Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Announcing the Release of The NL2 Mastery Course

The NL2 Mastery Course BlackRain79
The NL2 Mastery Course is something that I have mostly kept quiet about but have been working behind the scenes on for quite some time.

As many of you may know I am the author of two popular full length books on the micro stakes cash games. Crushing the Microstakes (NL2, NL4 and NL5) and Modern Small Stakes (NL10, NL25 and NL50).

But many people have told me that they would also like to see the strategies and ideas presented in those two books in action for themselves at the tables.

This is why starting this year I am going to be releasing a series of Mastery Courses starting at NL2. NL5 and NL10 will be forthcoming later this year.

The Mastery Courses are full length video series (typically 6+ hours) of live play at the micros online. You essentially get to look over my shoulder as I show you how I have produced some of the best results in history in these games.

What is the NL2 Mastery Course?

The NL2 Mastery Course is a 9 part video series featuring 6 hours of live play at the full ring, 6max and Zoom tables on Pokerstars.

In this video series you will learn:
  • How to employ an exploitative TAG strategy at the micros
  • How to find the fish and tilt them
  • How to stack the fish as fast as possible over and over again
  • How to exploit the regs
  • How to play effectively in 3Bet pots
  • Zoom Poker Strategy
  • Flop and Turn CBet strategy
  • River ranges and bet sizing
And much, much more!

Videos #1, #2 and #3 (Full Ring)

(Total running time: 118 minutes)

In the first 3 videos in this series I play live at NL2 full ring on Pokerstars varying between 1 and 4 tables at a time. Implementing a TAG strategy I focus heavily on exploiting the numerous fish that I find at the tables. As I stack them again and again I discuss the specific strategy nuances of full ring poker.

Here is a short preview of what you can expect:

Videos #4, #5 and #6 (6max)

(Total running time: 124 minutes)

In videos 4, 5 and 6 in this series I play live at the 6max NL2 cash games on Pokerstars. I talk about how to make adjustments for 6max both preflop and postflop. I employ a highly position based TAG strategy. I stack numerous fish once again and talk about how to exploit the regs.

Here is a short preview of what you can expect:

Videos #7, #8 and #9 (Zoom Poker)

(Total running time: 117 minutes)

In the final 3 videos in this series I focus on Zoom Poker (both 6max and full ring). I discuss the specific strategy adjustments needed to beat these games for the highest winrates possible. Once again I employ a highly exploitative TAG strategy, abusing the regs and stacking the fish.

Here is a short preview of what you can expect:

Let's Start Crushing the Micros!

I write about the micros non-stop on this blog as many of you know (roughly one new post a week). And while the games have gotten a bit tougher in recent years the real purpose of this video series is to show you that you can still absolutely crush these games for some truly insane winrates.

Here are my results from this video series (note the winrate):

BlackRain79 Videos

Now there are a few fairly big caveats here of course.

Firstly, the sample size is so small that it makes my results pretty insignificant. However, considering just how high the winrate is (especially when I ran fairly normal in this video series - neither great nor terrible), that should tell you something.

Secondly, I only play on 4 tables at the most in this video series and sometimes as little as 1 or 2 especially when playing Zoom. If I was playing 12+ tables at a time I would not be able to maintain 34bb/100.

With all that said though, I do think that crazy results similar to this are still possible in today's games over the long run if you:
  • Employ a solid exploitative TAG strategy
  • Use effective table selection
  • Control your emotions when things go bad
The biggest reason why is due to the quality of the competition that you will face in these games.

NL2 is a Circus

NL2 is the very lowest stake of online poker. Therefore, this game is populated by some of the worst players on the planet. Yet, most people who play at this limit not only don't turn a profit, they actually lose money!

As somebody who has made 15k+ at just this stake alone with rakeback added (quite possibly the most ever), this is just absolutely crazy to me.

As you will see in The NL2 Mastery Course, these games are still a total joke.

I actually employ very little table selection throughout this entire video series and I play at some of the absolute worst times as well (Sunday night for instance in North American time zones). This entire video series was also recorded at the supposedly hardest site out there, Pokerstars.

You see my results above.

I can remember identifying one player (yes ONE), throughout 6 hours of play, who in my opinion looked like a reasonably solid poker player. Everybody else ran the gamut from pure beginner to absolutely no clue what they are doing.

I encountered numerous massive fish at full ring, 6max and Zoom with VPIPs as high as 80%. On many occasions I had 2 or 3 of them at each table. You can clearly see them in the promo videos above.

Anybody trying to tell you that the NL2 games today are full of good regs is either completely blind or does not understand what "playing good" actually means in this game.

I have long referred to NL2 lovingly as "The Circus" because it is full of huge fish and total beginner regs with massive leaks in their game.

No more excuses.

You should be absolutely annihilating these games and that is what this video series shows you how to do.

High Definition Downloadable Videos

Download NL2 Mastery Course

All videos in The NL2 Mastery Course were recorded using professional screen capture software and a professional grade microphone. So when you watch this video series it is like you are in the room looking right at my laptop screen.

Also, it is important to note that in this video series you will be watching me play poker (and explain my decisions) in real time. This is not one of those "voice over" replayer video series where I get the benefit of hindsight.

And if you want to download this entire course and take it on the go, then that is no problem as well. There is a download button under every single video. You can of course stream the entire thing online in HD as well.

