Monday, August 15, 2016

What is the Fastest Way to Become a Winning Poker Player?

Fastest way to become a winning poker player
People ask me all the time what is the fastest way to become a winning poker player. Well, unfortunately success rarely comes fast or easy in this game.

You could get lucky of course and win a big tournament. But even for a good experienced poker player this would take a lot of short term luck.

But there are several steps that you can take to quickly improve your game and get yourself winning at the lower limits at least. In this article I am going to discuss several of them.

Review Your Play

Some people look at me with a strange face when I tell them that you must review your play in order to get better. How you might ask?

Well, much like a professional athlete reviews the game tape, you need to look over your hand histories. Every time you play a hand of poker online the poker site generates a raw text file called a hand history. You have the option to save these to your hard drive.

You can then use a program like Pokertracker or Hold'em Manager which will turn these files into useful information about yourself and your opponents. They will also allow you to review your hands after you have played them.

The only way that you are going to get better at poker is by learning from your mistakes. When you only ever play the game (and don't review your hands) you aren't giving yourself a real opportunity to analyze why you are taking certain actions.

These programs also allow you to filter for specific scenarios and find the long term profitability of certain plays (e.g. 3Betting with AQ versus just flatting). This takes the guesswork out by giving you the cold hard facts on which plays are more profitable.

So for all of these reasons, at some point early on in your poker career, I recommend at least getting yourself aquainted with one of these poker tracking programs and using them to review your play.

Play Poker Like a Beast

When I first started the main way that I taught myself how to become a winning poker player was through ridiculous amounts of simply playing the game. I am talking 10 or 12 hours every single day.

I didn't have much of a choice back then because training programs and many of the other educational tools that I will mention later on in this article simply did not exist.

Now of course not everybody has this much time to devote to the game. However, even if you work a full time job or go to school full time, you probably have at least a couple free hours each night.

Many people end up wasting this time by watching TV or browsing Facebook. If you want to create a successful side business or income such as by playing poker though, then you are going to need to sacrifice these things.

Consistency is another big key. It is important to try and play every single day if possible. This keeps the game fresh in your mind and allows you to easily recall the key situations that you have been working on lately.

I would recommend doing a session review in Pokertracker either directly before you start playing or directly after as well. Just quickly review about 5 or 10 of the most important hands. This will help keep you up to date on what you need to work on and what is working well.

Find Those Fish!

Forget Pokemon, winning poker players are out finding the fish!

It is really important in today's games that you make sure that you are finding good games to play in. And by that I mean games that are full of recreational players or fish.

I see so many people these days struggling at the lower limits and often it is because they are playing in tough games where they don't have much of an edge.

What I mean by this is that as a relative beginner their skill level is not significantly better than most of their opponents. You win big in the long run in this game when you have a big skill edge over your opponents.

But the great thing with poker is that it is all relative. When I first started playing online 10+ years ago recreational players were not hard to find. They were on pretty much every table.

This helped allow me to win big very frequently even though truthfully, I was pretty bad at the game back then myself. The reason why? A lot of my opponents were really, really bad.

If you put yourself in similar game conditions today then you will get the same results. You don't need to be the greatest poker player on earth in order to crush the micros.

Sometimes You Gotta Work to Find Them

The fish aren't always on every table table though, unless you play live. Online, it definitely takes some effort to find them these days. This is why I recommend playing on the right poker sites for starters.

Some poker rooms are more geared towards the recreational poker player and gamblers in general especially by offering lots of up front bonuses. These are the sites that you want to be playing on.

The sites that you want to avoid are the ones that make it easy to mass multi-table and give big rewards for volume of play. These sites tend to attract more of the tight regulars.

You also need to make sure that you are practing good table selection no matter what poker site you are playing at. Always make sure that there is at least one player at the table who is playing too many hands (40%+) and limping and calling a lot.

Winning Poker Players Study the Game

Lastly, and arguably most importantly today, is to study the game. Sometimes I get a blank face when I say this too.

What do I mean by study the game?

Well, there is an absolute ton of poker educational resources out there these days such as books, video training sites, forums, coaching and more.

None of this stuff was around when I first started playing online poker. I believe if it had of been, then I would have improved my poker game much, much faster.

The reason why is because many of these educational resources allow you to lower the learning curve by getting direct instruction from somebody who has already had big time success in the games that you play in.

I would recommend using a mixture of all of the resources listed below if you are just starting out.

