How Quickly Can You Move Up The Stakes?


How Long Does It Take To Move Up?

How quickly can you move up the stakes in poker?

There is no one-answer-fits-all for how quickly you can move from one limit to another in no limit Texas Hold’em cash games, but you can gauge a fairly accurate estimate based on the following factors:

  1. Your winrate.
  2. How many hours you play a day on average.
  3. The number of tables you multi-table.

Using these 3 variables it’s actually pretty straightforward to work out a time frame between moving up the stakes in NL cash games.

Throughout this article I will be assuming that you stick to the basic bankroll management guidelines of having at least 20 buy-ins (BIs) for the stakes you want to play (e.g. a $200 bankroll would be needed for $10NL).

Time frames for different players types.

Here are a few examples of the time it will take for the most common players types to move up the stakes based on the 3 variables listed above.

Hardcore grinder - 2 to 3 weeks.

  • 6bb/hour winrate (on 1 table).
  • Playing 4 hours a day.
  • Playing at 6 tables at a time.

Sounds very speedy indeed, but it’s very possible if you put the effort in.

Regular player - 1 to 2 months.

  • 6bb/hour.
  • 2 hours a day.
  • 4 tables at a time.

Casual player - about a year.

  • 6bb/hour.
  • 0.5 hours a day.
  • 2 tables at a time.

Days until you can move up limits calculator.

Moving Up Stakes Calculator

Find out how many days it will take before you can move up to the next level.

  • Winrate - Your winrate in bb/hour. Just enter the number on its own.
  • Hours - How many hours you play poker in a day on average.
  • Tables - How many table you multi-table during your sessions on average.
  • Surplus Buy Ins - How many buy ins you have over your current limit. For example, if you play $10NL and you have a $250 bankroll you have 5 "surplus buy ins". Leave it as 0 if you only just about bankrolled for your current limit.

How it works.

To be be able to safely move up, you need to have 20 buy-ins for the level above you. This is basic bankroll management. If you have 20 buy-ins exactly for your current limit, you are exactly another 20 buy-ins away from having enough money to move up (in most cases).

You basically need to win another 20 buy-ins worth of money at your current limit to safely move up a level. So if you’re playing $100NL with $2,000 behind you, which the minimum bankroll required to play at these stakes, you need to win a further $2,000 to move up to $200NL (which requires a roll of $4,000).

This calculator works out how many days it will take you to win 20 buy-ins and be able to move up based on; your winrate, the hours you spend playing a day on average and the number of tables you play at during your sessions.

The equation used for the calculator.

How Long To Move Up Stakes Equation

This is the equation used to work how many days it will take before you have enough money to move up limits.

Important points about the time between moving up stakes.

These are average time frames.

These time frames are just generalizations. We’re assuming everything remains constant, which it never does.

If you’re a regular player you can’t expect to move from one level to the next every 2 months like clockwork. Thanks to variance, you may only spend 2 weeks at one level, but then 4 or more months at another.

However, if your winrate, play time and the amount of tables you play at is consistent, the time you spend moving from one limit to the next should average out over time.

Your winrate won’t stay the same from one limit to the next.

As mentioned above, it’s very likely that your winrate will move up and down across the limits.

Just because you’ve got a winrate of 6bb at $25NL, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to maintain that winrate when you move up to $50NL. In fact, it’s very likely that your winrate will drop until you become accustomed to those stakes (i.e. you improve you game).

You’ll need to account for a “breaking in” period where you try to achieve a similar (or possibly even higher) winrate to what you had achieved at the previous stakes. Again, this time frame depends on a whole new bunch of variables, but I’m not going to go in to those right now (this article is long enough as it is).

Bankroll management and table limits.

Your bankroll management methods may be more risky or more conservative than the 20 BI minimum that I’m using in this article, so you would have to factor that in to the outlined time frames used above.

In addition to this, if you’re playing in deep stacked games of 200bb buy-ins as opposed to the standard 100bb buy-ins that I assume you're playing in, that will also affect the time it takes for you to move from one limit to the next in no limit Texas Hold’em cash games.

Example - moving from $2NL to $200NL.

$2NL To $200NL Time Example

Despite all the variables, let’s try and use some mathematics to work out a decent time frame for moving from $2NL up to $200NL. I’ll break the progression down in to steps from one limit to the next.

For the record, in this example we are starting with a $40 bankroll and will need to achieve a bankroll of $4,000 to be rolled for $200NL. I’ll also assume that we’re a serious grinder determined to make it to $200NL as quickly as reasonably possible.

In addition, let’s assume we’re an accomplished player that can already beat $200NL, but we’re starting from $2NL for fun.

$2NL to $5NL - around 2 weeks.

  • 10bb/hour.
  • 3 hours a day.
  • 8 tables at a time.

$5NL to $10NL - around 2 weeks.

  • 9bb/hour.
  • 3 hours a day.
  • 8 tables at a time.

$10NL to $25NL - around 3 weeks.

  • 8bb/hour.
  • 3 hours a day.
  • 6 tables at a time.

$25NL to $50NL - around 4 weeks.

  • 7bb/hour.
  • 3 hours a day.
  • 4 tables at a time.

$50NL to $100NL - around 5 weeks.

  • 5bb/hour.
  • 3 hours a day.
  • 4 tables at a time.

$100NL to $200NL - around 9 weeks.

  • 4bb/hour.
  • 3 hours a day.
  • 3 tables at a time.

TOTAL TIME = 25 weeks (roughly 6 months).

For what it’s worth, I took the high-end estimate of how long it would take to move up the stakes at each level. Therefore, moving from $2NL to $200NL in 6 months is entirely achievable if you’re already an accomplished player.

Moving up stakes conclusion.

If you’re a regular winning NL Texas Hold’em cash game player, anywhere between 1 to 12 months at each level before moving up sounds about right. It all depends on your winrate, time spent playing and the number of tables you play at during your sessions.

I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with these time frames, but I don’t care. You’re not going to find tangible figures as accurate as these elsewhere that answer the most common question of “how long does it take to move up limits in Texas Hold’em”. Take ‘em as rough guidelines and don’t put too much stock in to them.

In fairness, “it depends” is a better answer, but then that’s not very thorough now is it.

Go back to the interesting Texas Hold'em Articles.

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