Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How to Make $800 More Per Month Playing Micro Stakes Poker

make $800 more per month playing micro stakes poker
A few years ago when I used to grind the micro stakes like crazy playing 24 tables at a time and 200k hands a month, it was all about the quantity over the quality.

Your winrates are never going to be great when you play this many tables and put in this many hands. But since I was mostly playing NL25, NL50 and a bit of NL100 on Stars with Supernova, I was making some pretty decent money each month with rakeback alone.

The problem was that my table winnings weren't that impressive. I was only managing about 3bb/100.

And while I knew that I could only do so well playing this much volume (there is an undeniable ceiling on your winrate when 24 tabling), I still felt I could do a lot better.

After all, I have always prided myself on not only beating the games but crushing them for the highest winrates possible.

One day I made a very simple discovery though. And it allowed me to make $800 more from online poker every single month.


The Spew Test


Here's how I went about it.

First things first I opened up Pokertracker and I filtered for every pot that I played in the past month of any significant value.

This is very easy to do in Pokertracker. Just go to "View Stats" and "Statistics":

micro stakes poker winner

After that on the left side of the screen set the dates, stakes and your screen name:

winning micro stakes poker

Lastly, in order to filter for pots of a certain size (I would typically choose 30 big blinds or more), you just click on the More Filters... button.

micro stakes poker winning

Choose "Hand Details" as you see above and then select "Pot Size and Stack Depth - Hand Total" in order to filter for final pot sizes of any amount you wish.

Now since I was putting in enormous amounts of volume at the poker tables, when I ran a filter like this I would get back hundreds and hundreds of hands.

But I have always been a big proponent of putting in the hours away from the tables over the years. That is, making time for studying poker.

So therefore,  I would just set aside an entire afternoon or weekend to go over them all. The easiest way to do that is to select all hands, stick them in the replayer and analyze them one by one.


Here are some of the the things I would be looking for:

  • Playing too loose preflop
  • Bad 3Bets (poor hand selection, wrong opponent and/or situation)
  • Bad 4Bets (same as above)
  • Tilt induced postflop plays (stupid bluffs etc.)
  • Bad postflop call downs (no way I was going to be good)

And so on and so forth.

Basically I was looking for any signs of spewy play on my part. That is, hands where I could clearly see a mistake was made on my part that would never happen if I was playing my best.

And moreover, I would keep a running tally of all of the money that I wasted because of this which I called my "spew test".

When you actually take the time to sit down and honestly access just how much money you are giving away at the poker tables through poor decision making, it might finally make you start to make a change.

It definitely did in my case. And as you can probably already guess, the #1 culprit of all of these mistakes by far, was tilt.


Tilt Was Costing me Over $800 Per Month!


When I added up all of the mistakes that I was making in these pots I found that I was losing over $800 a month (or 10k a year) mostly due to tilt.

Since I was only making 2k or 3k per month with rakeback added in grinding the micros, this was a very significant loss! This would be like subtracting 25%-50% or even more from your current salary.

You would probably be choked. You would tell the boss a thing or two! Perhaps even quit. But in my case as a professional poker player I was actually the one doing it to myself.

So I had to make a change.

As I have discussed many times on this blog and elsewhere before, tilt is your #1 enemy at the poker tables. It is basically you voluntarily giving your money away to other people because you feel frustrated.

This is sheer insanity in any other venture in life but for some reason so many of us poker players simply shrug this off or try to sweep it under the rug.

I actually know first hand from having coached over 100 students in the past that tilt is far and away the #1 problem that holds people back in poker.


Winning Poker is About Knowing When to Quit


The problem is that as long as you are human and you play this game, you are going to tilt.

There is simply no way around it. This is a highly swingy game where sometimes you can make the right decision and still lose again and again for days, weeks or even months in some crazy cases.

I don't care how much of an unemotional robot you are, at some point this is going to start getting to you and ultimately affect your play.

This is why learning how to quit is so important. And this is arguably the biggest breakthrough that I ever made in my poker game.

I often suggest using a stop loss. This was in fact how I primarily turned this trend around and started recouping much of that $800+ in losses every month.

I set a stop loss which means that if I lose a certain amount of buyins then I must quit playing poker for the rest of that day no matter what.

But really it is just about recognizing the signs of tilt and being able to get up and walk away from the poker tables before it starts affecting the quality of your decision making in a major way.


How to Quit Playing Poker Even When You Are Losing BIG


Now most people who win at poker though have a huge ego (this is actually a good thing in this game). So quitting when you are losing is the last thing that you want to do.

I used to play marathon sessions while on tilt chasing my losses all the time. I simply could not accept losing my money to a bunch of donks that hit lucky cards on me.

I didn't need to win, I just needed to get even with them!

But a few mental shifts in the way that I think about this game (in addition to the stop loss) allowed me to stop this destructive behaviour, accept losses and not spend hours playing my C or D-game just to "get even" with a bunch of dumb fish.


There are two things that you always need to remember about poker:

  • It is all just one big long session
  • The games will always be there tomorrow

The thing about poker is that every time you post the blinds this is really just a continuation of the previous session which was in turn a continuation of the one before that.

This is why we wait for the blinds to come around to us each time before playing (or at least you should). Because we are just continuing from where we left off last time.

When you learn to see the game in this way, then you will understand that your entire poker career is really just one big long session.

These individual wins and losses that our minds create, these "sessions" or "daily results" don't actually exist in reality.

They call poker a "grind" for a reason. Because it is a never-ending series of ups and downs. The only thing that really matters is where you stand after a year, a decade or after a lifetime of playing this game.

So when you learn to start thinking about the game correctly like this, then you can stop losing your mind about individual wins or losses on a given day, because you know that they ultimately mean nothing.

The other important thing to remember is that the games are always running (both online or live) 365 and 24/7. They never stop.

