Tuesday, August 4, 2015

9 Ways to Improve Your Poker Game in 2015

9 Ways to Improve Your Poker Game in 2015
There is an incredible amount of educational material out there these days to help you improve your poker game. There is so much in fact that it can probably seem a bit daunting at first to someone who is just getting started online.

Also, to complicate matters further, not all of this information is good. Some of it is bad and you might actually harm your progress by following it. Lastly, it is also important to remember that everybody learns differently. What might be effective for one person might not be for another.

So I decided to put together this list of the top ways that I would choose to improve my game if I had to start all over again today.


1. Play an Insane Amount of Poker


If there is one unifying trait that all of the biggest winners always seem to have in common it is this:

They always seems to be at the tables playing poker!

Why wouldn't they after all? The whole point of the game is to play it and make money. There is simply no way that you can ever become great at poker if you spend most of your time sitting around watching it, talking about it or reading about it.

But there is another hidden benefit when you make playing the game your main priority. It might sound cliche but I have always maintained that learning from your own mistakes is the number one way to improve your game.

I got my start in poker during an era (mid 00s) when many of the educational resources that I will discuss later on in this article were simply not available. However, I was still able to teach myself to win primarily by seeing what works and what doesn't firsthand.

When you play millions and millions and millions of hands of poker like I have then you tend to see the same situations over and over and over again.

Eventually, even the most stubborn person on earth will notice that they keep losing repeatedly when they do X. They will eventually start doing Y.


2. Review Your Play


The easiest way to start learning from your own mistakes is to review your hands after every session. Maybe every session is taking it a little bit too far but when you are just starting out regular session reviews are an absolutely invaluable way to improve your play.

When I wasn't throttling millions of hands of online poker into my brain I was spending countless hours reviewing my own hand histories and finding ways to improve.

It is really a very simple formula:

1. Find out what works and do more of that
2. Find out what doesn't work and do less of that

If you ever want to push through and become truly elite in this game then you are going to have to learn to think the game through on your own anyways. I think it is a good idea to start working on those habits right from the very beginning.


3. Effective Use of a Poker Tracking Program


The easiest way to review your play by far is with the aid of a poker tracking program. This is one of the biggest reasons why I suggest getting familiar with one as soon as you get a little bit of experience playing online. You don't even need to use the HUD if you don't want to.

Many people seem to think that the HUD feature and the ability to track their results is the whole point of these programs. This could not be further from the truth.

One of the best features of poker tracking software is the ability to filter for specific scenarios. This allows you to get the exact data over a big sample on whether you are winning or losing in a specific spot.

For example: When I raise the flop with a draw am I showing a profit or a loss?

If I am showing a profit then I will keep raising them and if my winrate is really high then I will do it even more. If I am in the red in this situation though then I will reconsider my strategy and look at some specific hands to see why I am losing.

You can't argue with the raw data and results over enormous sample sizes. It is black or white. You are either winning or losing and you can make adjustments from there.

I personally use Pokertracker 4. Hold'em Manager 2 is a good poker tracking program as well. You can filter for specific scenarios like the one that I mentioned above in both of these programs. You can also try out either of these programs for free.

I have written extensive guides on both how to study your opponents and run filters as well as optimal HUD setup for Pokertracker 4.


4. Study Training Videos


Training videos revolutionized the poker education industry several years ago and I still think they are an extremely valuable way to improve your game. It is simply amazing to be able to "look over the shoulder" of a top winning player as he plays live and lets you know what he is thinking.

There are many good training sites out there. I think the real key though is researching the coaches first and taking advantage of the free trial or video teasers.

This is because what you really need to know is whether or not the training site regularly puts out high quality videos from coaches that actually play at or near the stakes that you play in. 

There is simply no point whatsoever in watching some high stakes crusher talk about NL2000 when you play NL10.

These stakes have absolutely nothing in common.

There is actually a good chance that you will get worse results by trying to emulate what you see in these videos in your own games. This is because you are learning a set of strategies and a way to think about the game that simply flies way over the head of your current competition.

Likewise, there is often no point in watching some high stakes phenom play NL10. This is because he likely hasn't played in these games in ages and will bring the same high stakes mentality to a very simple game which requires a very simple strategy to beat.

Join a training site that has plenty of current content made by coaches who actually play in the games that you play in on a regular basis.

Lastly, it should be noted that I used the word "study" above instead of "watch." Poker training videos are not like movie night. No popcorn is needed.

They should be treated instead like a university lecture. In order to benefit the most from them your complete attention is required. This also means taking notes and asking the coach any followup questions that you may have.


5. Study Poker Books


Some people learn better through reading than watching. And also of course, a full length book allows for a much deeper analysis of any topic than any 30 minute training video could ever provide.

I think poker literature has improved greatly in the past several years. Just 5 years ago literally all we had were a bunch of books written by some aging live poker pros with little to no experience playing online poker. In fact many of them were written before online poker even existed!

Thankfully, this is not the case anymore.

In the past several years a ton of quality new titles have been released by online players specifically which provide valuable insight into the way that the game is played today. They also often cover the software that we use today in the modern game such as the poker tracking programs that I just discussed above.

As an online poker player myself, I have written two of these books for the lower limits:

Crushing the Microstakes (NL2, NL4 and NL5)
Modern Small Stakes (NL10, NL25, NL50)

There are plenty of other good books out there as well covering all aspects of the game from the mental side, exploitative theory, math basics and GTO. You can easily find all of these titles (except for mine) with a simple search for "poker books" on Amazon. Check the publication date.

Once again, and just like with training videos, you will get exactly what you put in with poker books. They are not meant to be skimmed. And they weren't written to entertain you.

The main goal of any poker book should always be to improve your winrate at the tables. So they should be studied like a college textbook. The material should then be applied at the tables right away.


6. Hire a Coach


Hiring a coach is probably the single most effective way to improve your game. A highly skilled coach can make specific suggestions that are tailor made for you. But this is also the most expensive option out there. Finding a good coach can sometimes be a bit of a challenge as well.

When searching for a coach some red flags to look out for are the lack of actual results at the tables and the excessive use of "testimonials" and other gimmicky marketing tactics. Highly sought after coaches have no need to advertise their services in this manner. The get plenty of referrals coming their way through word of mouth alone.

I would only hire a coach if you have played quite a bit online, moved up a few stakes, but have hit the proverbial brick wall. Because if this is not the case, then there are probably better (and cheaper or free) options out there in the mean time to help you get the fundamentals down.

However, some people prefer that personal 1 on 1 interaction and specific attention to their game and are willing to pay for it. Hiring a quality coach can make a big difference for them.


7. Join or Create a Study Group


Getting a regular study group together or a circle of poker friends to discuss hands with is another great way to improve your poker game. Although it rarely happens, these groups should be taken seriously and conducted in the same manner as a business mastermind group.

That is, there is a clear schedule set for when you meet up and what you will discuss whether it is in person or online. And each member of the group is held accountable by the others and pushed forward to succeed.