Bonus #1 - The NL2 Mastery Course Starter Kit

The starter kit includes a free copy of my "Massive Profit at the Micros" ebook which breaks down the strategy that you will see in action throughout this entire video course.

It also includes an overview of several key topics discussed in this video series and links to important articles of mine to learn more.

Bonus #2 - Free Lifetime Access to the Member's Only Area of My Forum

Every single person who purchases this course will receive free lifetime access to the member's only area on my forum where you can personally ask me questions about ANY hand in this video series.

You can also post your own hands for review.

If You Struggle at NL2 Then This Course is for YOU!

Here's the thing, you can go out and spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on coaching, training sites and books in order to learn complex theories on how to beat the complete beginners that you will encounter at NL2.

You will probably end up being just as confused as when you started and still wondering why your results are lacking.

Or you can see first-hand the proven common sense strategies that I have long used in these games to produce some of the best results ever.

No speculation, no theories and no complex math. Just results.

If you are still struggling at NL2, then invest in yourself and get this video course. I promise it won't cost you hundreds of dollars either!

Not even close in fact.

Click the button below to get started.

Retail Price $29.95
New Release Price $19.95
You Save $10.00 (33%)

The NL2 Mastery Course by BlackRain79

Purchasing Options

1) Purchasing with a Credit Card or Debit Card

Click "Add to Cart" above. Choose "Checkout with Paypal" and then select "Pay with a debit or credit card" on the next page.

2) Purchasing with Paypal

Click "Add to Cart" above. Choose "Checkout with Paypal" and then enter your Paypal details on the next page.

3) Purchasing with Skrill

Send $19.95 to blackrain79@dragthebar.com and then send me a quick email at this same address to let me know. I will send you your copy of The NL2 Mastery Course ASAP.

If you have any questions concerning the payment process (or anything at all regarding this course), please send me an email at blackrain79@dragthebar.com.

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Final Thoughts

I just want to thank each and every loyal reader of this website who has been following me for years. You know who you are.

You are the reason I am inspired to keep putting out articles each week and even get around to something really big like a book or a video course every once in awhile.

Truly, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support, the emails, the comments and more.

My hope with The NL2 Mastery Course (like with my previous two books) is that it makes a real discernible difference in your results at the tables, immediately.

We all started playing this game for fun. But let me tell you, the real fun begins when you start consistently winning big. Because that really is the entire point of the game.

Hopefully this video series helps shine a little bit more light on your path at the micros.

The NL2 Mastery Course by BlackRain79

Friday, June 10, 2016

How to Stop Making Bad Calls in Poker

Stop making bad calls in poker
Making bad calls at the poker tables is one of the easiest ways to screw up a good win-rate. But there is a big difference between a call made for the right reasons and one that is made simply due to emotion and poor logic.

We definitely want to make plenty of the former (good calls) and avoid making the latter. In this article I am going to explain exactly what the difference is between a good call and a bad call. I am also going to give you strategies to stop making bad calls.

What is a Good Call?

Let's start by talking about the kind of calls that we want to be making. A good call is one that is made for any of the following reasons:
  • You think you have the best hand 
  • You have the right odds to continue 
  • You are setting up a bluff for later on in the hand 
All of these reasons for making a call are based on solid logic and entail a plan for the hand. There is no emotion involved.

A good call also presupposes that you have weighed your other two options (raising or folding) and have decided that there is a higher EV (expected value) in calling.

Let's look at a few examples of each of these.

1. You Think You Have the Best Hand

Hero has A♥J♠

Villain bets $5 into a $10 pot on this river



We could make the call in this spot if we think that we have the best hand. There are plenty of missed straight draws (T9 and KT), missed flush draws (any two clubs) and even a few worse Jacks that might be trying to value bet (KJ, JT).

We do not expect to be right all of the time though. It is important to remember that in poker we play against ranges, not individual hands.

So while our opponent's range might include several missed draws and some worse Jacks, sometimes we will also be shown a Queen, a set or something else that beats us.

Our decision in this spot really depends heavily on the player type. Some players are going to have more value hands here. Some will have more bluffs.

2. You Have the Right Odds to Continue

Another reason to make a "good call" is because you have the right odds (i.e., the poker math makes sense). So in the example above for instance villain has bet $5 into a pot of $10. Our pot odds here (Bet + Pot Size / Bet) are 3 to 1.

What does this mean to us though?

It means that we should be 3 to 1 against at most to win the pot. Or more specifically, we need to be right here at least 25% of the time. As long as we think that we have the best hand here 1 out of every 4 times or better, we can profitably call.

If we were in a situation say on the turn with a draw then a similar logic would apply. If the odds of making our hand are equal to or better than our pot odds, then we can profitably continue.

For example:

We have a flush draw on the turn. A flush draw is roughly 4 to 1 against to hit on the river. If we are getting 4 to 1 or better pot odds, then we can call and make an immediate profit.

Furthermore, if we have implied odds on the river as well, then sometimes we don't even need to have the right pot odds in order to make a profitable call.

I don't want to turn this into a lengthy treatise on poker math though. I have talked about poker math in detail before on several occasions. You can find a recent article here.

3. You are Setting up a Bluff Later on in the Hand

This last reason for a good call is a little bit more complicated and it is not something that I suggest doing very often if you are new to the game or playing at the micros.