This means that you aren't missing out on anything by quitting. Roughly the same ratio of good players and bad players will be sitting there next time, even if some of the faces are different.

Therefore, not only is there no reason to "chase your losses" in any individual session but there is also no reason to "get even" with any particular person either.

Don't make poker personal. If you consistently apply the right strategy and play with bad players, you will win in the end.

That is the bottom line. Everything else is just details.


Final Thoughts


How do you make $800 more per month playing micro stakes poker?

Well in my case it was actually quite simple. Stop voluntarily giving my money away so much by making bad calls, terrible bluffs and so on!

And the main reason why I was doing all this was because of tilt. More specifically, irrational emotionally charged decision making because I was upset with my current results.

But once I learned to start setting and adhering to a stop loss and also seeing the game more in it's true nature as one long term journey, it became easier for me to just walk away on the bad days.

This allowed me to stop making so many stupid tilt induced plays and ultimately become a much bigger winner at the poker tables.

Winning more in poker is not always about getting better technically or increasing your skill. Instead most people could improve their results much faster by focusing on how much they are giving away when the cards go bad for them.

And the great thing about doing a "Spew Test" like I suggest above is that it forces you to look at a real number that probably means something to you in your day to day life, like $800.

This is like buying a brand new iPhone for some random stranger every month. Tilt can be an expensive habit!

This might be enough for you to finally put your foot down and say enough to tilting off so much of your poker winnings. I know it was in my case.

Let me know in the comments below how much tilt and spewy plays affect your poker results. What are you doing to try and stop it from happening?

Win more at micro stakes poker

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The #1 Reason People Fail at Poker (And How to Avoid It)

The biggest reason why some people fail to win at poker

After 10 years in poker now, both playing the game professionally and writing several books about it, I have seen A LOT. I have seen so many people come and go. So many monumental changes in the industry and so on.

But I still occasionally see some of the same names and faces at the poker tables. Some of the same players who I have been battling against in some cases for a decade now. Some of them have even moved up to the highest levels of the game.

What is it that makes these people different? So many other people end up failing to even win at poker at all. Yet there always seems to be a handful of players that you see consistently crushing the cash games and making final tables.

Well there is exactly ONE reason why in my opinion.


Turning Knowledge Into Results: Execution


The #1 reason why most people fail to win at poker in my opinion is not due to a lack of knowledge. In fact, sometimes these days players even at the lowest limits know far too much theory!

The real reason why they cannot produce actual results at the poker tables is because they fail to consistently apply this knowledge in all situations.

They fail to make the correct play when it really matters. And this boils down to one thing:

Execution
ex·e·cu·tion
noun



1. The carrying out or putting into effect of a plan, order, or course of action.


You see poker is an easy game to comment on and give your opinion. Anybody can do it. Everybody seems to be a genius away from the felt.

But there is one crucial difference between all of the armchair experts out there and the very few who actually produce real world results in this game that change bank accounts and lives.

That is, they consistently apply their poker knowledge in the heat of the moment. And they don’t just do it “sorta sometimes if they feel like it” or as long as they are running good.

No, elite players execute and apply their knowledge at the poker tables all of the time, even when things are going horribly, horribly wrong for them.

In fact, as I have discussed before, the real test of a poker player is how they react when they run really, really bad for a long time. This is the exact spot where you can still gain a massive edge even in today's tougher games.

Anybody can play good when all the cards are falling the right way for them. It doesn't take any real skill to play like a pro when you are coolering everyone and avoiding the bad beats.

But most people react very poorly when they hit a bad run of cards, when they can't make hands and the bad beats start to happen again and again and again. They start getting frustrated, make bad calls and sometimes even go on full blown tilt where they are literally just giving their money away.

The very best players though see this moment as a prime opportunity to get ahead of everybody else. They see this as the time when they get to separate themselves from the masses of breakeven and losing poker players by simply reacting better to adversity than they do.


How Do You Execute Your Poker Knowledge All the Time?


So how do the top players actually maintain this mental toughness, control their emotions and make the right play no matter what? Well first and foremost it begins with good preparation.

You have to know what the right play is in order to make it!

So elite players know the value of studying the game properly. And what this really means is studying the right material and then applying it at the poker tables.

They also prepare better for sessions both mentally and physically. So for instance they will never play when:

  • Tired
  • Stressed
  • Depressed
  • Drunk


Also, many of the poker pros who I know take care of themselves better than most people. This means that they choose to eat right and exercise regularly as well.

Not exactly mind blowing stuff though right?

Everybody knows that if you eat right and exercise then you will feel better, sleep better and think better. This will have a direct positive impact on your ability to play your best poker at all times.

But so few actually do it.


The Will to Succeed: Discipline 


And this leads me to my 2nd and even more important reason why the best poker players are able to execute and apply their knowledge in the moment better than others. Discipline.

In a recent Youtube video Doug Polk listed discipline as the #1 trait of the very best poker players. And I agree completely.

If you don't know who this guy is by the way, he is often regarded as one of the top heads up no limit players in the world. He is also one of those players who I was referring to before that I have seen for over a decade now at the tables and played against many times.

So let me just be totally blunt here.

If you suffer from a lack of discipline (that is, doing something that you know is the right thing even when you don't want to do it), then poker is probably not the game for you.

This game doesn’t care about your feelings. It doesn’t care if you have had too many bad beats lately. It doesn’t care if you are feeling frustrated, stressed out or even cursed.

It only rewards those who have the will to push through it and keep making the right play regardless of how they feel.

It also only rewards those who know when to quit if they are on tilt, make the effort to practice good table selection and put in the time studying the game away from the tables.

And all of this boils down to one thing, discipline.


