Stop Giving Back Your Winnings
How many times have you had a great session, a tournament win, or a great week, and flushed it all away (and more) by taking a shot at a higher limit that you’re not ready or bankrolled for?
If the answer is zero, you’re either lying or one of the rare breed of poker players with the discipline to always stay within their bankroll.
The gambling instinct is strong in poker players. Many professional players are famous (infamous) for their prodigious betting on casino games, golf, sports, or prop bets.
All poker is gambling to a certain extent, but if you have the skill to mostly get the best of things, and the discipline to play that way consistently, you will come out on the winning side of those gambles more often than not.
When you play way above your normal limits, you are at the mercy of higher skilled players, fear of loss, and potential tilt. Assume you are a $5 tournament player. You have a $500 bankroll, and finish deep in a large field tournament, winning $500. Now your bankroll is at $1000. You have two options to move up: move up to $10 tournaments, or take a shot at a big buy in (several hundred dollars).
You could take the sensible approach and start playing $10 tournaments. If your skill level is really above the fields, you will move up soon enough. Trying to jump ahead a few steps by shooting for a big win works very rarely. The easy way out in poker, as in life, rarely works out for the best.
Risks of Taking a Shot
Higher limits usually have higher skilled players. Certainly this is not always true, as some $1/2 no limit holdem players are as good or better than some big stakes players, but considering that many higher-stakes players also worked their way up, the competition will usually be better.
Fear of loss affects anybody playing outside their bankroll. If you usually find yourself risking $50 in single pots, playing for $500 will likely make you play too conservatively. You can tell yourself you’ll wait for a big hand, but if that wait takes too long, you won’t get any action. Plus, some of the small investments you make preflop waiting for that big spot will wear down your buy in, and unlike the other players, you can’t easily reload your stack.
Potential tilt is the biggest danger of playing a big shot. You may limit yourself to a one buy in shot, but losing your buy in is the least of your worries. Changing your playing style when you return to your old limit, in order to try and get back what you “deserve” can put you on uber-tilt that is hard to recover from.
The best approach is to take it slowly when moving up. If you are as good as your current results indicate, you will get the prizes you truly deserve. Most people who are good at anything in life - sports, business, family, poker - have worked very hard for it. There are very, very few naturals. If you really are a natural, it will be revealed soon enough. If you’re not, but you work for it, the taste of success will be even sweeter.
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