1. Books

10 years ago I would have said that poker books were mostly a waste of time. Most of the titles back then were written by aging live pros who had little to no experience with the modern game online.

That has all changed in recent years though with tons of new titles on the market from experienced online pros.

Most poker books of course are not free but they are rarely expensive either. And for the amount of information that you get, they are actually an absolute steal.

For total beginners or anyone struggling at the lowest stakes I would recommend starting out with my first book, Crushing the Microstakes. CTM provides you with the complete strategy for how to start winning big at the lowest limits.

As mentioned though, there have been tons of other good titles released in recent years by online poker players like myself who have the experience and results in these games.

I would recommend simply heading over to and searching for "poker books" for a good idea of what other material is out there.

2. Video Training Sites

I highly recommend getting a subscription at a video training site as well. There is nothing better than seeing a winning player make decisions in a video format and discuss the reasoning behind them.

There are tons of good training sites out there but I would recommend two for people who are just starting out or struggling at the micros. probably has the best selection of up to date training video content available of any site that I have seen especially for the lower limits. Their membership prices are also very low and they have a free trial of course.

The other site that I would recommend is which is mostly free these days. I am actually an (inactive) coach there myself and have made close to 100 videos for this site in the past.

DragTheBar is still a good training site overall but it can't really compete with some of the bigger sites like Deucescracked these days in terms of up to date quality instruction.

It should also be mentioned that there is a good deal of free video content that you can find on places like Youtube or Twitch these days. Here is my Youtube Channel by the way.

The problem with Youtube and Twitch sometimes though is that you don't always know who you are getting advice from. Because after all, anyone can toss up a video or a stream on either of these platforms.

However, I would still recommend checking them out in addition to a training site subscription.

3. Forums

With poker forums there are tons of them and they are almost always free. is the biggest one of them all and many of the top players in the world post there.

However, it is also notoriously known to be full of know-it-all kids who won't hesitate to rip into you with nasty comments if you ask what they deem to be a "stupid question."

This is why I would actually recommend another larger poker forum over it. Cardschat is a much more welcoming environment for beginners especially.

Even though the level of poker advice might not always be quite as good as TwoPlusTwo, the nastiness is far less common and the sense of community is much better.

You might not know it but I also have a poker forum myself on this very website that you are reading right now!

It is of course nowhere near as active as the other ones mentioned above but there are plenty of regular contributors and I pop in there all the time myself to comment on hands and questions as well.

It is always free and no nasty comments I promise. I will just ban them! :)

4. Coaching

Lastly, coaching is probably the best overall option that there is in order to get good at poker really fast. There is nothing that can compare to the one on one personal interaction with a good winning poker player.

They can dissect your game specifically and make custom recommendations. They can also watch you play and comment in real time on the actions that you are taking. The best coaches in fact will press you on why you are making certain plays and suggest a better line when necessary.

The biggest impediment with coaching though of course is the price tag. There are many different reasons why coaching is not cheap and some of the best online coaches charge hundreds or even thousands per hour.

However, in order to find a good coach at the lower stakes you don't need to shell out this kind of money. There are many coaches these days who work with students at the micros for much less than this.

I have already written a big article before about how to hire the right poker coach. I would recommend checking that out for more info on this.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately there really is no super fast way to become a winning poker player. It takes time and a lot of effort. However, it certainly doesn't need to take you years or even months to start crushing the lower limits.

Firstly, I would absolutely recommend reviewing your own play by getting started with a tracking program. How can you learn from your mistakes if you don't study them?

Secondly, you must play a lot. And I truly mean a lot. All of the best players who I know have played millions and millions of hands of poker. This is not a coincidence.

Lastly, you need to make sure that you are playing in soft poker games by picking the right poker sites and table selecting well.

You should also be spending plenty of time studying the game to improve your overall skills. This should involve a mix of reading books, watching training videos, posting on forums and maybe even hiring a coach.

The bottom line is that if you put the effort into this game, then you will be rewarded with success in the end. There is no ultra quick way to get there though.

But if you follow some of the advice above, then you will be able to push your learning curve along much faster.

Let me know below some of the ways that you have used to become a winning poker player. Do you have any suggestions that were not mentioned in this article to improve your poker game?