Experience is the Great Equalizer


There is one other thing though that can take you a long way in this game and that is experience. I say it all the time on this blog and elsewhere, there is one common thing that almost all great players share:

They always seems to be at the tables playing poker!

The best poker players that I know have all played millions and millions of hands of poker or logged incredible amounts of hours live.

All of this experience forces you to see the same situations over and over again. For instance, in a small stakes game when you double barrel the turn with your overpair and a tight/passive player raises you, this is almost always going to be the nuts.

Usually even the most stubborn person in the world is eventually going to get the message to start folding here more often.

I know because this is exactly what happened to me. I learned this game almost 100% through trial and error. I had to lose all my money over and over again in spots like this before I finally learned to start folding more often.

Now it is important to point out that playing a maniacal amount of poker hands like I have won’t guarantee that you will become a great poker player. It is a necessary condition of success though in my opinion.

I don’t know any top players who don’t have massive amounts of experience playing this game.


Final Thoughts


The #1 reason why most people fail to win at poker actually has nothing to do with their knowledge of the game. In fact many people know too much these days especially at the lower stakes.

A very simple strategy like the one that I recommend is actually far more effective in most cases.

What most people lack instead is the ability to consistently apply and execute this knowledge in the heat of the moment when it actually matters.

The very best poker players out there, the ones who crush the games, often take care of their mind and bodies better so that they always approach each session ready to play to the very best of their abilities.

They also tend to have incredible work ethic putting in enormous numbers of hands and hours logged at the poker tables.

But the biggest reason why they are able to achieve top results is because they are more disciplined than others. And when you really break it down, discipline is just a bigger will to win than the next guy.

You are either going to make the right plays consistently or you are not. It's totally up to you each and every time you sit down to play poker. Your results in this game will be the direct byproduct of the choice you make here.

Let me know in the comments below what you think holds most people back in poker.

The reason why people do not win at poker

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

5 Ways to Win More With Your Overpairs

How to win more with overpairs in poker
When you have an overpair in poker with a hand like AA, KK or QQ it is vital that you get the absolute maximum value out of it. The reason why is because these hands don't come around very often. They will also be by far your biggest winners in the long run.

Many people at the micros though routinely play their premium pairs far less than optimal even when they have an overpair to the board. More specifically they will win a small pot when they should have won a much bigger one. This ends up having a highly negative effect on their win-rate and therefore overall winnings at the poker tables.

So in this article I am going to provide you with 5 surefire ways to start getting much more value with your overpairs. No more winning small pots!


1. Bet Your Overpairs Like Crazy


The easiest way to win the most with your overpairs is to simply shovel as much money into the pot as possible. Since most players at the micros are fairly passive, the best way to do this is to just bet, bet and bet some more.

As I talk about in my first book, Crushing the Microstakes, your standard line with an overpair against the fish in particular should pretty much always be: raise preflop and then bet, bet, shove.

Simple, easy, and wins the absolute maximum.

There is no reason why you shouldn't be taking the same line against most of the regulars at the lower stakes though as well. Unless there is a strong reason to believe that they are going to bluff at the pot if you check it to them, then you are just giving them free cards and setting yourself up to win a small pot.

It is true that sometimes when you bet they won't have anything and it will force them to fold. This will happen against the recreational players too. This is just poker though.

There is nothing that you can do about it. Two people need to have hands in order for big pots to happen. When somebody has 9 high and no draw it doesn't matter what you bet, they are folding.

Keep things astoundingly simple at the micros. Bet strong and frequently with your overpairs and you will win more.


2. Create A Table Image That Gets You Action


People send me emails all the time though complaining that they never get any action with their overpairs. Every time they bet big their opponents just fold.

Well first off, it is almost always a sample size problem. You can't make sweeping judgements like this based off of what happened in the past couple sessions which is nearly always the case. You would need to analyze thousands of hands in Pokertracker to actually state this as fact.

But the real reason why they don't get paid off? They are huge nits!

We have all seen those people at the micros online playing 18 tables at once. Or the guy in a live game who suddenly plays a hand after folding every hand for the past hour. I can spot them a mile away because I used to be one of them!

I don't even need to look at my HUD stats on them in order to see that they only give action when they have the nuts.

I absolutely never pay these guys off. In fact nothing tilts me more than giving money to the nits because there is no skill in playing on a bajillion tables at once and waiting for the nuts. I go out of my way to make sick hero folds against these guys all the time.

If you want to start getting paid off with your overpairs, then you need to start betting with some marginal hands more often, raising your draws and so on.

If you are only going to put significant money in the pot when you have top pair/top kicker, a set or an overpair, then you simply can't complain when everybody starts insta-folding when you bet. It's just so obvious what you have.

If on the other hand you learn how to create a crazy table image (or at least give some action with hands that aren't the nuts), then I can guarantee that you will start winning a lot more with your overpairs and all of your other good hands as well.


3. Overbet Versus the Fish


Almost nobody makes good use of the overbet in small stakes games these days yet it is such a powerful weapon. One of my favorite things to do against the recreational players is to just bet twice the pot sometimes with a hand like an overpair for something to do.

This is especially effective if I have been isolating the fish and pounding on them of late which is something that I absolutely recommend that you be doing at all times.

Rec players view strong bets, and especially overbets, with suspicion. When you show huge strength they see this as weakness instead. They view big bets as a bluff. They see it as somebody trying to "bully" them.

So the easy counter to this is to simply bully them with the nuts. Let them play sheriff and call you down with their nonsense and lose. You don't even need an overpair to do this. I do it with top pair all the time too.

Once again though, this play will not work if the fish doesn't have anything. You need to always remember that most of the time in this game nobody actually has anything good. You can't do anything to change that.

But sometimes if the rec player happens to have a pair or a draw, and you have been creating that aggressive dynamic with them that I talk about all the time, an overbet will set them off and allow you to win an absolutely huge pot with ease.

