Poker Money Management - Intermediate Poker

Moving Up or Down Limits

Choosing which limit to play is a critical element when playing poker. Generally, you should choose which limit to play based on your financial situation, your poker ability, and your aversion to risk.

No matter how wealthy you are, it is often best to start out at the lower limits simply because the competition there is easier. Few 'professionals' play at the $1-$2 games, so it is a relatively safe place to begin one's poker career. Even if you are a billionaire, no one will know it when you play on the internet or think any less of you for playing at a low limit.

When choosing a limit, the major choices come when one decides to move up a limit or down a limit. Generally, you should only move up a limit if you think you are comfortable playing at that limit for seven sessions or more. Do not choose a limit so high that it makes you scared to play. Playing scared is a guaranteed recipe for losing. It is also unwise to 'go for it' at a higher limit. If you are making a run for it at a higher limit, you probably do not have the bankroll to survive there for long. Even if you win on two straight sessions, you will likely bust out and have to move down if you are not bankrolled enough at any given limit.

If you take a hit at a higher limit, you should generally move down. However, you shouldn't move down so far that you are totally unmotivated to play. If you move up to $25-$50 from $10-$20, you shouldn't fall back to $1-$2 once you decide that $25-$50 is too high. While people tend to play too scared at a higher limit, they also tend to play too loose at a lower limit. Play a limit that motivates you to play, but at which you are not scared to play.


Quitting for the Day

Even if you are the best poker player in the world, you will have some losing days. Knowing when to just call it quits for the session will do you a world of good for your bankroll. If you play limit poker, it is wise to quit if you have a swing of 40 big bets or more either way. Forty big bets at limit is a lot (especially longhand), so having swings more than this may drive you insane. The only reason to break the 40-big-bet rule is if the game you are in is really good.

Fundamentally though, you should quit because you are tilting, you have played a lot already and risk being tired, or you just have other things to do.

Here are some signs that you may be tilting:

  • 1. You always think your opponents are bluffing.
  • 2. You really want to break even for the day.
  • 3. You want to get back into the action as soon as possible.
  • Here are some signs that you may have just played too much poker:

  • 1. You are falling asleep at the table.
  • 2. You have played more than ten hours for the day. (Never play more than ten hours at any one time. It is better to play many short or medium sessions than a few long ones.)
  • 3. You find it harder to pay attention to your opponents.


  • Short Run vs. Long Run

    Whenever someone draws me out with very poor odds, I'm tempted to bang my head against the table. However, I try to console myself by reminding myself of all the drawouts I've performed on people and more importantly, it's the fact that my opponent is drawing to poor odds that allows me to win in the Long Run. But of course, this brings up the question that many people ask: What exactly is the Long Run?

    There is no precise definition for the Long Run and it varies depending on the game. limit poker has a fairly short Long Run. I'd wager that almost all winning players will show a profit after 250 hours of play and most losing players will show a loss after that amount of time. However, any given hour can be totally different. In fact, the Short Run of limit poker is very brutal because of the vast potential for cheap drawouts.

    However, the length of the Long Run depends on the skill advantage one has. If one has a very large advantage, the Long Run will kick in quite soon. In contrast, a very small skill advantage will seemingly take forever to be meaningful.

    Of course, any 100 hands can bring just about anything in limit poker. There is only so much skill involved, so luck will be a very dominating factor in a small group of hands. Yet, a very important thing about limit poker is that there are few 'huge' hands. While the pots can be very big on some hands, you cannot lose your whole stack on any given hand (unless you are shortstacked). When, in fact, the pot is very big, it is generally a multi-way pot so you only invested a fraction of what's at stake. Because of the inability to lose a lot in one hand, short-run fluctuations do not make a very huge dent in the Long Run of limit poker.

    Because any one hand involves a lot of luck but a thousand hands are not swayed too terribly by luck, I suggest sticking to a comfortable limit when playing fixed-limit games. 'Making a run for it' is a very bad idea at limit poker because there is an awfully large amount of luck in the Short Run, and there really is no need to gamble because the Long Run happens quite quickly.

    In contrast, no-limit poker has a fairly short Short Run but a longer Long Run. How does this make sense? Well, it's the concept of big hands. At limit poker with a decent sized buy-in, it's almost impossible to double up or lose your stack on one hand. However, this is common in no-limit poker. However, when these big hands occur, generally the better player has a sizeable advantage at no-limit. Since the results of the no-limit session will be highly dependent on a few of these hands, generally a strong no-limit player will win simply because he will win a couple of these big hands. He may lose a bunch of small hands but will show a profit at the end of the day because of at least one or two big ones.

    However, because one's outcome is so dependent on a few hands, the Long Run takes longer to kick in. Let's say you have some bad luck at no-limit. On three occasions, you go all-in on the flop with a 70% chance to win and lose all three times. These three huge hits will take awhile to win back. A very bad run at no-limit can take weeks to heal.

    Because there is more skill in the Short Run, people are more willing to 'make a run for it' at no-limit. Nevertheless, this is still a bad idea because if you play a game whose stakes you are not comfortable with and your game will suffer. You cannot play scared at no-limit, so you should always play in a game whose stakes are not significant to you.

    Skill is a relative concept. The greater your skill differential over your opponents, the quicker you can expect to reach the Long Run. Always be aware that any win or loss one day does not say that much about your skill, and if you have shown a loss over several months, perhaps you should wake up and smell the coffee about your poker skill.

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