Nonethless, it can certainly be a valid reason to make a call. Here is an example:

Hero has 8♦7♦

Villain CBets on a flop of



We could call in this spot with the intention of taking away the pot on a later street. We don't have much equity (gutshot and a backdoor flush draw) and so this is much more about playing the player rather than the cards.

If we are up against someone who CBets the flop frequently for instance but then gives up a lot on the turn, then this could be a profitable spot to float and then bet the turn when checked to.

For specific examples of the types of regs to do this against and the associated HUD stats, you can check out my article on beating the regs.

What is a Bad Call?

Ok, so now that we have outlined some of the main reasons for making a good call let's talk about some of the reasons (or lackthereof) behind bad calls.

A bad call is made for any of the following reasons:
  • Tilt 
  • There is no reason 
  • Faulty Logic 
Bad calls, as opposed to good calls, are made based off of emotion and/or a lack of logic. And sometimes there is simply no reason at all. 

Furthermore, when somebody makes a bad call, often they have not even considered their other options in the hand. It is often the case in poker that raising or folding will show a higher long term EV.

Let's talk about these "reasons" for making a bad call one by one.

1. Tilt

Tilt is the 800 pound elephant in the room that affects every poker player on earth to varying degrees. Poker is an emotional game with endless ups and downs. Most people are not very good at dealing with downswings in particular and it can affect their decisions at the table in a negative way.

Here is an example of a bad call based off of tilt.

Hero has 9♦9♥

Villain (Nit regular) triple barrels on this river


When a nitty regular at the micros triple barrels us here (raised preflop, bet the flop, turn and river) we are going to get shown a higher overpair (higher boat technically on this board) a very high percentage of the time.

The correct play here is to fold. 

But this is a spot where some people may have a problem laying their hand down especially if they have been losing a lot and they are on tilt. They will make a so called "crying call" here when deep down they know that there is very little chance that their hand is good. 

2. There is No Reason

Newer or inexperienced poker players in particular may often make a call without any real reason at all. We have all seen this countless times when playing against recreational players for instance. 

The river comes with an ace, we check it down and they turn over the rivered ace. We are dumbfounded as to why they are even in the hand. But this is just what bad or inexperienced poker players often do, call for no reason. 

3. Faulty Logic

The last reason for making a bad call I will loosely just call "faulty logic." This can mean stuff like not understanding how to calculate pot odds and hand odds correctly as I discussed above. 

This can also include making a bad call based off of superstition. Some people have a "favorite hand" for instance. There is no logic or reason for them behind making a call in a specific spot. They just happen to love 8♦6♦!!

How to Stop Making Bad Calls

Now that we know the differences between good calls and bad calls let's talk about how to stop making the bad ones. Good calls which are made for the right reasons can have a beneficial impact on our win-rate in the long run.

But as I mentioned at the top, bad calls can have a very negative affect on our win-rate especially if you make them frequently. 

1. Always Make Calls in Poker for a Reason

Most importantly, the #1 way to stop making bad calls is to always demand a reason out of yourself for why you are making a call. Do not allow yourself to just blindly hit the call button or throw the chips in the middle...just because.

Poker is game where we get ahead by making better decisions than our opponents. If you are routinely not even thinking about why you make the decisions that you do, then you may as well just give away your money or go play Bingo.

We need to always have a reason for the actions that we take at the poker tables and a plan for the hand. If you are going to make a call, then once again, it should be for one of these reasons:
  • You think you have the best hand
  • You have the poker math on your side 
  • You are setting up a bluff for later

2. Always Make Sure You Have Weighed Your Other Options

Secondly, before making a call always make sure that you have considered raising or folding as well. You should have clearly determined that both of these options are inferior to calling. 

So many people just randomly click buttons in this game without even thinking. It is often the case that raising or folding actually are the better options in poker. Show me somebody who likes to call a lot and I will show you a losing poker player. 

Make sure that you have carefully considered raising (either as a bluff or for value) or simply just folding, before you hit that call button.

3. Quit When Tilt Takes Over

Lastly, the biggest reason why people make bad calls is because they are on tilt. They are frustrated by a recent run of bad beats/coolers and therefore their logical decision making skills are diminished. 

Countless studies have concluded that emotions (and frustration/anger in particular) negatively affect our reasoning abilities. For instance, in a recent Harvard study Litvak et al. found that angry decision makers frequently exhibit signs of increased "aggression and unrealistic optimism."

In poker terms this means that when you make that tilt induced bad call on the river it is often because you subconsciously want to get back at your opponent by showing them that you won't back down. The problem is that there is no room for ego in poker. When you are beat, you need to fold.

When on tilt you may also find ways to convince yourself that they are bluffing more than they are in reality. Or you will simply make that crying call because you just want to see it (even though you know that you are beat deep down).

Obviously both of these are very negative and unprofitable ways to approach the game. This is why when you know that you are on tilt the best decision is pretty much always to simply quit. 

In your poor state of mind your ability to even discern the difference between a good call and a bad call can be severely comprimised. Making bad calls while on tilt is one of the biggest destroyers of bankrolls and win-rates.

The acclaimed poker mental game coach Tommy Angelo famously talked about the need to "Lop off your C-Game." What he meant by this is quitting when you dip into your C level game (or even worse D, E, F) because during these periods your ability to think straight and make high quality poker decisions is greatly reduced.

