One of my New Year's Resolutions was to always play in the biggest game I could afford. Consequently, I've been playing a lot of 10/25NL with the occasional $50 button straddle. The swings have been enormous. I won over $40K in January, lost over $30K in February, and won over $20K in March. Now why would I make that commitment? Why would I subject myself to that kind of suffering? It's honestly just because I don't want my game to stagnate. It's really easy to become complacent. I have a lot of friends who worked really hard to achieve a $50/hour win rate at 2/5NL and then they quit learning. They're okay with making $70K a year for the rest of their lives. That's not enough for me. I want more. That's why I keep pushing and keep challenging myself.
I'll be the first to admit that I am not the best player in a lot of these games. In fact, I might just be average. But there is one key difference - I want more. I want to play against people that put me to the test. I want to see lines that people don't use in smaller games so I can learn to defend against them and implement them in my own game. It's one thing to study situations off the table and practice estimating ranges, but it a totally different thing when you actually have to pull the trigger. Are you okay with getting snapped off for $10K? If so, are you confident enough with your game to fire again after that happens? Most people aren't. Most people don't have that kind of commitment.
I would go as far as to say that I think there are a lot of poker coaches that have the same problem. They understand all of the technical aspects of poker and they can break them down into small enough pieces that anyone can learn them. Mission accomplished. They make students better. That's awesome but I think a lot of them lack the ability to execute. I've read so many poker books from guys that never play bigger than 5/10NL live -- probably dozens of them. They grind smaller games because they're afraid of getting wacked. They have become complacent and consequently they will never really make it. I don't ever want to be like that.
The way I see it, worst case scenario I get wacked and have to move down in stakes. I have zero problem with that. It's a learning experience. I have to pay my tuition. The funny thing is that I just played 2/5NL for the first time in six months. It was a really slow day at Hard Rock and we couldn't get the 5/10NL game going. I thought I'd sit down and have dinner at the table before going home. The only seat open was at a table that most people would consider a "tough" 2/5NL lineup. But after six months of having to pay so much extra attention and look so much harder for leaks to exploit in bigger games, the "tough" 2/5NL lineup seemed soft as butter. A year ago I would've noticed a few leaks and got to work trying to exploit them. But a week ago I was like, "I see so many leaks I don't even know where to start." It seems ridiculous but it's true.
Instead of just classifying a limper as a bad player, I can now differentiate between the types of limpers, the ranges they're using, and the elasticity of their calls. Instead of just feeling like someone is 3-betting too much, I can tell you within a very close percentage, how far out of line that player is getting. Instead of just knowing someone is folding too often on a certain street I can tell how much I expect to net with my bluff. I sense huge differences in timing and bet-sizing and a myriad of things I never noticed before. The difference is night and day and I never would've experienced that had I not challenged myself to play bigger games. I strongly suggest trying it.