Thursday, April 28, 2005

High Stakes vs Low Stakes Debate

As a member of an on-line poker discussion group, I have seen a lot of different opinions as to why high stakes is a better teaching tool than low stakes poker. There are arguments to the effect that nobody will take the play seriously at the low or no-stakes game, as compared with the higher stakes game, so even novices should consider a higher stakes game.

That's good advice to give as a potential recipient of the novice's largesse. When I become a better player, I will gladly invite novices to my higher stakes table as well. However, I have a dissenting view point as a novice, and outline my reasoning here.

1) The competitive spirit will still be at the table, in a low stakes game. If you have a bunch of serious novices at the table, all with a desire to win, it will still be a learning experience.

2) As a poker novice, your own worst enemy is yourself. That's right! Just like in many other pursuits, you have to learn a certain amount of self-control and self-knowledge before you can start to become the player you wish to be. You can understand poker theory in detail, but if you cannot follow the lyrics to that ubiquitous Kenny Rogers song because of a lack of self-control, you are not ready to play higher stakes poker.

Let me rephrase it this way. Better players will 'make a play' on each other, using sophisticated techniques. Novices will 'make a play' on themselves. At the novice table, you can learn about your own play cheaply, and observe fish-like behavior that will occasionally be seen at the higher-stakes tables as well. If somebody is capable of 'making a play' on a novice that the novice hasn't already done to themselves, well God-Bless'Em!

3) Once you begin to win at the lower stakes, you may consider using that stake to start playing higher stakes games. Why pay double or triple the cost for 'poker lessons' when you don't have to?