The biggest problem though is finding the right people.

You need to remember that only about 5-10% of people are actually really big winners in this game over the long run. These are obviously the people who you want in your group or circle of friends.

Furthermore, it is also better to discuss the game with somebody who does not play at your stakes (higher is always better). It is not a good idea to become friends with people who you see at the tables on a regular basis. You don't want a reason to ever soft play versus anyone.

Twitter and forums are probably the two best ways to get to know other poker players and make friendships or form a study group. There is strength in numbers and poker does not always need to be such a solitary endeavour.


8. Read Poker Blogs


Unfortunately most poker blogs do not last very long because it takes a rare combination of somebody who is a long term winner in the game and also likes to write about it on a regular basis.

Most people get all excited to blog about poker at the beginning but as soon as things don't go their way for awhile or something else pops up in their lives, they quit.

The other issue is that even when you find a regularly updated blog from a big winner most of the content is often only about their results and travel adventures. Therefore it sort of lacks in any real educational value.

However, it is still very useful in my opinion to gain insights into the mind of a top winner and especially how they react when adversity strikes. If nothing else it might inspire you.

Here are a few of the blogs that I have followed over the years which inspire me:


9. Poker Forums


Poker forums (at least the big ones) have unfortunately gone downhill quite a bit in recent years. On the largest one that everyone knows about there was actually a concerted effort about 5 years ago by a lot of winning players to "stop posting strategy."

You know, don't educate the masses.

I actually agreed with this sentiment at the time as well and stopped posting. However, I soon realized how futile this was. Regardless of what I choose to say in public the information is going to get out there through training sites, books, coaching, blogs and so on.

But still to this day I don't know very many big winners who post frequently on huge forums like TwoPlusTwo. And I don't think it really has anything to do with not wanting to educate the fish. It has more to do with the large amount of noise and endless flame wars that all big open public forums like this suffer from.

It should be noted that most big-time winning poker players have never posted much on forums to begin with though. Why? Because they busy at the tables playing! You don't get paid to make 10k posts on a forum.

High level poker discussion still does exist on the internet but it has gone much more underground in recent years especially via private Skype groups and in some cases on smaller forums.

The best forums these days are actually often attached to training sites. The members there are usually paying subscribers and are therefore much more likely to be serious about the game.


Final Thoughts


There are many different ways to improve your poker game these days. Which one is right for you depends a lot on how you learn the game best. A variety of different methods is probably the way to go though for most.

However, what I do know for certain is that there are very few big winners out there that haven't played an absolute ton of hands and spend a lot of time reviewing them as well.

I am not saying that there isn't any value to training sites, books, forums, coaches and the like. All of this stuff is great and will help you improve. But it needs to be done in moderation.

The guys who are actually crushing the games are often predictably right where you would expect them to be. On the left of some fish and counting stacks.

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9 Ways to Improve Your Poker Game in 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Zoom Poker Strategy - The Essential Guide

Zoom Poker Strategy - The Essential Guide
Ever since Pokerstars first launched Zoom Poker in May of 2012 it has grown to be immensely popular. Full Tilt (now owned by Pokerstars) technically did it two years earlier with a similar variant of the game called "Rush Poker." However, with the trouble that this company had during it's final years under the old ownership, it never really took off in a huge way.

The Pokerstars marketing machine though along with their crisp industry leading software have taken this fast fold format of the game to the next level. The games are extremely popular especially at the lower limits and I get questions on a regular basis from people asking specifically about Zoom poker strategy.

So that is why I wrote this article.

It is important to remember that there is nothing fundamentally different about Zoom from a regular table. They are both poker. There are still two blinds, the button acts last and a flush still beats a straight. However, there are a few important strategic differences that you need to know about.


The Zoom Poker Information Gap


"You cannot step in the same river twice" - Heraclitus (ancient Greek philosopher)

Well, in Zoom poker you cannot sit at the same table twice. You are moved to a new table after every single hand and put into a random seat against a bunch of random people. At the lowest stakes (NL2) the player pool regularly exceeds 500 people even during non-peak hours.

With a little bit of simple math this means that if you are playing at a full ring table you can expect to see a particular player once every 55 hands (500/9=55) on average. Given the same player pool size you are likely to see them once every 83 hands on average at a 6max table (500/6=83).

What this essentially means is that you are constantly playing against a bunch of unknowns. With a player pool of this size it will take ages to build up any kind of statistically significant data on your HUD.

Even just to get the most basic information on someone (VPIP and PFR) could take playing over 1k hands. A sample of about 20 hands is typically necessary for these two stats to converge close to their true values.

If you are only seeing a particular opponent once every 55 (or 83) hands though, then once again it doesn't take a math genius to figure out that this is going to take an awfully long time.


Strategy Versus the Great Unknown


So as I said, what you are really doing if you play Zoom poker at the lowest limits is more or less playing against a bunch of unknowns. If you play regularly then you will build up some reasonable samples on the regs. However, this will still take way longer than at the regular poker tables.

So there are both pros and cons to this.


The Pros


1. Use the Lack of Information to Exploit Them Early On.

While we lack information on our opponents it is important to remember that it goes both ways. They probably don't know much about us either.

You can take advantage of this by playing more aggressively than normal at first. I call this the "first encounter theory." I talk about it extensively in Modern Small Stakes and I also referenced it in a recent article about strategy versus unknown opponents.

The main gist of it is this: You can typically get away with a lot more versus someone early on when there is no history involved.

Most people are taught to keep it tight when they first sit down at a poker table. Only play good cards and just observe the action. Since this is what most people expect you to do it can be wildly profitable to go ahead and do the exact opposite.

Nobody is going to expect you to 4Bet bluff or raise the river on the very first hand. It is likely that unless they happen to have a monster they will just "let you have it." After all, they have no reason to believe that you would just be doing this sort of thing out of the blue.


2. Being a Chameleon Can Be Very Profitable

The other benefit to the lack of information in Zoom poker is that your opponents have no idea what type of player you are. You can easily fly under the radar and even radically switch your game up from session to session just to mess with their "reads."

Since you see so many different faces when playing Zoom it is effectively impossible to build up any kind of real history with anyone. The only thing that your opponents will have to go on is the meager HUD data that they have on you. This is if they are even using a HUD at all. Many will not be using one at the lowest stakes.

But if they are, you could play like a nit one session and then a LAG the next and it would take them a long time to figure out that you have adjusted. This can cause them to make all kinds of mistakes such as giving you too much credit or paying you off too much.


The Cons


1. The "Why" is Often Missing

In online poker where physical tells don't exist and the action moves fast (speed of light fast in Zoom) we often rely on our HUD to provide us with information about our opponent's statistical tendencies. When you remove this information it it very difficult to have a reason to make any specific play beyond "because it is standard."

If you can't physically interact with your opponent and you have a meaningless sample size on your HUD then there is no way that you can really know what their 3Bet, flop raise or river bet really means.

Sure, there are timing and betting pattern tells that exist in online poker. But these are not as reliable as looking your opponent in the face or having a bunch of solid statistical data on them.

