Successfully Moving Up in Stakes: Part 1

by Jared Tendler

Moving up to a higher stake is understandably difficult for a poker player. You are putting more money on the line and taking on more risk at the same time.

The two most important factors in moving up to a new stake is having enough technical poker skill and a large enough bankroll.

However, players often underestimate the importance of the mental game, and the mental hurdles required to break through to a higher limit.

Every player has their limitations. Here are some of the common issues players face and some ideas about how to successfully break through:

Assuming Opponents are the Same

One of the biggest hurdles players encounter happens when they assume that the games will be just as beatable as the ones they currently play.

Chances are if you’ve decided to move up, it’s because you’re crushing the games you’re currently playing, so it’s understandable how you can trick yourself into thinking you’ll automatically do the same at the next limit.

The problem isn’t that you have confidence – confidence is a great thing – the problem is that you have too much confidence.

Being overconfident is one of the most unknown problems in poker. When moving up, the only thing you can prove is what you’ve already done at your current limit. At best, the confidence you have that you’ll crush opponents at the next limit is a guess.

It’s the kind of guess that causes problems for players who were not expecting to go from being the shark at one level and a minnow at the next. Yes, it’s true that the fish are likely to be the same across most of the stakes, but how you play against the regs is usually how you define whether or not you can beat that level.

Rather than assume you’re going to dominate, do the work necessary to figure out how and prove that you can.

Assuming Your Skill Level is the Same

Sometimes players just aren’t able to play as well at their new stake, as they were able to at their previous stakes. For some reason they just freeze up in bigger games.

If it were at their usual games they have no problem firing out that loose three-bet, but now, they hesitate and play too tight. The truly difficult thing for players to understand, is why they know the correct way to play, but just can’t do it.

The pressure of playing at higher stakes is going to be there until you gain enough experience, but this problem can be eased by knowing more about how human beings learn and develop skill. Skills have levels of gradation to them, which get put under more scrutiny when they are under pressure.

You might have no problem rehearsing a speech in front of the mirror, but may stutter a bit in front of friends, struggle in front of a small work audience, and completely crumble in front of a conference.

If you crack under the pressure of a higher limit, this doesn’t mean you have suddenly lost your skill, you just haven’t mastered it to the level you thought.

Only the skills that show up under pressure is what you’ve mastered. Everything else is still in the process of being learned. So earmark your mistakes as areas of your game that needs more work, and do the work.


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