A lot of people struggle with moving up in stakes. They all do the same stuff that successful people told them to do, but for whatever reason they don’t get there. I’d like to describe what kept me down for a way to long time and I want to go over other stuff that I feel isn’t handled correctly at the moment.
If there was something I could do wrong, I did it wrong! I had to learn the hard way, and to make things easier for you, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on a few topics.
Variance is a bitch. But if you are unable to move up, you shouldn’t only blame luck for it. A lot of people make it way too easy for themselves. Saying something like “I am a decent player, and only because I run badly like all the time I have no chance to move up” isn’t the way how you should approach the game. I did that for a way to long time.
Even so you are right to some degree, it doesn’t mean that whatever you did to improve really helped you improving. Maybe you learned it wrong or you aren’t applying it correct or you didn’t work on it as hard as you thought you would do (but I come to this later).
I guess most people already know this tool. It can show you what variance really means. So it works both ways: If you are breaking even over 100k hands it doesn’t mean that you are a bad poker player. But, if you are winning for like 10bb/100 it doesn’t mean that you are a great poker player. Obv the chances are way bigger that the 10bb/100 winner is the better player than the breakeven guy, but it really doesn’t have to be that way.
What to learn out of it? Just understand and accept that variance is part of the game. It needs to be out there in order for you to make money playing poker in the longrun. Without it no fish would ever come back to play. And you want him to come back, so be thankful about it. Often times people describe it with chess. If you would play on a site that offers chess games and you play against one player who beats you over and over again you will see that he is simply better then you are. So, will you continue playing versus him? Well maybe, but most players simply won’t.
I see so many stupid players moving up!
If you used the variance simulator correctly, it shows you why it is the case. Let’s say you and the other guy played 100k hands while both of you would assume that you are winning at 4bb/100. It is possible that after the 100k hands you only have won 2bb/100 while he earned 6bb/100. So after the 100k hands he has made 60 buyins and you only 20. So he has the chance to move up faster than you.
Of course, it might be possible that he is only a 2bb winner in reality while you are a 6bb winner. This doesn’t mean that he is unable to move up quicker than you. If he runs better the first 1 million hands then you do, then he gets there faster. But, like I already said: This doesn’t mean that you did everything you could to become better! Maybe in the first 100k hands he was worse than you, but he worked more on his game, got more self-confidence because of his run good, and all of the sudden he turns into a 7bb winner while you are stuck at your 6bb.
Don’t look at the results of other players. At poker it is simply not working. Do whatever you can to improve and then the chances are big enough that one day you will beat him.
Rake being too high
Ok, I have never thought that I was unable to move up because of it. I feel a lot of people out there using it right now, because they have realized that the “variance being so sick” doesn’t work anymore and that they need new excuses why they are stuck.
It’s the last information I have about rake at different stakes. As you can see the rake at stars nl25 is like 9,40bb/100, while it is at 6,90bb/100 at nl100 (atm I am paying more than >7bb/100, so it might have changed for nl25, too). Even so there is a difference of 2,5bb/100 I believe that this doesn’t proof that you aren’t able to move up, because of it. I believe that you are doing a lot of stuff wrong right from the beginning, and this is something I did so, too, in the past.
At first you should find the best overall solution for yourself. If you have a really good rakeback deal, but you get to play less fish, then the rakeback deal might not be as good as the solution in which you get less rakeback, but you are able to table select way better. Especially at the micros I am pretty sure that you can find tables with at least two real fish on it. So why don’t you try to play these tables instead of the table on which you are facing 2 shortstacker, 2 regs and 1 fish who has only 40bb? I am pretty sure that most micro-/small stakes players suck at table selecting. They simply think that they should do the same like AEJones, Ansky, etc, because they are so much better than the other players at their playerpool, too. The truth is: You aren’t! Once you realize it, it can only help you. I know how tough this is and this is one of the things that took me way to long.
So if you are in the camp of “rake being too high and I can’t move up because of it”, then maybe think about it again. I am not saying that the rake isn’t too high (I think it is), but taking this as an excuse isn’t the correct way. You can choose where you want to play and against who you want to play, and if you can’t figure out where it’s best for you to play, then the chances are pretty high that you are doing it wrong.
I am not saying that you are the one guy that really is running bad and because of the high rake you are really unable to move up. Of course for a lot of people out there it might be true. But if you have played 100k hands at nl25 and you haven’t won I think the chances are higher that you aren’t as good as you think you are and/or that you aren’t doing everything correct from the beginning like site/table selection. I was doing this completely wrong in the past, but I realized it.
Here I would like to offer 2 different options, because both can help you improving.
The first one is to find other regulars; at best they are playing on your site/network, too. This can help you to talk about spots that are coming up frequently and you all can talk about your thoughts on it. Most of the time at least one player is doing it correct and he can help out the other players, and so it is always a “give and take” situation.
The second is to get to talk with other players. Of course it is best if you get into contact with players who are playing higher stakes then you do, but don’t feel bad if he doesn’t want the contact or if he doesn’t respond all the time. The times he can answer your questions are the times in which you benefit the most.
This is a spot where I was doing a lot of mistakes, and I believe a lot of others are making the same mistakes.