New Here? If you want to learn how to become a winning poker player quickly, then check out my strategy articles for the micros. Also, make sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more free tips!

winning poker player

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What Does bb/100 Mean?

what is bb/100?
Win rates, and more specifically bb/100, is something that is a bit confusing for some people. This is especially the case if you come from a live poker background where you might track your results by the hour instead for instance.

In this article I am going to explain how we use bb/100 to measure our results in online poker and what are some good benchmarks to shoot for.

What Exactly is bb/100?

Specifically it means how many big blinds you win per 100 hands. This is how all modern poker tracking programs such as Pokertracker 4 and Hold'em Manager 2 keep track of your results.

In every cash game, whether live or online, there is typically a small blind and a big blind. Let's use a typical 1/2 game as an example. The big blind here would be $2.

Say you bought into this game for 100 big blinds which is $200. If after 100 hands of play your stack was $220, then you would have a profit of 10 big blinds. You would then say that your win rate in terms of bb/100 is 10bb/100.

It should be noted that older versions of some of these tracking programs used to use big bets per 100 hands instead (often capitalized as BB/100). A big bet is a term that comes from Limit Hold'em which essentially means double the big blind.

So in this case your win rate would be 5BB/100 or 5 big bets per 100. Everybody uses bb/100 or big blinds per 100 nowadays though so you don't need to worry about this very much.

Variance in Poker Win Rates

Now of course a big problem here is going to be the sample size. Anyone who has played any amount of poker will know that 100 hands is not a big enough sample to come to any meaningful conclusions about your results.

In your next 100 hands you could easily lose this $20 back or win $50 more. Basically, the short term luck factor in poker means that nearly anything can happen over small sample sizes like this and you have almost no control over it.

This is why I and many others believe that a minimum of 100k hands is necessary in order to come to any firm conclusions about your results in poker. Yes you read that right, 100 thousand.

Now the problem here is that this is an absolutely crazy amount of hands for some that could take literally years to play in a casino. It might take months to play online as well.

So this is why practically speaking I think that using a sample size of 20k or 30k hands is good enough.

It is still possible to hit a big heater or a bad downswing over a sample like this that will distort your results. However, more than likely your bb/100 win rate is at least reasonably true over this number of hands.

What bb/100 Should You Aim For?

Now of course everybody has a different opinion on what a good bb/100 is these days. I get asked this question so often that I actually wrote an entire article on what is a good win rate.

The problem though is that there are simply too many variables at play in order to really say what a good bb/100 is.

It depends too much on stuff like:

  • What stakes you are playing
  • What your skill level is
  • Who you are playing against (fish or regulars)
  • How much the rake is

And so on.

So for all of these reasons it is very difficult to say that [x]bb/100 is a "good win rate" or should be your goal at the tables.

As I often say, anything that is a positive number is good. This is because upwards of 3/4 of people who play poker actually lose in the long run (i.e. their bb/100 is a negative number). Therefore, if your bb/100 is anything above zero, you are already doing a lot of things right.

Of course you should always aim to have the highest possible bb/100 in any game that you play in. But I think a lot of people get way too caught up in worrying about their win rate these days and even worse, comparing with others.

The best thing that you can really do is stay focused on improving your poker game both at the poker tables and away from them. Then and only then, the results will come.

Final Thoughts

The term "bb/100" is nothing more than a measure of how many big blinds you win for every 100 hands that you play. But since poker is such a long term game, you really need to play tens of thousands of hands at the very least before putting any real stock into this statistic.

Furthermore, you should also stay away from obsessing over it and comparing yourself with others. There are just far too many different factors that can influence your win rate over the short term in this game.

It is better to simply stay focused on all of the things that you do control at the poker tables such as making high quality decisions, game selection and working on your emotional control. This will naturally lead to the big bb/100 that we all want.

Let me know what you think about bb/100 and win rates in the comments below. Do you think there is a better way to measure results?

New Here? If you want to learn how to really increase your bb/100, then check out all of my strategy articles for the micros. Also, make sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more free tips!

big blinds per 100 hands

Monday, August 8, 2016

7 Tried and True Methods to Break Out of Any Poker Slump

break out of a poker slump
We have all been there at the poker tables. Running bad and losing every hand it seems. Psychologically this can be a very difficult thing to handle even for hardened pros.

So how can you pull yourself out of a never ending poker downswing and at least save your sanity? Well, unfortunately we don't always have control over the short term luck factor in this game.

However, there are several ways to at least help yourself handle these tough stretches better and not lose your mind along with your bankroll.