In the video course that I put out last year I showed this in action on several occasions, betting big and stacking the fish often with just top pair. They were sick of being "bullied" by me and decided to make their stand.

They were right. I didn't have the nuts. But I still had the best hand. The relentless pressure and big bets (sometimes overbets) caused them to flip out and literally just start handing me their money.


4. Check/Raise the Aggressive Regs


Now even though the best play with your overpairs is to bet, bet, shove against most opponents at the lower stakes these days, it is a good idea to mix things up against the better aggressive regs.

These are the ones who will actually be paying attention to the lines you take with certain hands. Therefore, if you do the same thing every single time with your strong hands, they will read you like a book and stop paying you off.

This is why point #2 above is so important especially as you move up the stakes. If you can have draws in your bet, bet, shove range for instance, this changes everything. 

Now they will be forced to give you action more often or risk getting bluffed and laying down the best hand too often. That is a topic for another article though.

One of the best ways to start mixing up your value lines versus the better regs is to check/raise the turn or the river with your overpairs.


Check/raising here is great for two reasons:
  • It allows you to get the most money in the middle
  • It lets them know that there will be a price to pay for floating us too often

Now it is extremely important that I underscore the point here that I will only ever attempt this play against the good aggressive regs (or the rare maniac fish).

The reason why is because these players will regularly pounce on weakness when you check (as they should) and try to take the pot away from you. The vast majority of players at the lower stakes will not do this.

Most of them will check behind frequently even with a pair or a decent draw. Same thing with the fish. No point in trying to check/raise somebody who won't bet.

Try check/raising your overpairs every once in awhile versus the aggressive regs to confuse them and win more. If you take the same line with your overpairs every time against thinking players you become too predictable and easy to play against.


5. Design Your Bet Sizes Based on Their Range


As we already discussed, against the fish you should just bomb the pot with your overpairs and hope that they have something to call you with. Their range is so wide that there is no point in even trying to predict it.

But versus the regs (good ones and bad ones) it is a lot easier to put them on a range of hands especially by the later streets like the river.

Many people though make the mistake of betting huge on the river, especially if the turn went check/check, in order to get some value.

Now this is a perfectly logical thing to do of course. The problem though is that often the reg ends up insta-folding versus their bet and they are left wondering why they can't get paid off.

Well as mentioned above, a nitty table image is one reason for not getting paid off. But another important reason why the reg gave them no action is because they failed to consider the board and their opponent's range.

Many times the reg would have happily paid off a 40% or 50% of the pot bet but will insta-fold versus an 80% of the pot bet. Since bet sizes are the biggest on the river, it is absolutely a crime against your win-rate to miss these important value bets.

Let's look at an example to help illustrate this better.


Example Hand:


Hero raises from the button with AA

Nit Reg Villain flats in the big blind


Flop:

446

Villain checks

Hero CBets

Villain calls


Turn:

K

Villain checks

Hero bets

Villain calls


River:

4

Villain checks

Hero bets...how much???


Preflop we open raise with the mortal nuts from the button and get called by a Nit in the big blind. He will be set-mining here a lot (small and mid pairs) and have a few broadways as well (KQ, KJ, QJ).

Nits will call here frequently with big aces too (AK, AQ, AJ) but since we block these hands so heavily in this example, it will be difficult for him to have them.

We make our standard CBet when he checks to us on the flop on this dry paired board with a flush draw. When he checks to us again on the turn we bet again in order to keep getting value as I recommended above.

He will often get stubborn with mid pairs like 77, 88 and 99. I would rather get more value now versus these hands then wait for another overcard to fall on the river and scare him even more.

He can also call with the heart flush draw here. It is always important to note that with two black aces we do NOT block this draw (definitely a good thing).

When the flush misses on the river and the board comes with another 4 he checks to us again. What can he have at this point? What kind of bet will he be willing to call?


Finding the Perfect Bet Size


Well, considering the preflop range that we put him on he has a missed flush draw here sometimes. This means that he is never calling us no matter what we bet unless he has exactly:

KQ or KJ

*These are the only two King hands that would call preflop and then check/call this flop.

But plenty of the time he will also have some sort of middle strength full house with a hand like 55, 77, 88 or 99. It is unlikely that he will ever show up with a strong full house here (KK, QQ, JJ, TT) because he would have 3Bet us with those hands preflop.

So given this range of hands you can probably see where this is going by now...

Betting 80% of the pot bet here would be a serious mistake. Betting this much is a good way to get him to fold all of those middle strength full houses that we desperately want a call from!

A 40% or 50% of the pot value bet here though will likely get a call from these hands a much larger amount of the time. And if we have an aggressive table image a smaller bet like this might even induce some crazy hero calls from worse hands or a flip out bluff/raise from missed flush draws.

Since this is a triple barrel pot, betting 40% or 50% of the pot will easily amount to 15 or 20 big blinds. With top win-rates at the lower stakes these days often being just 5bb/100 or 10bb/100, missing a value bet frequently in a spot like this could easily be the difference between you being a breakeven player and a huge winner.

Elite players who crush the games do not miss bets like this. Average players miss them all the time though because they don't think about their bet sizing.

Always make sure to consider your opponent's range (with regs, not fish) and how it connects with the board especially on the later streets. This way you can design your bet sizes according to their likely hand strength and get the maximum value every time.


Final Thoughts


Learning how to win more with your overpairs will have an immediate positive effect on your overall poker earnings. And usually all it takes is a few subtle adjustments in order to make this happen.

First off, just step on the gas pedal versus the fish and the bad regs. You can't win a big pot without betting strong and frequently against these player types. And don't worry, they will let you know if you are beat and you have to fold your overpair.

Versus the better aggressive regs you can create more action with your premium pairs by mixing in some check/raises sometimes and designing your bet sizes better based off of their range and the board on the later streets.