Therefore, in Zoom poker, decisions can often just boil down to your best guess within the framework of playing "solid." It is difficult to really get ahead under these conditions.

Some will argue that this is good because it takes the game back to it's roots. But without clear reasons to make any particular play you remove a huge part of the skill edge in the game.

This is especially the case in a day and age where everybody more or less plays "solid" to varying degrees. The information gap is one of the main reasons why you should expect to have a lower winrate when playing Zoom compared to the regular tables.


Zoom Poker is a Nitfest 


But an even more important reason why you should expect to have a lower winrate in Zoom is because the games simply play tighter on average.

The fast fold button is arguably the most innovative thing about Zoom poker. After all, anyone who has played in a tournament on the internet (or live) will know what it is like to be moved to a new table where you have no reads without warning.

The fast fold button though allows people to throw away hand after hand at lightning pace until they get something that they think is playable. They do not have to wait for the entire hand to be played out like at a traditional poker table.

This is obviously going to lead to people playing tighter overall. Due to the information gap nits can much more easily fly under the radar waiting for the nuts without everyone knowing.

The introduction of the fast fold button is the biggest coup for the recreational players though. This is because it inadvertently helps them play quite a bit better.

What is the biggest reason why fish lose so much? Easy, they play terrible hands that wind up being second best and they can't find the fold button. Why do they play these terrible hands? Easy again, because they were "bored." 

Now with the introduction of the fast fold button nobody has to ever get bored again. Recreational players are still going to play all sorts of bad aces out of position and overvalue trap hands like KJ and QJ but they will remove all of the total nonsense from their range such as 85o, J7o, T3s and so on.

The fact that they will often fold a lot of these complete trash hands now will have a big impact on their lossrate. They will still be big losing players in the long run but they won't lose their money at the frantic pace that they do on the regular tables.

The regs also aren't able to isolate and tilt them anywhere near as much. This plays into their favor in a big way as well.


How to Exploit Tight Games


It isn't all bad though.

Yes the Zoom games even at the very lowest stakes (NL2, NL5 and NL10) often play ridiculously tight these days. And the classic whale fish (40+ VPIP, single digit PFR) don't show up as often.

However, extremely nitty games can still easily be exploited. It just requires a bit different strategy.

The great thing about the lowest stakes is that most of the regs are relative beginners who play ABC poker. They are often on too many tables at once as well. Therefore, they do not adjust very well to loose and aggressive players.

They tend to just play their cards until it is painfully obvious that someone is clearly out of line against them. Then, and only then, might they adjust.

The recreational players of course are always going to play bad no matter the stakes and even if they play tighter like in Zoom.

So the key to exploiting tight games is simple: Play LAG.

Loose and aggressive play is insanely profitable at these limits on the regular tables and it is even more effective in Zoom.

So what does "Play LAG" mean in practice?


1. Steal The Blinds More

If your opponents are going to tighten up their opening ranges then stealing the blinds will become even more profitable. So it is a good idea to widen your opening range from all positions when playing low limit Zoom.

It is also a good idea to adopt a smaller opening raise size of 2.5x or even just a mini-raise. This allows you to risk less with all of the speculative hands that you will be opening with.


2. 3Bet/4Bet More

You can take the same approach with 3Betting and 4Betting as well. If most players are likely to lay down and die unless they have the nuts then you should fight harder for the pot.

All nits know that you don't get a lot of time to act in Zoom. They have several other tables requiring their attention so unless they happen to have a huge hand they will probably just let it go and "pick a better spot."


3. Flat More Preflop and Take the Pot Away Postflop

You don't want to go start 3Betting and 4Betting the regs all the time with weak hands though. So my favorite way to take pots away from them is to flat with a wider range preflop in position and then attack any weakness postflop.

What are some specific ways to do this?
  • Float the flop if you have any equity at all and bet the turn every time they check to you
  • Raise the flop more often with draws, pairs and even just two overs
  • Bluff more rivers especially on scare cards (broadways and flush/straight draw completer cards)
These are three relatively cheap ways to take the pot away. None of them require you to stick a significant portion of your stack in the middle and they put a lot of pressure on your opponent.

You will get looked up from time to time of course. But against the hordes of weak, mass multi-tabling regs at these stakes you will find that many more times they will just lay it down and let you have it.


Final Thoughts


Zoom poker is still a relatively new and exciting brand of poker. The greatest thing about it is the ease with which you can sit down and just start playing within seconds.

It is brilliant really.

But this ease of access is also a fairly big drawback. It tends to attract legions of nitty mass multi-tabling regs and fish who play tighter and can't be easily isolated.

No matter how good of a LAG you are it is hard to draw blood from a stone and even your best customers don't pay out as well. This is why I personally do not play Zoom poker very often and I do not recommend it for anyone who is looking to crush the games.

With that said though, some people like to put in big volume and chase rakeback goals. Zoom poker is perfect for them.

And also, some people simply don't want to chase the fish around all day and constantly hop from one table to another. They just want to sit down and play. I get that and I can totally respect that as well. And in that case, Zoom is also the perfect game for them.

Ultimately it is up to you.

What I hope though is that this article helped provide you with some strategies to start improving your results in these games.

Let me know in the comments below what you think of Zoom poker. What strategies have you found to be most effective in these games?

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Zoom Poker Strategy

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Step by Step Guide to Dominating in 3Bet Pots

The Step by Step Guide to Dominating in 3Bet Pots
One of the most common and difficult situations for people in micro stakes cash games is playing in 3Bet pots. They are often unsure which hands they should be making a 3Bet with. And then of course what to do when they miss the flop and their opponent calls their CBet.

Even more confusing for a lot of people is what to do when somebody 3Bets them. Should they call? Should they 4Bet? What if they miss the flop?

Effective 3Betting strategy is a complex issue because it so often depends on the type of opponent, the action in the hand and the board texture. However, if you want to have success at stakes above NL10 then it is necessary that you become comfortable playing in 3Bet pots especially when you don't have the nuts.

And if you want to have big time success at these stakes then it is essential that you learn how to dominate your opponents in these situations.

In this article I am going to discuss how I approach 3Bet pots at the micros and hopefully provide you with some tips that can help you in your own games.


3Bet The Easy Targets


Let's begin by talking about the easy stuff first. There are certain players that you still see at all levels of the micros who are just obvious 3Bet targets. So much so that the strength of your hand almost doesn't even matter.

You may know that I am a huge proponent of using HUD stats (or whatever information that we have on our opponent) to exploit their weaknesses. Nearly all people at the micros have significant leaks. Some of them are so glaring that it should almost force you to take certain actions.

Regarding 3Bet pots these are the people who: fold way too much to 3Bets and only 4Bet if they have the absolute nuts.

