Many beginner poker players naturally gravitate toward a level of game where they feel most comfortable. The reasons for their choice may vary, but often include the size of their starting bankroll, and the amount of money they feel comfortable wagering in a particular hand or throughout a session.
This is perfectly normal and reasonable. One of the things that separate truly profitable players from winning players, however, is their willingness to step out of their comfort zone and explore higher limit games.
After a few hundred hours of play, many people can determine whether or not they are beating their regular games. For those players who are showing a profit, there are some for whom taking home an extra $100 or $200 per week is perfectly acceptable. They're mainly playing for fun and the winnings are a nice benefit. For others, however, poker may be a steady source of income, and boosting their bottom line could significantly affect their lives away from the table.
One of the smartest things these players can do is to stretch their games and play at higher limits. With proper planning, and the right approach, the rewards can be immeasurable. To that end, I have some suggestions for players who are thinking about taking their game to the next level.
First and most important, make sure you have the bankroll to sustain yourself at a higher level. If you take a shot and lose, you shouldn't have to worry about rebuilding your bankroll from scratch. A good recommendation is to stockpile enough money so that you can comfortably afford between eight and 10 buy-ins before you have to retreat to a smaller game.
This leads to my second piece of advice, which is not to let a few losing sessions affect your attitude or impair your judgment. I'm not saying that losing doesn't sting and that tilt doesn't happen. They do. But, players who successfully move up the ladder understand that not every session will be a winning one, and that by constantly analyzing their games - and those of their opponents' - they'll be able to make adjustments that will help them succeed.
When moving up the poker ladder, you'll inevitably encounter players with more experience and skill than you possess. Recognizing these players and learning from them is one of the smartest moves you can make. Conversely, letting your ego and pride get in the way of observing these players can lead you to keep investing money in a losing situation and, eventually, affect your overall performance and excitement toward the game.
Remember, successful people fail more often than unsuccessful people. Successful people try new things, fall down, pick themselves up, and try again. So, if your first attempt to move up to a higher stakes game falls short of your expectations, don't despair. Look at your play and the play of your opponents, regroup, and try again. The experience will be worth it.