Regardless of skill level, you have to play well and most of all RUN WELL to do well in the PSO League. I know everyone plays to survive and I do that as well, but I never realized I'm not getting any better. I haven't cashed in a dozen of these now and I'm starting to wonder why.
I am playing pretty poorly, tilting, and I'm not running particularly well. Gambling in boneheaded spots I shouldn't be, bluffing off my chips on a read (which I don't mind as much), and losing the spots I should be winning (overpair against underpair, AK vs AQ, races near the bubble short). It's happened before, its natural in poker tournaments. I am also playing way too passively in spots I should be betting for value or stealing because I don't want to go broke.
I looked back at hand histories of tournaments I've done well in, and I played selectively aggressive but I ran WELL. Just good spots would come (finding aces against two raisers, having KK hold against Ax, making sets and getting paid), and these are what get you to the payouts in these things - Winning races and cold decking others - very skillful obv.
My only complaint about PSO tournaments is there is just not a lot of play. Unless you double up in the first 40 minutes you have less than 10BBs, which makes the rest of play standard crapshoot poker. Sure there is skill to playing short stacks, but people miss out on getting better at deeper stack play where you have 3-bets, 4-bets, bigger stack to pot ratios that add strategy to the game.
No one learns from "mistakes" because they are rarely HUGE mistakes from competent players when the stack to pot ratio is so low. For example, if I have AK HU with t1000 behind and 250 in the pot preflop, I'm almost destined to go broke if the flop comes say A22 and I get action on a healthy bet. I bet t150 and my opponent calls, the pot is 550 and I have 850 behind. The turn comes an offsuit 8. I bet 350 and my opponent calls. I have an easy shove on the river and my opponent calls with A8, making two pair on the turn. Did I make a mistake? No. Sure I went broke with an inferior hand but not betting every street here is scared poker and missing value from hands I crush. Did my opponent make a mistake? Probably calling with A8 preflop was the only mistake made.
Now imagine if I had t2500 instead. My entire line can change and I am not committed to going broke with the hand. People would learn that if they kept going broke here and spots like it, they would be making some mistakes and LEARN from them. If PSO changed its structure to better show the difference in skill between players, it would be guaranteed you'd see the cream rise to the top and more players would learn and get better.