The next time you come to Vegas or login to Full Tilt Poker and sit into a low or mid-stakes game, you might find me or my husband Chip at the table. When I play live, I do so for some pretty low stakes. I've got no problem playing $2-$5 No-Limit Hold 'em Poker. Chip prefers mixed games, but you won't find him in the $50/$100 game. Middle stakes are more his speed.
Some people I play with in the $2-$5 games ask me why I bother with the low stakes. I'm a professional poker player and have been for some time, so why not play higher? The answer I give is simple. I'm looking to maximize my profits and play in a game where I have a huge skill advantage and am certain to be a big favorite.
That's not to say that I haven't played higher. When we first met, Chip and I were traveling the tournament circuit, living out of hotels and playing the biggest games our bankrolls would allow. I played mostly Limit Hold 'em, and would sit in games where I could easily win or lose a few thousand a night.
Then a couple of years ago, Chip and I started a family. As you'd expect, things changed. We settled in Vegas and kept our travel to a minimum. The change in circumstances also effected our game selection. We needed to play in games where the income was pretty steady and the swings weren't so dramatic.
For a family-oriented poker player like myself, $2-$5 No-Limit is just fine. I can make the money I need without putting a whole lot at risk. These games may not have the same drama as the larger stakes games where the amount won and lost in individual pots could pay for a nice luxury car, but they provide plenty of entertainment and excitement just the same. What's more, by playing at lower levels than your bankroll allows, you can easily absorb the occasional bad beat or bad night.
Playing low-limit poker doesn't mean you're sitting in action-free games either. In fact, these games can provide even more action than you'll find at the higher limits because they attract many more casual players who are just out for an evening of fun and are looking to “gamble” a little more at the table. For these people, losing a buy-in or two is the price of a night out.
There's no shame playing for lower stakes than you think you can afford. If playing high causes you stress or is taking money away from other priorities in your life, then try dropping down the ladder and playing at levels where your skill advantage will help you build a more comfortable bankroll for the future.