Moving up stakes via the Freeroll Approach
The success of a poker player, especially the long-term success, will have a great deal to do with how that player manages themselves away from the tables in terms of money management. Aside from standard bankroll management (such as keeping X amount of buy-ins for a certain level), I think that it's also important to at least have the thought of moving up limits in the back of your mind so that your profit ceiling can ultimately rise. Now, there may come a point where your comfort level and satisfaction of earnings are both great enough at your current level that you don't want the added risk (of both money and loss of time) of the "moving up" process and that's totally fine. I've been guilty of this myself. However, if you are currently a micro stakes grinder slugging it out at 2nl-25nl, it really will usually be in your best interest to move up limits where you can cash in on both higher table winnings and rakeback rewards.
When it comes to taking shots at higher stakes games, the approach that I like to take is a "freeroll" approach. What I mean by this is that I will use some of the winnings of my current games to fund my shot-taking at higher limits. For example, I recently decided to take a shot at 200nl so I earned 5 buy-ins by winning $1000 at 100nl (my current game) and used that money to play strictly 200nl. Now, however many buy-ins you want to earn is up to you...5 buy-ins is a very aggressive, high-variance option but on the other hand, it can be a very fast leap up stakes if it works out. If the shot doesn't work out, well then that's the beauty of the freeroll approach...you haven't lost any of your original bankroll! Another benefit of the freeroll approach is that you have to actually win those shot-taking buy-ins so you can at least be confident that you're playing well enough to beat your current limits (well, assuming positive variance isn't the key contributor to your success). On the other hand, if you are just breaking even by playing your current games then not only is it going to be more costly to lose your shot-taking money but in all likelihood your skills are not where they should be for the next level.
Anyways, this approach to shot-taking is essentially a low-risk, high-reward model. It may not give you the fastest results or necessarily give you the best chance of sticking at higher-stakes (depends on how many buy-ins you want for the shot) but if done correctly, you won't have any setbacks monetarily if it goes awry. This approach may not exactly be rocket science or groundbreaking but if you're thinking about taking a shot soon, perhaps this is the approach you've been looking for.
To follow my current shot-taking process to mid-stakes cash games, check out my blog at frosty012.com.
Tyler Frost is a member of Team PokerStars Online