Monday, October 16, 2017

How to Easily Spot the Fish at the Poker Table

How to spot the fish at the poker tables
I talk about poker fish all the time on this blog and elsewhere. But many people may be left wondering what exactly is a fish and how exactly do you spot them at the poker tables.

Well, in this article I am going to explain precisely what a fish is in poker (also sometimes called "fun players" or "recreational players") and how to quickly identify them at the tables.

And the reason why this is so important these days is because the fish pay the bills. They are the ones who generate a large amount of the profit that you will make in this game.

Therefore, knowing how to quickly spot the fish and get on the tables with them is absolutely crucial for your success in poker.


1. Poker Fish Play 40% or More of Their Hands


Right away we can quickly identify a fish at the tables as someone who is playing 40% or more of their hands. It doesn't matter if you play 6max (6 players) or full ring (9 players), this is simply way too many hands to ever be profitable.

If you play online then you can know how many hands somebody is playing right away by checking your HUD. Once you get a sample of about 20 hands on someone this is good enough to know what percentage of their hands that they are playing (also referred to as their "VPIP").

Once I see someone at the tables who is playing 40% or more of their hands, I make sure to tag them right away or make a note. This allows me to quickly spot them at any point in the future without even needing to know what their HUD stats are.


2. They Don't Raise Very Often


The fish in poker will also be very passive overall. This means that most of the time they will limp into the pot with all of these bad hands that they are playing. They will tend to just call most of the time after the flop as well.

So again if you use a HUD what you will usually see is a VPIP of 40% or more and a preflop raise percentage (PFR) which is a single digit. For instance VPIP = 40 and PFR = 8.

Sometimes you will encounter the aggressive variety of fish. They will have stats that look something more like this: VPIP = 40 PFR = 30. These guys hand over their money at lightning speed as well. It just requires a slightly different strategy to beat them.

Basically versus the passive fish you want to do most of the betting for them. That is, you want to value bet the crap out of them anytime you have anything remotely decent (top pair, middle pair, strong draw etc). This is because they will call with anything most of the time.

Versus the aggro fish though, you usually want to let them bluff at the pot and just call them down with a wide range of hands. Betting or raising will often just force them to fold whereas calling allows them to keep shovelling more dead money into the pot with all their bluffs.


3. They Make Large Fundamental Mistakes


A common feature of all poker fish, whether they are aggressive or passive, is that they make large fundamental mistakes at all stages of the hand. By this I mean that they do things like check when they should be betting or call when they should be folding.

They also love to get all trappy with their big hands to the point where it is often incredibly transparent and easy to get away from your hand. Lastly, they love to play sheriff and catch you in a big bluff.

This is why I often suggest just absolutely hammering on the pot with your big hands (i.e. betting big, even just over-betting sometimes) because they never want to believe that anyone can have anything.

In fact, like I talked about in my first book, Crushing the Microstakes, fish are actually more likely to view a big bet as a bluff. This is basic "fish psychology" as I call it.

And this is an absolutely beautiful thing when you have a strong hand like an overpair, two pair, a set or even just top pair. So go ahead and give them exactly what they want. Let them make their big hero calls and then show them the nuts.

There is one very simple way to crush the fish that many new players misunderstand. The way to beat them is to simply stop thinking so much!

Just make the most stupidly obvious plays such as raise, bet, bet, shove with your AA even if it seems so incredibly obvious that even a 5 year old should be able to figure it out.

Always give them a reason to call. Don't ever try to trap them like most small stakes regs do. That is literally just throwing away your money.


4. Fish Bankroll the Entire Poker Industry


As I mentioned before the vast majority of your profits in poker will come from the fish. Most of the regs (regular opponents) are really just trading money back and forth with a few of the better ones making a small profit.

And of course the card room is also taking it's slice of the pie (the rake). Indeed they never lose at poker. The house always wins, it doesn't even matter what the game is.

So if the regs and the house are mostly only taking money out of the poker economy, then who are the people putting money back into it?

You guessed it, the fish. The recreational players are the ones who are consistently depositing their money again and again and bankrolling the entire industry.

The game of poker would literally cease to be profitable overnight if all of the fish disappeared. I made this simple infographic to explain why. Go ahead and save it to remind yourself.
How to spot the fish at the poker tables


5. Fish Have Very High Loss-Rates


To really hit home the reason why you need to play against the fish more in order to win, you only need to look at the numbers. I have done extensive research over the years in Pokertracker studying the win-rates and loss-rates of both the regs and the fish.

Even the very worst regs tend to have loss-rates of no worse than about 5bb/100. However the average fish has a loss-rate of 25bb/100 and sometimes even more in a few insane cases.

To put this in plain English this means that the average recreational player is losing his money 5 times faster than the very worst regs. They also tend to tilt like crazy once the cards go south on them and then they are literally just giving their money away.

So how do you start winning more money at poker? Easy, go play with the guys who are losing their money way faster than everybody else! The is literally the most obvious conclusion that you can come to in this game, but for some reason so many people still ignore it or miss it.

There are several ways to consistently find the fish and play with them that I have covered numerous times on this blog and elsewhere. It really starts with site selection. That is playing on the easy poker sites or the ones that tend to attract the most fish.

You should also be table selecting even at the very lowest limits every time you sit down to play poker. So yes, this means even at NL2.

Many people think that at the lower stakes like this they don't need to table select these days. This is a serious mistake and it will end up affecting your results in a massive way.

