Helpful tips to beat the micro limits
Whether you’re taking the dive into online poker for the first time or just looking for a way to kick back with a few hands of poker on a weeknight, the micro limits of online poker offer players the cheapest real money action online — and with that comes a player pool filled with fish rather than the sharks you’d find at the higher levels.
Although these stakes may be the easiest to beat online that doesn’t mean the pots will automatically be yours. While any player can get make money when Lady Luck shines on you — pocket rockets hold up to the river and your draws get there — at the end of the day, it’s much more satisfying when you rake the pot having outplayed your opponent. Putting in the effort both at the table, as well as even before sitting down, are what develops a long term winning player. Taking the time to read this and other articles places you ahead of many micro-stakes players who simply can’t be bother to put in the effort.
Taking a seat at the micro limits guarantees you will run across a ton of wild players, along with just as many crazy ways of playing a hand. Some players are here to gamble regardless of the odds so it’s important to remember that bad beats will happen. Yes, getting your Kings all in before the flop and seeing your opponent turn over Jacks feels great. But it’s completely the opposite feeling when a Jack spikes on the river to send those chips you through were all yours over to your opponent. That’s going to happen one of out every five times in that situation but that’s why focus is key for the micro stakes. Adhering to the strategy you know works in the long term will be a +EV decision no matter what happens in one particular hand.
To help our budding poker pros on their roadmap to riches, we’ve come up with a list of ten common mistakes players make at the micro limits. Take a read below and hopefully adapting a few of these into your games will turn those late night sessions profitable.
Playing too loosely
The first thing most players notice sitting down at a micro stakes table is just how many players there are on every flop. It can be tough to sit back when everyone else seems to be playing every hand but no matter what limits you play, it’s key to realize there are really only a certain number of starting hands that offer a realistic and consistent opportunity to be profitable to play. For the micro limits, we recommend playing only the top 15% to 25% of our starting hands. The goal of poker is to win money — not just to gamble our stacks away.
Play too tightly
On the other hand, facing all those reckless raises from a fishy player can sometimes have you folding a bit too much. Tight players are only willing to invest in premium hands like big pairs and AK, considering the rest to be too much of a risk. Opening up your range to trap the loose players at the micro stakes will lead to some big pots shipping your way. But another tactic is to take advantage of the tight players and exploit this weakness by consistently pushing them off pots – and especially flops – that do not connect with those premium holdings.
Being too aggressive
Every poker player has at some point watched in amazement as a poker pro on TV steamrolls over a table with a combination of aggressive raises and well timed bluffs. Aggression is an important tool in a player’s success at the poker table but as much as it can increase your win rate, too much aggression is often a big factor in bankrolls going bust. It’s a good idea to constantly be monitoring your play to ensure you are finding the right balance. Keep an eye out on the number of hands being raised (or re-raised) pre-flop, the percentage of time you’re continuation betting the flop, and other situations like that. Playing the micros might mean you’re not up against poker’s elite but there still will be players who study the game and will notice if you get too far out of line. It’s important to build up a good table image rather a reputation for firing bullets all the time.
Being too passive
Playing the opposite way and being too passive also is not a strategy you want to be taking. Even at the micro limits, there are just some spots where an aggressive style of play is essential. Firing a second bullet with a middle pair or getting your money in on an open ended straight flush draw are plays that can win money in the long term. Sitting back and only playing your monster hands will end up making you easier to read than a traffic light – and players will be going full stop when you do push in with a great hand. The old saying holds true that you have to give action to earn action.
Play out of position
Position! Position! Position! And that really doesn’t even say enough about how vital it is to your success in poker. Being able to act after all the other players allows you to control the aggression level and the size of the pot. You can open up your starting range when on (or close to) the button but out of position, especially at the micro limits, it’s time to tighten up and open with slightly stronger holdings.
Overplay hands on the flop
Many beginning poker players make the mistake of playing to many hands on the flop – or even worse, overplaying their hands. Every time you make a call (or continuation bet) on the flop, you can make it in isolation without a plan for the rest of the hand. It’s rarely the right move to call to just “see what happens on the turn”. The best poker players already have a plan when they make a call on the flop for what they will do on both the turn and the river – and what cards may come that sends their hand into the muck.
Most importantly, be sure to not invest too many chips with a marginal, or even bad, hand. Preserving chips is as important as winning them.
To fold too often on the flop
Poker would be great if we hit the flop each and every time but reality is you would be lucky to connect with even half the flops you see. But just because we do not hit the flop, doesn’t mean we need to immediately give up our hand. It’s just as likely that your opponent missed the flop as well. So if the flop is not too dangerous and we have a hand that can either become better or has showndown value (like an Ace high), then calling – or re-raising your opponent’s continuation bet is a tactic to have in your toolbelt.
Turn on a movie with a poker scene and you get the idea that the only way to win is to pull a crazy bluff. That’s Hollywood and while the bluff has a long and storied history in poker, bluffing at the micro stakes where many players will call with any two cards is not often a winning play. Playing these limits, it’s important to limit your bluffs to situations where they are profitable in the long term.
One typical situation that a bluff may be appropriate combines a few of the tips mentioned earlier. Playing from the button (a good position), you could raise an unopened pot before with flop with Ace and a low kicker. Assuming the big blind calls and then checks the flop, even if you didn’t connect, chances are your opponent didn’t either. Putting in a continuation bet of half the pot (showing targeted aggression) often can take down the hand for you right there.
Change your own game due to short-term results
Having a session where every pocket pair loses to an overpair and none of your draws get there can be tough on the mind. Too often players are fooled by short term results and change their game play based on what can reasonably be explained as variance. If the action you took is one that has a long term positive expected value, it was the right play, regardless of what happened.
The best example of this is if you’re dealt pocket rockets in a cash game. Now if you happened to have lost three times already with your pair of Aces pre-flop, you’re not going to end up folding the hand this time. You know that pocket aces are the best hand pre-flop so you have to ignore those last three bad beats and focus on winning the current one.
Spending time analyzing your hands and learning from the mistakes is key but understand variance happens — especially at the micro stakes. Stick closely to our ten tips though and you’ll be able to handle those downswings and pull out a consistent profit.
Good luck on the virtual felt!