Big Names Taking a Step Back
Recently, both Phil "OMGClayAiken" Galfond and Brian Townsend have both expressed or stated their intent to leave high stakes online games due to variance. Brian Townsend is moving on to trying to master mixed games where Galfond outright states that the thought of losing all that we won over a year in a big downswing bothers him.
Townsend also made a statement that I have held to for years in that if you move down a couple of levels from the highest stakes, you will make the most money. The main reason is that there are many more fish at these levels and also, the massive downswings will not hurt your bankroll as bad.
This sounds also simplistic in logic, but many people want the thrill of playing high stakes poker games. As Townsend and Galfond have stated, the pressure can be almost overwhelming to perform at that high of a level. Your advantage over other players is not nearly as high and variance is massive at the highest stakes.
A lot of what they are saying boils down to that they know that they can play at the level, but are more comfortable at lower limits. This is something that all of us can take into account.
Personally, I know about how high that I can play based on my experience level and my ability. However, I choose not to play there because I do not have the bankroll to support it. Also, I do not play the game for a living, so playing as high as I can makes little sense. I don't have the desire nor the patience to grind 40+ hours a week every week. However, I know my limitations, and I stick by them. When I do play, I enjoy it for the most part. If I do well, then great. If not, it does not mean the end of my poker life. I play more for challenge than I do for money. But that is me.
Whether you play for a living or play for fun, playing at levels where you are comfortable and profitable will be the best way to build your bankroll. I'm not saying to take shots and play higher if that is what you want to do. What I am saying is to stay away from moving up or playing games just based on it being popular or sexy. A winning $20-$40 player is a lot sexier than a losing $100-$200 player.