One of the major mistakes poker players tend to make, particularly newer ones, is choosing the wrong level to play at. This consists of either playing at too high stakes for your bankroll, or too low. Most often it's too high though, and this can be evidenced by the large number of players who bust out. Sure, they may commit more funds, but more often than not they haven't really learned anything from the experience, and the pattern keeps repeating itself.
While it's true that many of these players are playing with a negative expectation in the first place, it is certainly true that playing at too high stakes in regard to your means accelerates these losses. For this type of player, that may be fine, as the goal of profitability very often takes a back seat to entertainment value anyway. Put another way, if a player isn't skilled enough to be profitable, then the smallest level available needs to be played if limiting losses is to be a central goal. More often than not though, these players, whose prime motivation is entertainment, do not find the these very low levels exciting enough, and in this case, it actually makes sense for them to gamble away their money more, since the stimulation value is what they are after here.
It is very beneficial to us that these sort of gamblers exist, as they are pretty much our main food at the table. In fact, we owe it to ourselves to give a lot of attention to seeking them out as opponents. There are entire sites in fact, and large ones, which consist of this sort of player almost exclusively. Prime candidates here are players who migrate over from an operation's sports betting and/or casino. They like to gamble generally, they like to gamble at poker, and their skills at it are very minimal. An executive at one of these sites in fact once confided in me that "our poker players, like our casino players, have an expectation of losing," and they just keep coming back for more. We of course want to be there to help them along with their losing.
I'm going to presume that everyone here has profitability as at least the central goal though. This doesn't mean the game need not be entertaining - on the contrary, successful poker play is very stimulating. It's just that it's played with a lit more skill and discipline. And it's a heck of a lot more fun to win money than to lose it.
I realize that not all of you may be profitable yet, as you may be new to the game and haven't acquired the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience yet. Our goal in that case is to get you to where you're making money consistently, and it won't be a difficult task in fact as long as you follow along with our advice closely, particularly with our site recommendations.
By ensuring you start out small and work your way up, you'll not only be playing at the easiest games period but ensuring that whatever losses you may incur while developing your game will be as small as possible. And once you do get things rolling, you need to make sure you don't get too ambitious and play at too high of a level too soon, putting your bankroll in jeopardy. Very low stake games may not be too exciting in themselves, but establishing a winning pattern and building your bankroll will eventually get you to the highest stakes out there, if you're patient and disciplined enough to stay the course.
For those of you who are profitable already, you still need to be wary of subjecting yourself to too much risk. Basically this consists of being able to ride out the losing streaks that you may encounter without putting yourself in jeopardy of busting out. We'll discuss this more in the next lesson on bankroll.
While we're on the topic of choosing the right level though, players can often choose too low of a level, although this is far less common than choosing too high of one. Players may actually be too protective of their bankroll, motivated more by fear than anything. Or they may get comfortable at a certain level of stakes and be too intimidated at attempting to move up, often having inflated conceptions of the skill differential with the new level. Or they may be choosing the lower level because they aren't aware of easier games at higher levels at different sites, which may even be easier than the game they currently play.
Or, often, they may have enough of a notion of protecting their bankroll, but their strategy may be wrong, for instance, requiring 300 big bets at the limit level they are at, and requiring 300 big bets at the new level to move up. Players like this make the mistake of thinking of moving up a level as a sort of long term commitment, like a marriage, instead of just looking at it as trying it out, like a date. There's nothing that says you can't try out a new level and drop back if things don't go as well as you hope though. We'll discuss this in further in the next lesson.
The bottom line here though is that it's very important to be aware of problems that may occur by selecting the wrong level, whether that be too high or too low. Going too high risks you going out of the game completely, and too low ends up making you a heck of a lot less money and getting you to the promised land much more slowly. In the next lesson, I will take you through what you need to be concerned with to take the proper measures to guard against either of these fates befalling you.