Playing high stakes poker without the bankroll
Bankroll management is the most important fundamental you can learn as a poker player. The reasons should be obvious. If you’re impatient (or stupid) and play outside of your bankroll, it’s highly likely you’ll lose most, if not all, of your bankroll.
That said, many players have the ability to play higher stakes profitably, even if they don’t have the bankroll to do so. If you’re one of them (be honest), you shouldn’t let your bankroll keep you from moving up. You’re costing yourself a lot of money if you do.
So let’s get this straight: If you don’t have the bankroll to move up, you shouldn’t, so that you keep from going broke. However, if you have the skills to play higher, you should. Messed up advice, huh? Believe it or not, it is possible.
Two suggestions for moving up in stakes faster
From experience I can tell you that you have a couple of options for moving up in stakes faster than your bankroll can handle. Let’s look at both in more detail.
Option 1 – sell pieces of yourself
The easiest (and probably fastest) way to move up in stakes quickly in poker is to sell pieces of yourself. In other words, find a backer, or backers, that will give you money in exchange for a cut of the profits you earn.
I imagine at first glance that this will turn a lot of you off. Who wants to share their profits with others?
While understandable, this kind of thinking is naive and shortsighted. A decent player can get staking at a 50/50 cut, if not better, leaving plenty left over to keep for yourself.
For example, say you played $6 sit n go’s where you averaged a $.80 a game and wanted to move up to the $16s where you can average $2 a game. You’d be costing yourself money by not accepting staking to move up. If you average $2 a game and split it 50/50 with your backers, you’re still making $1 a game. This is $.20 more per game than you made at the $6s, plus you don’t have to play on your own money, allowing you to quickly save up a bankroll so you can support yourself at those stakes. It’s an easy decision.
There are a couple different ways to get staked. You can go public through a forum or you can find a private investor. There are pros and cons to each.
Public staking pros
- You can generate a larger bankroll faster since there will be more potential investors to give you money. It’s much easier to find investors willing to give you one percent or five percent of your bankroll than 100 percent.
- You can get away with shorter terms (number of games).
Public staking cons
- Coaching won’t be available (assuming you even want or need it).
Private staking pros
- Most private backers/stables offer coaching.
- Easier to deal with one or two investors (regarding decisions) than a group.
- It’s much easier to get new bankrolls.
Private staking cons
- Deals are longer in length to offset risk.
- Your bankrolls will be much smaller.
If I had to choose which option I’d go with, it’d be with public (group) staking. The reason being is that if I’m only trying to move up in stakes, then I don’t want to be tied down to an agreement for a long period of time.
However, if I wanted coaching or longer term bankroll support, then a private deal would be the best way to go.
Option 2 – blend stakes
The option that I went with, and recommend, is to blend the stakes that you currently play with the stakes you want to move up to. In other words, if you play the $6 games and want to move up to the $16s, you’d play both. This can be at the same time, or alternating. Just whatever is most comfortable to you.
The benefit to this method is huge. For example, if you wanted to move up to the $16 games, you would need a bankroll of at least $800, and preferably as much as $1,000 to $1,200. But say that you only have a $600 bankroll. Instead of taking a shot too soon, or holding off altogether, you can play a handful of $16s with a handful of $6s (or however many tables you play).
Even if you lose all the games, you only took an extra $50 risk, and you’ll still have a $500 bankroll, which is more than enough to play the $6s. It’s unlikely you’ll lose them all anyway, and winning a $16 game or two will take care of the cost of the buy-ins plus add a nice chunk to your bankroll so that you can maybe support yourself fully at the $16s.
Another benefit to blending stakes is that you’ll get a taste for the games you’ll soon move up to. You can see firsthand (if you’re playing both at the same time) the differences, if any, so that you can figure out where you’ll need to adjust when you make the move.
The one suggestion that I have if you go with this option is that you should wait until you have 60-80 percent of the bankroll needed for the stakes you want to move to before you blend them. Too small of a bankroll and a loss can still do damage, even if you’re only playing a handful of those games.