The bottom line is that if you can learn to quit when tilt starts to take over, then you will almost over night say goodbye to a large number of your bad calls.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this article helped provide you with good outline of the differences between a good call and a bad call in poker. Good calls are based on logic and mathematics. Bad calls are based on emotion, faulty logic or even no thinking at all. 

The best way to stop making bad calls in poker is to simply get better at quitting when tilt starts to get the best of you. When in this state our ability to think clearly and even determine the difference between a good call and a bad call is severly diminished. 

Furthermore, in order to avoid making bad calls, always make sure that you can give yourself a solid reason for why you are making the call (you have the best hand, poker math etc.). 

Lastly, make sure that you have weighed your other options and you can confidently conclude that calling is indeed the best course of action.   

Let me know in the comments below how making bad calls in poker affects you. What methods do you use to prevent them from happening?

If you found this article helpful, then do me a favour and "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

How to stop making bad calls

Monday, June 6, 2016

11 Undeniable Truths About Crushing the Micros

11 facts about crushing micro stakes poker
I have been around micro stakes poker on the internet for a long time now, over 10 years. And this is both from a playing and teaching perspective. So I have been able to see first hand what works and what doesn't at these limits.

The simple truth is that winning at the lowest limits online is actually very easy, and yes, even in today's games. After all, you are playing against the worst players on earth!

So why do so few achieve success?

Well, I think it is mostly a lack of understanding about how this game actually works at a fundamental level. This is either from a technical perspective, the mental side, or more commonly, both.

So in this article I am going to discuss 11 undeniable truths about what it takes to dominate at these limits. If you follow these simple principles, then there is no reason why you shouldn't be crushing the micros online.

1. If You Quit, You Will Lose

This first one might sound almost stupid but it needs to be said.

Just like in the weight-loss industry one of the biggest reasons why most poker players do not achieve the success that they want is simply because they quit too early.

Unfortunately we live in a society today where everybody expects fast and easy results in everything they do. Poker simply does not work this way. There is no get rich quick scheme here and it takes a long time to get real results.

If you want to achieve big time success in poker then you need to be in this for the long term. 1k hands is not the long-term. 10k hands is not the long-term. Heck, even 100k hands is not always the long term.

Try millions.

Talk to any of the biggest winners online at the micros and beyond and the one common denominator that you will find is millions of hands played. They play, they learn and then they play some more. Rinse and repeat this process for years.

If you want to achieve your potential in this game then you need to stop getting wrapped up in meaningless short-term results like most other people.

Poker is a lifelong journey. It is all one big long session. Enjoy the ride.

2. You Have to Trust in the Process

So along with this, you have to trust in the long term mathematical nature of the game or there is no point in playing either. If you regularly tell bad beat stories (we all know these guys) or complain about how rigged the game is, at some point you really should ask yourself why it is that you still play.

It is ok to get angry or frustrated sometimes in the heat of the moment when you lose. Everybody does this. It is human, it is natural.

But at a certain point you have to rise above it. You have to know that if you consistently get the money in with the best hand, then you will win in the long run.

And of course if you are using a proper bankroll management strategy, then the day to day (or even week to week) swings should not matter at all anyways.

If losing a few hands or sessions in a row when you were a favorite is a difficult thing for you to accept, then you really need to re-assess your approach to this game.

The math will always sort itself out in the end. You have to know and trust in this process or there is no point in even playing.

3. Tight Will Always Be Right

It is ok to be a nit. There, I said it.

In fact you can sit around and wait for aces and set-mine all day long while playing 18 tables and still turn a profit at the lowest stakes online. This is by no means the most optimal strategy but it does work.

A loose aggressive style can certainly be more optimal especially in today's games. However the problem is that most people playing the micros are relative beginners to the game and have a poor understanding of how to implement it. The higher variance can also often prove to be disastrous for them.

This is why I always advise a tight strategy at the micros. Roughly:

  • 20% of your hands at 6max
  • 15% of your hands at full ring

This ensures that you are always in there with a relatively strong hand. And it will also keep you out of higher variance marginal situations.

If you find that you can't control yourself at the tables or you figure yourself to be an "action junkie", then it is very unlikely that you will succeed in this game. Winning poker at the lowest limits in particular is actually really boring.

4. Aggression is Key

Many of these same people who play too many hands also fail to understand how important aggression and having the initiative is in this game.

You should always be trying to take control of the pot preflop or postflop when the opportunity is presented to you. This means raising, re-raising and betting much more often.

Everybody will make an equal amount of good hands in poker. It is those people who take control of the pot and take it down when nobody else has anything that get ahead in the end.

You can simply go into your Pokertracker database and see the raw data for yourself. Filter for when you raise preflop and compare your results with when you limp. You will stop limping when you see the results. Filter for postflop spots as well and see the same thing.

5. Bad Poker Players = $

This is 2016 now and most people still pay absolutely no attention to table selection. This is the craziest thing on earth to me since this is the #1 skill in online poker today.

Failure to do so really just demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how this game works and where the money actually comes from.

Your profits in poker will always be a direct result of who you are playing against. If you choose to continually play with players who are at your skill level or higher, then you will not win.

You could be the 6th best poker player in the world. If your opponents are the 5 best poker players in the world, then you are the fish. And you will lose in the long run.

You should always (yes, always) have somebody with a VPIP of 40% or higher at the tables if you are playing anywhere at the micros. And they should also be on your right. This is actually not difficult at all if you are willing to put in the effort.

