Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Biggest Key to My Success at the Micros (It Might Shock You)

The Biggest Key to My Success at the Micros (It Might Shock You)
I am fairly well known in the online poker world as that guy who has some of the most winnings ever at NL2 and NL5. I almost certainly have the highest winrates ever in these games while 24 tabling.

This isn't really meant to be a brag. After all, as I discussed recently, if you are from any Western country (which I am) then your time would probably be better spent flipping burgers than relying on these stakes for any serious part of your income.

These limits do represent the very bottom levels of online poker though and therefore getting past them is a crucial step to reaching the higher stakes where some decent money can be made.

However, many people never get to this point because they have problems beating, let alone crushing, the very lowest stakes. This has always struck me as odd. I know that poker is a game where only a relatively small percentage of people actually win big in the long run. But this is NL2 and NL5!

I still play these games on occasion today and let me tell you that they are both still a complete circus! Some of the biggest donkeys that you will ever find populate these stakes around the clock especially at NL2. And the regs at both limits are all beginners to put it kindly. They are not good at poker...at all.

So What is the Biggest Key to My Success at These Stakes?


Well, let me first say that the standard line that you will often hear people say of value betting heavily at these limits and not bluffing too much are indeed key. I agree completely and these two things do factor heavily into my success at these stakes. But there is a third rule for me at these limits which gets little fanfare when these stakes are discussed. In fact, I am not sure that I have ever seen it talked about in depth anywhere. As I mentioned, this may shock you so please brace yourself.

I fold a lot.

Yup, a lot of the time when I don't think that I have the best hand (or it's really close) I just give up and let them have the pot. I don't fight for marginal edges in these games because they are not important to my success at all. I focus on what really matters which is making big hands and stacking terrible players.

I don't get into "reg wars," I don't make fancy plays very often and if I am in control of the pot (which I usually am) I simply make my flop CBet and then give up most of the time. Thoroughly boring. Terribly un-sexy. But highly effective at these stakes.

But What About Your Red Line?


There has been an absolute obsession with red lines on poker forums and other places for several years now. For those of you who have never heard of a red line it is the measure which indicates your non-showdown winnings in Hold'em Manager or Pokertracker. I have to admit, my red line is not very good. I have posted it on this blog before. It basically goes at a 45 degree angle in the wrong direction. I fail terribly at red lines. Sad face.

However, truth be told I haven't lost a lot of sleep over this. This is because during this period of red line mania I have had my own little private obsession with the green line. Once again for those of you who are not familiar this is the indicator of your total winnings in HEM or PT.

You know, the one that actually matters. 

I fully accept the fact that I will never be the non-showdown bluffing king of NL2 or NL5. My red line is destined to always suffer at these stakes. However, my green line is sexy as hell. It goes at a nice 45 degree angle in the proper direction. I suppose I can live with that.

The Biggest Key to My Success at the Micros (It Might Shock You)

But These Are Terrible Habits Aren't They?


Folding in most marginal spots is not a good idea for your winrate at NL10 and higher versus the more competent opponents at these stakes who are more likely to be able to exploit this.

But of course you will notice that I have not mentioned these limits anywhere so far in this article. This is because I am not talking about these stakes in this article. Some people have criticized my approach at the lowest stakes because it leads to "bad habits" which need to be changed at higher limits.

My answer to this is always the same. Have you not realized yet that success in poker is all about adapting? When I teach this "keep it simple approach" for NL2 and NL5 here on my blog, in my first book and in my videos I do so because it is the most optimal strategy for success at these stakes. I let my results in these games speak for themselves.

Nowhere however do I claim that you should play like this at NL25 or NL200. In fact I repeatedly say just the opposite. You should battle for marginal spots much more often at these stakes because they are completely different games which require a completely different set of strategies to beat them.

This is part of your job as a winning poker player to be able to adjust to the game that you are playing in to achieve the maximum EV. The play money games offer a perfect illustration of this. For anyone who has ever played fake money poker on the internet you will know that nobody folds anything at all. It's 7 people to the river in every hand. Even if you simply shove preflop you are likely to get a few callers.

So raising it 3x the big blind with AA in play money would be absolutely horrible. The entire table will call and you will be in a very difficult spot postflop with the best starting hand in Hold'em but with a solid chance of now being behind. The optimal play here was indeed to simply go all in preflop.

