So, I’ve recently been playing both NL2 and NL5. I started with NL2 because it is the lowest stakes, and you only need a small bankroll to get started. Really, you can get started playing NL2 with only $60, assuming you follow the 30 buy-in rule. I generally prefer to have 40-50 buy-ins at a minimum.
From what I know, it’s not uncommon for even a good winning player to go on a 10-15 buy-in downswing. So 30 buy-ins is cutting it a bit close, especially when you’re already playing at the lowest stakes.
NL5, on the other hand, is 2.5x as much money as NL2. Which is actually a pretty big gap. Following the same 30 buy-in rule, you’d need at least $150, ideally more.
At the time of writing, my bankroll is sitting at about $250. Which translates to 125 NL2 buy-ins and about 50 NL5 buy-ins.
I’ve read other articles discussing this topic. I’ve also talked to some amateur and semi-professional players regarding this topic.
What I’ve found, is that this answer will vary slightly depending on a bunch of factors. I am going to share my personal experience thus far.
Note that I’ve only played about 20K hands on Stars at the time of writing this. While this is a pretty small sample size, I think I’ve played enough to determine the average player climate.
I was mostly playing NL2 until recently. I wanted to make sure my bankroll was adequately equipped. Nowadays, I’ll still sometimes play an NL2 table or two, purely because Stars seems to have a pretty low amount of NL5 tables running a lot of the time.
So, is there really a difference between NL5 and NL2?
Short answer: Maybe, but it’s pretty small. I imagine the same is true for NL10.
In my experience, NL2 and NL5 are filled with a lot of the same kinds of players. There’s a few main player types I’ve observed. It can mostly be split into Tight Players & Fish/Whales. Each player type can be passive or aggressive. There are some players that are more in between but most fall into one of these two categories.
On Stars, I have not seen many good regs. This is probably because the player pool is not international. International pools tend to be more difficult in my experience as you have players in countries with a low cost of living grinding at low stakes to pay their bills.
Thus, the good players don’t stay at NL2/5 for very long.
Now, table selection has been somewhat of a problem for me on Stars, as there are so few tables. However, the tables are so littered with fish/whales that most tables are going to have a lot of dead money to be won.
In general, you want to avoid a table with a lot of nits. You can’t really make a good profit off of nits. The only time you’re going to win a big pot against them is if you cooler them.
Now, here’s why I think there isn’t actually a big difference in skill. Despite the 2.5x difference in buy-in, $5 is not really much more money than $2. In the US, lunch from Chipotle will easily cost double an NL5 buy-in. Risking $5 is still not much money. Thus, you’ll still see plenty of fish that play NL5 feeling like NL2 is too low of stakes.
I haven’t played NL10, but I imagine the same would be true for NL10. Sometimes, you will even see the exact same players in NL5 and NL2.
NL30 is the next game that Stars offers after NL10. I would imagine that this is where you will start to see a larger gap in skill. I think NL30 is the point where you can actually start to make some decent money if you know how to play properly.
I talked to a semi-pro player about this topic. He plays NL200. He was saying that fish exist at every level, it is just that the regs get better and better the higher you go in stakes. Which makes sense.
With my bankroll sitting at $250, I am still grinding out NL5. Ideally I would like to get my bankroll up to at least $350 before starting NL10.
So in summary: I don’t think NL5 is much harder than NL2. It’s almost the same. I’m inclined to say there is slightly more 3-betting & raising post-flop, but I don’t know how true that actually is. From what I can observe, the players and player types are almost identical.