Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Don't Get Left Behind: How to Outplay the Regs and Win More Pots

Outplay the regs in small stakes cash games.
One of the biggest keys to success in today's micro stakes cash games is learning how to outplay the regs (the regulars who you see every day at the tables).

With the recreational players being fewer in numbers these days it is more imperative than ever that you develop strategies to beat decent thinking opponents.

Most people these days essentially still just "play their hand" against the regs though. That is, they just play a straight forward ABC game, make disciplined folds and never really get out of line.

This strategy leads to a lot of trading the blinds back and forth and ultimately a tiny winrate. If you want to win big then you need to find ways to start winning more pots against the regs.

So in this article I am going to discuss a couple of key ways to outplay the regs in today's small stakes cash games.

Outplaying the Regs - Know Your Enemy

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In order to stop trading the blinds back and forth with the regs you need to know your enemy. Once you discover their weaknesses then you can start attacking them and turn the balance of pots won in your favor.

What are some of their weaknesses?

1. They Are Overly Aggressive When Small Money is Involved

Ever notice how crazy the 3Betting and 4Betting can get sometimes at the micros today even at very low stakes? You might have noticed a high amount of CBets on the flop and turn as well.

This is because most regs get over aggressive when small amounts of money (relative to the overall stacks) are involved. This is not a bad thing in and of itself.

The real problem is point #2.

2. They Are Overly Weak When Big Money is Involved

Most regs at the micros these days are like the little dog who is all bark and no bite. They put on a mean face and try to scare you out of the pot with frequent bets and raises on the small money streets.

However, once a significant portion of their stack is at risk unless they have a monster hand they can't find the fold button fast enough.

So there are a few different ways to exploit this.

The Turn Semi-Bluff Raise

One of the easiest ways to outplay many of the regs at the micros these days is to raise their double barrel with a wider range than normal.

Most people will only raise on the turn if they have a huge hand like two pair or better. The problem with this strategy is that every reg out there knows this as well.

Therefore, when you finally hit your set and raise them on the turn they just make the easiest fold in the world and you are left wondering why you never get any action with your big hands.

Well, the easiest way to exploit their tendency to double barrel frequently but then fold to further aggression is to simply open up your raising range in these spots.

So instead of only raising the turn with two pair or better try adding some hands like this:
  • Open ended straight draw
  • Flush draw
  • Middle pair
  • Bottom pair
  • Gutshot straight draw
Skew it more towards the quality draws and pairs but I think you get my point. Raise the regs more often with hands that have some reasonable equity but aren't the nuts.

By raising the turn with hands like this you will take down several more pots uncontested. This will also do wonders for both your winrate and your redline (non-showdown winnings).

And don't worry if you get called from time to time. This doesn't mean that you can't still win the pot on the river with another well placed bluff.

You could also simply outdraw them. This is why you should only make this play with hands that have some equity.

Lastly, on the rare occasion that they re-raise you they clearly have a monster and it is the easiest fold in the world.

The Double Float 

You don't always have to raise the turn though. Another line that you can take is to simply float them twice (call their flop and turn CBets in position) and then bet the river when they check to you.

Like I said before, most regs at the micros these days are all bark and no bite. This means that they will fire on the flop and the turn but if you can continue (even just by calling) they often won't have the heart to fire again.

So you can take many of the same hands that I listed above and instead of folding to their double barrel just call again with the intention of taking it away on the river.

This last point is extremely important.

Many people forget that the entire point of floating is to take the pot away. Floating and then not betting when they check to you is like getting the hot girl's phone number and then not phoning her.

Massive fail. Facepalm etc.

So when you double float the turn and they check to you on the river you should be betting with all of your missed draws and bluffing with many of your weak pairs as well.

Just like before on the turn, you will of course get looked up here from time to time. It is important not to let that deter you. Showing down a bluff or a bad hand on occasion versus a reg can actually be a very good thing because it gives you a bad image which leads to more loose action in the future.

