Now when people ask me about this I always tell them that at extremely low stakes such as NL2, NL5 and NL10 not to worry too much about their red line. The reason why? It is almost certainly going to be negative because these stakes are filled with calling station donkeys who don't fold anything! Frequently trying to bluff them out of pots is very unlikely to be a profitable strategy.
And before you even ask, yes, my red line is negative at these stakes too. I am not just saying all of this to make you feel better. The green line is the only one that actually matters!
|Lost the battle but won the war!|
However, when you get to limits above this (i.e., NL25+) the recreational players become harder to find and the regs understand the game quite a bit better. Therefore it is important that you start winning these smaller battles where no cards get shown down on a more consistent basis. This doesn't mean that you need to be the bluffing champion of NL50 in order to beat it. However, I do think that you should be aiming for at least a break-even result in non-showdown winnings by these stakes.
So what are some ways that you can go about doing this?
1. Steal the Blinds More Often
This is really the most obvious way to improve your non-showdown winnings. Every time you take down the blinds uncontested your red line goes up. It's that simple. And even though you only win a small amount, when you think about just how many hands end on this street (preflop), you can see that this will quickly add up in a big way.
Now it is important not to go overboard with stealing the blinds. Several years ago it became fashionable to raise it up with almost any two especially if the opponents in the blinds were nits. This strategy is not nearly as effective (at least at the upper end of the micros) in today's games because many regs are now aware of what you are up to. They have therefore adjusted by 3Betting you light more often.
In most situations at the micros I think you should be aiming to steal the blinds with about 30-40% of your hands.
|The yellow hands above represent roughly the top 35% of all hands.|
If you are significantly below this amount (or even significantly above it) then this could be affecting your red line results in a big way.
2. Play More Hands In Position
Another super obvious way to go about fixing your red line is to simply play more of your hands in position. In my first book Crushing the Microstakes I recommend playing at least 3 times as many hands from the button as from UTG. I also recommend a pretty tight range from the blinds.
The reason for this?
It is simply always going to be much easier to take the pot away when you are last to act. You get to see what your opponent thinks about his hand before you even do anything. Basically you are "wearing the pants" in the hand on every single postflop street. They don't know what you are going to do. They have to react to you.
Now once again you don't want to get too crazy with this strategy at the upper end of the micros in today's games. Good regs will notice that you are abusing the crap out of late position and only playing the nuts in EP and from the blinds. They will make adjustments and easily exploit you because of this.
However, you should still make sure that you are playing a solid majority of your hands when it is likely that you will be in position after the flop. To check your actual statistics by position in Pokertracker 4 make sure that you select the following at the top:
After that make sure you select these options on the left panel:
Change the drop down menu to "Position" if you are looking at 6max and enter the limit and the dates below. Your VPIP and PFR numbers by position should then appear in the center top panel.
3. Float More
The ability to float is one reason why playing your hands in position more often is so valuable. Many regs, especially at the lower end of the micros, still play primarily fit or fold after the flop. That is, if they don't hit their set, top pair or a solid draw then they fold versus the CBet.
The problem with this strategy is that you are only going to make one of these hands about 1/3 of the time. This is why you see many of these regs with a fold to flop CBet of 70% of even higher in some cases. Believe me, the guy who is making the CBet (and improving his red line when you fold) does not have something good 70% of the time! These people are giving away a ton of free equity by folding a lot more often than they need to.
So when you are in position you should be floating the flop a little bit more often when you have middle pair, bottom pair or a weak draw (gutshot etc.). You can even do it from time to time with ace high or king high. You should especially be looking to float more often if you are up against one of the regs who gives up a lot on the turn (big difference between flop and turn CBet).
|Float guys like this all day! CBets the flop 73%, only 38% on the turn.|
4. Play Your Draws More Aggressively
A great way to take down more pots without showdown is to use your draws as a weapon, That is, semi-bluff with them. Instead of flatting on the flop with your flush draw or open ended straight draw why not raise with it instead? You need to always remember one of the cardinal rules of poker that I just alluded to heavily above:
Most of the time in poker nobody has anything very good at all! Click to Tweet!
Truly understanding this statement is really at the heart of improving your non-showdown winnings and red line. So therefore, when we have some reasonable equity (like we do with a flush draw or straight draw), then we should be using this as an opportunity to make our opponent fold.
Now we do not want to do this every single time. We always want to make sure that we are mixing things up against thinking opponents in all situations. This allows our play to be much less predictable. I think raising 50% of the time sounds perfectly fine in this situation though. You could accomplish this by simply raising your flush draw or straight draw every other time regardless of the opponent.
5. Double Barrel More
Another way to improve your red line is to follow up with another CBet on the turn more often. As I mentioned above we can take advantage of people who give up on the turn too easily by simply floating more often. Well the exact opposite is true as well. We can take advantage of people with a high float flop CBet by sticking another bet in their face more often.
Now again, we don't want to go too overboard with this. There has been a noticeable upturn in recent years of micro stakes regs suddenly turning into "double barrel monkeys." So much so that I have started just double floating these guys or even raising the turn quite frequently.