I have been saying it for years now. The #1 way to improve your results at the micros is to start taking table selection extremely seriously. This is not 2008 anymore. You have to go actively find the fish in today's games in order to win big.

6. Make the Obvious Play

Overthinking is another huge problem that affects a lot of people at the micros these days. Once again, it is important to remember that you are playing against the worst players on earth. You do not need years of poker theory and a PHD in math in order to beat these people.

In most circumstances what actually still works best at the micros is just making the completely obvious play. You are playing for a couple of dollars here or the cost of a movie ticket. Half of your opponents are complete beginners or even drunk in some cases.

Save the 10th level thinking and the GTO correct frequencies for the higher stakes where it might actually matter. At the micros a very simple TAG strategy is all that you need.

I have written a ton of articles on this website discussing what this means. My first book is also completely dedicated to this topic.

7. Manage Your Bankroll Properly

As I mentioned before, bankroll management should really be a given in this day and age. 20 buyins per limit has long been recommended as the minimum.

I suggest double this now though with the increased variance in today's games. This means:
  • NL2 - $80
  • NL5 - $200
  • NL10 - $400
  • etc.
The last thing that you should ever need to worry about when playing poker is going broke. If you make sure that you always have a solid bankroll behind you, then these worries go away.

If you follow these guidelines then you can focus on making the right plays at the tables and never play with scared money. The games will always be there. There is no big rush to move up.

8. The Money Flows Towards the Button

Something else that is crucially important to your success at the micros is position. All you have to do is once again look in your poker tracking program and see for yourself that nearly all of your actual winnings come from late position.

Hence the famous saying in poker, "the money flows towards the button."

I suggest that you play at least 3 times as many hands from the button as you do from early position. Forget your tricky plays with your suited connectors from early position. Nobody is paying any attention to this anyways.

Don't fight against this cardinal rule of the game. Play in position as often as possible.

9. Don't Worry About Your Red Line

The red line in poker geek speak is essentially your non-showdown winnings. This is the amount that you win or lose when somebody wins a pot but no cards get shown.

This is the game within the game in poker. And from a technical perspective, this is really where the elite players separate themselves from the rest.

The problem with the micros though is that so many of your opponents are huge calling stations (assuming you have taken point #5 above seriously).

Therefore, striving to achieve a great red line (positive non-showdown winnings) is actually counter-productive because you simply can't expect to win by bluffing against these types of players.

At the lowest limits in particular (NL2, NL5) break-even is the absolute best you should ever hope for. My red line is actually negative in these games and I am one of the biggest winners of all time in them.

The green line (overall winnings) is the only line that actually matters. Stop wasting your time and money trying to bluff calling stations and focus on big value instead at the lower limits.

10. The Real Money is in Thin Value

And speaking of value, one of the biggest keys to success at the micros is becoming a master of getting that thin value as well. This is when you get somebody to call with a worse hand even though you don't have anything very great yourself.

Everybody knows how to bet their AA, their two pair or their trips. But so many people miss out on getting that final bet on the river with 2nd pair against somebody who can't find the fold button with their bottom pair or ace high.

Poker is all about adapting to your environment and your opponents. If you are playing against a bunch of no fold'em beginners then you don't beat them by running big bluffs against them. You beat them by getting the absolute maximum value out of every decent to good hand that you have.

A lot of this has to do with using creative bet sizing and hand reading. Don't be afraid to go for thin value bets a little more often especially on the river.

You will get called by better hands from time to time and look a bit foolish. This is actually a good thing. It means that you are doing it right.

11. Tilt is Your Worst Enemy

Tilt is the #1 killer of bankrolls and dreams at the micros. We all tilt at times. It is impossible not to as long as you are human.

However, if having big time success in this game is a priority for you, then you absolutely must learn to harness it better and avoid the massive spew that negatively affects so many others.

Many times this will simply involve quitting for the day when things obviously aren't going your way. Captain comeback sounds good in theory but it rarely works out well. You are in a poor state of mind when running bad and your chances of digging yourself out are therefore lower.

A better thing to do is to quit playing for the day and just get away from the computer for an hour or two. Then you can come back with a clear mind and make a rational assessment of what went wrong by doing a session review.

If your results were largely due to variance, then you can walk away feeling satisfied that you did your best and try again the next day. If your poor results were caused by bad play or tilt though, then this is something that you need to address.

Everybody is going to run bad in this game and sometimes for weeks or even months on end. You can let it destroy you like it does for 90% of other poker players or you can rise above it.

Final Thoughts

I hope that a few of the points in this article helped resonate with you at the micro stakes cash games. Believe me, these games are still easily beatable at the lowest limits.

No, the money isn't falling from the sky anymore like it was 10 years ago. However, most people do not achieve the success that they want at these stakes because they lack a knowledge of (or ignore) the most basic technical and mental rules of this game.

Focus on TAG play (emphasizing both position and initiative), table selection and tilt control and there is absolutely no reason why you can't absolutely crush the games at the lowest stakes online.

I have been hinting at a big video series for awhile now which will be released in a few weeks. In it I crush the lower end of the micros on Stars (6max, full ring and Zoom) for some truly absurd winrates.

All I do is follow the advice above.