The people who put in the effort to consistently find the best tables and get the best seat against the fish will have much, much higher win-rates and have a much easier time climbing up the stakes and getting to where the real money is at in poker.


6. Always Respect the Fish (Your Customers)


The last point that I want to make is that you need to always respect the fish. Yes sometimes they are going to hit some ridiculous draw on you or toss multiple bad beats in a row your way.

But you really need to make sure that you don't "tap the glass" as some people put it. I know it can be easy to get frustrated and fly off the handle and start rage venting on them.

But you need to ask yourself what good does this actually do. Do you want them to start playing better? Do you want them to feel embarrassed and quit playing?

Think for a moment about how ridiculously bad both of these outcomes are for you.

Why would you want your #1 profit source in the game to get better and stop making all these bad plays? Or just chase them out of the games so they go find some other hobby to throw away their money on.

The best course of action when the fish start getting lucky against you is to either say nothing at all or to honestly (and not sarcastically) compliment them. Look, the fish are your customers at the end of the day. They are the reason why you make money in this game.

Treat them with respect and they will keep coming back again and again to give you their money.


Final Thoughts


Quickly being able to identify the poker fish and spot them at the tables is one of the most important "skills" that you need to develop as a winning poker player.

They are usually very easy to find because they will be playing 40% or more of their hands. They will be playing very passively overall and they will be making tons of absolutely ridiculous and fundamentally incorrect plays as well.

It is very important to understand that these players will be your main profit source in poker because they lose their money way faster than anybody else. This is why it is also important that you respect them and keep your composure when they inevitably dish out some bad beats against you.

Look, I have some of the highest win-rates in the history of online poker at the lower stakes. People ask me all the time how I do it. My answer is always the same.

I consistently play against some of the worst poker players on planet earth. And I have learned how to separate them from their money in the most efficient way possible.

I do this first by finding the fun players and then making the most stupidly obvious plays against them over and over and over again. Seriously, that's it!

If you want to have big time success playing poker, then I highly suggest that you learn to do the same thing. Make sure to pick up a copy of my free ebook to find out more about the exact strategy that I use.

Let me know in the comments how you spot the fish at the poker tables.

If you found this article helpful, do me a quick favor and give it a "Like" or a "Tweet" below.

How to spot the fish at the poker tables

Sunday, October 8, 2017

What Are The Best Poker HUD Stats?

What Are The Best Poker HUD Stats?
People ask me all the time what are good poker HUD stats to have. Or what are the best HUD stats for a winning poker player.

The problem with this question though is that there are many different ways to win in poker. In fact in my 2nd book, Modern Small Stakes, I actually tried to answer this question in a section entitled "Ideal Stats."

The amount of controversy, and even pure hate in some cases, that this caused especially on some online poker forums was unbelievable.

Even though all of the "ideal stats" that I listed in the book were based off of the raw data from millions and millions of hands in my Pokertracker database, people still bitterly disagreed with the numbers in some cases.

However, from many, many years of playing online poker and analyzing the data I still think there are some generalizations that can be made about what the best HUD stats to have are.

So I am going to break it down for you in this article and list good HUD stats for both 6max and full ring micro stakes cash games. They will apply to both zoom and regular tables.

And I will just state for the record that these numbers are just my opinion!

If you try and copy these HUD stats there is absolutely zero guarantee that you will become a consistent winning poker player. And it is totally possible to be a big winner with widely different stats as well.

Once again, there are many different play styles that can be successful in poker. With that disclaimer out of the way, let's get started!


Good HUD Stats for 6max Poker


VPIP - 20

PFR - 17

AF - 3

3Bet% - 7

Fold to 3Bet - 70

ATS - 35

Fold to Steal - 75

Flop CBet - 70

Turn CBet - 50

River CBet - 50

Fold to Flop CBet - 60

Fold to Turn CBet - 40

Fold to River CBet - 40


Good HUD Stats for Full Ring Poker


VPIP - 15

PFR - 12

AF - 3

3Bet% - 6

Fold to 3Bet - 70

ATS - 35

Fold to Steal - 75

Flop CBet - 70

Turn CBet - 50

River CBet - 50

Fold to Flop CBet - 60

Fold to Turn CBet - 40

Fold to River CBet - 40


What Games are These HUD Stats Good For?


The HUD stats above are best used in NL2, NL5 and NL10 cash games. These are the games online where many of your opponents will be very basic and even complete beginners in some cases.

The best strategy for success in these games is something that many people now call "exploitative" poker. This has also been the strategy that I have been advocating on this blog and in my books and videos for over 10 years now.

What playing exploitative poker really means is that you are finding and taking advantage of the major weaknesses of your opponents. For instance, they might fold too much before the flop, call too much after the flop or go to showdown too often.

Since most of your opponents at the lower stakes will have massive glaring weaknesses like this in their game, an exploitative approach is absolutely the best way to beat them for the highest winrate.

Other approaches like GTO (game theory optimal) poker for instance, which has become popular in recent years, are far less effective against players like this. Because this style of play fails to attack the actual weaknesses of micro stakes poker players.

So that is why some of the HUD stats that I advocate above will be either too weak or too strong for some people. In fact some people will complain that these stats are too "unbalanced."

But that is the entire point!

You don't crush players who have large fundamental leaks in their game by trying to balance all of your ranges in every situation and become totally unexploitable (i.e. what GTO poker tries to do).