You still see them everywhere especially at the lower end of the micros. Guys like this (all names are blacked out for privacy):
3Bet Pots at the micros
Full Ring
3betting online poker
6Max
Both of these players (who otherwise appear to be fairly decent and aggressive regulars) have significant leaks in their preflop game. They fold to 3Bets way too much (88% and 82%). And they literally only 4Bet if they have AA, KK, QQ or AK (4Bet ratio of 0 and 1 over significant sample sizes). 

Versus players who are this unbalanced one could make the case that we should literally 3Bet them with any two cards. I understand the logic but I don't think that this is an effective strategy because they will eventually catch on and adjust.

I want to exploit their significant weakness here just enough to get the max value but not enough to alert them that something funny is going on. If you get out of line too much they will adjust and play better. We obviously don't want that. 

*For a detailed breakdown of what every stat on my HUD that you see above means, you can go check out my mega article on optimal HUD setup. You can even download this custom HUD for free and use it at the tables yourself.


What Hands Should You 3Bet Them With?


It is difficult to put an exact number on it. However, I am probably going to 3Bet players like this with at least twice as wide of a range as everybody else. So if my normal 3Bet% is 8 for instance then it will be at least 16 against these players.

However, this is still very dependent on the action in the hand. What do I mean by the "action in the hand?" I basically mean who raised from what position. 

It is important to remember that most players at the micros have a very tight opening range from EP (early position). Therefore, it is not a good idea to mess around when they raise from these seats.

But when the action is around the button I expect all players to be opening quite a bit wider. This is because stealing the blinds becomes much easier and even if called you will still have position.

So versus the easy targets that we discussed above I am going to be 3Betting them in these LP (late position) situations with a range perhaps as wide as this:

All Just Below Premiums: AQ, AJ, KQ, 99, 88, 77

All Remaining Broadways: AT, KJ, KT, QJ, QT, JT

All Small Pairs: 66, 55, 44, 33, 22

All Suited Aces and Several Non-Suited Aces: A9o, A8o, A7o, A9s, A8s, A7s, A6s, A5s, A4s, A3s, A2s

Several Suited Kings: K9s, K8s, K7s

Several Suited Connectors: T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s

Several Suited One Gappers: J9s, T8s, 97s, 86s


Here is visual representation of the above:

3Bet Pots online poker
All hands marked in yellow
I am sure that I missed some hands but I think that you probably get the idea. I am going to be 3Betting the crap out of these guys when the action is around the button. If I have anything that is remotely decent, then it is very likely that they will be seeing a re-raise from me. 

After all, I like free money. I bet you do as well. 

You might have noticed though that one certain group of hands is glaringly absent from this list.

Premium Hands: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK.

These hands are so powerful that I will actually be inclined to just call fairly often versus somebody who is folding to a 3Bet a ridiculously high amount of the time. It is just more profitable to go to the flop with them and hope to extract some value rather than end the hand preflop and only collect their 3bb open. 

This is not something that I do 100% of the time though. When I am OOP (out of position) I will still 3Bet them on occasion with these hands just because of the difficulties that OOP play presents. Also, if a fish has already called then I will almost certainly be bumping it up because those types of players don't fold to 3Bets.

However, under normal circumstances, maximizing your value with your monster premium hands needs to be carefully considered when 3Betting somebody who folds 80%+ of the time. 


What Should You Do if They Call?


I am still going to be making a CBet most of the time. Remember that in a 3Bet pot a CBet of as little as 50% of the pot is very commonplace. When betting such a small percentage of the pot you don't need to get folds all that often in order to turn a profit.

In fact, if you can get them to fold about 1 out of 3 times then you will break even on your CBet. 

As we can see above, under "FFCB" (fold to flop CBet) both of these players fold more than 1/3 of the time. As do basically all players. 

However, these stats need to be taken with a grain of salt. It is extremely important that you learn how to interpret HUD data based on the situation.

We know that both of these players fold basically everything but the nuts when you 3Bet them preflop. Therefore we should give them a lot of respect when they finally decide to call our 3Bet. And we should also expect them to be extra sticky after the flop.

So even though I will still CBet most flops against these players it is not the slam dunk profit that it is against many other passive bad regs. And it should go without saying that if I am called (or raised) on the flop that I am basically always giving up unless I happen to have a big hand myself.

My decision is also extremely simple on the rare occasion that a player like this 4Bets me preflop. I will be folding every time unless I happen to have a huge upper end premium. And against somebody with a 4Bet ratio over a significant sample that is not even 1, my continuance range is probably AA and KK only.


3Betting Versus Good Regs at the Micros


Now that we got the easy stuff out of the way let's talk about 3Betting versus some of the better regs at the micros. These are the guys who have stats that look something like this:
3Betting at the micro stakes
6Max
3Bet Pots cash games
Full Ring
The players that we see above are the types of regs that you will encounter in increasing numbers especially once you get past NL10. Both of the players above present significant challenges for us preflop.

Neither of them fold to 3Bets all that often (62% and 40%). Also, both of these players have a reasonably wide 4Betting range that includes much more than just the nuts (especially the first guy, ratio of 4). 

There is no magic formula that exists to crush well balanced regs like this.

This is why I constantly preach table selection because it is simply much more +EV to avoid players like this and chase the low hanging fruit around (bad regs and rec players). 

However, as I have also mentioned many times, everybody has leaks at the micros.


What Hands Should You 3Bet Them With?


3betting in online poker
Once again I am not going to be messing around with their EP opens very much. I will often just flat even with my premiums IP (in position) in fact. So when I list my 3Betting range below I am again talking about situations around the button where our options are much less restricted.

If you have read Crushing the Microstakes, then you will know that I advocate a polarized 3Betting range against the vast numbers of bad regs who populate the NL2 and NL5 games.

This means that when I make a 3Bet I will typically have a top notch premium hand like:

AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT or AK

Or I will have something speculative like:

98s, 44 or A5s

The reason why I prefer this approach versus the overly tight non-thinking regs that you will find in big numbers at these stakes is because it allows us to 3Bet them strictly for value or as a bluff.

There is no middle ground or grey area. I think that this simple approach is good especially for newer inexperienced players since it keeps them out of trouble.

However, as I talk about in Modern Small Stakes, versus the tougher thinking regs who you will encounter more often at higher stakes I prefer a much more balanced, depolarized 3Betting approach.

Therefore, I will 3Bet them with all three parts of my range:
  • Premiums hands (AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK)
  • Just below premiums and broadways (99, 88, 77, AQ, AJ, KQ, QJ)
  • Speculative hands (suited connectors, suited aces and small pairs)
I will of course just flat with many of these hands as well depending on the situation.

The point here is that my goal when playing against good thinking opponents is always to make myself as unreadable as possible. I will regularly both 3Bet and flat them with all of these hands, and in all situations, because it makes guessing what I have nearly impossible.


What Should You Do If They Call?


So an aggressive reg like this is going to fight back frequently of course. This can happen in one of two ways.

1. They flat our 3Bet
2. They 4Bet us

Let's talk about the former first because that will happen more often. 

When a good, balanced reg flats my 3Bet we can put them on a much wider range than the guys who fold everything but the nuts who we discussed before. 