Here are my top 7 methods to get yourself out of a poker slump.

1. Tight Up Your Poker Game

While tightening up might sound fairly obvious in theory, I think from experience most people don't actually do this when they are running bad. In fact often if they are on tilt, they will do just the opposite.

The biggest reason why it is better to play less hands during rough stretches in poker is that you are often not playing at your best. You might not be on tilt, but you aren't thinking 100% clearly and your confidence is almost certainly low.

So this isn't the time to be pushing every small edge. This is the time where it is ok to pass up on small equity advantages in order to preserve your sanity and maintain your focus at the poker tables.

A lot of people will call this last statement blasphemy. You have to push every tiny edge in this game even if it is just 50.1%, they will tell you.

I disagree with this though because it ignores the fact that we are human beings playing this game, not cold number crunching machines which do not tilt.

If avoiding a few coinflips that might set you off to a path of destructive tilt means giving up a tiny bit of marginal equity, then so be it.

The bottom line is don't try to be a hero when nothing is going your way at the poker tables. Tighten up, go into a bit of a shell even. And don't be afraid to even pass up on a few small edges in order to prevent huge amounts of tilt.

2. Lower the Stakes

Another method that might seem obvious is to simply lower the stakes. A lot of people once again in my experience though don't actually do this when they should.

Possibly it is because some people view this as a sign of defeat or resignation. And as a highly competitive person I totally get that.

Ego sometimes needs to take a back seat in this game though. You do not have to follow any kind of rigid structure for what limits you decide to play.

The only thing that matters is that you are playing within your bankroll.

So during a rough period in poker when I can't seem to win a hand I will often choose to just lower the stakes for the day in order to play against weaker competition and try and regain some of my confidence back.

I might choose to play again at my regular stakes the next day regardless of the results. But what this temporary drop in limits accomplishes is two things:

  • Better chance of "booking a win"
  • Keeps me playing

Even though poker is a long term game and the results of individual sessions do not matter, there still is a psychological impact that is very difficult to avoid.

Sometimes just a simple winning session can do wonders for your confidence. And this is more likely to happen at lower stakes versus weaker competition.

The other benefit of temporarily lowering the stakes is that (at least for me), it makes me more likely to play. It requires less effort to get going and there is less thinking involved against the lower stakes opponents.

As I talk about all the time, it is very important to be consistent with playing and also studying the game. I would rather put in a few hands at some lower stakes than not play at all.

3. Play a Different Format

One of my favorite distraction techniques during a downswing has long been to simply play another format.

This could mean anything from playing some MTTs, SNGs, Omaha or even Stud. Some of these games I can't really say I am much of an expert in. I might not even have an edge at all. But this is why I play at the lower stakes against weak competition.

The real key here though is that I completely switch it up and just bring the fun factor back to the game. You know, the whole reason that we all started playing this silly card game in the first place!

Also, for me, getting away from the cash game grind for awhile and playing some tournaments for example definitely aids in this because of the chance of hitting a big score and the excitement of a possible deep run.

I actually really love the 180 man tournaments that Pokerstars created many years ago because they are kind of in the middle between an SNG and an MTT.

The reason I don't play big multi-table tournaments all that often is because I don't want to be chained to my chair all day.

However, these 180 mans usually finish in 2 hours at the most. And they also have enough people in them that there is a decent score for hitting the top 3.

The bottom line is that if things aren't going well in your regular games, play something totally different for awhile. This is a great way to get your mind off of things and just have some fun again.

4. Write About Poker

This might not work for everybody but I often found in the past that simply putting my thoughts down on a blog like this one (or even on paper if you are old school) can be helpful.

That is in fact why I originally started writing this thing some 8 years ago. It was my own personal journal to record my thoughts and keep track of my goals.

This allowed me to gain a better perspective on things during rough stretches and sometimes get some encouraging words from others who have been through a similar rough stretch.

You definitely don't need to write a novel every time or feel obligated to write every day or even week. But sometimes the simple act of calmly recollecting your thoughts and getting some feedback from others can be useful.

There are tons of totally free blogging tools out there from Blogger to Tumblr, Wordpress and so on. You simply type something and then hit the publish button. It couldn't be any easier.

If you take poker seriously, then I recommend blogging even just as a way to keep track of your goals in this game.