That stuff is great to know once you get to mid stakes and it is definitely necessary for high stakes games. However, I am talking about how to beat the beginner level regs and recreational players that you will find at the micros here, NOT solid well balanced professionals.

So yes, some of your HUD stats absolutely should be unbalanced at the micros if maximizing your winnings is the goal.


Simply Play Style for the Micros


The other thing about these HUD stats is that they will have you playing a simple TAG (tight and aggressive) style of play that keeps you out of too many difficult situations at the lower stakes.

And the reason why this is a good thing is because most of the people reading this article (and my books and watching my videos) are relative beginners as well. The best thing that newer poker players can do is keep everything as simple as possible. Avoiding fancy play is also the key to success at the micros in general.

So for instance, some of these stats like Fold to 3Bet or Fold to Steal might be a little bit too high in higher stakes games against stronger thinking opponents. In fact a really solid player might even be able to find ways to exploit these a little bit.

However once again, these HUD stats are meant for playing against the robotic non-thinking nits and loose/passive recreational players that you will often encounter at the lower stakes games like NL2, NL5 and NL10.

A simple tight/aggressive and positionally aware style of poker is the best way for somebody who is new to the game or currently struggling at these stakes to start having success.


Develop Your Own Style of Play


The last thing that I want to note about these HUD stats is that it is important for you to develop your own style of play. In other words you should never try to copy a bunch of statistics and try to mold your game around them.

Should you try to play roughly about 20% of your hands in 6max and 15% in full ring? Yes, but these are just general guidelines. In fact as I have talked about before I believe there is a higher win-rate ceiling at the micros with a LAG style of play, which would require you to play more hands than this.

Furthermore, some people might do better with a lower 3Bet or a higher 3Bet than suggested above. They might also do better by folding their blinds more often or less often than suggested above.

The bottom line is that you need to develop your own unique style of play and these HUD stats should only be taken as rough rules of thumb to go by. In my experience most winning players at the lower limits roughly fall somewhere within the confines of these stats.

But the key to your success as you move up the stakes will be adjusting your play to each individual opponent and creating the perfect strategy against them in particular. You don't do this by trying to copy a bunch of charts or numbers.


Final Thoughts


So there you have it. The above are what I consider to be good HUD stats in both 6max and full ring at the micro stakes. Some will agree and some will bitterly accuse me of blasphemy.

The real important point here is that there is no such thing as "the best HUD stats." It depends what game you are playing in, who your opponents are and what style of play you feel most comfortable playing as well.

You can and should also switch up your game on a regular basis especially when you start moving up and encountering stronger thinking opponents.

For example some days when I am playing higher stakes I will show up as a 13/10/3 full ring nit sitting around waiting for the nuts. And some days I will play a 25/22/4 raging 6max LAGtard bluffing up a storm.

I do this purposely so that my opponents can never get a firm grasp or read on what type of player I am. The minute they try and take a note on me, it is completely wrong the next time they play against me.

Anyways, I do hope that this article was useful for some of you out there trying to figure out what the right HUD stats to have are. By the way you can download my entire custom HUD for free and use it for yourself at the tables right here.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy that I have used to crush the micros for some of the highest winrates in online poker history, grab a copy of my free ebook.

Thanks for reading guys!

Let me know in the comments what HUD stats you use. Do you agree or disagree with the stats posted in this article?

What Are The Best Poker HUD Stats?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Moving From NL10 to NL25: What to Expect

Moving From NL10 to NL25: What to Expect
Moving up through the stakes is the dream of every poker player. We all start small but almost all of us have designs to some day play for high stakes and win a lot of money from the game we love.

Naturally, your climb through the ranks will have to start from the micros. I have already covered the differences between NL2 and NL5 and what to look out for when moving up from NL5 to NL10. Today I want to talk about the next step in your progression to becoming a poker legend: moving from NL10 to NL25.

I should start straight away with some bad news: The differences between NL10 and NL25 are one of the biggest out of any jump in stakes. That’s because at NL25 you will encounter many “pros” on a regular basis for the first time.

This is simply not the case at NL10. It is almost impossible to make enough money from poker to live off at those stakes, even if you’re living in a low-cost country like Thailand or Romania.
However, even though NL25 is much harder than NL10, you can still beat those games by playing a solid TAG style and keeping your tilt to a minimum.

Even the regs in these games usually have quite a few leaks and of course you will still find plenty of fish there too. So, let’s take a look at what exactly you can expect when you move up to NL25 and how to start crushing it!


NL10 Versus NL25


NL10 (5c/10c blinds) is usually the 3rd lowest limit for cash games on most poker sites and normally has a maximum buy-in of $10 (100 big blinds). NL25 (10c/25c blinds) is usually the 4th biggest limit with a maximum buy-in of $25.

You can see straight away that the difference in stakes and buy-ins between NL10 and NL25 is substantial. It is one of the only jumps in online poker where the stakes go up by a factor of 2.5 instead of just double like the previous limits.

The big increase in buy-ins means one thing especially: NL25 is the first limit where players from low-cost countries can make enough money from poker to make a living. With a winrate of 8bb/100, and playing 50,000 hands, you can pull in $1,000 a month playing online poker before rakeback. That is more than enough money to live comfortably in many countries.

The result on the games is that a large number of your opponents will be solid, multi-tabling regs. The ratio of recreational players will be much lower than at NL10 and below. But while NL25 is definitely more difficult to beat, with the right strategy and a little bit of table selection you can still turn a decent profit in these games.