Once I realized that I should get help from more experienced players, I was hiring a lot of coaches. Of course everyone spotted a little bit of my bad play, but in just 1-2 hours no coach can help you becoming a 10bb winner. I am always laughing when I read a review of a coach, while they had only 1 coaching session, and the student writes something like: “he helped me improve a lot!” Let me tell you this: No, he didn’t.
If you want to work with a coach, take some test-hours with him. If you feel he knows what he talks about and fits in what you are thinking about the game, then continue working with him. If you feel that he doesn’t answer your questions well, never has time to chat etc, then stop working with him. It is your money and even more important your time that you are wasting on someone that you probably won’t learn a lot from.
One other important thing is that you should look for the best value for your money. If you are playing nl25 and hire a coach who wants 300$/hr, well maybe there is something wrong. First get into contact with a coach who can show you the basic stuff. If after a while you feel that he can’t help you anymore and you have moved up in stakes, then get a new one who now fits your needs.
The most important thing is that you really trust your coach. If he tells you to 3bet AQ on the button versus a 40/30 fish who opened UTG, then start doing it in the future! This is a typical spot which your coach will see over and over again while coaching you and he can always tell you that you should do this so that you really do it I the future. Most people do it the next few times, but a little bit later they start calling again.
Another important thing about coaching is that you review the coaching session. You can’t understand everything correct at once. So if there is something that you don’t understand ask him. Your coach will be available for you on skype etc and he will write you an answer. Maybe not suddenly, but he will respond.
Trying to proof someone wrong
This isn’t the case for everyone obv, but some people try to proof other wrong, or they just discuss things while the chances are way higher that the other guy is correct. In some cases it can make sense, and in general it is always good to ask questions. But you should stop trying to convince the other guy that he is wrong while it is more likely that you are wrong.
For me this sometimes happens when I am talking to people who are playing lower stakes then I do. When I am saying something they would immediately try to proof me wrong. I’m sometimes doing this, too, but I won’t nonstop continue with it. If let’s say my coach tells me something and I do not agree with him, I tell him why I don’t agree with him. If he then tells me that I am maybe not completely wrong, but I don’t get it correct right now, then I stop arguing with him. The chance that my coach is correct there is pretty high. The correct approach for me is the following: I should think about it and then ask questions afterwards, so that he can maybe see where my logic is wrong.
Why should I do it that way? You want your contact with the coach/better player to be alive in the future. He will get frustrated that he has to discuss some for him really basic stuff, and he will realize that you are just doing what you are doing. In a normal chat with another player you should stop that, too, because in the future you might have a question to that player, but he won’t reply anymore. Same goes for a coach. Of course, a coach is coaching for the money, but most of them love talking about poker. But if every session/chat goes the same direction, they will stop coaching you, because money isn’t everything.
This obv doesn’t apply to everyone! I have a lot of people I know who are playing nl10-nl50 who don’t do what I described.
What did I work on?
This is something I would recommend to all players. You should keep track about what you have worked on. Let’s say you have learned to 3b a lot versus a button steal. Write it down! You don’t need to show what you have written to somebody else, it is just for you. If you look back let’s say 3 months and you realize that you haven’t really improved, you can look back and really see what you have done in that time to improve.
A lot of people claim that they are working so hard on their game, but in reality they just watch 1-2 videos and they really believe that just by watching they get the knowledge to beat the game. They don’t use it for study, they use it for entertainment. If you watch a video, write down when you watched it, what the coach did at minute 3:22 on the top right table and why he did it, and so on. If you really work this way, then you will see that you should have written at least 30 pages over 3 months. If you didn’t then it might be, that you were a little bit too lazy.
Of course, I know that this doesn’t need to be true for everyone. But I believe that a lot of people out there don’t really work as hard as they are trying to convince others. I did a very poor job in the past and I was thinking to myself that I was doing everything possible. The reality looks different.
Level of skill and improving
This one isn’t a 100% correct, but I’d like to give you an idea of something. Sometimes people say that it is easier for a player of nl25 to become better, than it is for someone who plays nl100. In order to describe my thoughts on it look at the following picture:
The graph isn’t a 100% correct according to the numbers, but it’s more to give you a feeling what I mean in the next few sentences.
Let’s say every player gets a number for his skill. A player playing nl25 is at 10 points, a player playing nl100 is at 40 points.
So, both players now learn the same thing that they were doing wrong before and both players get 4 points for it. The nl25 player is now at 14 points and the nl100 player at 44 points. The impact of the wisdom of the nl25 player is way bigger than the impact on the nl100 player! The nl25 player improved by 40% while the nl100 player only improved by 10%!
But that’s not the only thing. If you look at the graph, the nl25 player is now able to beat way more people than the nl100 player. So the nl25 player is able to table select way better, because there are now way more people at his stake that are worse than him.
I don’t say it is easy for the nl25 player to learn something new, but that the impact in learning something new is really significant.
Of course this post really isn’t anywhere near the holy grail of seeing where people might have problems. But if you read this, and at one point you realize “this is exactly what I am doing wrong” like it was for me when I read “the poker mindset” for the first time, I believe this post should have helped you like other stuff has helped me. I didn’t go into too much detail on every aspect, but I think I wrote down the most important things. Feel free to add something or to ask questions.