Making a leap up to a higher limit a profitable one, takes more than poker skill and a big enough bankroll. The mental side of moving up in stakes is just as important. My last blog post, introduced two common mistakes players make, here are three more:

Placing Too Much Importance on ‘Getting There’

Often too much stock is put on just moving up and getting to that stake, rather than establishing yourself and crushing it. So moving up is looked at as an all or nothing, sink or swim, move-up or fail, type goal. This style inevitably leads to a lot of negative feelings if you have to move back down. Players often see this as a sign of failure, rather than a common part of the process.

This style of moving up in stakes is very results orientated; there is no emphasis on acquiring the necessary skills to master the level your only focus is on getting there. Instead of having an all or nothing view, take a more strategic approach where you move up and down between limits quite loosely to acquire skill while lowering risk. Set aside a certain amount of money to take shots and treat it like a reconnaissance mission to gain some intel on how the games played and what you need to learn. Instead of worrying about winning, take the opportunity to try and ascertain what skills you will need to beat that level, which you can work on when you move back down to your current games.

In the end this style, builds skill more consistently and removes a lot of negativity that happens if you don’t happen to run great.

Risk Aversion

At some point when moving up in stakes, the money may become significant enough that it affects your play. For example, losing a buy-in at $200NL is no problem, but for some reason losing a buy-in at $400NL might be more meaningful, and makes you play scared. Most players eventually get used to the money. Here are a couple things to make that happen faster:

  • Money always represents something more than dollar figures. Try to work out what the money means to you. It could represent security, identity, freedom, status or skill, money could represent putting food in your kids mouth or buying a house. Whatever money means to you, that is essentially what you fear losing when you move up in stakes.
  • Players with risk aversion also fail to consider the risk of doing nothing. In other words, the risks they actually take by not moving up in stakes. If you don’t challenge yourself, you put yourself in danger of getting overtaken by other players who will and stumping your own growth. By not playing in bigger games you are properly bankrolled for you run the risk of not earning your potential, or having to put in so many more hours to do so.

In either case, you may not be able to change the realities of the money that you need, or the risks that you’re taking, but often just knowing what you’re dealing with makes it easier to do what’s necessary.

Lack of Learning Material

Players at higher stakes often encounter a point where their learning hits a brick wall. As the stakes get higher and the player pools get smaller, and there isn’t the same amount of learning material available as there is for the midstakes. The players crushing those limits don’t want to share their secrets because it can have an immediate negative impact on their bottom line.

Players often believe this problem means there’s nothing left to learn, rather than just lacking the material to learn from. There is always something to learn, the question is whether you are willing to put in the research the top players in the game do, to figure out ‘what’ to be improving. The bottom line is that if you aren’t improving at some point you’ll be overtaken by other players who are continually learning. Rather than risk busting out of the game as have many players who crushed the games in 2005, do the research to find and learn what you need to stay ahead.

Jared Tendler is poker’s leading expert in the mental game. He coaches some of the top players in poker and over a 150 other pros from around the world. Jared’s new book “The Mental Game of Poker,” is now available at www.mentalgameofpoker.com.

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