Lastly, versus all player types the easiest way to start winning more with your overpairs is to simply start giving more action when you don't have an overpair. If you always need to have the nuts in order to play a big pot, nobody is going to pay you off when you want them too.

If you want to know my complete strategy for crushing the micro stakes games (and how I created some of the best results in online poker history) make sure you pick up a copy of my free poker ebook.

Let me know in the comments below how you play your overpairs.

Winning more money in poker with overpairs

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Ultimate 6-Max Poker Strategy Guide

6-Max poker strategy

6-Max poker has really taken off in popularity in recent years. Full ring games (9 or 10 players) used to be the norm, and actually still are if you play live, but 6-Max now dominates the world of online poker.

You can log on to PokerStars for instance (the biggest online poker room in the world) at any time of the day and look at any stakes from the micros to the nosebleeds. You will typically see twice as many 6max tables running as full ring these days.

Just 5 years ago it was much closer to an even 50/50 split. And 10 years ago full ring dominated online. The times have changed though and people clearly prefer the more action orientated game of 6max over full ring.

What is surprising to me then is that I haven't seen a comprehensive guide to 6-Max poker strategy anywhere online. Most material out there tries to cover both formats. Which is fine in most instances, but there are also some key areas where you need to make adjustments if you truly want to crush 6-Max.

So this article will be my complete guide to 6-Max poker strategy. I will be sharing with you my top tricks and tips that I have learned over the years from playing millions of hands of 6-Max and crushing these games.


1. Play More Hands in 6-Max


The first big adjustment that you have to make if you are coming over from 9 or 10 handed games is to understand that at a 6-Max table you need to open up and play more hands. Let's start off by talking about some exact ranges.

At a full ring table I would typically suggest playing about the top 15% of all hands that are dealt to you. Here is a rough visual representation of what that might look like:

6-Max poker strategy

It is important not to get too wrapped up in the actual hands above. This is just an average selection. You should play less hands than this in the first few seats and more hands in the cutoff and button due to the incredible power of position in poker.

However at a 6-Max poker table, I would typically suggest playing about the top 20% of hands that are dealt to you. Once again here is a rough visual representation of what that might look like.

6max online poker strategy

And again, please don't try to play these exact hands in every situation. This is just an example. You should be playing less hands that this in early position and more hands than this in late position.

The key takeaway here is that whatever hands you are currently playing at a full ring table, you need to add a few of the next worst hands if you decide to start playing 6-Max. 

For instance, by comparing the two charts above you can see that in full ring suited aces down to A5 are selected. However in the 6-Max chart, A4 suited, A3 suited and A2 suited are selected as well. This is what I mean by adding a few of the "next worst hands."


Here is Another Example:

In a full ring game let's say that you currently open raise on the button with KQ, KJ and KT. Well, if you start playing 6-Max it would be a good idea to start raising with K9 and maybe K8 in this spot as well. 

You should make this adjustment for literally all situations in a 6-Max game. This means expanding your blind versus blind opening range, your early position opening range, your 3Bet calling range etc. You should add a few of the next worst hands in every scenario when you play 6-Max.


Why do you actually need to play more hands in 6-Max?

The reason why you need to play more hands in all situations in a 6-Max game is very simple. Less people at the table means there is less of a chance that anybody has anything good.

If you only take one thing from this entire article let it be this: Most of the time in a 6-Max game nobody actually has anything very good at all. 

Also, it is important to remember that the blinds come around a lot faster in a 6-Max game which means that you can't just sit around waiting for the nuts all day like you can in a full ring game. 

So therefore, it is necessary to get in there and start mixing it up with a few more hands in order to keep winning your fair share of the pots. 

I have seen far too many full ring guys at the lower stakes switch over to 6-Max and play the exact same range of hands that they do in a full ring game. And yet they wonder why they aren't winning!

Don't be that guy.


Quick Bonus Tip:

There is actually an even easier way to think about this. When you play in a 6-Max game just pretend that you are playing at a full ring table and the first three seats have been removed (or the first 4 seats if you are used to 10 handed live poker games).

Because in reality, this is all that a 6-Max poker game really is. 

6-Max online poker strategy

So if you are first to act preflop in a 6-Max game, just pretend that you are playing a 9 handed game and three people have already folded before you. 

Play the exact same range of hands that you would from middle position (MP) in a full ring game and so on and so forth from every other position at the table. This will quickly have you playing the right hands in 6-Max.


2. Bet More Often After the Flop in 6-Max

Postflop there are many adjustments to be made when you play 6-Max as well. One of the biggest ones is the necessity to bet more often on all streets after the flop.

And the biggest reason why is because strong hands are harder to come by in 6-Max. People will play more hands overall and therefore their ranges tend to be weaker on all postflop streets. 

So for instance, in 6-Max there is a better chance that your Ace high on the flop is actually still the best hand. Therefore, you don't even need to think of your CBet as a bluff. Since there is a good chance that you have the best hand, it is often actually for value.

In full ring things are a little bit different. This is a game where Nits can still turn a small profit sitting around waiting for AA and sets all day. You simply cannot get away with this in 6-Max and expect to win though. The blinds will eat you alive and the better regs will push you around all day. 


Here's What You Need to Do:

In 6-Max you should be betting the flop and firing additional barrels on the turn and/or river more often than in a full ring game. Your opponents just can't possibly have a hand often enough to call you down every time. 

"Red line" (or non-showdown winnings) are a lot more important in 6max than full ring. A larger share of the pots are won because somebody simply wanted it more, not because they showed down the best hand.

Check out my complete guide to increasing your red line winnings for more.

And furthermore, many players at the lower stakes still haven't made the adjustment in 6-Max to call wider versus aggressive players. They still operate with a full ring mentality where they want to wait for the nuts before putting any significant money in the pot. 