NL10 Regs Versus NL25 Regs

A "reg", which is short for regular, refers to the opponents that you will see at the poker tables day in and day out. They take the game fairly serious like you do and they might even study on the side to improve their game.

The difference in skill level between a typical NL10 reg and a reg at NL25 can be quite big. Above all, regs at these stakes will be much more aggressive and give you a hard time in a lot of spots.

At NL25, you will get 3Bet way more than at NL10, especially when stealing the blinds or attacking limpers. Likewise, if you 3Bet other regs at NL25, they will often come over the top and 4Bet you. Both of these situations are tricky and can be frustrating as well, especially if they happen over and over.

Another trait of NL25 players is that they will be much stickier after the flop. Your CBets will get floated more often and you will face more bluff-raises postflop as well. Again, this can be tough to play against since very often you will find yourself on the turn with a weak hand and feeling completely lost.

There are two keys to mastering these situations:

1) You have to stay calm and avoid tilt.
2) You have to increase your aggression against other regs as well.

Think about it this way: If you and your opponent play the same way against each other, the winner will be the player who tilts the least. So you have to learn that dealing with aggressive poker players is just part of the game, and you’ll be facing these players on a regular basis on any limit higher than NL25 anyways.

And sometimes, you can use your own aggression to take the pot away from them as well. The key here is to wait until you have a decent sample size on your opponent so you can see what he’s up to through your HUD (heads up display).

Until then it’s usually better to give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s better to fold a bit too much than to raise blindly into unknown players who could have a strong hand.

Finally, even though the regs at NL25 are generally decent players, almost all of them will have some major leaks in their games. This is just pure logic. No seriously strong player would hang around NL25 for too long. There is way more money to be made at higher stakes.

So some common leaks you will find in NL25 regs are:
  • Playing too aggressive
  • Playing too tight
  • Calling too much
  • Folding too much
  • Playing a robotic predictable style
It’s essential that you use your HUD at these stakes. If you look closely, you can identify weaknesses in almost any reg and then exploit them. This is how you can really crush this limit.

For instance, you might see players with an Aggression Factor (AF) of 4, 5 or even higher. That means they are bluffing a large percentage of the time and you have to be prepared to call them down to the river with hands like 2nd pair.

Or you will see regs with a Went to Showdown (WTSD) percentage of 30%, 40% and up. This means that they are basically calling stations and you have to stop bluffing them and instead value bet your top pairs on all three streets!

Making adjustments like these is the key to becoming a great poker player. And it’s the only way you can separate yourself from the pack and achieve higher winrates than the other NL25 regs.


NL10 Fish Versus NL25 Fish


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Fish are fish at any stake. There really aren’t many differences between the fish you’ll find at NL10 and those at NL25. They will still make the most outrageous plays and work hard to give you their money.

What this means of course is that just like with all the other limits, most of your profits will come from playing against the bad players. You can outplay the other regs as much as you want but if you really want to crush NL25, then you have to find the games with fish.

Not only that, you definitely want the fish to be on your right. This will give you position on them almost every single hand and make it much easier to isolate them and play the pot heads-up. This is how you beat them for the highest win-rate.

If the fish is on your direct left instead, then it will be very hard to outplay them because they will be the ones with position almost every hand. This makes it much harder to value bet them, bluff them and so on.

And despite the supposedly unbeatable games today (according to some), there are in fact still large numbers of recreational players at NL25 even at the toughest sites like Pokerstars. But they will not come to you. You have to table select like it is your job in order to find them.

The good news is that most people are simply not willing to put in this kind of effort and they pay for it dearly in their results. So you can gain an absolutely huge advantage over the other regs at these stakes by simply paying more attention to the details like this.

Always remember that fish are where the profit comes from in poker. Make sure there is always one at your table and poker is an easy game.


Winrates Between NL10 and NL25


If you’re moving up from NL10 to NL25, then naturally your winrate will drop. This happens anytime you move up to a new limit.

So for instance, if you’re a 5bb/100 winner at NL10 right now, then you might average 3-4bb/100 at NL25. However, this would still make it a profitable decision to move up as you will win more money per hour overall.

It is important to note that rakeback is also substantially more at NL25. In my experience this is the first stake where you can start clearing signficant bonuses and making hundreds of dollars a month on top just for playing.

Furthermore, it is also important to note though that smaller winrates mean more variance, so proper bankroll management is extremely important when moving up in stakes. My general advice is to only move up once you have at least 40 (or even 50) buy-ins for the next limit. That would mean around $1,000 to $1,250 for NL25.

Also, if you set a rule for moving up then you should also set one for moving back down. So a good approach would be to move up once you have 50 buy-ins at NL25 and move back down once you drop below 40 buy-ins. Using this strategy, you will never be in serious risk of going broke.


Making the Move from NL10 to NL25


As always, there are a number of rules to follow when moving up in stakes:

1) Make sure that you are consistently beating your current stake for a reasonable winrate (2bb/100 or more) and over a decent sample size (20k hands minimum).

2) Make sure that you are properly bankrolled (just discussed above).

3) You should definitely NOT be in a downswing currently and you should be feeling confident about your game.

4) Move up on a weekend or a prime traffic time when the games are likely to be the easiest to beat. Evenings, North America or Europe time, on the weekend is generally the best time to play.

5) Don't get into large scale "reg wars" (battles with other solid players) until you have a solid amount of HUD data on them.

