Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Art of Bluffing at the Micros: When to do it and Why

The Art of Bluffing at the Micros: When to do it and Why
One of the oldest rules in the book at the micros is to "never bluff." So why would I write an article about bluffing at the micros then you might ask? Well, because poker as we know it on the internet has changed a lot over the years and bluffing is now profitable against some opponents at these stakes. Long gone are the days when literally every single player is incapable of folding anything. Many regs have long since realized that frequently finding the fold button (especially against other tight regs) is vital to their success at these stakes.


How to Bluff the Regs


But the great thing about poker is that for every adjustment there is always a counter-adjustment. Many micro stakes players have taken this folding thing way too far and some of the better regs have taken advantage of this by being more aggressive and bluffing more. The prime target for these bluffs is a player type that I have discussed many times before, the "TAGfish." They typically have stats that look something like this:

Full Ring: 13/10/2 WTSD 22%
6max: 19/16/2 WTSD 22%

The first set of numbers is VPIP/PFR/TotalAF. If you are unfamiliar with what these mean go check out my mega article on HUD setup here.

Basically this player type is tight, fairly passive and doesn't like to stick large amounts of their stack in the middle without the nuts. We can notice this most especially by their relatively low WTSD% (went to showdown %). The average is about 24% among regs according to my database. These players are the perfect opponent to run a big time bluff against on the later streets. I will go through a couple examples of how we can do this shortly.


How to Bluff the Fish


However, first I want to be really clear about something. If you are table selecting properly at these stakes (a horse that I have beaten to death on this blog, in my books and elsewhere) then you should be running into a whole bunch of other bad regs who are calling stations and who you should not be bluffing very often. They will have stats that look something like this:

Full Ring: 13/10/2 WTSD 27%
6max: 19/16/2 WTSD 27%

As you can see the WTSD% is the crucial stat here once again. Even though this player type is only going to showdown 5% more often than their TAGfish counterpart this is actually a huge relative difference. Every session we all face many close decisions on the later streets. Some regs just won't fold their small over pair, top pair or even their middle pair though. On the other hand, plenty of the weaker TAGfish regs frequently fold all of these hands.

This is where most of this 5% difference comes from. You don't want to be bluffing these calling station regs very often whose WTSD% is in the high 20's. Players who are in the low 20's though should be a prime target.

If you are table selecting well then you should also be playing with plenty of the standard SLPs (semi-loose passive) and fish at these stakes. These players of course don't fold anything at all. They will have stats that look something like this (Full Ring or 6max):

SLP: 27/8/1 WTSD 29% 
Fish: 52/8/1 WTSD 33%

You are simply not going to turn a profit trying to run a big bluff against either of these player types. You should almost never try to bluff these players on the later streets. It is often simply winrate suicide because they will call you down with any piece, even no pair hands on occasion.

So therefore, when bluffing at the micros, we should be squarely focused on the weak TAGfish regs who do not go to showdown very often. Let's go through a couple examples of how this will work in practice:

NL2 Full Ring


Villain is a 13/10/2 TAGfish with a 22% WTSD

Hero raises from UTG with A♥Q♠
Villain calls from the BTN

The flop comes,

6♣6♥7♦

Hero CBets,
Villain calls

The turn comes,

K♣

Hero???

We have all seen this position many times before. It is the classic double barreling spot against a weaker reg on a turn scare card. When he calls preflop we put him on a range of mostly pairs trying to set-mine us and the occasional slow-played big ace or big pair. Very few of these hands hit this flop hard and very few of them will be happy about seeing that king pop up on the turn either. Suppose we double barrel and get called on the turn though?

The river comes,

2♥

Hero???

This is a spot where you could think about firing another shell. It really looks like our opponent is probably hanging on with some sort of mid pair hand like 88, 99, TT, JJ or QQ. Even if he somehow hit the king on the turn we can expect a player like this (22% WTSD) to think long and hard about folding it too if we can fire the third bullet here. Unless he literally flopped the absolute nuts with 66 or 77 there is a good chance that we get a player like this to lay down the entire rest of his range.

NL5 6max


Villain is a 19/16/2 TAGfish with a 22% WTSD, 75% Flop CBet, and a 60% Turn CBet.

Villain raises from UTG
Hero calls from the CO with 8♣8♠

The flop comes,

J♠6♥2♦

Villain CBets
Hero calls

The turn comes 9♠

Villain CBets
Hero???

Here is another spot versus a weak reg where we could consider running a bluff. Once again we should ask ourselves what our opponent can have in a spot like this. When he raises from UTG in a 6max game a tight reg like this is probably on a range of the typical 22-AA, AK, AQ, AJ and KQ. We can also see that this player follows up with another CBet on the turn fairly often at 60%. However, we know that given this range and this board that he rarely has a nut hand. He would have to have exactly JJ, 99, 66 or 22 to feel extremely confident here.

Since this is another weak reg this looks to be a good spot to turn our hand into a bluff on occasion by raising. I should mention that once again our actual hand value doesn't really matter that much because we are simply playing the player and his range here. We know that he can't be very strong all that often on this board and that he often folds when faced with big pressure.