Let's look at an example to help illustrate this all better.


Example Hand

Hero raises to 3x from early position with AJ

Nit Villain calls on the button


Flop:

366

Hero CBets

Villain calls


Turn:

2

Hero???

We raise preflop with a strong suited Ace in early position and get called by a nitty (tight) reg on the button. His range here has a lot of small and middle pairs that he is trying to set mine us with. He will also have a few big Aces and broadways that he was too afraid to 3Bet with.

Villain's Likely Range: (22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, TT, AK, AQ, AJ, KQ, KJ) 

We make a standard CBet on this extremely dry flop which should fold out all of his non-pair hands. More specifically a Nit will probably fold all his AK, AQ, AJ, KQ and KJ hands here.

Since this is a paired board the chances that he has a set are very low. But we expect him to hang on with some of his small pairs like 44 or 55 and all of his mid pairs (77, 88, 99, TT) as well.

Now in a full ring game when I get flatted on this flop by a Nit I would often just give up on this total brick turn card. In fact in my article last week I talked about exactly why this is generally a bad card to double barrel on.

But it is a lot closer in 6-Max. I know that it is harder for them to have something to call me with. I also know that this specific type of player is often looking for any excuse to fold. Make sure to check their Went to Showdown numbers (WTSD%) on your HUD for more evidence of this.

It is important to note that if I decide NOT to double barrel this turn, then I am going to bluff plenty of rivers in 6-Max for all of the same reasons. I will be betting any broadway card for instance (T, J, Q, K or A) and possibly some hearts as well.


Bottom Line: Bet more often in 6-Max. It is simply harder for them to have a hand. Many of the weaker regs (Nits and TAGfish in particular) also still fold way too much at the lower stakes. 

Check out my full guide on player types at the lower limits for more on which regulars to target.


3. Float More Often After the Flop in 6-Max


In addition to betting more often in a 6-Max game you should also be floating when they bet quite a bit more often as well.

A float in poker is simply the act of calling a continuation bet after the flop. And preferably in position most of the time because this makes it much easier to take the pot away from them on later streets.

In a full ring game you can often just lay down your Ace high or even bottom pair on the flop. However, it is much more necessary in a 6-Max game to continue with hands like these. 

The reason why? Because once again, most of the time nobody actually has anything!

Also, floating is arguably the very best way to break the Nits in today's small stakes games. This will be a heavy focus of my new book to be released later this year.

So often these days you will encounter regs at the lower limits who have a gap between their Flop CBet% and Turn CBet% of 20 points, 30 points or even more. This is unbelievably exploitable.

Here is an example of a typical tight 6-Max reg at the micros these days.

6max online poker strategy

On my HUD display which you can download and use for yourself for free right here.
  • CBF = CBet Flop 
  • CBT = CBet Turn

*Note the 35 point difference with this reg.

What this means is that he will often fire a continuation bet on the flop, but if he doesn't have much of a hand by the turn (which is the case most of the time), then he will just go into shutdown mode and give up on the pot for the most part.

This gives us tons of opportunities to win easy pots on the turn and/or river by just making a simple bet. Our actual hand becomes almost irrelevant. Red line goes through the roof. Easy game.

Now despite these very basic betting errors that many small stakes players still make we don't want to be floating with just any two cards. We still want to have some standards as I will explain below.

But if you are folding the flop more than about 60% of the time in a 6-Max game, I would say that you are leaving serious money on the table. I would shoot for closer to a 50% fold rate. If you are highly confident in your postflop game, then you can fold even less than this and show a profit at the lower stakes.


So What Hands Should We Float With?

You should of course be calling the flop (or raising) with all of your strong hands like overpairs, top pairs, flush draws, straight draws and two pair or better.

However, you should also be routinely floating the flop in 6-Max with many of your:
  • Middle pairs
  • Bottom pairs
  • Gut shot straight draws
  • Backdoor draws (straight or flush) with over(s)

And just to be clear I want to note that I am only talking about 100 big blind effective stacks and heads up pots here. Versus short stacks or multiple opponents the strategy can change significantly.

But hopefully the point is clear. In a 6-Max game you need to be continuing with a lot more hands after the flop. You can't just sit around waiting for the nuts all day and expect to win. Let's look at an example.


Example Hand

Nit Villain raises to 3x in early position

Hero calls on the button with AJ


Flop:

366

Villain CBets

Hero???


You might notice that this is actually the exact same hand that I discussed before. I just switched the seats and the preflop action around. We are the preflop caller this time and we have position as well.

This nitty regular is almost certainly going to CBet on this dry board. We have two nice overcards and the backdoor nut flush draw. So I am never folding when he bets here. From time to time I will even mix in a raise as well.

The reason why is because I think that a weaker reg like this will give up a lot versus either line. He will fail to make a CBet on the turn a lot of the time or just give up on the flop versus a raise sometimes. 

Even if he gives us action there are tons of turn cards that we can bet or bluff on with plenty of equity.

These are cards like:
  • Any broadway (T, J, Q, K or A)
  • Any diamond

This amounts to half of the deck when you count them all. Also, since we have position we will be able to dictate the pace of the action the rest of the way. We can just check behind on some turns that aren't good for us and bluff some rivers as well.

Basically, there are tons of ways for us to win here. You have to get involved in 6-Max and fight for more pots. In position against the weaker regs is a good place to start mixing it up more. You can make a small fortune at the micros by floating these guys and outplaying them on later streets.


4. Raise More Often After the Flop in 6-Max


Something else that you need to be doing more often in 6-Max compared to full ring is raising after the flop.

I have done a lot of research in Pokertracker 4 about postflop raising ranges for regs at the lower stakes online. Most are only raising around 10% of the time on the flop and this is the street where people are most likely to raise.