When somebody with a 40%-60% fold to 3Bet flats me I expect them to have quite a few of those just below premium and speculative hands. I also expect them to be getting tricky with a premium hand from time to time as well. 

I know that they will not connect with the flop anywhere near as often as the nits who fold to 3Bets 80%+. I expect at least as much resistance though because a big part of their plan when flatting me preflop was to try and outplay me postflop.

So we need to devise a much more sophisticated strategy against these types of players than "make a CBet most of the time and give up if they call or raise."


Finding and Exploiting The Weaknesses of Good Regs


So really what this involves is a widened playbook that sometimes involves a check/raise on the flop, a check/call and lead the turn, a delayed CBet on the turn or river and so on. 

And as you might have guessed, the line that I choose to take will very often depend heavily on the specific postflop weaknesses that I notice in their HUD stats.

Once again, they all have leaks at the micros. You just need to dig a little bit deeper with the better regs like this. 

So let's take a look at those two tougher regs that we identified above once again. However, this time we will focus on the postflop stats.
3Bets and 4bets online poker
So this was the 6max reg who folds to a 3Bet 62% of the time and 4Bets very wide with a ratio of 4. When somebody flats me preflop (single raised pot or 3Bet pot) the first thing that I want to know is if I can barrel them off.

That just makes things easy. 

Well, this particular player doesn't fold to a flop CBet very often (38%). However he does fold a reasonable amount of the time on the turn (50%). 

As I mentioned before, when CBetting as little as 50% of the pot in a 3Bet pot we don't need folds all that often in order to show a profit. We know that this player is weak quite a bit postflop and a double barrel will put tremendous pressure on him. 

However, as I also mentioned before, I constantly want to be mixing things up against players like this so that they can never get a read on what hand that I am likely to show up with. 

So as we can also see from the HUD data above, this player folds to a flop raise 60% of the time. This means that I could entertain the idea of taking a non-standard line like check/raising the flop from time to time. 

I will do this with a wide range of hands (not just the nuts) in order to balance my play.

When you are capable of taking lines like this against the better regs from time to time with a wide variety of hands it will mess with their heads in a big way. They will be much more reluctant to play back at you again in the future. 

Let's look at the full ring reg again: 
3betting and 4betting online poker
So with this guy we can see that he will flat our 3Bet with a very wide range preflop since he only folds 40% of the time. 

The double barreling option isn't really there with this reg. You can see that he is a huge calling station. He only folds on the flop and turn 38% and 33% of the time respectively. 
Could we entertain the idea of a triple barrel against him?

Well, we require a massive sample in order to have useful information on this stat. As you can see above "FRCB" (fold to river CBet) is greyed out and provides no data. This is because even though we have 1700 hands on this player, he has never faced a triple barrel over this sample. 

So this is why in my triple barrel bluffing article I discuss how important the WTSD% (went to showdown %) stat is in situations like this. As you can see above, I do not include this stat on my HUD. However, I do refer to it regularly in the popup display. 

If the board runs out well (lots of scare cards) and I find that this player is in fact a little bit nitty in showdown % (low 20's or less) then I might choose to apply the ultimate pressure and shove the river. 

However, making a play like this requires an extremely precise read. And given the fact that this particular player doesn't fold very often to a CBet on the flop or the turn I will rarely be taking a bet, bet or a bet, bet shove line without a big hand.

So let's consider some other options.
The Step by Step Guide to Dominating in 3Bet Pots

We can see that this player does fold to a raise on the flop 57% of the time and fairly frequently on the turn as well (50%). So this opens up the option of several other lines depending on our position in the hand. 

These include:
  • Delayed CBet 
  • Check/Raise the flop
  • Check/Call the flop and lead the turn 
  • Check/Call the flop and Check/Raise the turn all in
If we are IP then a delayed CBet of some variety is a good option to consider. We know that he isn't going to fold very often so this line provides some pot control and perhaps allows us to get some thin value with a mediocre hand as well.

If we are OOP though, in order to find the right line will need some specific information on how our opponent reacts when the preflop raiser fails to make a CBet. The "Float" stat in the flop tab of the Pokertracker 4 popup display is the one that you want.

The Step by Step Guide to Dominating in 3Bet Pots
This is another stat that I do not include on my HUD but I refer to regularly. Sometimes you don't even need to bother with it though. You may have noticed above on the HUD that this player has a maniacal total AF of 6 over a large sample.

So yes, he will almost certainly bet with any two cards if we check to him.

Since this player is so overly aggressive postflop he will probably fire again with weak hands if we call and show weakness again on the turn. So while it is a high variance play (and definitely as fancy as it gets), given this read we could destroy this player with the old check/call the flop and check/ship the turn line. 

It would of course be highly preferable to have some sort of equity when taking a line like this. Because you will of course get called once in awhile. There is nothing worse in the world than getting hero called here and finding out that you are drawing dead.

You need to have a very precise read in order to attempt a play like this. Please do not go start check/shipping every turn in 3Bet pots versus regs because you read about it on blackrain79.com!


What Should You Do If They 4Bet You?


Let's talk about the final scenario now where a decent regular 4Bets us preflop. As we noted before, with good regulars who have a 4Bet ratio of 2, 3 or 4 we can expect them to show up with a lot more than aces and kings.

It is important to note however that a big part of their range is still for value. We don't want to start shipping in stacks every time with pocket 9's. So most of the time you should in fact still just be folding.

However, once somebody's 4Bet ratio reaches 3, 4 or higher you would definitely be making a mistake by only shoving with premium hands. They have enough bluffs in their range that we should also be 5Bet shipping "light" on occasion as well.

What hands should you do this with?

Ax Hands: A5s, AJo 
Mid Pairs: 88, 99, TT

Ax hands are good to shove with because you will literally always have some kind of equity unless they have AA. 

For instance:
poker 3betting
Since we have an ace the chances of them having one as well are low. And it is even more unlikely that they will have an ace that is worth calling off their stack with. But even in this scenario we still aren't drawing dead by any means.

poker 4betting
Mid pairs are also a decent hand to choose because often when they call we will be flipping versus two overs. It is pretty hard for them to have a higher pair. 

Kx hands, broadways and suited connectors are definitely the types of hands that you will want to avoid shoving with because you will often have very poor equity if the stacks go in. 

Please note that sample size is insanely important here. 

I would not put any reliance on 4Bet stats unless you have at least 1k hands on your opponent. Therefore, 5Bet shipping light should only ever be done against regs who you have a lot of history playing against.

Also, as mentioned, I am only ever doing this versus the extremely aggressive regs who have a wide 4Bet bluffing range.

You probably won't see too many players like this until NL25 and even there they are still rare. If you play at NL10 or below I would suggest that you not even think about shoving light versus anybody right now.


What Should You Do If Somebody 3Bets You? 


3betting and 4betting micro stakes poker
You may have noticed that so far throughout this article I have only focused on situations where we are the ones doing the 3Betting. What about all of the times when somebody 3Bets us though?

