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Online Texas Holdem allows you to play against many different skill levels at many different games and stakes. It is important to your long-term success that you play at the correct level to maximise profits while not getting out of your depth in terms of your ability to play with the better players at the higher limits. Below are some pointers to help you find your optimal table:

Finding your level - the level that you should play at is determined predominantly by your skill level and risk preference. Your skill level determines at what limits you are likely to find similar skilled players and hence have a chance to win, and your risk preference determines whether at your skill level, you are prepared to push to the highest limit your skill allows and risk a loss or to play at a lower level and increase your odds of winning while reducing your potential takings. Confused? Read on!

Poker stakes vs quality of play - anyone who has played at the free money tables knows that it is a good place to learn the basics of the game or get to grips with the look and feel of a new poker room, but the play there is horrible in terms of how people play their cards against the odds. There is no risk at the play money tables - if you lose, you simply cash back in for free and keep going, so people try and outdraw each other with no hand at all simply because it is risk-free.

The way to change this is to add an element of risk - real money. The play immediately changes where the player has something to lose and suddenly, it is a very different game. Logic dictates that at the cheapest tables, where the risk is present but low, the play is still likely to be fairly bad and that the odds of winning consistently are fairly low due to the number of times statistically you will be outdrawn. Therefore, as the limits/buy-ins increase, the level of play should increase due to the additional risk at these tables. This is true almost universally until you hit the very high limits - the type most of us will never play! At these higher limits, the players are no longer player for the thrill of winning modest amounts such as half their buy-in as profit after 4 hours of hard play, they play to win 10 times their buy-in in half that time and will start to take bigger risks to attempt these bigger pay-offs. Consequentially, the skill level actually decreases at these tables and a brave man could probably make a killing at the upper limits with a bit of patience and a tolerance for losing in the short run to get long run returns. Overall, the quality curve as the stakes increase from the low to high increases up to a certain level and then drops off again.

Follow bad players - at poker rooms with a feature for taking notes on each player, you can identify the bad players who play at your limits, whom you regularly beat and then if the room also has the feature to track players across tables, you can follow them about from time to time and take their money. This is a ruthless tactic but it removes an element of risk when you sit down at a new table and can help you bankroll your way into the higher limits.

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