Table stakes meaning in poker games

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Posted on: February 25, 2023 09:00 PST

If you plan to sit down at a poker game online or in person, you must be aware of the table stakes.

The good news is that the limits set at each table are easy to understand, but you should grasp the difference between cash games and poker tournaments.

So, without further ado, let’s look at what table stakes in poker means and how to identify games well suited to your budget and playing style.

What does “table stakes” mean in poker? 

Simply, the table stakes indicate the cost of playing your chosen game. You will find table stakes for online cash games and in-person, live poker games, varying significantly from place to place. Here’s a typical example:

$1/$2 Texas Hold’em cash game

In this cash game, the stakes are $1/$2, based on the price of the mandatory small and big blinds , respectively. It follows that the minimum any player must open the betting with in this cash game is $2, although most people will open-raise.

When you look at an online poker room lobby, you’ll see a vast range of table stakes, from $0.01/$0.02 right through to $10/$20 and more.

The table stakes in cash games also indicate the maximum buy-in. For instance, a $1/$2 limit Texas Hold’em game might have a maximum buy-in of $200, while a $1/$3 cash game is likely to have a maximum buy-in of $300, and so on.

When playing cash poker games, you can buy more poker chips up to the cap limit when running low or losing all your chips.

Being aware of the table stakes and maximum buy-in helps you quickly identify cash poker games (both online and in casino poker rooms) that are within your budget. 

Table stakes & tournaments

Poker tournaments work differently from cash table stakes, so it’s important to learn the distinction. In a poker tournament, the buy-in defines the table stakes.

The buy-in for poker tournaments varies significantly, from $1 and below online up to $10,000 and more for high-stakes tournaments. The World Series of Poker Main Event has a $10,000 buy-in, for example. Again, you will find a range of poker tournaments available to enter online and in real-life poker rooms. The benefit online, of course, is that you’ll find games kicking off 24/7.

Once you have paid your way into a tournament by paying the required buy-in, you need to manage your chips responsibly because once they’re gone, you’re out of the tournament, and there’s no way to buy your way back in (unless a rebuy is allowed, of course)! 

Therefore, if you’re a beginner poker player, it’s always a good idea to experiment with low-stakes cash games and tournaments so that you learn the game without high risk to your bankroll. 

The benefits of table stakes in poker

Understanding table stakes in poker is critical to ensure that you enjoy the experience of playing online or in person. The key thing is to remember that cash games and poker tournaments are different. 

Also, knowing about table stakes in poker is beneficial for the following reasons: 

  • You can easily identify games online and in poker rooms that are within your budget, allowing you to buy into games you can afford. 
  • If you play cash games at stakes you can afford, you can buy your way back in if you lose all your chips. This isn’t the case when you enter no-limit poker tournaments. 

Ultimately, if you’re just getting started with poker or you want to play conservatively, it makes sense to join cash games at the table stakes that suit your bankroll .

Table stakes meaning: recap

Table stakes in poker refer to the size of the game set out for all players at the table. These are the same online and live poker games. In live games at poker rooms and casinos, blinds typically start at $1/$2 for Texas Hold’em cash games. 

Understanding the meaning of table stakes ensures you can quickly identify poker games within your budget and offers protection against racking up painful losses due to risky plays.