I should also mention that like the previous hand my plan is to fire a lot of rivers if called on the turn. When I find an opportunity to bluff like this I do not like to give up without firing the final shell as well. This is because he is going to call our raise a lot on the turn with hands like AA, KK, QQ and AJ. A TAGfish reg like this though will often check all of these hands to us on the river unimproved and make a tough lay down if we can fire another substantial bet.

Final Thoughts


Like I said before, my intention with this article was not to get you all to start bluffing up a storm against the typical regs that you find at these stakes. This would be terrible for your winrate against most regs especially at NL2, NL5 and NL10. This is why I zeroed in on the very specific TAGfish player type who is relatively tight but typically won't put big amounts of his stack in the middle without a huge hand.

When pushed around enough though even these players will eventually adjust so it is important not to bluff them every single time in spots like this. Many regs at these stakes will simply start spite calling you if they think that something fishy is going on. The key is to walk that fine line where it is just believable enough for them to keep letting you have it.

The old adage "don't bluff at the micros" is still mostly true these days especially at the lowest stakes. However, hopefully this article helped show you that there are a few spots where you can boost your winrate against the right opponent in the right situation.

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The Art of Bluffing at the Micros: When to do it and Why

24 comments:

  1. Great article as usual, thanks Nathan.

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  2. Thanks for nice post. May i ask you?
    What type of game you prefer? 6max or 9max? And what you recommend to play a micro stakes player (nl5-10-25)?
    I prefer FR, but isn't 6max more profitable for regulars? You playing against 5 people, easier to choose tables with fishes and other stuff.

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    Replies
    1. I play both. I don't think there is really any profitability difference between the two. I remember checking PTR when they tracked Stars and the top winners at either always had similar winrates. I think you should simply play the one that you enjoy more. Or just play them both for increased table selection.

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  3. It's too bad that I'm stuck playing on Bovada and can never get a big enough sample size to use those stats. I finally made it to nl10 following your strategies and wish I could take advantage of the TAGfish more.

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    1. @brad I'm in the same situation ... I play on a different platform but I very rarely get at least 500 hands or more in order to look at the WTSD ...
      How many tables you are allowed to play on Bovada ?

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    2. Hey, I find my WTSD is higher at 6max, than FR. Do you account for this when rating the opponents, or no ?

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    3. I can only play 4 tables max if its cash/sng. The players are so bad though that the wtsd Stat isn't too big of a deal. The nl10 plays like nl2 and nl5 on other sites.

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    4. is it only for US players or it's for every country ?

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    5. @Kash, a little bit. I have noticed the same too.

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    6. It's not US only. I'm pretty sure it's not. It has some annoying things about it because it's more for casual players like no auto top up and you can't change seats.

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  4. @BLackrain how many buyins should you have for a limit ?
    I had 40 buyins for my limit and in only 10 days from the beggining of the month I am left with only a little ... I can't play at my limit anymore , I have to go down in limit .... and I was playing at this limit from some time , I wasn't a total noob , I was making some money.

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    Replies
    1. I typically suggest around 40 but it is different for everybody. If things aren't going well you should move down well before your bankroll gets decimated though.

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    2. Yeah but I follow Leatherass advice in his book " Treat your poker like a business " where he says you shouldn't look at the bankroll untill the end of the month. I looked at it by mistake while I was searching for some settings in the poker platform .... and then I panicked .

      I wonder what would have happened If I continued to play like that without knowing what my bankroll is.
      Do you like at your bankroll frequently ? doesn't that affect your mood or how you play if it runs badly ?

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    3. I follow his advice too and rarely look at my bankroll. If things are going really, really bad though for several days or weeks I will usually know and I will take a look. I typically only play in games where I have a long term history of winning so this rarely ever happens.

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  5. Approx how many hands or sample size are needed for WTSD? Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Probably about 100 minimum. More is always better of course.

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  6. Hey Nathan,
    on HEM2 which stat should i use for WTSD% ?
    The options they have are WTSD% (when saw flop), WTSD% (when saw flop) no all ins, WTSD% when saw turn, WTSD% when saw turn no all ins, WTSD% when saw river, WTSD% when saw river no all ins, WTSD% when saw flop after calling PFR IP, WTSD% when saw flop after calling PFR OOP, and finally WTSD% when saw flop after calling PFR.
    Many thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hey Shooter, I would use the first one "WTSD% (when saw flop)".

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  7. First hand you can also check raise the turn to about 45bb, does the same job slightly cheaper and forces them into a pot committing decision

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  8. thx for the article...what would you consider a good betsize (and if depending, on which situations) for the riverbluff...3/4, pot, overbet?

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    Replies
    1. No problem, glad you enjoyed it. Depends on the situation and opponent but my standard bet size here is 3/4 of the pot whether for value or as a bluff.

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  9. You Do Such a Great job Always a Great Read, Thanks Hope and Sure Your Doing Great Man Take care and wish You the Best -D1G1TALFOX

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much David, and thanks for being such a loyal reader of mine!

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