Another important strategy is to cut down your table count and table-select super hard in the first few days after moving up to NL25. Make sure you find the very best tables to make your transition as easy as possible.

Lastly, don't worry about the bigger pots and just play your game. After all, you are properly bankrolled for this game right?

You will find that in the end NL25 is still poker and if you’ve been crushing NL10 then you should do just fine at NL25 too.

And lastly lastly, even if your move up attempt does not work out the first time, don't beat yourself up about it. Many great players fail multiple times when moving up even at the micros.

It is simply a rinse and repeat process and eventually you will stick at the new limit (NL25 in this case) and finally start making some decent money in this game.

Don't sell yourself short. You belong in these games. Now go make it happen!


Final Thoughts


I am not going to sugar coat it. Moving up from NL10 to NL25 is one of the hardest jumps in stakes that you will face in your poker career. I am not afraid to admit that I failed to make this jump several times early on in my poker career.

Probably for the first time in your life, you will encounter professional players on a regular basis at NL25. They aren't world beaters by any extent but they are playing to pay their rent in some cases. This changes things.

The games will also be more aggressive and of course the pots will be quite a bit bigger than you are used to as well.

However, if you stay calm and play your game then you will soon get used to the different play at NL25. The best advice that I can possibly give you is just to keep doing the exact same things that have already brought you success at NL10.

And if you find good games where you have position on the fish, then you will also have a much better chance of making your first shot at NL25 stick and post consistent winnings from the start.

Look poker is still poker and while NL25 is harder than NL10, it is still very much beatable if you play a solid game, keep your tilt at a minimum and use your HUD to exploit your opponents.

Finally, always remember to keep it fun because moving up in stakes is actually one of the most exciting times you will experience as a poker player. If you manage to win consistently you will soon become familiar with the regs and the pot sizes and you will find that NL25 is really a piece of cake.

If you want to know the exact strategy that I use to beat NL25, and all limits at the micros, make sure you pick up a copy of my free poker ebook.

Lastly, let me know in the comments what it's been like for you moving from NL10 to NL25. And if you found this article helpful, give it a quick "Like" or a "Tweet" below.

Moving From NL10 to NL25: What to Expect

Monday, October 2, 2017

How to Float the Flop (And Take Away The Pot)

How to Float the Flop (And Take Away The Pot)
One of the absolute best strategies for beating up on the bad regs in today's micro stakes games is to float them frequently on the flop. This means that you call their continuation bet (CBet) with the intention of taking away the pot on a later street.

This has arguably been my biggest profit source in low stakes cash games in recent years. And the reason why is actually pretty simple when you think about it.

You can’t win at poker by folding! You simply have to start taking some more pots away from the regs in order to win big.

And even though there are going to be plenty of situations where the best option is definitely to fold (i.e. when you have nothing at all). There will be many other occasions where a pot is certainly winnable if we are just willing to fight for it a little bit.


Two Reasons to Float the Flop


There are two specific reasons to float the flop:
  • We have position
  • We have some sort of equity (to be explained more below)
The great thing about floating the bad regs at the lower stakes is that many of them still make it way too easy to take the pot away from them. It’s literally like taking candy from a baby sometimes.

The reason why is that you will encounter many Nits and TAGfish at the lower stakes who have a wide gap between their flop CBet% and their turn CBet%.

What this means in plain English is that they will frequently fire a bet on the flop but often they will give up on the turn if their opponent is still around in the hand.

By the way, if you want to know this for sure, then I would suggest that you download and use my free poker HUD.

So when they give up on the turn this often a simple bet is often enough to take it down. Sometimes it is so predictable that our actual hand becomes almost irrelevant.

Let’s look at a few examples.


Using Position to Take the Pot Away From a TAGfish


Example Hand

TAGfish villain raises from early position

You call from the button with:

float the flop versus the regs

Flop:

beat the nits poker

Villain CBets

You should CALL


In this situation we choose to flat call in position preflop against one of the weaker regs, a TAGfish.

It is important to open up your preflop calling range a little bit versus these types of players especially when you are in position. Because once again, you can’t win at poker by folding all the time!

Versus the weaker regs in particular I know that I can outplay them often enough to turn a profit here. If I can hit my hand, that’s great. But my plan is to try and take the pot away from them in many situations regardless of this.

And this is one of them.

On this dry board we didn’t really flop that great and our opponent is going to make a CBet a large amount of the time. What should we do?

Well, the most obvious play would be to just fold. We have no real pair or draw and our opponent is showing aggression. But elite poker players know that there is a more profitable decision here which is to float instead.


Look here’s the thing:

We can’t call preflop with a hand like this and just give up every time we don’t hit a pair or a good draw. This is a losing poker strategy since we won’t flop these hands very often and our opponent will frequently CBet.

So we are going to need to continue on some boards where we catch a small piece as well. And we did in fact flop a little bit of equity in this hand. We have a backdoor flush draw to the nuts and two overs.

Another reason why I am going to float on this board is because it is very unlikely to have connected with our opponent in any major way.

A fairly tight reg like this who opened in early position is going to have a range mostly consisting of pocket pairs, broadways and big aces. Very few of these hands will connect with this board in any meaningful way.

And perhaps the most important point of all. What do weak players like this do on the turn when we call and they have nothing?

That’s right, they give up.

Even if they do fire again on the turn there are still multiple ways that we can win the pot later on such as double floating, semi-bluff raising the turn and bluffing the river.

