The Poker Food Chain, Part 1

by , Mar 26, 2007 | 3:38 am

Thanks for the idea Jason.

Do you play in a casino, home game or online? Do you want to move up the poker ladder? This is what I think is important about moving up in each case:

Home games are the easiest to beat. If you are beating a home game regularly, don’t get too excited yet. You still have some work. If you are playing a 3-6 limit game at someone’s house vs. a casino, you don’t have to overcome the rake. Imagine coming to my house to play a $3-$6 game, and I tell you that after 10 hours, someone will be winning $600 and it won’t be you. That’s pretty tough when most people buy in to a $3-$6 game for $100. If you have 9 players, there’s only $900 available less the $600 drop, less the $100 you started with. That leaves only $200 to spread around the other 8 players. If you are breaking even in your home game, stay right there, Dan. Sklansky has written some excellent stuff on this topic and this might even be his example.

Casino poker games, in my opinion, are much tougher than home games and not just because of the rake …

In casinos, you don’t as often get the guy who shows up because his buddies are playing poker down the street and he plops down $100 to be one of the boys. When someone takes their game to the casino, they really want to beat some strangers out of some cash. I believe that if you are breaking even in these small casino games that you are doing quite well. Kristy Gazes wrote something about moving up that I believe has a lot of merit. I don’t remember it exactly but it goes something like this: If you win 3 times in a row, move up in limit. If you lose 3 times in a row, move down. Simple.

Some people think the internet is easy to beat. I don’t. Moving up in limit on the internet is too easy. The internet is the easiest way to lose your whole bankroll. If you think the rake is tough in a casino, the internet is the power rake. I know so many good/great casino players that can’t beat the internet. If you want to move up on the internet, you must limit your buy-ins to avoid going broke. There are many big names that have gone broke on the internet for huge money.

One last thought before I summarize. What is your bankroll? Can you move up in limit and take a couple of shots without putting yourself out of action? If the answer is yes, I say take a shot at the higher game. Cash is a poker players’ most important asset. You must guard it like its Fort Knox.

What does all this mean? Move up when you are winning and can afford it. That will put you in the proper mindset while playing. In order to make money consistently playing poker, you have to end up playing in a game where your share of the rake is less than 1 small bet per hour.

7 Comments to “The Poker Food Chain, Part 1”

  1. Ed

    One thing you forgot to mention with moving up/where I should be playing in relation to my bankroll. I have read so many different things from many different pros. Do you stick with the ~10x buy-in…or do you err to the side of caution and make it closer to 15x? Right now my online bankroll is around $425 after my latest withdrawal and I have been playing .10/.25 PL. Want to play .25/.50 when there are people at the table but I have stayed away since I would like to have another $100 in the bankroll before trying it again.

    What about Tournaments. What buy-ins should I do if my bankroll is aroung $400? Is a $30+3 tournament too much if it is a $7k-10k guaranteed event?


  2. on tilt

    ” I believe that if you are breaking even in these small casino games that you are doing quite well.”

    something about this just doesn’t seem right to me. i understand that beating the rake alone requires you to be at least a small winner. i play the 4/8 game at choctaw as often as i can, but if i were just breaking even, i would hardly consider it to be successful.

    please elaborate.

  3. Jimmy

    I think “If you win 3 times in a row, move up” is disastrous advice. The swings in limit poker are enormous – professional players only expect to win 2/3 sessions on average!

  4. DanM

    Well said, Jimbo. I prefer to move up in stakes when I have been losing big at a lower level. How else can you effectively chase your losses?

  5. Donkey Bomber

    Dan, I couldn’t have said it better myself. When should you move up Jimmy? Get ready for some reading.

    The reason for moving up after 3 wins, is 1) your bankroll is bigger to absorb any losses you might take 2) your confidence is high which is a good thing while playing poker 3) maybe your wins are a result of doing some things pretty well right now.

    If you are playing well and feeling good, I say move up unless you are playing poker for a living. I’m assuming that people playing $3-$6 limit poker have real jobs and they can replenish their bankroll in a reasonably short period of time. If you are playing 3-6 limit for a living, God bless you.

    On Tilt, I do believe if you are breaking even in a casino 4-8 game you are doing pretty well. In most casinos, the rake is equivalent to about 1.5 times the small bet. That means that if they weren’t raking, you’d be making just less than 1 small bet an hour. Not great, but it is an indication that you are beating the game. If you are doing better than breaking even on a regular basis, I think you’re doing great.

    I am a CPA, and the 2 biggest mistakes I see people make is forgetting to consider the tax effect of making money in business and failing to consider the effect of the rake and tipping in poker. They are both quite big.

    Have you ever heard someone say, “if this happens I’ll make a million dollars, I’ll put that in the bank and make 10% and live off of $100,000 per year?” After tax, he’s only putting $600,000 in the bank and making only about $40,000 per year after tax.

    That, right there, is the difference between a home game and a casino game.

  6. on tilt

    i’ve always considered the rake and tips (dealer and waitress) to be a “cost of operating” expense….kind of the same way i feel about the blinds. when calculating my big bet/hour rate, i’ve always used my net profit…above those expenses.

    am i looking at this wrong? if i were to include anything more than what i walk away from the table with, i’d feel as if i were padding my “stats”

  7. Donkey Bomber

    You are looking at it correctly as far as I’m concerned. My point is that there is a huge difference between breaking even in a home game and a casino game due to the rake and tipping. Certainly the net is what you should be thinking about.