Would I ever suggest just going all in preflop with AA in any real money cash game? Of course not. People play far differently when there is real money on the line and everyone will just fold literally every single time. Success in poker is about adapting to your opponents. This is why there is no single set of strategies that applies across all limits.

Hidden Benefits of Keeping it Simple at NL2 and NL5


There is another big reason why I suggest folding a lot in marginal spots at the lowest stakes. And I have never seen this discussed anywhere even though it is absolutely crucial to your success at these limits. This is the idea of keeping yourself off of tilt.

Most of the people who play at these limits (and this shouldn't be a shocker) are relatively new to poker. Newer poker players are notoriously bad at managing their tilt. When I talk about tilt I mean anything from the odd bad call on the river to full blown shoving every hand preflop. 99% of people tilt in the former way. However, this still has massive long term implications on their winrate.

I used to run "spew tests" where I would spend an hour or two poring over every single major losing hand of the month and asking myself how much I should have lost in each hand had it played it optimally. I took all of the unnecessary losses and added them together. I remember counting some $800 in spew in just one month when playing heavy volume at NL25.

Yes that's right, 32 buyins down the drain due to bad calls and tilty decisions. Keep in mind that I am also a very experienced player who prides myself on being pretty solid in the anti-tilt department. I don't think I need to tell you how much nicer my winrate would have looked for that month with an extra $800 in the winnings column.

So this is why I suggest that newer poker players simply avoid big pots in marginal situations at all costs. This is because tilt is almost always set in motion by losing a bunch of big pots in a row. When you are constantly putting yourself in marginal spots where your edge is not much higher than a coinflip, then the likelihood of losing a bunch of these pots all in a row is high.

This hidden cost of all of the buyins lost due to tilt when this happens is something that we never really discuss. I have never heard of anyone else running "spew tests" like I mentioned above yet clearly if my results are anything close to the norm, this can absolutely be the difference between winning and losing poker for a ton of people at these stakes.

Winning at NL2 and NL5 is Boring


Lastly, as I mentioned above there is nothing exciting about having big success at these stakes. Many newer players first found their interest in poker by watching high stakes tournament final tables on TV. I did too.

But what you have to remember is that these are heavily edited programs (what you are seeing is 1 hour of the most exciting spots over 12 hours of play). Furthermore, this is final table tournament poker where the money on the line is often massive and the stacks are really shallow.

Neither of these conditions are the case at NL2 or NL5. The money is certainly not massive. Also the stacks in cash games are typically 100bb in online play whereas they might be 40bb at a final table in most live tournaments. This completely changes the way that the game is going to be played. There are going to be way more all ins with marginal hands when the stacks are shallow like this.

Winning at poker is boring, especially at the lowest limits online. [Click to Tweet]

Even most of these TV pros that you watch grinded away for days just to get to that final table. They never show you this. They will never show you how many times they simply folded their hand in smaller pots and gave up either. Why? Because that isn't exciting! That doesn't boost the ratings. No TV executive in their right mind would ever allow that crap on the air.

But that is what winning poker is actually about. Grinding it out and being disciplined. Losing your ego when playing against the hordes of massive donkeys and calling stations at NL2 and NL5 is vital to your success at these stakes. You can try and play like your favorite high stakes online or TV pro at these limits but I promise you that your winrate will suffer because of it. Keep it simple and profit the most.

Make sure to pick up my free ebook which will teach you the exact strategy that I have used to crush the micro stakes for some of the highest winrates in online poker history.


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

The Biggest Key to My Success at the Micros (It Might Shock You)

35 comments:

  1. Another great post. It's taken me literally years to learn some of these things. Thanks Nathan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Michael. I didn't exactly pick up many of these things over night either.

      Delete
  2. Nathan, great post once again. Do you think the red line is relevant at 10NL 6max?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dema. Sure, I mean the red line holds some value at any limit. You need to be winning your fair share of pots without having to showdown the best hand. But don't allow it to over ride everything. The green line or your winrate are what really matter.

      Delete
  3. Is it possible to make a living from 5nl if you heavily multitable it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Read Nathan's posts on how much you can expect to make at different limits with different amounts of tables

      Delete
    2. I'm gonna take a look at it, thanks.

      Delete
    3. Ya, it depends where you live, your situation in life etc. If you have a family and live in New York city there is no chance on earth. If you are a single guy living in Bucharest, Romania though, ya it definitely might be possible.

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Not quite as much but I still follow a similar approach yes.

