Moving Up Limits
Many poker students ask me how the limits in poker are different from one another, and when is the right time to take a shot at the next level? How much stronger are the regular players one limit level up, and do any fish remain?
Here's the answer: There are enough fish on which to feed on limits up to and including 200. In other words, there is no such thing where you play with regular players the whole day with an absence of other opponents (if you are not a multi-tabler who is not interested in playing less than nine tables).
Moving on to the playing difference – the difference is about the fact that many things that used to work on lower limits simply do not work any more. I'll give you an easy example. Let's say you used to make contbets on an empty board and usually got folded (if your opponents fold to contbets 50 to 55 percent of the time). Now, you can get a call or even a raise from opponents with pretty much the same hands. This is because in the first case the majority of players would look at their own cards and fold them, thinking they would get nowhere with them. In the second case opponents think about you not getting anywhere, and sometimes will call on third pair or even with overcards (even if they fold 50 to 55 percent of the time), or make a bluff raise.
Or, you raised about 35 percent of hands from the cut-off before, and often got folds or calls. One limit up you might see 3-bets more often (especially if you are seen to fold to 3-bets quite frequently). This is because in the first scenario your opponents look at their cards and are fearful of, for example, a 3-bet with connectors, scared you will suddenly have a hand that you will not fold, and that your opponent will have to play out of position. At the higher limit opponents are much more smart and they will see that you, for example, often fold to a 3-bet, and will start making use of this. Before, you won with a contbet on an empty board six times out of ten, now it is four times (the figures are purely illustrative) because on the other two occasions you were floated by your opponents or they bluff-raised instead of folding. Every action you take has a certain mathematical expectation on a certain limit. If before, each 3-bet on your limit had, say, +2BB expectation, it will be lower on the new limit because people stopped folding and started taking a more active stand against you. As there are many types of change, the win-rate of a particular strategy can change significantly as well.
Therefore, limits differ from each other by increasing the amount of problems that you have to learn to solve successfully. If you made contbets on an empty board and your opponents (without top pair) folded, you then did not have to think about the proceeding play. Every successful conbet brought you +6BB (if you bet 4 into a 6-sized pot). If they didn't fold, and in such cases when you had nothing and decided to fold, the contbet outcome was -4BB. The same applies to value bets. If you, for example, contbet a regular player with AK on a A763Q board, and you could be paid on the river with AJ on your limit, then on your new limit every time you bet on the river against a regular player, you can only lose this bet, because he will either fold (this is equal to the situation where you do not bet on the river and check instead) or call with a better hand.
This means that on your new limit, you will have to learn to play situations which you have not faced before, i.e. it does not matter how easily you mastered your previous limit, what is really important is your analytical potential and you ability to solve new problems. If we return to the contbet situation, you have to ask yourself what an opponent calls a contbet with on an empty board (except top pair and high), and what cards from his range you can beat on the turn, as well as what is the factor on which he'll give up or double-barrel on. Each new situation needs to be analyzed in this way. There are different ways to approach this either via practice and trial and error, i.e. bet double-barrels, call 3-bets and see what happens – or prepare theoretically, analyzing every unknown situation using real-life examples (looking up what people call barrels or raise contbets with, depending on board structure, etc.)
So, if you break your existing limit and you have the capacity to analyze intelligently and alter your playing style accordingly, the feel free to move ahead to the next step.