When Do I Move up in Limits?
So you've (hopefully) taken my advice and started out with $50, and worked on your skills at the very bottom of the limit tables. You've bought a poker book, read it two times, and you feel like you can easily beat these games now. Is it time for you to pine for richer grounds?
There is, of course, no clear cut answer to this. By now you should be used to the disappointment of getting that response to almost any poker-related question you ask, so getting it when it comes to such a subjective topic as to how "gambly" to be should be no surprise. Still, there are some guidelines you can use to safeguard yourself. Here are a few I suggest:
If you're planning on moving up to double the limit size, you should have doubled your bankroll.
Your bankroll - which is considerably larger than a buy-in at a table - is that big for a reason; it's supposed to withstand the inevitable swings. Sometimes you'll catch an incredibly painful string of cards, and your bankroll is there to protect you from going bust. Therefore, before moving up to the next limit, you should have enough money to make sure that you can withstand big swings at your new playground.
Make sure you've played a lot of hands at the limit you're at. This is a bit less obvious than the last one. But once you reach $0.25/$0.50, you should not allow yourself to go up in limits until you've played a certain number of hands. $0.25/$0.50 is somewhat arbitrary, and depends on where you'd start to think it would seriously suck to lose your bankroll, which in turn is fairly dependent on your personal finances. How many hands, then? Personally, I've gone with 10,000 hands per level since $0.25/$0.50, as the minimum. With a good win-rate, that's about how many hands you would expect to play before moving up. If you're cashing out half of your earnings (which I recommend you do - basically, for every $200 you make, keep $100 for yourself), you might be looking at something more like 20,000 hands, or more.
Don't multitable just after you've moved up.
Multitabling, or playing several tables online at once, is popular among the online grinders. Lots of people do it - those who have enough skill to win consistently often have enough skill to win at several tables at once, thereby increasing their profit per hour. But there are some psychological aspects of moving up in limits that make me advise you to be cautious about multitabling right after you've moved up; specifically the fact that the size of the bets may be a bit intimidating to you. It's normal to feel that way, but you need to be ready to counter the passiveness that usually comes with worrying about losing too much money. Play your usual game, but to avoid complete tilt, don't play several tables. If you happen to catch a bad break on three tables at once, you'll be down money that may feel like a big deal, and that's a bad way to start out when you've just moved up.
You should be a winning player at the limit you're at right now. This is not necessarily implicated by having doubled your bankroll, because you may be a break-even player who's clearing a bonus. Keep in mind that as you move up in limits, you will encounter tougher competition. It won't be drastic at any point in the low limits, but if you're just barely a break-even player now, chances are you'll be a losing player if you move up. Keep this in mind.
It's pretty common to see experienced players - and professionals - suggest taking a shot, or buying in to a larger stakes game than you're technically bankrolled for, in order to progress faster. If you get good cards, you'll be able to move up to larger profits faster. Of course, if you lose, you have to go back to grinding at the lower levels for awhile longer. Do I recommend it? It's not for me, at least, that much I know. I can see the argument for it, but for my own sake, I want to squeeze out as much experience as I possibly can before moving up. It may be awhile before I reach limits where the money I make off of playing actually makes a big difference in my life, so the prospect of moving up quickly is not so enticing for me; I'm comfortable progressing slowly and steadily. But to each their own, and if you decide to take the shot, I wish you the best of luck.
Next: When Do I Move Down?