luck fluctuations could wipe your bankroll out in that situation.

Assuming you play correctly, a bankroll of 500 times the amount of the big bet in your game should protect you from short term luck fluctuations. If you have a bankroll of $3000, $3/$6 is probably a good limit for you. This does not mean you should necessarily sit down at your $3/$6 game with $3000. You should be putting no more than between 10 to 20 percent of your bankroll in play at any one time, so you should not sit down with less than $300 in a $3/$6 game, although many prefer to sit down with as much as $600-$1,200. If you sit down with too much more than this, you may not have a good sense of how you are doing relative to the amount of chips in front of you.
If you are playing in a no limit game, no limit texas holdem for example, you should allow yourself between three to five buy ins. If the typical buy in your no limit game is $200, you should have between $600-$1,000 to risk in a session. No limit games can have some serious short term fluctuations, and you can easily have a buy in wiped out by one bad beat or unlucky situation. Again, you should try not to risk more than 10 percent of your total bankroll at any one time, so you should have a bankroll of at least $6,000 if you intend to play in that game.

There is no shame in going down in limits if your results are suffering. The number of good players tends to increase as you rise in stakes, so you may have gotten good enough or earned a big enough bankroll to feel you can play in a higher stakes game than you are ready for. You cannot afford to have ego as a poker player. If your results are suffering, go down a level until you have a larger bankroll or a better sense of what it takes to win at that bigger game.

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