I just completed the manuscript for my upcoming book Mastering Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em and I am proud to say that it is full of actionable advice for small stakes players looking to move to the middle stakes. This got me thinking about what other top pros would suggest, so I asked them. Some of these pros are well-known household names while others are lesser-known, but are who I turn to when I want to study poker. Here are their replies, with my commentary below in italics:
Daniel Negreanu: Find a group of players whose game you respect and discuss hands with them, especially those already playing the stakes you want to be playing.
JL: I completely agree with this. When I first started playing, I read every poker book I could get my hands on. While this made me decent, it was not until I started discussing poker with the players who were beating my current game that I started to see dramatic improvements. I have a free forum on FloatTheTurn.com where you can discuss poker with players who are working hard to improve their skills.
I recently had the honor to talk poker strategy with Daniel on his Full Contact Poker podcast. If you haven’t already, check it out and let us know what you think!
Rob Tinnion: Focus on the basics. They are the basics for a reason. Learn to walk before you can run…a huge bluff. Make sure you can beat your current stakes over a reasonable sample before you even consider moving up. Minimizing your losses is just as important, if not more important, than maximizing your winnings.
JL: This is an excellent piece of advice. Many small stakes players watch players in televised poker shows running huge bluffs and think that is what they are supposed to do. This often results in numerous stacks being incinerated for no reason at all. If you are not playing fundamentally sound poker the vast majority of the time, you are probably making a significant error.
Jon Van Fleet: Be process oriented, meaning focus on what you can control, study 25% and play 75%, and stay creative/open-minded. These concepts are what I credit my success to.
JL: It strongly agree that it is important to develop a process for studying. Many players simply watch twitch streams once per week and think that is enough to get good at the game. If you want to succeed, you have to really buckle down with the various analytical programs that will help you understand which plays are best and why. When I first started playing, I studied about 50% of the time, although that number has gone down over time as my overall skill level increased. Spending significant time studying away from the table is vital to your success at the table. It is also important that you think outside the box. If you assume that what everyone tells you is absolutely correct, you will miss out on the opportunity to find creative strategies that open the doors to potential large profits.
Michael Acevedo: My best tip is to get professional coaching from someone who is currently beating the game you want to play. Studying poker videos and books can only get you so far, so many times, the only way to get to the next level is to have someone who is really good review your game and tell you what your major leaks are and how to fix them.
JL: Throughout my career, I have spent well over $25,000 on private coaching and looking back, I wish I spent more. There is a ton of value in paying someone who is beating the games you want to play a reasonable rate to find the flaws in your strategy and tell you how to fix them. Coaching is the fast track to success, whereas experience takes much longer.
Jesse Yaginuma: Have a plan and have a reason for everything you do. When betting, think about if you are value betting or bluffing, and then have a plan on how you will react to your opponent’s actions. Plan ahead so you know your own future actions before they arise.
JL: If you don’t have a plan for why you are betting or checking, you will frequently make errors. When value betting, if you can’t get called by many worse hands, checking may be ideal. When bluffing, if no better hands will fold, bluffing is not a good idea.
Brandon Shack-Harris: For mixed game players, my #1 tip might be as simple as just being well rounded in all of the games. When you’re trying to move up in specific formats, I think the most critical point become understanding your equity (in mixed limit games, especially not folding too often), and learning how to play the weaker part of your ranges effectively.
JL: In the past, you could crush the games by simply betting when checked to. In today’s games, that will not work as well because the average player has learned how detrimental it is to fold too often. If you find that your opponents frequently make you fold with numerous small bets, you are almost certainly not defending well enough with the bottom part of your range.
Bernard Lee: Make sure you have enough of a bankroll to move up stakes. Playing with scared money usually results in poor decision making.
JL: I have seen this time and time again, where someone goes on a nice run, either in tournaments or cash games, moves up to stakes they are uncomfortable in, and then proceeds to either play way too tightly, trying to ensure they get their money in good, or play like a maniac, wanting to show their high stakes opponents who is boss. In reality, you should simply continue playing your default game that led to success in the past. Not having to worry about going broke because you are properly bankrolled will help ensure you continue playing your best.
I hope you enjoyed these tips from top pros for small stakes players looking to move to the medium stakes. If you have any questions that you would like me to ask top pros in the future, let me know in the comment section below. If you liked this post, please share it with your friends. Be sure to check back next week for another educational blog post. Thanks for reading!