Since we are in position in this hand (which is a huge, huge key by the way), it makes all of these separate lines of attack much easier to successfully pull off.

If you want to start turning your winnings around at the lower stakes then hands like this are literally ground zero. Winning more of all these little pots that nobody really wants to fight for is the heart of next level poker.

This is a very winnable spot in position versus a weaker reg with some backdoor equity. Start taking away a few more pots like this instead of just folding like everybody else, and watch your winrate skyrocket.


Outplaying a Nit From the Blinds


Example Hand

Nit villain raises on the button

You call from the big blind with:

float the tagfish poker

Flop:


float the tight aggressive players poker

You check

Villain CBets

You should CALL or RAISE


Let’s look at another spot here against a weak reg (Nit) but this time we are out of position. Floating when you don’t have position in the hand definitely makes things a bit more difficult.

This is because we can’t just wait for them to give up on the turn and then make the easy bet to take it down.

Instead we will have to act first which means that we don’t have any information on whether they are giving up this time or they actually have something good.

While this definitely sucks, we still have to fight for some pots even when we are out of position. If not then we would be better off just folding preflop with a speculative hand like this.

This is definitely another one of those spots where the pot is winnable though. While we didn’t flop a pair or a strong draw we did in fact catch a small piece.

We have a gutshot to the nut straight, a backdoor flush draw and two overs. This gives us a decent amount of equity even if our opponent happens to have something really strong like top pair.

float the flop and bet the turn

And remember this is the worst case scenario (i.e. the top of our opponent’s range). Yet we still have almost 42% equity in the pot!

So at the very least I will be calling the flop CBet. When you are out of position like this it is also a good idea to mix in some flop leads and check/raises once in awhile as well though.

Since floating is quite a bit more difficult when out of position these lines allow you to try and take down the pot right now or at least regain the betting lead.

No matter which line of attack we choose there are several paths to victory on the turn as well. We are going to be continuing on a ton of different cards which improve our equity.


So in this case:
  • Any spade (9 cards)
  • Any 8 (4 cards)
  • Any J (3 cards)
  • Any T (3 cards)
This amounts to 19 cards which is nearly half of the remaining cards in the deck. This means that we will be floating again or applying pressure on the turn close to 50% of the time.

This is going to make it very difficult for a weak reg like this to continue unless he happens to have a really big hand.

Forcing the bad regs into uncomfortable spots like this cuts to the very heart of what winning poker is all about at these stakes. They simply aren’t going to be willing to go to war very often here.

So we can take advantage of this by floating and making aggressive plays at the pot when we flop any kind of reasonable equity.


Floating a Loose Aggressive Regular Blind vs Blind


Example Hand

LAG villain raises from the small blind

You call from the big blind with:

float the flop versus a loose aggressive player

Flop:

float the flop and bet the turn

LAG villain CBets

You should CALL


Versus the good regs you should also be floating a lot more often these days as well. And even though we should expect them to keep applying pressure on the turn more often, we have to get involved or we risk being run over.

We called preflop here with a hand that isn’t particularly amazing and doesn’t exactly play that well after the flop either. However it stands to be ahead of our opponent’s range and of course we have that beautiful thing called position as well.

In a blind versus blind situation like this you can expect a highly aggressive reg to be raising with a range as wide as 30%, 40% or sometimes even higher.

Here is how our hand does against a 35% range:

equity when floating the flop poker

Many regs at the lower stakes raise very light when it folds to them in the small blind because they know that they only have one person left to beat. And a lot of people still surrender their big blind far too easily.

This is why you should defend with a wide range in a situation like this. However, you don’t want to just 3Bet them every time or a thinking player like this will just go ahead and start 4Betting the crap out of you. So it is important to mix in some flat calls as well.

On this extremely dry paired board we need to be floating the flop once again. An aggressive player like this is going to be CBetting with nearly his entire range on this board. And there is no way that he connected with it very often.

We could also consider raising here. But the problem with this line is that we are representing so little on a board like this.

And a really smart player could realize this and bluff/re-raise us back, forcing us to fold. So this is a perfect spot to just float and try to take the pot away on later streets.

And yes, even though we expect to face a double barrel on the turn frequently from a player like this, there are still going to be many ways for us to win the pot.

The bottom line here is that you need to start fighting for more pots against the good regs as well. Floating the flop with a wider range in position is one of the best places to start.


Final Thoughts


Floating the flop and taking away the pot on the turn or river is literally a game changer at the micro stakes today. The best players are abusing the weaker regs over and over again with this simple play.

You want to really target the players with a wide gap between their Flop CBet% and Turn CBet%. This will almost always be the Nit and TAGfish player types.

It is important to float the better regs more often as well though as we discussed in the final example hand. Because once again, you don't win at poker by folding!

This entire strategy discussion (and the example hands) in this article were taken from a sample chapter in my brand new poker book The Micro Stakes Playbook.

In the full length book you will learn all of the strategies to exploit every player type in today's micro stakes poker games.

You will also learn dozens of more simple plays like this one that I have used to crush these games for some of the highest win-rates in online poker history.

You can learn more here.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below on floating the flop. How often do you use this strategy at the micros?

Lastly, if you found this article helpful do me a quick favor and give it a "Like" or a "Tweet" below. Thanks!

How to Float the Flop (And Take Away The Pot)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Ultimate Guide to Micro Stakes Poker Tournament Strategy

The Ultimate Guide to Micro Stakes Poker Tournament Strategy
Even though I’m primarily a cash game specialist, I know that many of you are interested in micro stakes tournament strategy as well.