5. Hire a Poker Coach

Getting a coach in poker is another one of those things that isn't for everybody. However, sometimes the simple act of getting an outside perspective from an experienced winning player can be helpful during a rough stretch.

The reason why is that during a downswing we are often not thinking or playing at our best abilities. A calm and cool outside perspective is sometimes needed in order to know if you are simply getting unlucky or actually playing bad.

Because this is a fine line that we walk during a bad run like this. In my experience even the very best players play bad during a rough stretch. We just like to think that it is all bad luck.

So getting an outside perspective can be helpful with this. Hiring a coach can just be a one time thing as well. You can view it like a paid session review.

Another free option is to simply ask one of your poker friends (who is hopefully a winning player) to help you go over some hands. You could return the favor for them some time when they are running bad.

The bottom line is that when you are in a poker slump, get an outside perspective to look over your play. You want to make sure that it really is bad luck that is keeping you from winning and not bad play.

6. Review Your Poker Sessions

You can also review your poker sessions yourself. The most important thing is to do this when you are calm and relaxed and not still stressed out from another bad session.

This is why when I am in a bad downswing I prefer to simply shut the computer off for the rest of the day and go do something totally different.

Then, on the next day, prior to my next session I will review the hands from the previous day. I will be focusing mostly on the big and medium sized pots that I lost.

Once again I want to make sure that it was bad luck and not bad play that kept me from winning them. The great thing about modern tracking software like Pokertracker is that you can instantly see the equity (or odds) involved.

As long as you had the edge when the majority of the money went in the middle, then you don't need to worry about anything. If you are getting all the chips in with the worst of it though on a regular basis, then there might be cause for concern.

7. Take a Break

Sometimes when things have been going badly at the tables for a long time it is simply better to just not play at all.

I know for me, when I am running bad for weeks on end my fuse becomes shorter and shorter at the tables. It might only take a couple bad beats to set me off.

Most poker players also have big drops in their confidence during these bad stretches and a hopeless feeling at the tables. If you find yourself in this state, then it might actually be more profitable for you NOT to play the game!

Getting outside and getting some fresh air can often be the best antidote in this case. I know this might sound like a bit of a crazy idea to some online poker shut-ins.

But seriously, just take off for the weekend with some friends or even go solo. Go camping, go hiking or snowboarding. Go on a roadtrip even!

Just get off the computer completely for awhile, leave it at home if you can. And just get outside in the fresh air and stop thinking about it for awhile.

This simple act of clearing your mind and realizing how silly it is to stress over short term results in a little card game can be very powerful.

Final Thoughts

Breaking out of a poker slump is hard enough on it's own sometimes. We can't control how the cards fall and just because things have been going badly for a long time does not mean you are owed anything.

This is a cruel game at times that has no compassion or care about "your feelings." This is why it is important that you use a variety of different methods to help alleviate the psychological stress of downswings.

This can involve everything from lowering the stakes and tightening up to getting an outside perspective, playing a different format and even totally getting away from the game for awhile.

Even though the best players take poker very seriously and study and play the game like crazy, an important key to success is knowing when to take a step back from time to time and not take it too seriously.

A bad poker downswing can feel like something a lot more serious than it really is sometimes. Remember to keep things in their proper perspective and focus on the only thing that really matters, the long run.

If you use a solid strategy and play against bad players, then the money will come in the end.

If you found this article helpful then give it a quick "Like" or "Tweet" below. Thanks!

poker downswing

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Small Pocket Pairs: The Proven Way to Win Big With Them

how to play small pocket pairs
How to play small pocket pairs is one of the most often discussed topics in poker. And the reason why is because there is mass confusion out there about how to play them effectively.

Should you limp? Should you raise? Should you even fold them?

Well, after playing millions and millions of hands at the micros and running countless experiments and tests in Pokertracker to assess their profitability, I am going to clear up that issue today.

In this article I am going to provide you with the best ways to win big with your small pocket pairs in small stakes cash games.

 The Correct Way to Play Small Pocket Pairs

Many newer poker players underestimate the value of small pocket pairs even though they can be some of your biggest long term winners especially at the lower limits.

By the way, just to be totally clear, I am talking about specifically, 22, 33, 44, 55 and 66 in this article.

The reason why a lot of beginners discount their value is because often (8 out of 9 times) they do not improve to a set after the flop. And most of the time you are stuck with three over cards on the board and no clue where you are at.