This of course will happen very often especially as you move up the micros.


1. The 3Bet Comes When We Open in EP

Well for starters, we need to be aware of the action in the hand once again. As I discussed above, we should be careful with messing around with regs when they open in EP.

Well, I think we should assume that most regs are thinking the same thing about us as well. 

Even if only on an instinctive level, most of the bad regs will understand that people tend to have a tighter range when they open from EP. The good regs of course will certainly be aware of this.

So generally speaking, when you open in EP and a reg 3Bets you (from where ever) the alarm bells should be going off. They probably have something decent to great a lot of the time.

No, that 18 tabling nit didn't decide to mess with your UTG open out of the blue! He is in fact turning his hand face up and politely letting you know that he has a monster.

So most of the time I will just be folding my small and mid pairs as well as my weaker broadways and weaker aces. Position certainly does play a role here. I will be more inclined to call if they 3Bet me from the blinds. 

However, on the whole, I will give most regs quite a bit of respect in a spot like this. This is especially the case at a full ring table.


2. The 3Bet Comes When the Action is Around the Button

When the action in the hand is around the button though it is a whole different story. It will also very much depend on how 3Bet happy they are. 

Situation specific 3Bet stats in the popup display are useful here but as a general rule when you see somebody with an overall 3Bet% of:
  • 5 or more in Full Ring
  • 6 or more in 6Max
Then it is probably safe to say that they have a decent number of "light" holdings in their range alongside their value hands. 

This ratio obviously changes considerably the higher that their 3Bet% is. For instance, once someone's 3Bet% starts approaching double digits it is definitely safe to say that there are quite a few more bluffs and speculative holdings than value hands in their range.


Flatting The 3Bet and Playing Back Postflop


So once somebody 3Bets us we of course have two options:

1. Flat the 3Bet
2. 4Bet them

...

3. Ok I lied. We could fold as well. But where is the fun in that?

You should of course be choosing option #3 a lot of the time. However, there isn't much to talk about when we fold so let's move on to flatting the 3Bet.


1. Position is Hugely Important

Flatting a 3Bet when you do not have the nuts and playing back at them in the right spots is made infinitely easier when you get to act last after the flop, turn and river. You get to see what they do first on every single street. You can then choose to float, raise or bet given the board texture and what the HUD data is telling you about their specific weaknesses.

So I will be quite a bit more inclined to flat a 3Bet preflop if I am in position. If I am out of position, then I will be more inclined to take the 4Bet line which I will discuss shortly. 


2. Taking the Pot Away

So as you might have guessed the line that I choose to take postflop will once again heavily depend on any specific weaknesses that I see in my opponent's game. They all have them at these limits as we have seen multiple times already. 

Let's look at another decent reg and break down the best line of attack as the preflop caller.
micro stakes 3betting
Full Ring
So you can see here that we have a typical aggressive reg that you will encounter plenty at the upper end of the micros. He has a 6% 3Bet which is pretty solid for full ring. 

When you flat a 3Bet the first thing that you should always look at are the CBet by street stats. You can see with this particular opponent that he is 80, 54 and 100 respectively.

Now it is important to keep in mind that these numbers are for single raised pots only. You can pull up the popup display and find the numbers for 3Bet pots if you want. However, I find that most people tend to play similarly in both situations especially if they have a reasonably wide 3Betting range, which this player does.

So what jumps out with these numbers?

If you guessed the big drop between the flop CBet% and the turn CBet% you would be right. You can also notice that he folds 67% of the time so far to a float bet on the turn. 

So the line that immediately makes the most sense against this particular player is to float the flop and then bet when he checks to us on the turn. 

I want to make it clear that I am by no means doing this every single time. It really is important that you fold a good chunk of the time as well especially when you have nothing at all. 

But calling 3Bets preflop and then only continuing when you hit top pair or a good draw is a good way to burn through money really fast. So I will be frequently looking to take the pot away if I have any equity at all (i.e., two overs, a gutshot). 


4Betting and Playing For Stacks

micro stakes 4betting
Say hello to my little friend!

So let's look at the very final scenario now. We get 3Bet by an aggressive reg yet again. We are OOP so the flatting option does not seem very appealing. We know that this guy is out of line so we decide to put in the 4Bet. 

It is time to go to war. 

It is important that once you get to about NL25 that you add a 4Bet bluffing element to your game.

Please don't get me wrong. Bluffs should still represent a very small portion of your overall 4Betting range. 

So you should be happy calling off your stack the large majority of the time when your opponent decides to make the 5Bet.

However, with the amount of 3Betting that goes on with some regs these days at the upper end of the micros you simply can't just lay down and die every time. The beauty of 4Betting is that it draws a line in the sand and basically forces them to have a real hand in order to continue.

So what hands do we want to be 4Bet bluffing with?

Well, usually something that I don't mind throwing away to a shove and which blocks a bunch of high cards. So a hand like Ax once again or even some broadway hands like KQ, KJ or QJ. I am never calling a shove with any of these, I just want them to fold. And it is a little bit less likely that they will have the big ace or pair to shove with since I have blockers to those in my own hand.


3Bet Pots Versus Recreational Players


I have talked about regs, and especially good regs, throughout this entire article. However, I would be remiss not to mention at least something about the players who are the entire reason why you should be playing poker.

If you have read my blog before, watched my videos or read either of my books then you will know that I am constantly preaching the importance of table selection in today's games. I wrote the "Ultimate Guide" to it after all. 

The best way to "crush" a good reg is to not play against them in the first place! Go chase the fish and the bad regs around and watch your win rate skyrocket.

So let's talk about recreational players in particular. How should we approach playing 3Bet pots against them?

Well, as usual it is a little bit all over the place because there is no rhyme or reason behind their play a lot of the time. The action in the hand will not matter for instance. If they 3Bet your EP open it is not nearly the same thing as if a reg does this. 

This is because fish have no concept of stuff like position and ranges at the poker table. They don't know what these terms even mean and they don't care either. They just play the game for fun. 

Most recreational players will have stats that look something like this:
micro stakes 3bet pots
Now the first thing that will jump out here is that this player (like most rec players) has a very low 3Bet% of just 2. However, the thing with fish is that the hands they choose to make a 3Bet with will sometimes be completely random. 

For instance, sometimes out of nowhere they will decide that it is a good idea to make a 3Bet with a hand like A2, QT, 66 or T8. 

Don't get me wrong. They will also have the big value hands like AA, KK, QQ and AK a lot as well. But they also like to slowplay these hands quite a bit too. So a decent chunk of their 3Betting range will just be some random nonsense.

The other thing about recreational players is that they are so incredibly profitable to play against postflop. These guys lose money at an incredible pace because they do stuff like this all the time:
  • Slowplay their big hands
  • Min bet 
  • Make ridiculous hero calls
  • Overvalue all draws
  • Overvalue top pair
  • Never, ever fold an overpair
And on and on.

Basically our implied odds are through the roof when seeing a flop with a player like this. Furthermore, often their preflop 3Bet is undersized.