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How to crush micro stakes poker

Monday, May 23, 2016

Interview With 2x Supernova Elite Sit & Go Beast Aaron "abarone68" Barone

Poker player Aaron "abarone68" Barone interview
Moving abroad has allowed me the opportunity to meet and make friends with several other very talented online poker pros. A couple of weeks back I interviewed German small stakes cash game crusher Kieran "KieHa" Harding. 

This week I am happy to bring on one of the best mid stakes Sit & Go and Spin & Go players in the world. This is two-time Supernova Elite Aaron "abarone68" Barone.

While this blog is primarily about small stakes cash games I wanted to invite Aaron on anyways because the success that he has managed to achieve in this game goes way beyond what even most online poker pros dream of. This may be inspiring to some of you.

Also, from sitting down and having coffee with this guy countless times here in Chiang Mai (and also in my hometown of Vancouver) it is very clear to me that his technical knowledge of the game is extremely high. This ability to think about poker on a much deeper level than others transcends the various formats.

Also, his story (as you will see below) is amazing.

So without further ado!

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your travels.

On April 14, 2011, I signed a one-year lease for an apartment in Sacramento, California. I went to bed that night and by the time I woke up, the U.S. government had made online poker illegal. I remember walking into the leasing office to ask about breaking my lease. They thought I was joking. I wasn’t. 

At the time I was wallowing all sorts of negative emotions – denial, anger, disappointment – but several years later I look back on Black Friday with fondness; that legislation changed my life, forcing me not only out of my home country, but my comfort zone.  

A few fellow poker players and I attempted to get set up in the Bahamas only to be foiled by odd bureaucracy – The bank wouldn’t open up an account unless I had a rental agreement, but the real estate agent wouldn’t rent to me unless I had a bank account.  

Thankfully the group of us put our heads together and audibled to Vancouver, B.C. It was a fantastic decision, as I fell in love with the area and have lived there off and on for the better part of five years. 

In addition, I’ve spent time in Thailand (Chiang Mai) and several parts of Mexico (Playa Del Carmen, Rosarito, and Puerto Vallarta). 

How and when did you first get introduced to online poker?

My friends and I started a weekly cash game around the time of the Chris Moneymaker-boom. I wasn’t close to the best player in the group. Initially I thought the game was all luck, but nearly every week the same guy would end up winning and I couldn’t stand looking at his shit-eating grin when he raked in the chips.  

I was filled with a combination of competitive fire and insecurity which drove me to search the internet for ‘poker tips.’ I then stumbled across the Cardplayer forums and read countless posts about how to improve and which online sites to play on.  

What stakes did you start out at? Did you have success right away?

For the majority of my career, I’ve been a Sit and Go grinder (more recently, Spins) but I started out playing cash.  Pretty sure it was $25 NL. I definitely did not have success in that format, as I found myself unable to leave the game while in profit.  

I’d always keep playing until I suffered some horrendous beat or punted away a stack and then close the client in despair.  Moving to SNGs solved that problem immediately and I began to post winning sessions.  

What stakes do you play at now? What was the journey like for you to get to this point?

Currently I’m a $60s/$100s Spin and Go regular.  From time to time I also dabble in 9-max SNGs and low to medium stakes MTTs, but I prefer Spins because of the lack of a time commitment.  

Up until the past few years, the journey was relatively smooth and stable. I spent the first part of my career playing lower limits in an effort to have a larger edge on my opponents and experience less variance.  

Eventually I recognized that I was ‘good enough’ to move up and had a higher expectation at incrementally higher stakes, so I took a shot. I’ve been Supernova Elite in 2014 and 2015 and while there’s been more variance in the higher stakes, the past two years have also been my most profitable ones.  

[BR79: Here are some of Aaron's results over the past several years]

Spin & Gos (May 2015-Present)

Interview Aaron Barone Poker

Sit & Gos and MTTs (2007-2015)

abarone68 spin and go interview

Do you have any advice for people just starting out in poker who are struggling at lower stakes?

Be honest with yourself and your weaknesses. There’s so much ego in this industry and even more delusion.  It’s easy to put the blame on the cards, bad luck, or a “fishy” opponent, but that doesn’t do anything to help you improve. The goal should be to get better as a poker player, not to justify subpar results.  

What is your opinion on the future of online poker (especially with regards to the recent changes at PokerStars)? 

Yuck. I wouldn’t say the future of online poker is bleak, but I do think it’s trending in the wrong direction: higher rake, fewer legitimate competitors, more country-wide segregation, etc.  

My biggest issue with the changes at PokerStars (in regards to them scrapping the upper end of the VIP system) is not that they decided to alter the program, but that they did so without proper notice. 

The Supernova Elite program was a two-year agreement and advertised as such on PokerStars’ website; if a player paid enough rake in a calendar year, they not only get 53% rakeback (RB) for that year, but earn 68% the following year.  

In November 2015, PokerStars announced that players who reached SNE would no longer earn the 68% RB that was promised to them.  It’s effectively a “bait and switch” as they undoubtedly used the VIP System to motivate customers to pay rake all year only to revamp the rules at the last second.  

I won’t mince words – it’s theft.  PokerStars stole from their most loyal customers.

Do you have a blog or any social media accounts where the readers can follow your progress?

I do, but it’s currently down at the moment.  Hopefully it’s fixed by the time this gets published, the domain is: www.aaronbarone.com

You can also read about me on the Personal Goals and Challenges subforum of 2+2 where I have a thread entitled “Still Grinding”: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/174/poker-goals-challenges/abarone68s-2016-still-grinding-1607074/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/abarone68

Facebook: www.facebook.com/abarone68

Twitch: www.twitch.tv/abarone68

I understand that you do staking and coaching now as well?