So therefore, if you choose to play these hands passively all the time, then it is going to be pretty difficult to turn any kind of a profit with them. So many times you will just end up check/folding on the flop.

This is why when I play small pocket pairs at the micros I tend to be aggressive with them as often as I can.

What do I mean by this?
  • If I am the first person in the pot, then I am always raising with them
  • In late position situations I will often 3Bet them against weaker players
  • If I have the betting lead on the flop, I will often be CBetting or even barreling with them

I want to be clear that I do still just flat versus a raise with my small pairs plenty of the time as well. When a tight player raises from early position for instance, it would be suicide to 3Bet here. Flatting is the only play that makes any sense.

However, by finding ways here and there to play my small pocket pairs in an aggressive manner, both preflop and postflop, I am giving myself more ways to win the pot.

The person who always plays these hands passively by limping or calling and then folding when they don't hit their set only gives themselves one way to win the pot - make the best hand.

And as we know, this doesn't happen very often.

But by playing them aggressively quite a bit of the time, I give myself two ways to win the pot - make the best hand or force my opponents to fold.

What Should You Do If You Hit Your Set?

The other thing that playing your small pairs in this manner does is give you an aggressive table image. And indeed, this is the goal of my entire strategy at the poker tables, not just with small pocket pairs.

I want to be perceived by my opponents as somebody who is playing plenty of hands and bluffing up a storm.


Because this allows me to get a lot more action when I finally hit my hand. If you have folded the last 15 hands in a row and suddenly start betting and raising out of nowhere, most people are going to be likely to give you credit and even make a tough fold.

My style of play though ensures that they will never fold their over pair or top pair to me. So when I hit my set with pocket 4's for example, I am going to get their whole stack.

So how do I play my small pocket pairs when I hit a set?

You guessed it, aggressive as well.

If I am going to try and be aggressive a lot with my baby pairs when I don't hit a set, it would be crazy not to do this when I finally make the nuts.

The other beautiful thing about low stakes games is that people generally do not like to fold and a set is such a well hidden hand.

For example, nobody is going to worry for a second with their KQ on a flop of:


But our 44 is a virtual lock to win the hand with 96% equity!

baby pairs

So the bottom line for me is that when I finally hit my set with a small pocket pair this is not the time to be slow playing. On the contrary, this is the time to be getting aggressive by betting and raising.

You can't win big in poker unless you win big pots. And you can't win big pots in small stakes games by waiting for your passive opponents to bet for you.

Also, the whole reason that I build an aggressive image at the poker table is so that I can get paid off with my big hands like this.

When Should You Fold a Small Pocket Pair?

Now of course most of the time you will fail to hit your set. As I mentioned before, you can try to win the pot in these situations especially if you have the betting lead by making a CBet or even a double barrel after the flop.

And even if you are the preflop caller, sometimes you can try to take the pot away from a weaker opponent by floating and then betting the turn for example.

But you should know for sure that the most "profitable" way to play your small pockets unimproved after the flop is indeed to simply fold versus any aggression most of the time.

You have to realize that there are many pots in this game that you simply cannot win. And this is especially the case at the micros against bad players who do not like to fold.

The problem with these baby pairs is that when you do not hit your set and the board is mostly over cards, you only have 2 outs in the deck to improve to the best hand.

And if you are up against an opponent who doesn't have a fold button, you are just lighting money on fire by staying in the hand.

There is even a case to be made for simply folding your small pocket pairs preflop as well. I think the opposition is so weak at stakes like NL2 and NL5 that I always try to play these hands no matter what.

However, at NL10 and higher I will often simply fold 22-66 in early position at full ring tables before the flop (I don't fold them in 6max). The reason why is that players are smarter and more savvy at these stakes.

This means that they are less likely to pay you off in a big way when you hit your set. They are also much more likely to understand the power of position in poker and use it to their advantage.

Final Thoughts

Small pocket pairs tend to create a lot of confusion for many poker players. But really they are a very simple set of hands to play.

On occasion you will hit a set with them which is going to be a virtual lock to win the hand against almost anything that your opponent could have. You should bet strongly for value against most players at the lower stakes in these situations.

But far more often you will miss your set and be facing three over cards on the flop and no clue where you are at. If you have the betting lead (which you should a lot), then you should simply make a CBet and try to take it down quite a bit of the time.

If you were the preflop caller though (or your opponent has raised your CBet on the flop), then you should simply fold your hand most of the time and cut your losses.