The key thing here is to make sure that you have reasonably balanced CBetting numbers across all three streets. Your flop CBet is always going to be a bit higher than your turn and river CBets. But it should not be way, way higher like we saw above. I think a 20 point maximum difference is a good benchmark. 30+ is becoming noticeably unbalanced.
Villain: 19/15/3, fold to flop CBet 55%
Hero raises in EP with 4♥4♣ and gets called from the button
The king on the turn is just too irresistible. We should fire again. This player does not fold all that often on the flop either at 55%. If we keep applying pressure in a situation like this (and as long as there is no significant history) we should expect a fold more often than not from a fairly tight looking micro reg.
> Hero CBets again.
6. Triple Barrel Bluff More
Disclaimer: Do not even think about using this tactic if you play at NL10 or below. You will get snap called...just because.
There is no quicker way to blast your red line upward than by taking down pots on the river uncontested. The reason for this is simple. This is the street where on average the pot size is going to be the highest. Now of course frequently bluffing on this street and getting caught is about the worst thing that you can do for your blue line (showdown winnings). And this will ultimately affect the only line that really matters (your green one).
So when I suggest triple barrel bluffing more this is something that should be done very sparingly and your reasons for doing so should be very well thought out. However, this can be a highly effective tactic against double floaters because they usually aren't willing to go all the way with it at the micros. And even if you do get caught once in awhile it is amazing for your image!
7. Value Bet Thinner
The simple act of value betting thinner means that you are going to make people fold more often. This is always a good thing for your red line. Most regs at the micros are afraid to value bet too thin. That or they will only do it versus the recreational players.
This is a mistake because you are actually missing out on quite a bit of value versus the calling station regs who will look you up with middle pair or worse (high WTSD%). This is especially the case if you have a bad image like I suggest you create versus them on a regular basis. Make them think you are a maniac!
Frequently value betting thinner will actually in and of itself help you accomplish this. This is because it will increase your Total AF significantly on their HUDs. And any time you are simply betting more often will make others naturally assume that you are bluffing up a storm.
"He can't have it every single time!"
8. Semi-Bluff Raise the Turn More
Again, this tactic is not for NL10 and below players. You will get called. Don't send me hate mail!
Semi bluff raising the turn is a more advanced play that you still rarely see at the micros. You will see plenty of regs who are capable of it at NL100 and higher though. Basically it involves taking a hand such as a flush draw, straight draw or even just middle pair and simply raising with it.
Now once again this is not something that you want to overdo or it could get really hazardous to your win rate. Do not for instance raise the turn with a draw against a high WTSD% calling station reg or recreational player. However, it can be an effective tool to use on occasion versus regs who have a high double barrel and a low WTSD%.
9. Bluff Raise the River More
Bluff raising the river is another advanced play that you need to be very careful in attempting. If you play at NL2, NL5 or NL10 don't even think about it.
But once again, when made for the right reason, against the right opponent and in the right situation this can be an effective tool to take down a few pots uncontested and increase your non-showdown winnings.
NL25 Full Ring
Villain: 14/11/3, WTSD 23% (no significant history)
Hero flats an MP open on the button with A♥J♥
We know that we have pretty much no chance of winning this hand at showdown by calling. Also, our opponent's hand feels like some weakish over-pair trying to get thin value. We also know that he doesn't like going to showdown very much and probably views us as fairly tight since there is no real history.
We could just go ahead and fold. That is the easy way. And please make no mistake, this is what I would do here most of the time. I do think it is a good idea to be capable of raising with air in a spot like this on occasion as well though. It will do wonders for your red line also, that is for sure.
As I always mention when bluffing, it is very important to make sure that you are telling a story that makes sense. Always ask yourself, are there several strong hands given this action and this board that I might normally take the exact same line with?
In this instance the answer is yes.
I would raise the flop with a flush draw sometimes here and it got there on the river. There are several sets, two pairs or even a higher over-pair that I would commonly show up here with as well.
> Hero Raises!
Note: If you get away with something like this you better be damn sure to show up with the nuts against this guy next time. Regs tend to remember hands like this for a long time.
Having the sickest red line ever is definitely not necessary to beat the micros at all. And often your non-show down winnings will be largely determined by your style of play. There are many different ways to skin a sheep at the micros.
And if you play at the lowest stakes (NL2, NL5 and NL10) focusing on your red line too much will probably negatively affect your bottom line. The green line (your overall winnings) is the only one that actually matters. Just win. Nobody cares how you got there.
However, by the time you get to about NL25 I think that improving your non-showdown winnings and red line is something that you should be paying a reasonable amount of attention to. You will be playing more hands against decent regs and winning these smaller battles will play a bigger role in your overall results. Hopefully some of the strategies listed in this article will help you achieve this.
Lastly, make sure you pick up my free ebook which will teach you the strategy that I have used to crush the micro stakes for some of the highest winrates in online poker history.
Let me know in the comments below what you think about all this red line business and the ways to improve it in this article.
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