Maybe you just play tourneys on the side. But who wouldn't want to hit a big score in one of them a little more often right?

Since I have played my fair share of tournaments over the years, I thought I’d put together a guide for beating multi-table tournaments (MTTs) at the lowest stakes.

If you apply the strategies from this article, you will have a strong edge on the field and you will show a profitable ROI (return on investment) over a large sample.

That of course is the key to MTT success: Your results in the short run are almost always going to be meaningless. You have to be aware from the start that you are in it for the long haul.

That being said, micro stakes tournaments probably have the softest fields out of all the poker formats out there right now, so it shouldn’t take too long for you to show a profit.


Reasons Why You Should Play Tournaments


There are actually some good arguments for becoming an MTT grinder these days, as cash games are not always the easiest to beat.

For me personally this harder competition was never a big deal as I value the freedom of cash games too much.

Being forced to play until the tournament finishes (which can take over 6 hours for big field MTTs) and not being able to table select are two things that I don’t want to put up with every day.

In a cash game I can also choose the most profitable seats and leave whenever I want. And the winnings are a lot more consistent as well.

However, if you can live with these things then focusing on MTTs might actually be a more profitable strategy in the long run. Like I said, they are basically fish magnets. The lure of the big score will always draw the pure gamblers too.

This is why a lot of the very simple strategies for exploiting the bad players that I talk about in Crushing the Microstakes actually transfer over well to low stakes tournaments as well.

There is also a fun factor to them that simply cannot be replicated in a cash game. Anyone who has reached the final stages of a big tournament will know what I am talking about here.

That adrenaline rush of hitting the big score is a feeling that is unique to poker tournaments.

So whether you’re planning on becoming an MTT specialist or you’re just playing them occasionally in order to try and bink a big payday, there is lot's of potential value to be had here.

The optimal strategy can differ greatly from that of cash games however. So without further ado, here is my step by step strategy for crushing micro stakes MTTs.


What are Micro Stakes Tournaments?


First things first, what exactly are micro stakes tournaments?

Micro stakes MTTs are characterized by two things: small buy-ins and very large fields. A micro stakes tourney will have a buy-in of less than $5.

So because the buy-ins are so small, virtually anybody can play them. Most tourneys have fields with well over 1,000 players, sometimes even more than 5,000.

And then there are even special events like The MicroMillions on Pokerstars where fields regularly top 20,000 players or even more.

I will never forget my first micro stakes tourney victory. It was a $2 buyin with a little over 3000 runners in it. I took first place for $893.65.

Not bad for about 6 hours work!

At the time this was an absolutely massive boost to my bankroll. It tripled it in fact. So I was over the moon about this victory and it helped propel me towards playing in bigger cash games as well.

Now back to reality here. Obviously the chances of winning a tournament of this size are very slim, no matter how good you are. There is no doubt that I got extremely lucky at many points along the way in order to win.

However, over the long run a decent player can expect to make a nice profit in these games. The reason why is because micro MTTs are filled with some of the worst players you will find anywhere, and if you play a solid game you should get your fair share of cashes and more.

And of course the large field sizes do have one distinct advantage: Should you make the final table or even win one, then you’re looking at a very nice payday.


What’s the Best Strategy for Beating Micro Stakes MTTs?


The optimal strategy for micro stakes tournaments is very different from the one you would use in a tourney with a larger buy-in. The reason why is all the crazy play only leaves you with one option: tighten up!

Other than that it’s hard to give general advice as the individual stages of the tournament should be handled differently. Here is what to do at each stage of the tourney.


Early Micro Stakes Tournament Strategy


In tournaments with higher buy-ins, your plan should be to play a lot of hands early on. There are two reasons for this: Most high buyin tourneys start out with deep stacks (200bbs+) which means you are getting the right implied odds to see a lot of flops.

The second reason is that you want to play against the bad players early on, since they will get knocked out as the tournament progresses and you will face much tougher competition in the later stages.

Both of these reasons don’t really apply in micro stakes MTTs though. The play is just too crazy to do anything but play tight. Most hands have 4 or more people seeing the flop, which means you will get drawn out on regularly.

It might be tempting to see a lot of flops in the hopes to catch two pair or better and play a big pot. However, this is the strategy most players use in these things so that’s not really what you want to do.

Instead, you want to mostly just wait for premium hands and then bet them very hard for value. The beauty of micro stakes MTTs is that your opponents will call much bigger bets and raises with weak holdings than they should.

You can and should make raises of 3x or 4x the big blind or even more if the pot is unopened and you have a hand like KK or AK. If someone opened before you, just raise the pot or around 3x-4x your opponent’s bet.

Micro Stakes Tournament Strategy


After the flop the strategy is very similar: You should bet your strong hands and mostly check/fold your weak ones. Your opponents won’t fold anywhere near enough to make bluffing profitable, so don’t even bother with it.

By playing ABC poker like this, you will get a ton of value from your strong hands and you will show a solid profit over a large sample size.

Now obviously with opponents calling you down all the way with weak hands, you will see a ridiculous amount of suck-outs (think NL2 on steroids here).

I can’t tell you how many big pairs I have gotten cracked because my opponent called the flop and turn with bottom pair and spiked two pair or trips on the river.

You are going to face countless river suckouts in micro stakes tourneys. I am warning you now, you need to be prepared for it.