      Delete
  5. This advice was the best thing I could learn after reading your first book. Thanks for that BTW :D

    ReplyDelete
  6. Awating for "the biggest key for your success at nl25-50". I'm really enjoying every single post of this blog.Thanks for sharing it.

    Dcqq.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, that would be a MUCH longer blog post. Maybe one day. Thanks for the kind words.

      Delete
  7. Hi, I've learnt a lot from your book and blog. I think folding is one of my strengths, but I'm concerned there is too much of a gap between my c-bet percentage (72.4%) and my turn c-bet (37%). Is this a hole, or is this to be expected when giving up on a lot of hands as suggested in this post. I am a winner at 2NL at 11 bb/100 hands.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your last sentence says it all. You are doing great where it matters (your winrate). So I would change nothing. I also have a fairly large gap between my flop and turn CBet when I play these limits. There is much less of a gap at NL10 and higher.

      Delete
  8. Enjoyed your article here and it should serve as a good reminder as to the mentality one should have at these stakes. I find myself sometimes doing thing that would be better suited for a higher stake that often backfires because the players aren't going to react the way I want. I think this ties into your point about playing too many hands because when you play more speculative hands you find yourself in spots where you can't win unless you bet or try to make a move and again at these stakes, the players just don't fold or simply don't believe you half the time anyway. Thanks again and keep em' coming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks rsimpson and I agree with everything you said!

      Delete
  9. Hi Nathan. Great article once again.
    After more than 50 tries at the 10,000-player freeroll MTTs on Stars, I finished in the money today to earn...10 cents.
    What's the smartest to way to build a bankroll with this? I ask this because making my first deposit isn't an option for me for a while. The only options I've been able to look at is the $.02(990 players) and $.10(240 players) SNGs, but they're way too risky for my current 'bankroll'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sorry but I don't have any suggestions. There might still be some places where you can get a free bankroll for signing up at certain sites. I would recommend that if depositing is not an option. 10 cents is simply not enough to do anything with.

      Delete
  10. Hi Nathan, I am studying your new book while playing 10nl and got two questions: In wich stakes having a better redline begins to really "matter"? Do you think 10nl strategy nowadays is closer to 2Nl and 5nl or 25nl and so? Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Alexandre, I would say that it starts to matter more at NL10 as this limit plays a bit closer to NL25 and higher.

      Delete
  11. Thank you Nathan, your posts are always well thought and bring in some solid points. And yes, those damn big calls with TPTK on river make you far less winning player (already learned that on myself). Keep posting more :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Very Good Blog, Nathan... You are a Master on these limits for sure!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Nathan! This is a great post :)
    Any chances to see you playing on twitch someday?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nicolas, I might do this someday but no plans right now.

      Delete
  14. Great Post again, thanks for your work, appreciate it!
    Folding is sometimes your best move, i think.

    Take care
    Markus

    ReplyDelete
  15. Very Nice Article! Nice to see in writing someone who finally acknowledges that TV poker and online cash micros are very different. People don't understand that they are seeing only the best 1 hour of a final table. I guess it is works in a favor too. Thankfully the pool of player that make up the fish and donkeys at these low stakes don't realize that. They jump online and play some of the ridiculous hands that they play cuz they want to emulate all that and if we are playing the way you teach then we should be in a good spot to reap the benefits of that.

    Good to read and see it in black and white. It is something I really need to keep focusing on. Just playing very straight-forward, solid, disciplined poker. I will learn new concepts from various places and start implementing them and they may work for a bit, but find they are a tad too fancy for the NL2 and NL5 group. I go on mini tilts when I have to keep folding good hands, but as the post flop cards roll out the hand goes from good to mediocre and its nice to hear that it is ok to just fold when you aren't sure. Who cares if they are bluffing or if they have it, just move on. I am now just focused on getting more value when I have it.

    Thanks Nathan

    ReplyDelete
  16. Love your work Nathan.
    Giving back to the community is rare these days unless there's money involved for the coaching
    I always thought that to be a massive winner at NL2 your red line needed to be straight. You have opened my eyes, im always getting tilted when i get it all in with TP +SFD or OENSD+ TP and i dont get there sending me in to a monkey tilting of another 5 BI (killing my red line) but I've given up on my red line now and stared table selecting so much now that I've gotten a new passion for the game.
    Love your work brother keep it up. ������������������

    ReplyDelete