Number of cashes
Beating up on bad players is definitely fun and profitable. But many of us will come to a point where this simply isn't enough. It's like playing a really simple video game. If you're like me, chances are you will beat the first three or four levels with ease and then get bored and turn it off. Not because you don't like the game, but because it's effortless and your mind is not being stimulated. On the contrary, I can see myself playing for hours on end in a game which is really challenging. I might be horrible at game #2, but I'd still opt to play it over the simple one any day. I've found the same to be true in poker. After donating for a while, I started beating the mid-level multi table tournaments on a few different sites about a year ago. I would usually play two tables of my own, then pull up one of the big Pokerstars rebuys and find a few of the better tables there to watch as well. It was around this time when I realized that these guys were playing a totally different style of poker than I was, and I wanted to learn. After a few more months of watching these big tournaments and having success in the smaller ones, I decided to "take my shot." Paradise Poker ran a $250 freezeout around midnight, the Saltwater, which I had been watching for a while. It didn't get many entrants (60-70) and only paid the final table, but players started with more chips (2500) and at 20 minutes in length, the levels were sufficiently longer than the games to which I was accustomed. The first time I played the Saltwater, I'm pretty sure I soiled my pants. My starting table consisted of Rizen, soupie, Schnorkus (JohnnyBax), scgolfer, and an unknown at the time named TimDibiase (Tmay420). Naturally, I busted out way before the money that night. Nevertheless I was excited, because I hadn't ever experienced a rush like this from playing poker. I was playing with skilled opponents for big money and knew that as long as I didn't go bustoooo, I'd become a better player for it. The next several weeks comprised of me making money in smaller games and dumping it into this $250 freezeout. The Saltwater would prove to be by far the biggest part of my learning curve. I was clearly one of the weaker links at the table, but I knew that over time that would change, and it did. Eventually, I started to see Rizen make unorthodox plays in crucial situations. I'd see Bax play super tight early on and then act maniacal at times in the later stages. And that's when I started to become a poker player. Rather than just shrug my shoulders when one of them would get caught in a move, I started to ask myself, "What would Rizen say if I asked him to explain that hand?" Then I'd wonder how many times the play works, the pot gets shoved his way, and his cards go into the muck... Despite railing these guys in the past, playing alongside them was vastly different and much more helpful. Being seated at the table with them gave me a better idea of the situations they were confronted with, the table dynamics, and the pros and cons behind their styles of play. After a month or two of donating, I booked a couple of wins in the Saltwater and recouped my losses. Once you have the confidence that you can hold your own against the best players in the biggest games, it makes your regular tourneys against the donkeys seem like cake. On the one hand, I truly believe that having the "I'm the best player at this table" mindset is a positive one for your game. Upon looking at the records I've kept, I see that my stats in this tournament were pretty mediocre. I only made a few bucks after playing it dozens of times, but on the other hand, I got more out of the Saltwater than just money. I'm not advising you to go sit with Mahatma, Antonius, or lars-magne. I just see a lot of players becoming complacent with their usual stakes and stopping improvement. I'm a strong believer that people play up or down to their competition, and after a while, I think your game will deteriorate if you keep playing with players below your skill level. So every once in a while, find a tourney your bankroll can manage where you can play with the big dogs, and learn a thing or two.