Yes, I’m the owner (and one of the coaches) at Psyduck Staking.  We provide backing and coaching for aspiring MTT players who want to bring their game to the next level.  You can contact us on our 2+2 thread, here: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/222/staking-offering-stakes/psyduck-staking-low-midstakes-mtts-1580929/

Final Thoughts

I want to thank Aaron for coming on my blog here and telling his story along with his candid thoughts on the industry as a whole and his advice to newer players.

While the games are not always easy these days, I hope that this interview helped provide some inspiration to some of you out there. As his high 6 figures results attest, there is still some pretty big money to be made in this game if you want it bad enough.

And that really is the key. 

Even though Aaron did not mention it in this interview (because he is far too humble no doubt), from knowing him personally over the years I know that he has some of the sickest work ethic that I have ever seen. 

He has worked for every penny and bit of success that he has ever achieved in this game. I have also seen him handle numerous absolutely brutal downswings like a consummate pro.

The other big takeaway that I hope you get from this interview is that being a professional poker player is all about knowing how to adapt.

From being forced to move out of his own country due to government regulation, dealing with unforeseen rakeback program changes, to tackling new formats such as Spins and expanding into staking and coaching, Aaron shows that the ability to constantly re-invent yourself in this game is crucial.

I hope that you enjoyed this interview. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below and Aaron or I will be happy to reply to them.

Lastly, if you found this article useful, do me a favor and "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

Interview With Online Poker Player Aaron "abarone68" Barone

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

5 "Five Minute or Less" Poker Tips That Yield Big Results. Tip #3 Tripled My Winrate.

5 Poker Tips That Yield Big Results at the Micros
The game of poker, both online and live, is always changing. Therefore, if you want to stay on top you need to always be evolving with it as well.

So this is why I am constantly experimenting with new lines of attack at the poker tables, studying my opponents and running filters away from the tables in Pokertracker. 

In this article I am going to share with you 5 of my top strategies that have created big results for me at the poker tables. And the best thing about them is that they can all be implemented in a matter of minutes.

1. Raise the Flop More Against Regs Who CBet A lot 

This might sound fairly obvious at first but it is surprising how little most people at the micros actually do it. It is also surprising just how effective it is against many regs at these limits. 

What type of regs am I talking about?

Guys like this (all names blacked out for privacy):

Poker tips for the micro stakes

Poker strategy at the micro stakes

Both of these TAG (tight and aggressive) regs have an above average FFR (fold to flop raise). This means that when they make their CBet on the flop they tend to fold to a raise a lot. 

This is very typical with regs who like to CBet a lot. Both of these players fit that profile to a tee. As you can see they have a CBF (CBet flop) of 83 and 69 respectively.

**As a quick aside: if you are confused about what all these numbers mean, they are taken from my custom HUD setup for Pokertracker 4. You can find out what every stat above refers to and even download my entire custom HUD for free and use it at the tables yourself right here.

Back to this discussion here. There are a few more key points to consider here.

1. Sample Size

Firstly, it should be noted that I have a sample of over 1k hands on both of these regs. I wouldn't even bother looking at this stat until you have at least a couple hundred hands on your opponent. CBets don't get raised all that often and that is why you need a big sample.

2. It is OK if They Don't Have a High FFR

Secondly, it should be noted that you can still target regs who CBet a lot but only fold to a raise a more average amount of the time (i.e., 40%). You will just need to be prepared to follow it up with another bet on the turn fairly often.

3. Always Have SOME Equity

Lastly, there is never any reason to use this play as a total bluff. It only makes sense to have some equity. This could be as little as just two overcards (6 outs). Always have some outs so that you can get lucky sometimes when they call you.  

The Key Point to Remember Here is This: With this line of attack, I am specifically targeting the regs who CBet a lot, typically 70% or more. I will do it even more against the 80% and 90% CBettors.

When they are CBetting this much, they simply can't have a hand all that often. Apply enough pressure and they will fold more often than not.

2. Steal the Blinds More Against Nits

Here is the scenario.

It is folded to you on the cutoff or the button and you are in a prime position to try and steal the blinds. But be honest now, how often do you actually have a look at the people left to act. Most of the time you probably just quickly glance at your own cards and decide whether to raise or not right?

This is a mistake.

The biggest key to an effective blind stealing strategy is tailoring your range based on who is left to act. If you only ever look at your own cards when deciding whether to steal or not, you are losing some serious EV.

To put it plainly, these are the kinds of guys who I am going to be stealing like crazy against:

Small stakes poker tips

Micro stakes poker tips

The 88 and the 91 above are the fold to steal percentages for these two players. These numbers are insanely high and you still see guys folding this much all the time at the micros.

But the real kicker here is that both of these guys also only have a 3Bet of 4. This is low even for full ring these days.

So you have two opponents here who fold basically 9 out of 10 times when somebody raises their blinds and they are only going to 3Bet you if they have a premium hand for the most part.

This is absolutely free money.

If I saw these two players in the blinds behind me my cards literally do not matter at all. I am raising 100% of the time.

Picking up these extra couple big blinds every orbit will make a massive impact on your long term earnings. Make sure you are focusing on who is left to act more often in steal situations and your winrate will thank you.