But by making sure you have 60-80 percent first, even if you brick all of your games, you’ll still have 50-75 buy-ins for your current stakes, so you can continue to crush those and rebuild, as opposed to having to move down in stakes. No one wants to have to do that, especially if you’re so close to being able to move up.
Adjusting strategy for antes
Switching gears is nothing new to poker players. Every time a new player sits down, the blinds change or you’ve played several hands in a row, you’ve got to change up strategy.
Another reason why you might switch gears, and a reason many players fail to recognize, is when antes are added. Antes are similar to blinds where they add extra “dead” money to the pot. But unlike the blinds, every player has to pay them.
So for example, in a tournament at a poker site where the blinds are 100/200/25, every player including the blinds would have to pay 25 chips. At a 9 man table, this comes out to 225, over two thirds the total of the blinds, for a grand total of 525 chips.
Why you need to adjust your strategy for antes
The reason why you need to adjust your strategy for antes is because antes add so much to the pot, making the effective stack sizes smaller in comparison. In other words, the size of the pot with the antes included make up 10 percent to 30 percent (or more) of a player’s stack.
If you don’t understand why this matters, let me explain. The more money that is in the pot in comparison to your stack, the more profitable it is for you to try to steal it.
For example, say there are 10 chips in the pot and you have a 1,000 chip stack. The pot makes up 1 percent of your total stack — not very much. If you were to risk 1,000 chips for 10 chips, you would have to win 100 times for every 1 time you lost just to breakeven. That’s not a great risk vs. reward situation.
On the other hand, if there are 500 chips in the pot and you have 1,000 chips in your stack, then you only have to win two out of three times to break even. See the difference? You’re getting a much better price for the risk you’re taking. Your plays are more likely to be profitable.
This can be broken down further.
Using the same stack sizes, you might assume that you’re called one time out of three shoves. The one time you’re called you have 50 percent equity. So out of three shoves, you’re winning 2.5 times.
Since you only have to win two out of three to break even, you know that you’re profiting slightly, making the overall play profitable. Assigning percentages like this will give you a better idea of how thin a spot may or may not be, so that you can choose the best line for your situation.
How to adjust your strategy for antes
At its core, your strategy for antes is to become much looser. Let’s get more specific.
As a short stack, you’ll want to widen your shoving range. There are a couple of reasons for this.
For one thing, when antes are in play your effective stack is much shorter. So if you have 10 big blinds, with antes, you really have 7-8 big blinds. This is important to keep in mind since it will also affect how light players call your shoves (especially in the blinds) since they’ll have better odds to do so. Also, picking up the blinds and antes as a short stack will literally double you up (or more) in most cases.
Another strategy adjustment to make is to steal the blinds more often. Back before antes were added, the pot only consisted of 1 or 5 percent of your stack, so stealing the blinds didn’t make a lot of sense (too little reward for the risk). However, with antes added stealing the blinds becomes worthwhile and will often increase your stack by 10 percent or more.
For example, say you had 20 big blinds at 200/400/50 stage. With nine players anteing 50 chips and 600 chips in blinds, there are 1050 in the middle. If you steal the blinds, you’ll increase your stack from 8,000 to 9,000 — almost a 13 percent increase. Steal a handful of times and you’ll increase your stack by 50 percent or more.
Last, you’ll want to re-steal more frequently. Depending on how deep you are effectively, this will often be a shove. Using my example above, a player might open up to 1,000 chips, making the overall pot 2,050, which makes up 25 percent of your stack.
You can’t really 3-bet here, so it makes more sense to maximize your fold equity and shove. You’ll only have to get folds 4/5 times to breakeven, plus you’ll have equity when you’re called. If you think stealing the blinds will build you a stack, try a few re-steals. You’ll build a stack fast.
The important thing to remember is that when antes come into effect, you need to loosen up overall, and steal and re-steal as often as you can. Doing so can keep you from being short and desperate, not to mention build you a big stack (quickly), which are all massively important when playing SNGs and MTTs.