Moving up a Level in Online Poker

By Robbie Strazynski
February 13, 2012

There is one occasion in the life of an online poker player that can grip and toss him to the ground. It doesn’t matter how well he handles downswings or long breakeven stretches, whether he is a level 1 or 7 thinker:

All of us, without exception, handle the “move up” rather poorly.

Online poker table

Every level up is full of “Durrrs” just waiting to pounce on our perceived weaknesses, reading our ranges with flawless accuracy. Every raise is 3-bet and every 3-bet is 4-bet, no matter what we do we are always behind as we discover that even after hitting our draw on the river we were dead to our opponents going into the flop.

But the truth is that everyone is “just mediocre” because that’s just how life works. In every field few are exceptional, a sizable portion is poor, and the overwhelming majority is plain old mediocre.

So Why Do I Fail, Time and Again?

Variance accounts for some of our trouble while a fundamental misunderstanding of the game accounts for the rest.

Online poker is first and foremost a wagering game, of which the house kindly takes a portion. The lower the stakes one plays, the higher the bb/100 one loses to rake. If you are moving up through the nanos (2-25nl) any situation you get yourself into that you do not have a clear understanding of should be avoided, studied, and only then approached with care.

Rake is a penalty and we are no fans of being penalized, so we adjust to the situation by playing fewer hands and we don’t bluff without some degree of certainty that the player in front of us can fold.

In the nanos a marginal situation is a losing situation.

As we climb higher up in the limits, we begin to voraciously gulp down all the theory we can lay our hands on. We have reached 25nl and we are now in the “big leagues” and should behave accordingly. So, we read and we read but piecing so much information together is no easy task.

This is where most micro grinders get stopped in their tracks. Endlessly reading and hoping to passively learn what they need to know while playing far too long and hoping to passively supplement an already passive learning experience.

All online poker coaches, I among them, spend countless hours slowing the pace of play of our students while attempting to instill some max-EV trusts that can be applied in an absolute vacuum (if you are a micro-stakes grinder and take poker notes on a regular basis I salute you).

How To Properly Handle Moving Up in Stakes

Essentially, being able to “properly” move up in stakes online boils down to one relatively simple (but rigorous) exercise that will carry you farther than countless hand reviews:

Write down every action you take (bet/call/fold) by street and ask yourself:

  • Why do I do it?
  • When should I do it?
  • Do I do it enough?
  • Do I do it at the correct time(s)?
  • Where am I overplaying my hand?
  • Where am I not doing enough?

Once you are done asking yourself these questions, you’ll find yourself at a wonderful starting point to begin understanding how to move up a level in online poker, this awesome game of bets and wagers.

The writer of this post is a small stakes no-limit (SSNL) player and coach. If you’d be interested in contacting him for private lessons, please send an email to [email protected].



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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]


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