Almost every poker player in the world has dreamed of playing in the Big Game at the Bellagio or the highest stakes online. To bet as much or more than some people make in a month or even a year is quite the rush, make no mistake. However, before moving up the stratosphere you should ensure your game is solid at the 5/10, 10/20 level. Don’t let the blinds fool you, if you’re playing in one of these games your losses can easily approach tens of thousands of dollars in short order.
Assuming that your poker bankroll is ready and that you’ve worked your way up the ranks, let’s look at a few basics that you should bring with you to the high stakes Texas Hold’Em game. First of all, the key phrase here is “worked your way up”. If you haven’t spent a considerable amount of time playing middle stakes NL Hold’Em you’d better check your priorities. If one of those priorities is keeping your bankroll intact, step back and evaluate your game before your buy in. Let assume you’re a steady 1/2 NL player and you just cashed for 8K in a tourney. If you’re ready to go put 2K of that on the table for a 10/20 NL game, please reconsider.
First off, your total bankroll (we’ll assume 10K) is NOT high enough to play at this level! Most agree that a minimum of 1,000 Big Blinds is required to survive at these limits. Some would argue that you need even more. Settling on the 1,000 BB methodology, let’s now move on to strategy to ensure that your bankroll continues to grow and you don’t go down in flames.
So by now you clearly have a grasp of the basics of the game (positional play, starting hand selection, etc). Now is the time to get your head around the mental aspect of poker in general and what goes through the mind of a high stakes poker player. The two biggest elements that come into play at this level are position and equity. For this article we focus on positional play in poker and talk about flop equity at a later date (there are nice free tools out there to help you calculate flop equity).
What’s Your Favorite Position In NL Texas Holdem?
Once you’re playing High Stakes Texas HoldEm, positional play will communicate to the other players what type of hand you’re holding. Assuming you’ve established a tight image at the image, when you open for 5X the BB from an early position, you will typically get credit for holding a premium hand. If you’re called or re-raised (remember, at this point the pot will be in the hundreds of dollars), you’d better give them the same respect. Let’s take the following 5/10 NL scenario and analyze:
You’re dealt JJ and raise to $50 from an early position
You’re called by the player to your left
The Button looks down and re-raises to $150
The Big Blind quickly calls and puts on his shades
I’m sure during your low limit days you would be happy to play this to see a flop and if a Q, K, or A came reluctantly toss your pocket Jacks into the muck. However, at this level you simply can’t afford to see a flop. First of all, the likelihood that one of the other players is holding a premium hand like pocket Queens or better is very high.
What if the player to your left is holding pocket Aces and smooth called? (meaning he will likely go all in when the action returns to him pre flop) There are far too many signals that you’re beat handily pre flop to get your money in here. You are probably in big trouble here and with the low odds to flop a set (about 10%), you’re throwing bad money in the pot. Do this 10 times and you’ve now invested 15% of your bankroll in pre flop action that will only pay off about 10% of the time.
Make sure to read our article on positional play in poker to learn more about how to control the action based on your position. Taking all of this information and using it wisely allows you to tell a story at the poker table. That’s what wins big pots and gets players to put bad money in a pot. At this level of poker, isn’t that what you’re playing for?
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