5 Poker Tips that will boost your win rate3. Play Short-Handed at Full Ring Tables

Ok so given the title of this article you were probably anxiously waiting for #3 weren't you? The pressure is on! I better not disappoint...

As you might know, I have preached on and on about table selection on this blog, in both of my books, in all of my videos and elsewhere for years now. You are probably sick of it by now!

However, there is a clear reason for this: Who you are playing against is more important for your long term winrate than anything else. And it is not even close.

If you consistently get on the left of terrible players and even just employ a very basic ABC strategy against them (this means playing tight, not bluffing too much and value betting a lot) it is literally impossible not to have a massive winrate.

I have been experimenting with some hardcore "bumhunting" as this is called at all stages of the micros for several years now. By this I mean that I am typically on just a handful of tables and I absolutely do not play unless I have direct position on a massive whale (40% VPIP or more).

Though my sample sizes with this approach are admittedly still on the small side, my winrates are so high that nobody would even believe me if I posted them.

And I am not talking about playing on some secret Euro sites here with tons of wild gamblers. I am doing this on supposedly "tough" sites like PokerStars for the most part.

As I discuss in my ultimate guide to table selection article, there are numerous ways to play against huge fish like this all the time especially at the lowest stakes.

5 poker tips that will triple your winrate

poker tips that will double your winrate

But one of the absolute best ways (which I have never revealed until now) is to play short-handed on full ring tables.

What is Short-Handed?

I define it as 2 to 5 players at the table.

Why Full Ring Tables?

Because most full ring players have absolutely no clue how to play short-handed.

The great thing about this strategy though is you don't need to be some world class short-handed specialist. Most of your opponents are terrible (this is the micros remember). And in any case, the entire reason I am there is because this is where some of the biggest, craziest fish show up.

Step #1

Go on PokerStars (or any site really) and look for full ring tables that have between 2 and 4 people who are actively playing.

Step #2

Take a seat to the direct left of any player who does not have a full stack or exhibits any of the other top 5 signs of bad poker players.

Step #3

Just play a totally normal game. Play a few more hands of course since it is short-handed, but you don't need to do anything special beyond that. Just value bet the crap out of the fish as usual and wait for them to flip out. This often happens very quickly when playing short-handed and before you know it they are handing you stack after stack.

Step #4

Profit (lots of it)

Best poker tips for the micros4. Play More Against the Weekend Maniacs

Another easy tip for increasing your winrate at the micros is to simply play more when they games are the best.

When are the games the best?

Friday and Saturday nights in North American and European time zones. This is when the crazies are coming back home from the bars and they fancy playing a little online poker.

I have consistently found the biggest lunatics for years now when playing during these times. They will often even show up on regular tables and in Zoom games during these hours meaning that you don't need to chase them around and do all sorts of table selection.

Now of course the variance can be extremely high when playing against a loose aggressive maniac. This is why it is important above all to do everything that you can to get position on them. If you are unable to get position on them, then you are going to have to play tight and just be patient.

Be prepared for some rough nights on occasion versus players like this. Sometimes they are going to get lucky and it will sting. However, remember that these players dump more money (and at a quicker pace) than anyone.

Some of my most profitable nights over the years have been when playing against the Friday and Saturday night maniacs. Try to put in more volume during these highly profitable times.

And on the flip side, try to avoid putting in lots of volume at terrible times like a Monday or a Tuesday morning. Nobody is looking to gamble, everybody is sober and playing like a rock.

BlackRain79 poker tips for the micros5. Set a 5 Buyin Stop Loss

Most people at the micros these days have a reasonable understanding of the game. For instance, they understand the basics of value betting, position, aggression and so on.

Where the wheels come off though for most micro stakes players is when they run bad. When they hit one of those "hell sessions" as I call them:
  • You miss every set
  • You have KK, they have AA
  • You miss every flop
  • They nail every flop
  • When you finally make a hand, they have a better one
And so on. 

When a session like this happens (and especially several of them in a row) most players at the micros lose their mind along with large chunks of their bankroll in the process.

So many people absolutely murder their winrate during these sessions by chasing losses when they are in their worst possible mental state to play.

I would say that most people's mental state starts going downhill after losing about 5 buyins. After all, digging yourself out of a hole like this and "posting a win" is going to be pretty difficult.

So why keep digging your own grave? Why not just accept the fact that today is not your day, turn the poker off and go get some fresh air or do something different?

I think it is very important especially for newer or struggling players to set a stop loss. A stop loss means that you quit for the day no matter what when you lose a certain amount of buyins. And I recommend a stop loss of 5 buyins.

Because often those buyins that you lose after 5 (6-10) are very much tilt induced. This is the kind of stuff that truly kills your winrate in the long run. One of the best kept secrets about the game of poker is that losing the least is often the real key to success.

If you can prevent yourself from tossing away buyins when you are on tilt it will make an enormous difference to your bottom line. Do yourself a favor and start implementing a stop loss and your winrate will improve tremendously.

Final Thoughts

I hope that a few of the tips mentioned above will provide a healthy boost to your profits at the micros. Try them out for yourself and let me know how they work for you!

Furthermore, let me know in the comments below what tips and tricks have helped increase your winrate the most at the micros.

Lastly, make sure to check out my "Start Here" page for all of my top strategy articles on crushing the micros.

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

5 "five minute or less" poker tips for the micros