For instance: 

We make it 30c to go at NL10 and they make it 70c instead of the more standard $1 or so. This not only gives us a much better price to get involved but it keeps the stacks deeper after the flop which gives us a lot more maneuverability. 

So I will be much more inclined to call a 3Bet (even OOP) versus a recreational player with all sorts of speculative hands. I know that they will frequently make colossal mistakes after the flop and therefore my slightly "loose" calls preflop will get paid off in a big way.


Final Thoughts


3Betting is a very complex topic. I could really only scratch the surface in this article and it is already the longest post in the history of this website (5k+ words). So I want to thank you for reading if you got to this point!

Here is what I hope will be your biggest takeaway from this article:

The key to dominating in 3Bet pots is understanding who your opponent is and finding their specific weaknesses both before the flop and after it. This is why I am so big on effective HUD use because it provides us with the information that we need to do just that. 

Let me know in the comments below how you approach 3Bet pots versus the regs or recreational players. Are there some specific situations that are giving you problems?

If you found this article helpful please "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

The Step by Step Guide to Dominating in 3Bet Pots

Sunday, July 5, 2015

15 Mental Tips That Will Double Your Results at the Micros

15 Mental Tips That Will Double Your Results at the Micros
I say it all the time on this blog and elsewhere. Your results at the micros are largely based around how you think. The truth is that most players at these stakes are just starting out at poker and aren't very good yet.

A very simple TAG strategy plus a little bit of table selection and tilt control is easily enough to still get big results in today's games especially at the lowest stakes.

But most people defeat themselves mentally before they ever get a chance to see the success that is easily within their grasp. In this article I am going to list 15 mental tips for the micros that will get your thinking like the top winners do.

1. Embrace the Madness!


I used to tell people with a straight face that I have probably taken more bad beats than anyone in the history of poker. I don't think that this is true anymore. But the reason that I was able to make this outrageous claim was because at the time I had probably played more hands of poker at the lowest stakes than any one else in history.

You know, the stakes where you see some of the wackiest stuff on earth all the time.
  • Chase that gutshot!
  • Flush draw or straight draw? We be calling the whole way!
  • Middle pair? Bottom Pair? You crazy!? I can't fold that!
When this is the mentality of half the players that you are up against it should not be any surprise that you are going to take all kinds of crazy bad beats. It's just simple math.

However, at the same time, this is also the reason why the top winners at these stakes are able to sport such ludicrously high win rates. The math works the other way too. You see, most of the time when your opponents are chasing their ridiculous draws, they actually miss.

Our brains are hard-wired though to only focus on the few times that they hit. We conveniently forget about all of the times when our opponent ends up whiffing on whatever nonsense they were chasing and we end up winning the pot.

Yes, these kinds of players can be extremely frustrating to play against at times. But this is precisely why the micros are so profitable! You have to simply learn to embrace the madness.

2. The Money Doesn't Really Matter


One of the great things about the micros is that if you have a bad day then you lose a few movie tickets or a nice dinner for two. At high stakes if you have a bad day then you could lose a luxury vacation, a car or even a house.

The money doesn't really matter to most people at the micros. Everybody hates to lose but is it really worth losing your mind over $20? How about $50?

You are going to have losing days in poker. It doesn't matter how good you are. The sooner that you start distancing yourself from viewing the chips as "money", the better off that you will be. And at the micros, this is extremely easy, because the amounts involved are often trivial.

But more importantly, and no matter what limit you are playing, you should learn to view the chips for what they really are, big blinds or simply capital in your business. They are just a convenient way of keeping score like points in a video game.

When you put them back into your bank account, then you can start thinking about them as actual money again.

3. Setbacks Will Happen


Everybody has to deal with downswings in poker. This is basically a period during which you are consistently not making good hands and you are getting coolered and taking bad beats much more often than normal.

There is no rhyme or reason behind when a downswing occurs. The same goes for their length and intensity.

Unfortunately there are many people out there who could have been great players but they faced a period of intense bad luck at the very beginning of their poker career and it was too much for them to handle. This is especially difficult because they had no experience in dealing with it.

On the flip side, how many times have we heard about the high stakes players of today who hit a huge heater to start their career? A huge HU session versus some particular fish. Or they got lucky and hit a big score in a tournament to jump start their bankroll.

Variance (both good and bad) happens to everybody and there is no telling when it will occur. There is a never a good time for a downswing and we will always feel like the heater is simply something that we are owed.

It is better to just stop thinking about it so much. The randomness of variance in poker is never something that will be in your control.

4. Don't Pay Attention to Your EV Adjusted Winnings


Poker tracking programs such as Pokertracker 4 and Hold'em Manager 2 include a little stat called "EV adjusted winnings". This is basically supposed to tell you what your results would be if you had "normal luck".

There are so many problems with this idea that I don't even know where to begin. However, I don't want to get off on a tangent here.

The bottom line (and why I suggest that you remove this stat completely) is that it will never do anything good for your mentality at the tables. In fact it will only ever produce negative thoughts.

The reason why is that if the EV results are higher than your actual results, then you will use this as proof that you are cursed, it must be rigged etc. If the EV results are lower than your actual results though, then you will feel like you are just getting lucky and reality will eventually come crashing down.

Do yourself a favor and don't pay any attention to this stat at all. The only thing that actually matters are your real results.

5. You Have to Build the Pot For Them


Most micro stakes players are passive. That is, they don't really like to make aggressive actions unless they have a really strong hand. They would rather just limp along or call unless they have the nuts.

This is not the key to winning poker. But it is the Friday night home game mentality that most of us grew up with. And it is also the style of play that we often see in Hollywood depictions of the game.

So this leads many players at the micros into thinking that they have to slow-play their big hands. After all, they don't want to "scare them off" by betting too much!

The reality though is that many micro stakes players love to call if they have anything remotely decent. This is why you are doing yourself a huge disservice by not betting your good hands. I basically wrote an entire book about this very topic.

The biggest mental hurdle here is once again short-sighted thinking. It is focusing too much attention on the times that they folded and conveniently forgetting about all of the times when they called.

The key to changing this mentality is understanding that most of the time when they fold it is because they simply had nothing. There is no amount of slow-playing in the world that you can do to make somebody call when they have 7 high, no draw.

Micro stakes players love to call a lot. But they are not going to call you with two napkins! They have to have something. 

Most of the time in this game nobody really has anything good. So the next time you have aces, make a bet, they fold and you curse BlackRain79 for it please remember this:

You did the right thing. You didn't "scare them out". They just didn't have anything to pay you off with this time.

6. Just Play the Game


I learned how to win big at the micros largely by just playing the game. When I started playing online poker 10 years ago there were no websites like the one that you are reading right now, there were no modern books on the game, training video sites were not invented yet and forums were in their infancy.

So I basically just dove in and started playing millions and millions of hands. With a lot of self-study as well (poker session reviews and database reviews) I eventually learned from my mistakes and became a top winner.

