What Stakes Should I Play in Online Poker?

2 years ago

DNegs may be rolled for High Stakes Poker but the rest of us may need to slow our roll sometimes, or at least to play within our means.

This final piece in our mini-series will be the shortest, sweetest of them all. We’re just looking at overall tendencies of how the games are playing at different stakes for the main popular formats. Please note that naturally, these are only the opinions of the author based on his own latest experience playing and conversation with other regulars playing various formats and stakes, and that this information is subject to change!

There are numerous great sites for softer poker action, many of which are featured in our PokerDeals Reviews. Since we indicate in this guidance as to the softness of the action on different sites, you can assume that I am referring to many of the sites we carry when I reference “softer sites”, and where we list a somewhat tougher site amongst our affiliates we make reference to that fact in the review itself.

You might also want to look over our guide to bankroll management alongside this guidance.

If you haven’t read them already, check out our previous articles in this series with our Guide to Poker Types, and Guide to Poker Formats!

Stakes Running for Cash Games

The beauty of learning cash games is that when playing online you can really get started with just a few dollars. The lowest stake available on most sites is either NLHE $0.01/$0.02 (known as NL2) or NLHE $0.02/$0.05 (NL5). The highest stakes out there on a few sites climb north of $25/$50 at times, but numerous sites run action up until at least $5/$10. This also goes for the only main popular game for Omaha in cash, PLO.

Action tends to be ridiculously soft for cash games up until at least NL5 on all sites, and on some sites up to as high as NL50 ($0.25/$0.50).

From NL50 on the tougher sites, and NL100 on the softer sites, you’ll tend to see a mix of better regs, mediocre regs and some fun players still, with the best sites out there staying softer up until or beyond the NL200 mark.

This guidance will be roughly similar for PLO, with the games staying softer at higher stakes than for NL.

For zoom format games, action tends to be tougher at the same stake than for the regular speed table at the equivalent stake. NL100 tends to be the point at which these games start to get tougher, and only the softest options have somewhat good action at NL200 for zoom.

Stakes Running for MTTs

MTTs have stayed softer than most formats, and there’s less equivalence across stakes than for other formats. Softness of MTTs will vary considerably by site as well as by day of the week. A big field (high variance) Sunday $215 will likely be at least as soft as a small field daily $55.

PKOs will tend to be even softer than regular format MTTs, since many fun players and regs alike tend to make bigger mistakes in these, and they are less well understood overall. Of course, this does assume that you are better studied in them, and know how to adjust to your opponents’ leaks!

Turbos tend to be a bit tougher, and have a lower achievable ROI than regular speed MTTs due to their fast structure. Variance is also higher for these, so keep them a low frequency in your mix of play. You may be able to squeeze out some extra edge in short-handed (4max and 6max) games as regs tend to make larger mistakes in these also, but be aware each short-handed table takes more focus than a 9-handed.

Typically any game under about $44 buy-in on pretty much any site is very soft, as are special bigger field events up to $215s at times. For daily events they tend to get a lot reggier and tougher from the $55 level and up, but especially once you hit the $109-215 range.

Any online MTT event higher than $215 tends to be pretty tough these days, although there are occasional exceptions, especially on the softest sites. Stakes run up to absurd levels on occasion as well, there have even been a few $100k buy-in events online. Each time a big MTT special series of events rolls around there are usually some $25k buy-ins. These are also sometimes re-entry.

Stakes Running for SNGs

Most SNGs are found in the $1-$109 range, but they do run higher on some sites. Anything over the $11 level is somewhat competitive these days, especially for STTs. On the softer sites you’ll find better action above that level. The same can be said of HU SNGs.

Stakes Running for Spin & Gos

Spins tend to be pretty soft at the lower stakes, and you tend to start seeing significantly more competent regulars around the $50 level. Anything $50+ tends to be quite solid and with a lot of regulars, and the games up there at $500 (which tend to be the highest stakes seen on any site for Spins) are really really tough.

Our Advice

Study more. Play more. Maybe add one more table. Don’t add the maximum you think you can physically play, your game will decay and you will lose interest / focus, and no longer enjoy playing. Slowly add tables and experiment with moving up stakes according to your bankroll plan.

When you get to the stakes where we’ve indicated games get tougher, have some small shots at moving up to these when you think a) your game is ready and b) you are over-bankrolled for them.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this PokerDeals guide to the poker games out there, please let us know what else you’d like to read about in the PokerDeals Discord! See you there.

Image courtesy of PokerGO.com

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