This is pretty crazy because if you are only raising the flop 10% of the time this means that you pretty much always have a set or a monster draw. This is almost trivial to exploit. 

I would recommend raising the flop a lot more often than this (as much as double) and more often on the later streets as well. 

You should definitely still keep raising with your sets and monster draws most of the time. But you should also be raising frequently with regular draws (flush and straight) and even sometimes with just two overs and a backdoor draw like we saw in the previous hand. 

Adding these types of hands to your postflop raising range will make you infinitely more difficult to play against because your opponents won't be able to put you on a monster every time and make the easy fold.

Raising more after the flop is also highly effective in 6-Max because they won't have a strong hand to call you with very often. And even if they get stubborn with some sort of pair, a followup bet on the turn and/or river is often enough to turn them into a believer.

Let's look at an example to help illustrate this better.


Example Hand

Nit Villain raises to 2.5x from the button

Hero calls in the big blind with JT


Flop:

39A

Hero checks

Villain CBets

Hero???


A nitty regular raises from the button in this hand. Since he is in a steal position we know that he will be opening with a wide range here, perhaps as much as 30% or even more hands.

It is important to also note the 2.5x the big blind open which is pretty standard these days even at the lower stakes especially from a steal seat (button or cutoff).

Five years ago most people would make it 3x or even more sometimes in this spot which gave you much worse odds to call out of position. Therefore the play was often to either 3Bet or fold. 

But with the smaller open raise sizes in today's games (2x or 2.5x) flatting with a hand like this is certainly an acceptable option as well. 

On the flop there are also multiple lines that we could take with this hand. You could throw in some leads here once in awhile just to mix things up and keep them guessing. I prefer to just check it to the preflop raiser most of the time though and that is what we do here.

After the reg makes his CBet we could just call out of position here. But it doesn't really put us in a great spot on the turn since we will miss our flush 80% of the time and be out of position still with just a draw.


Check/Raise!

So I think it is a good idea to mix in some check/raises in a spot like this more often. We don't need to fear the Ace too much (remember this guy is opening with 30% of hands from the button here). And by raising we also give ourselves a chance to take down the pot unimproved right now or with a followup lead on the turn. 

People often complain these days about not getting any action with their big hands like AA or sets. A big part of the reason why is because everybody and their dog knows that they have the nuts when they raise!

If you can show up with hands like this (regular flush draw), or even worse hands on occasion, not only will you get a lot more action when you actually want it, but you will start taking away more pots from the regulars and ultimately winning more.


Bottom Line: In a 6-Max game you have to find more ways to get active postflop because so often nobody really has anything good. Raising more often with decent equity hands like a flush draw is a good way to go about that.


5. Isolate the Recreational Players More Often in 6-Max


The final adjustment that you need to make for 6-Max is to zero in on the fish even more than ever. By this I mean that you should be isolating the recreational players like crazy at the lower stakes. 

As I discuss at length in both of my books, playing against the fish is by far the #1 way to increase your poker winnings. There is no strategy on earth that you will ever learn in any guide, video, book or from any coach that can even come close.

Bad players = $.

And the great thing about the lower stakes games (online or live) is that most of the regs won't fight with you to get in hands with the fish like they will at higher limits. This means that when the recreational player limps into the pot you can often raise it up and get the pot heads up against them pretty easily. 

Even if you are out of position this is still a great opportunity. Recreational players are where the bulk of your profits will come from in this game because they make massive fundamental mistakes all the time. They also tilt like crazy.

So you can and should be taking control of the pot preflop with an even wider range of hands than normal if a fish limps in. 

If I am in position, especially on the button, then I will be raising with nearly half the deck when they limp in. The reason why is that my edge in this spot is simply too big to pass over.


I expect to be able to turn a profit with hands as weak as:

Q7

or 

KT

The other great thing about 6-Max is that since there are less players at the table, you get to play hands against the recreational players way more often. 

You should always be focusing heavily on your poker table selection and playing on easy poker sites in today's games. But I would say that it is even more important in 6-Max. 

If you always have at least one bad player at the table, then it is literally impossible not to win big even if you just play like a complete nit. And at 6-Max, you get to bust them even faster.


Final Thoughts


6-Max poker strategy is not really that complicated. It really just involves expanding your range a little bit in nearly all facets of the game. But it is important not to go too crazy. A 6-Max poker game is still way closer in theory to full ring than to heads up for instance. 

But if you really want to start crushing the lower stakes 6-Max games, then it will be necessary to start shedding a few of your nitty ways. And believe me, as a former massive multi-tabling full ring nit grinder I know all about this!

You need to start playing a few more hands from all positions preflop as well as betting and barreling more postflop. You should be floating and raising more often as well especially against the weaker regs.

In time you will start to think with more of a 6-Max mentality. There are tons of easy pots up for grabs that nobody really wants to fight for. And you don't need to have the nuts in order to start winning more of them!

The other great thing about 6-Max is that you get to play hands more often against the fish. Make sure you are getting involved with them as often as possible and getting their stack before the other regs do.

If you want to know the full strategy I have used to create some of the highest win-rates in online poker history at the micros (both 6-Max and full ring), then make sure to pick up a copy of my free poker ebook. 

6-Max poker strategy

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When to Double Barrel the Turn Cheat Sheet - Bet Again on These Cards

When to Double Barrel the Turn in Poker
A lot of people who are new to poker or play at the lower stakes have trouble with the idea of when to make a double barrel. This is a bet again on the turn after you raised preflop and then bet the flop.

And more specifically, they don’t understand what cards to continue betting on.

So what happens instead is that in the interest of appearing aggressive they end up randomly barreling against their opponents. This leads to what I often refer to as “clicking buttons.”

Randomly clicking buttons is not how we win in online poker (same thing for live poker too). Yes it is good to be aggressive. You need to be aggressive in order to be a big time winning player. But you have to know why you are betting and what type of opponents to do it against.