This is just something that can’t be avoided when playing against bad poker players though. Just look at it this way: Every time somebody draws out on you, you just made money in the long run.

The reason why is that you can't fight the math in poker. If you keep getting your money in with the best of it, eventually you will bust them all.


Bubble Strategy


The bubble is the stage in the tournament when the first payouts begin. So the play tends to tighten up considerably around this point as all the smaller stacks want to make sure they earn a profit.

Your strategy on the bubble depends mostly on your stack size. If you have a short stack of 30bbs or less, then you should wait for premium hands and play them aggressively to try to get all in as a favorite or pick up the dead money.

However, don’t play too tight: You don’t want to let your stack dwindle down to a few big blinds just so you can score a min-cash.

This strategy might make sense if you won a satellite into the WSOP Main Event for instance, but the best micro stakes poker strategy is to make as many final tables as possible. Because that is where the real money is.

If you have a big stack on the bubble though, then you can play a lot more aggressively and increase your stack. This can be hugely beneficial later on in the tournament.

Even in micro stakes tourneys, many players will be afraid of going out on the money bubble. This means that you will get lots of folds when attacking the blinds of short stacks.

So make sure that you open the pot with plenty of hands if you have a big stack on the bubble. I would just use a mini-raise at this point by the way as well in order to risk the least.

However, there is one caveat to this strategy. If they shove all-in on you shouldn't call them too light. This is because usually they will have something pretty decent.

In some cases it might be mathematically correct to call a short stack's all-in. But overall you want to respect their shoves. Don't call with garbage.


In the Money


Once the bubble bursts, things will get pretty crazy. Most players who folded every single hand on the bubble will now be eager to shove lighter and double up in order to make a big run.

In most cases, you should go back to playing fairly tight and taking advantage of your opponents’ loose playing style.

Your strategy should depend on your particular table though. If your opponents play tight and you have the most chips at the table, then the best strategy is to apply aggression.

Your goal should be to accumulate as many chips as you can so you can make a run at the final table and ultimately win the whole tournament.

Your odds at the final table will improve greatly depending on the size of your stack.

Small Stakes Poker Tournament Final Table
Also remember that the payout structure of MTTs is very top-heavy, which means that the top few finishers will receive a disproportionately large share of the prize pool.

Therefore, it is important that you try your best to build up a big stack as this will make it much easier to not only make the final table, but also win the whole thing.


The Final Table


You've made the final table. Congratulations! Here is where the real fun begins. But now is also the time to focus and play your very best poker.

The difference between 1st and 9th place money can be huge, so it is crucial that you play as well as you can. If you have other tables open, then either close them or move them to the side and only play premiums hands so that you can focus on the final table.

At this stage of the tournament, you are often playing against some decent opponents. Just like you they have managed to outlast thousands of other players in some cases, so the amount of fish will likely be pretty low.

One upside though is that your bets and raises will finally get some respect. So playing more aggressively can pay off big time at the final table!

My advice is to play confidently and fearlessly. Don't be afraid to follow your gut and make a big play. This is the time to really go after it.

But you also need to recognize when a tight player is clearly telling you that you are beat. Don't allow yourself to get reckless and call off large amounts of your stack with a mediocre hand.


Should You Make a Deal?


You should also be prepared for the likelihood that somebody brings up the idea of making a deal.

This is basically an agreement to split up the prize pool money more evenly so that there isn't such a big difference between 1st and 5th place for instance.

My advice (and this is just my opinion), is to either say nothing at all or to politely decline. I don't make deals. I am there to win.

If it's the WSOP main event and there is millions of dollars on the line, ok let's talk. But in these small buyin micro stakes tournaments, I am in it to win it. No deals.

Look, winning a large tournament isn’t easy, so don’t be disappointed if you fall short. You are simply not going to win most of the time. That's just the simple math.

So the biggest key is to just do the best you can and be happy with your play. And also, have fun as well!

Making a final table is about the most exciting experience you can have as a poker player. Every pot matters and every all in will create a huge adrenaline rush.

Plus, this is (probably) the only time that you get to make bets of hundreds of thousands or even millions of chips.

So make sure to soak it in and enjoy it all. But also play hard and play to win.


Final Thoughts


Micro stakes poker tournaments are not for the faint of heart. They are without a doubt the format with the most brutal variance. If you play your fair share of these, then you will receive crushing bad beats on a regular basis.

And even without all the crazy players at the micros the variance of MTTs in general is through the roof. It is not uncommon for instance to bust 20 or more in a row without scoring a single cash.

So make sure that you have a healthy bankroll if you choose to take a serious shot at tournaments. I would recommend a starting bankroll of at least 100 buy-ins.

The good news though is that these low stakes tourneys also offer some of the softest player pools imaginable. Believe me, the play in these things can be truly horrendous at times.

While the variance might be brutal in the short run, with the right strategy you can expect to make a very nice profit over a large sample size. Plus there is nothing better on earth for your bankroll than winning a large poker tournament!

Let me know you thoughts on micro stakes tournaments in the comments below. What strategy do you use? Have you ever hit a big score?

And if you found this article helpful, do me a quick favor and give it a "Like" or a "Tweet" below.

Lastly, if you want to know my complete micro stakes poker strategy, which I used to produce some of the highest win-rates ever recorded, pick up a copy of my free ebook.

The Ultimate Guide to Micro Stakes Poker Tournament Strategy