Fast forward to today and I get emails from people telling me that they play NL2 and have been studying GTO poker math for a year. This is simply crazy.

Studying the game is not a bad thing, don't get me wrong. But as mentioned before, all you really need to beat the micros (especially the lower end) is a simple TAG strategy and the right mental approach.

You don't need to spend years studying complex poker math and high level game theory in order to beat NL2 or even NL25. You just need to log on to [poker site name here], find some fish and start playing the game.

7. There is No Such Thing as a Crying Call


One of the biggest breakthroughs that I ever had at the micros was when I learned where the fold button is.

So many people at these stakes will call down no matter what because "they have to". Because if he has it, "then it is just a cooler". No and no.

You don't have to do anything in poker and there is no such thing as a crying call, only a bad call.

If a passive opponent is getting aggressive especially on the later streets (turn and river), then it is very likely that they have exactly what they are representing. You can go ahead and call and keep getting shown the nuts.

Or, you can choose to change this way of thinking and make the "sick fold". The truth is that these folds will no longer seem sick to you once you get used to making them on a regular basis. And your win rate will love you for it.

8. AA and KK are Just One Pair


One of the most common reasons that micro stakes players cannot make the fold is because they get married to a big pair. When people complain about running bad one of the first things that they usually mention is how their aces got cracked [insert number of times in a row here].

A lot of people seem to think that just because they got dealt AA or KK that they have a license to print money. That is faulty thinking.

These two hands in particular are indeed the two best starting hands in the game. And yes they don't come around very often (about 220 to 1).

However, they are also just one pair. It is very important to remember this.

At the micros, where you are often dealing with large multi-way pots, your actual equity before seeing the flop could sometimes even be less than 50%.

15 Mental Tips That Will Double Your Results at the Micros
Equity with AA before the flop versus a couple random suited hands
Once again, if a passive player starts going nuts against you (especially on the turn or the river) your pocket rockets or your cowboys are probably dead in the water. Fold and thank me later.

9. Nobody Gets Rich at the Micros


I have written a few articles before on this blog about how much money you can make at the micros (this one for instance). These have now actually become some of the most popular posts in the history of this website.

This just goes to show how many people suffer from results oriented thinking. This is exactly the sort of thing that I actually tried to warn against in both of those articles!

Nobody gets rich at the micros.

The micros are where you should be focused on getting a solid grasp of the fundamentals and starting to think about how to outplay a few of the better thinking regs. They are not a place to plan your future retirement. They are not really a place where you should even be thinking about making a living.

If your expenses are extremely low though and you live in a country with a low cost of living then many people have and will continue to "go pro" at these stakes. I did it so I would be a hypocrite to blame others for doing the same.

But this should not be your primary motivation. If your main reason for getting into poker is to make money then your time would likely be better spent elsewhere.

The money does not come fast or easy in this game. Play poker because you love it. Work hard, study hard, and then and only then, will the money start to come.

10. Embrace the Grind


As mentioned success in poker does not come fast. In today's games it often takes most people a couple of years to start making really decent money. This is if you want to use proper bankroll management and learn the game the right way.

You will have many unsuccessful attempts at moving up along the way which will force you to move back down and grind back what you lost as well. It's boring, it sucks and there is definitely no get rich quick scheme here.

The real key to success and moving up the limits is a consistent work ethic. Most people operate better with a set schedule in place. So you should have specific times each day when you sit down and play. If you want to take a day or two off a week then that is up to you.

However, if climbing up the ranks and making some real money in this game is something that is a priority for you then you should ideally make some time to play every single day.

11. Don't Listen to the Know-It-Alls


You will see them at the tables. Turn the chat off. You will see them on the forums. Limit your time on forums. These are the people who think they know everything there is to know about the game and if you don't play "the right way" according to them, then they will let you know about it.

Pay them no attention. You need to develop your own style of play at the tables within a TAG or a LAG framework.

There are many ways to skin a cat at the micros. There is no correct CBet% or 3Bet% for instance. You will see big winners with widely varying ranges on both of these stats at all levels of the micros.

Simply put, do what works for you at the tables and don't listen to anybody who has a problem with it. There have been countless cases of successful innovators in poker who the know-it-alls made fun of. Within a few years they were copying them.

Results are the only thing that matters.

12. Play the Cards, Not the Player


While timing tells and betting patterns do exist in online poker for the most part you should just focus on playing your own cards especially at the lowest stakes. Most of your opponents are not thinking on any kind of deeper level and many of the regs are playing on a lot of tables at once.

When they fight back they aren't picking on you out of the blue. And when you can't get them to fold it is usually because they have something decent. Don't resort to FPS (fancy play syndrome) and try to emulate your favorite TV poker hero.

Your 9th level thinking will not work against a nitty 12 tabling reg at NL5. Nor will it work against a recreational player who won't fold bottom pair to save his life. They will just call you down anyways and you will become even more tilted.

Keep things simple at these stakes. Save the fancy stuff for higher limits.

13. Learn to Quit


One of the best things that you can do immediately for your win rate at the micros is to learn to recognize the signs of tilt and quit right away.

You have to learn to remove your ego and accept when it is simply not your day. Many people bury themselves in this game by continuing to play and chase losses while playing their C, D or F game.

This is something that took me an incredibly long time to learn and it might for you as well if you are an extremely competitive person.

But you have to remember that the game will always be there tomorrow. Your goal should always be to make sure that you are on your A game as much of the time as possible when at the tables.

So this is why the reverse is also true. Learn how to extend your sessions when things are going well and you are on top of your game. Don't get into the "protect your winnings" mentality because that is just as much of an illusion.

Make playing your best at all times your goal and the results will follow.

14. Focus on Hands Played and Rakeback Goals


If you look back through the crazy history of this blog for many years all I posted was how many hands I played that day along with my goals for the month and rakeback.

I realized that I cannot control the crazy variance that comes with this game on a day to day, week to week or even month to month level.

This is why I choose instead to focus on numbers and data which I do have control over. If I want to play 100k hands in a month then I can calculate how many hands a day that I have to play in order to achieve that goal.

The same goes for rakeback which is basically money at the end of the day. If you want to achieve a rakeback goal then find out what it takes to get there and go make it happen.

Don't waste your time focusing on what you don't control, monetary goals. Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes you will be disappointed. There is no point in stressing over it.

15. Have Fun


We all started playing poker for fun. Well, most of us anyways. It should always remain that way. The day that poker becomes an endless grind for you and there is no pleasure in it is the day that you should take a break and consider your future with the game.

The people who have the most success in poker are typically the ones who seem to always be at the tables. They are there because they love to play. And if you love something then you will be much more motivated to improve.

Always keep it lighthearted especially when fighting your way through the madness that is the micros. You will win some, you will lose some. Work hard on your game but always remember that it is just that, a game.

Follow your passion for it and the results and the money will follow.

I hope this article was useful for some of you guys out there. Let me know in the comments below what you think. What mental advice do you have for the micros?

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15 Mental Tips That Will Double Your Results at the Micros