So if you have any signs of clicking buttons syndrome, don't worry, this is the article for you. In this post I am going to talk about what types of turn cards and versus which opponents we want to continue betting on. I will also discuss which ones to avoid.


Player Type is More Important Than Anything


Before I even get started though I need to mention that the type of player who you are up against is actually more important than what the turn card is when double barreling.

You should always be playing the player at the poker tables and this means knowing exactly what type of opponent you are up against.


Barrel the Weak/Tights

In general, the players who you want to be double and even triple barreling against the most at the lower stakes are what are often referred to as weak/tight regs or sometimes just bad regs.

These are the players who play fairly tight but they aren’t willing to risk big portions of their stack without the nuts.

This will be by far the most common type of opponent that you face at the lower stakes by the way. This is why I am focusing heavily on how to crush them in my new book.


Don't Barrel the Fish and Good Regs as Much

The players that you want to sometimes avoid double barreling light on the other hand are the recreational players and some of the good players as well.

The fish will simply call you down because they don’t think about the game on any kind of deeper level at all. So this is why you typically want to have a good value hand like top pair or a huge draw when barreling against them.

The handful of really good winning regs that you will find at the lower stakes will notice if your bluffing frequencies are too high. So you can’t just barrel every scare card that comes up on the turn or they will correctly adjust and call you down with middle pair. So you need to pick your spots a little bit better here as well.

For more on the various player types and what they correlate to with HUD stats as well, I would suggest checking out my popular article on the various types of regs here.


Double Barreling Turn Scare Cards


The most common type of turn card that you should be double barreling on is a scare card.

What is a scare card?

A scare card is usually referred to as some sort of big broadway card like an ace or a king. The reason why this is scary to them is because our perceived range as the preflop raiser includes tons of ace and king hands.

Let’s have a look at an example hand.


Example:

Hero opens to 3x from EP with 55

Weak/tight villain calls on the button


Before we even get to the flop let’s consider villain’s range here. When a tight reg like this flats me preflop in a spot like this I expect him to show up with a lot of small and middle pairs that he is trying to set-mine me with. I also expect him to show up with a few big aces that he was too scared to 3Bet me with.

He will probably be putting me on a lot of big aces, broadway hands like KQ and lots of big pairs and middle pairs.


Flop:

244

Hero CBets


We make a pretty standard CBet on a low board like this. I expect to get called most of the time by my opponent's pair hands. I expect to fold out pretty much all of his big ace hands.


Turn:

A

This is the perfect card to double barrel a weak/tight nit on because he is going to be scared to death that his 77 or 88 or 99 is beat now and he will look to make the hero fold.

We also pick up a bit of equity with the gut shot to the 3 which is great too. So this is an easy +EV double barrel spot that you should be making on a regular basis against the weak/tight regs in particular.


What Are Some Other Good Cards to Barrel On?


There are plenty of other good cards that you can barrel on as well though which will increase your bluffing frequencies and have you showing a solid profit against the weak/tight regs.

These are cards where you pick up some equity which usually comes from a backdoor draw. Let’s look at another example.


Example:

Hero raises in EP with KQ

Weak/tight villain calls on the button


Flop:

3T5

Once again we are going to CBet on a dry flop like this with pretty much our entire range. It folds out all his big aces and we plan to barrel plenty of scare cards on the turn as well.


But here are some other turn cards that we can also continue betting on:

  • Any diamond (there are 10 more of them in the deck)
  • Any 9 or J (there are 8 of them in the deck)

The diamond gives us a solid backdoor flush draw which we will hit 20% of the time on the river. And the 9 or the J gives us a gut shot or open ended straight draw which will also come in from time to time on the river.

Furthermore, some of these cards might even be overcards to whatever middle pair our opponent is hanging on with. This could scare him out as well.

Lastly, if all else fails there is a very good chance that our two overs with the K and the Q (6 outs) will be good on the river as well.

This is how you can analyze a turn situation and understand exactly why you are betting again, rather than randomly clicking buttons and hoping for the best.

For instance, here are a few examples of turn cards that I would choose NOT to double barrel on in this spot:

2

4

The reason why?

These cards do nothing to help improve our hand and they also will not scare our opponent at all. These are the type of turn cards where it is best to just check and give up and hope you spike one of your overs on the river.

Remember, you can’t win every pot in poker. Sometimes you need to be willing to just give up on the pot because there is simply more value (lose the least) in check/folding given the opponent and the board.

This is something that is extremely important to understand at the micros in particular. Learning how to check/fold more often against many of the terrible opponents that you will often encounter in these games is actually one of the biggest keys to my success.


Conclusion


I hope that this article gave you a few ideas on how to double barrel more effectively on the turn at the lower stakes.

Firstly, you should barreling most often against the weak/tight opponents who will be the most likely to give up on their middle pair type hand and let you have the pot. Luckily they will also be by far your most common opponent in small stakes games these days.

Versus the fish and the good regs you should have a bit more value in your range in this situation. It’s not like I won’t ever double barrel bluff them but I won’t be betting again on every backdoor draw or scare card that comes.

Furthermore, you should also be looking to make your double barrels strategically on the right turn cards. Specifically these are broadway scare cards (especially aces and kings) and runner cards that provide you with a decent backdoor draw such as a flush or straight draw or even a gut shot.

On all other cards you should typically just be giving up on the pot. This will keep your turn barreling frequencies in good shape against the weak/tight nit army and have you easily destroying them in this situation in the long run.

If you want to know my complete strategy and how I created some of the biggest winrates in the history of online poker at the micros make sure you pick up a copy of my free ebook.

Let me know your thoughts below about double barreling at the lower stakes. Which cards do you like to bet on?

When to double barrel on the turn