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Your Starting Stake in Poker

Home » Guides » Your Starting Stake in Poker

Your Starting Stake in Poker

a close up of a person picking up poker chips from the stacks on a poker table with a player opposite them

There are many types of poker games, from the ever-popular Texas Hold’em to five-card draw. Whichever one you prefer or choose to play, you first need to decide which poker stake level would suit you. Just like there is a range of skill levels in online poker, there are different options for buy-in amounts or starting stakes in poker. These range from the many free-roll tournaments, which cost you nothing, to the nosebleeds.

What Is a Starting Stake in Poker?

a man picking up one of several stacks of poker chips on a green felt poker table while holding playing cards in his other hand

To put it simply, your starting stake is the amount that you need to buy in to be able to play in a poker game.

If you’re new to the game and still getting to grips with the basic rules, you should opt for the micro-stakes. These are the games where the buy-in is at the lowest and where you can have a great deal of practice at very little risk. For cash games, this means anything from $0.01/$0.02 up to $0.10/$0.20. For multi-table tournaments (MTTs,) it means any tournaments with buy-ins lower than $11.

Once you’re more comfortable with the basic rules and you’ve learned how to spot expected value from your hands, small-stakes games will be a better and more challenging fit for you. Small-stake games require buy-ins from $0.25/$0.50–$1/$2 and MTTs from $11–$33. These are the games you’re most likely to find when you play poker online.

Mid-stakes poker games will test your skills in a big way. A leap in terms of quality of play, these cash games have buy-ins from $1/$2 up to $5/$10. For MTTs, mid-stakes games have buy-ins for tournaments around $55–$215.

The move to high-stakes poker games requires a toughness few players possess. You’re now skilled at advanced poker strategies, game theory, are able to play creatively and can think out of the box. Expect cash games buy-ins from $10/$20–$100/$200 and buy-ins for tournaments anywhere up to $1050.

The nosebleeds, with the highest starting stakes in poker, are rare and mixed animals, with a wide array of skill levels at the tables, from recreational players with little skill and a huge bankroll, to professionals looking to make a profit. These games feature buy-ins from $200/$400 in cash games and tournaments with buy-ins from $50,000 upwards.

Online Poker Strategies Arranged by Starting Stake

a dealer wearing a suit is shuffling a pack of playing cards with stacks of poker chips and dice in front of him on the blackjack table

The best online poker sites will offer you at least four of the five types of starting stacks in poker — micro-, small, mid- and high-stakes — with the nosebleed tables being the most exceptional and rare.

Micro-Stake Strategy

At the micro-stakes table, due to the low-value, low-risk buy-ins, the element of luck plays a bigger role than in the other starting stakes, except for the nosebleeds. There are a lot of beginners and the proven strategy to beat these players is to stick to the basics. Here, you play in position, you value bet your ranges and you play tight. These strategies, however, are only best for micro-stakes and do not translate well to other, higher starting stakes.

Small-Stake Strategy

Small-stakes poker game strategies do not differ all that much from the micro-stakes form. If you play more regularly at this level, you will start noticing familiar faces, which gives you the opportunity to start noting their style of play. You could loosen up a bit with the ABCs of the game and start experimenting with bluffs and slow playing, but generally, the way to play small-stakes poker is to keep it tight, only value betting and playing in position.

Mid-Stake Strategy

Once you get to the mid-stakes in poker, knowing the basics and “playing according to feel” doesn’t cut it anymore. You’ve been putting in the hours, studying professionals whose play you admire and reading up a lot on strategies. You may even have gone for some coaching. Strategies for playing in micro- and small-stakes poker games get more blurry. Playing tight and rigidly will get you nowhere, as you will be up against players who will easily be able to spot your game and exploit you accordingly. For this reason, you need to shake up your style of play even more than in the smaller starting stakes. You need to consider things such as how to bet after the flop. Think about your ranges and the potential ranges of other players. Add some bluffs to your play, 3-bet and 4-bet. You should also start thinking about familiarising yourself with the game-theory-optimal approach to the game.

High-Stake Strategy

At high-stakes poker tables, every hand counts, more so than in any other starting stake game. As with mid-stakes, the same strategies apply, with the addition that you have a good grip on game theory, you can manage your bankroll well and you are of sound mind and body. This level of poker can be extremely challenging and taxing — mentally and physically — but also very rewarding.

Play Poker Online for the Right Stakes at BetMGM

Keen to find games with starting stakes suitable for your skill level and bankroll? Register at BetMGM to see what’s on offer. Online poker has changed the game and the way it’s played considerably, so participating in the cash games or tournaments on offer will sharpen your skills and understanding of the modern game. There are stakes and buy-ins to suit every player, from free rolls to satellite tournaments. Stake your claim to the best poker games at BetMGM.

Find the right poker stakes for you. Discover the different starting stakes in poker and which games would suit your bankroll, goals and skill level.