Small pocket pairs will never be as profitable as middle or premium pocket pairs but when played correctly at the lower stakes there is no reason why they can't all be decent long term winners for you.

Let me know how you play your baby pairs in the comments below. Do you have any tips or tricks on how to get extra value out of them?

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small pockets

Monday, August 1, 2016

Building Your Poker Bankroll: 5 Ways to Quickly Climb the Stakes

build a poker bankroll
Building your poker bankroll quickly is the goal of pretty much everybody who plays this game. But many people labor away at the very lowest stakes for years.

Why is this?

Well there are many different reasons including skill level, taking shots, table selection, confidence and planning that go into the mix here.

It is still possible to quickly build your poker bankroll and rapidly climb the stakes though in today's games and I am going to explain exactly how to do that in this article.

1. Build Your Bankroll Quickly by Increasing Your Skill Level

Being better than most of your opponents (regardless of the stake that you are playing at) is always going to be a prerequisite for building up your bankroll quickly.

And there really is only one way to do this effectively, play the game a lot and study the game a lot as well.

Having worked with nearly 100 students in the past at the lower limits I got to see first hand that it was often fundamental issues that was holding people back.

You don't need to be the world's greatest poker player in order to beat the micros. Not even close.

But you do need a solid grasp of basic stuff like:
  • What hands to play from what positions
  • When to 3Bet and when to just flat
  • Bet sizing preflop and postflop
  • When to bet for value and when to bluff postflop
  • A basic understanding of how to take pots away from weak opponents
And so on.

This is all the kind of stuff that is well covered in many poker books and training videos that are aimed at the lower stakes. Poker forums, Youtube videos and Twitch streams can also be useful for learning the basics. Hiring a poker coach to work with you personally can also be a great option.

Basically there are countless ways out there to learn a solid strategy and improve your poker game. When you are just starting out it is a good idea to invest a fair bit of time into getting the fundamentals down.

This is because you aren't going to build your bankroll quickly if you are constantly making basic mistakes at the poker tables. Also, even more importantly, as you move up the limits these weaknesses will get exposed more and more by the better players.

2. Build Your Bankroll by Playing in Good Games

If you read this blog on a regular basis, then you will know that I talk about table selection all the time. You have to play in good games (read: bad poker players) on a consistent basis if you want to build your bankroll quickly.

The reason why is that your winrate is always going to be directly correlated with the players who you play against.

You don't need to be the best player at the table in order to have a big win rate. However, you do need to be considerably better than at least some of your competition.

The really bad poker players are who I am talking about specifically here.

These are the guys who:
  • Play way too many hands
  • Limp too much preflop
  • Call too much postflop
  • Make weak bets
And so on.

If you have a big enough sample size, then you can go into your Pokertracker database and see for yourself just how badly the weakest players are losing.

Go to the "My Reports" tab and run a filter on players whose VPIP is 40% or higher.

You will probably notice that their lossrates start from something like -20bb/100 and depending on how bad they are it could be much higher than this, -50bb/100 or even -100bb/100 and beyond!

If you now compare this to the very worst regulars, you will see exactly what I am talking about. Even the very weakest regular opponents who you face will typically only lose at about -5bb/100.

The big fish that I am always talking about finding and playing against on this blog and elsewhere are often losing their money 10 times as fast as this! Who would you rather play against?

You have to take table selection seriously especially in today's games if you want to build your bankroll quickly. Make sure you check out my ultimate guide to table selection.

3. Take Shots at Higher Stakes Games

So now that you have a good understanding of the fundamentals and you know how to find the worst poker players, what's next?

Well, even though I am a big proponent of using a solid bankroll management strategy, I know that it is also the case that the real money in this game is at the higher limits.

Nobody gets rich playing at the micros for years and years on end.

So if you really want to build your bankroll fast then it will be necessary to take some calculated shots from time to time.

One of the ways to do this is to scout the higher limit games for really loose games. If there is a huge fish who is splashing around at a limit higher than I normally play, then I usually won't hesitate to take a shot in that game.

The reason why is because like I just said, these guys are like rocket fuel for your win rate.

I know that the regulars will be tougher and I won't have much information on them either. However, I am not there to play against them. I am there specifically for the bad players.

And this is why it is even more important than ever that you get the best seat against the big fish. You will always make way more money against somebody in poker when you have direct position on them.

If I can get the seat directly to the left of the bad player, then this is hugely beneficial. If I can't get position though, then I might not even sit down and play at all. It is that important.

The bottom line is that everybody who has climbed the stakes quickly in this game has taken a well calculated shot or two at one time or another.

You can see this in the higher stakes games all the time. Anytime the big fish sits down, the waiting list all of the sudden is dozens deep.

Sometimes you need to jump in the deep end to find the biggest fish in order to build your bankroll fast.

4. Have Confidence in Your Poker Abilities

One of the most important keys to your success at poker in general is simply having a high degree of confidence in your abilities. The best players make strong deliberate and sometimes bold actions because they are confident in their abilities.

This all starts by having a solid understanding of the basics as I discussed above. After all, how can you be confident when you don't know what the right amount to raise is or you have to question if you should play a certain hand etc..

All of this kind of stuff needs to be automatic at the poker tables. It needs to be ingrained in your head. The only way to make this happen is through tons of consistent play and study.

In Modern Small Stakes I spend about 400 pages explaining how to outplay the regs by breaking down their stats, finding the weaknesses and exploiting them.

I go over basic stuff again and again like how to notice a reg who bets the flop but gives up a lot on the turn. You should be floating this type of player like crazy and taking the pot away on the turn.

And how did I learn all this stuff myself? By ridiculous amounts of play. Million and millions and millions of hands. This stuff is all automatic to me now.

The bottom line is that the deeper your understanding of poker, and the more that you play this game, your confidence will grow.

Also, a solid work ethic both at the tables and away from them also tends to produce good results anyways. This will help you stay confident even when things aren't going your way at the tables.

5. Have a Solid Plan to Build Your Bankroll 

The last way to build your bankroll quickly is to have a good plan for how you are going to do it. One of the most popular emails that I send out with my free newsletter is the plan on how to go from NL2 to NL100 in one calendar year.

In this email I talk about the necessity of using good bankroll management strategy (at least 30 buyins for any limit you play). However, I also recommend taking 10 buyin shots at every stage along the way from NL2 to NL100.

This means that when you have 30 buyins for the next limit (e.g. $150 and you are moving up to NL5), then you give yourself a full 10 buyin shot to stick at this stake.

So in this example it would mean that you play at NL5 unless your bankroll drops to $100. At that point you must move back down to NL2 and grind it back up to $150 before taking another shot.

Even with a 10 buyin shot, due to the impact of short term variance, you should expect to fail several times on your path from NL2 to NL100. This will happen even to the very best players.

However, over the course of an entire year, you would only need to successfully make the jump up to the next limit once every 2 months or so in order to reach NL100 by the end.

For somebody who plays regularly, this is certainly very attainable.

So here is the full plan according to each limit:
  • NL5 - $150
  • NL10 - $300
  • NL25 - $750
  • NL50 - $1500
  • NL100 - $3000
That is, you should have these amounts in your bankroll each time you attempt to move up (30 buyins). Take a 10 buyin shot when you move up.

If you lose all 10 (which will happen on occasion due to short term variance), then move back down, grind it back, and take another shot at the higher stake.

With a solid plan like this in place, and with consistent play and study, you will be able to quickly build your bankroll and climb the stakes.

Final Thoughts

Building your poker bankroll fast is something that is definitely attainable even in today's games.

You need to have a good understanding of the fundamentals, play in good games, know when to take shots, have confidence in your abilities and have a solid overall plan.

Quickly moving up the stakes is really a fine line of controlled aggression. If you are a huge bankroll nit sitting on a 100 buyins for each limit, then it is going to take you forever to get out of the micros.

You want to take shots at higher games on a regular basis especially when you see a bad player and a seat open to their left. However, you also want to have a solid overall plan for how you are going to climb up the stakes.

But none of this will matter if you don't have the fundamentals down. It is very important that early on in your poker career you make sure that you have a solid grasp of the basics including stuff like what hands to play, how much to bet, when to fold and so on.

You can find this in books, training videos, Youtube videos, forums and even on this very website that you are reading right now!

I have written dozens of articles on how to develop a solid tight aggressive strategy for the micros which you can find on my "Start Here" page.

Let me know how you plan to build your bankroll quickly in the comments below. Do you have any tips for climbing up the stakes fast?

Lastly, if you found this article useful then give it a quick "Like" or "Tweet" below. Thanks!

building a poker bankroll