Don't Bluff the Sticky Regs

It is important to note that you should look out for the calling station regs though. The WTSD% (went to showdown) stat on your HUD is a huge help in many situations like this.

If the reg has a WTSD% in the mid 20's or higher then I am going to bluff them less often with many of these hands. If on the other hand their WTSD% is in the low 20's or less then I will be bluffing them all day.

As I discuss at length in Modern Small Stakes I am often planning all of this ahead of time on the earlier streets though. I will often only double float a player who I know likes to barrel a lot but gives up easily on the river.

If I see that they like to triple barrel or call down wide though then I will be much less likely to try and run a big bluff against them. I might call down wide myself or just give up on the hand on an earlier street.

Final Thoughts

Devising strategies to outplay the regs is extremely important to your success in today's micro stakes cash games. After all, these are the players who you are going to see by far the most at the tables.

The biggest key to having success against them is understanding how they view the game, their tendencies and then creating counter-strategies.

And indeed, this is what winning poker is all about. There is always a ying to every yang. Your opponent is too aggressive? Call down lighter. Your opponent is too passive/weak? Bluff them more often.

It is important to understand that not all regs at the micros are created the same. But many of them these days do exhibit a tendency towards being overly aggressive on the earlier streets and overly weak on the later ones.

The turn semi-bluff raise and the double float are two strategies that you can use to counter-act this. Try them out yourself at the tables and you might notice a few more pots coming your way.

Let me know some of your strategies to outplay the regs in the comments below.

Lastly, if you found this article helpful then please do me a big favor and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter below!

Outplay the regs and steal pots


  1. Interesting ideas Nathan, gonna give them a shot on my next session!

    1. Thanks Jorge, let me know how it works out for you.

  2. Quote: "One of the biggest keys to success in today's micro stakes cash games is learning how to outplay the regs (the regulars who you see every day at the tables).With the recreational players being fewer in numbers these days it is more imperative than ever that you develop strategies to beat decent thinking opponents."
    In your earlier posts, Nathan, you claimed that the fish was the main target. And added that "No matter how much you study how to beat the regs or stay on top of every new strategy out there you will still face a winnings ceiling. This is the point where your winrate simply cannot go any higher because fundamentally your opponents just aren't making enough mistakes." "Things they are a changin", eh?

    1. Nope. Playing against the fish is by far the #1 way to achieve the highest winrate. However, unless you play heads up all the time it is impossible to avoid playing against other regs. So I write articles on this website with tips on how to play optimally against them as well.

  3. "Floating and then not betting when they check to you is like getting the hot girl's phone number and then not phoning her." Savvy :D

    1. I always try to include at least one good zinger in each article! I was particularly proud of this one haha.

  4. Thanks you for your post , it will help me a lot ! Especially I just move up a limit these last days !!

    I just have a little question : a point you don't mention is the position . Maybe it will sound like a silly question but , should we apply these strategies only when we have the position ?

    Last thing , I already say it but , thanks again for what you do . You don't just improve my game , but also make me think about the game in his globality , and it's very precious for having our own way of thinking about poker .

    1. Hi kash,

      Thank you so much for the kind words. I am grateful to have loyal readers like yourself. To answer your question, yes. Since both of these plays involve floating I am going to be doing them when in position far more often than when out of position.

    2. I just saw your new article for pokernews.com about de LAG ( maniac ) , it made my day ! ( It was me who ask you advice about it last time ^^ )

  5. Haha nice photo with the Nintendo gamepad :D

    1. Thanks! Wanted to use something classic :)

  6. hi Nathan,

    How much do you suggest to raise in either strategy?


    1. Good question. The typical 2.5x-3x should be fine. He bets $3, I make it $8 or $9.

  7. What do we do when we float twice, and he triple barrels river?

    1. I am pretty much always just folding unless it is a very rare player who is capable of doing this light.

  8. Hey Nathan,
    In CTM, you recommend to keep things simple and only bet for value mostly. Do you think that 3betting lite is good strategy for a beginner? It brings a certain amount of variance in the game which can be challenging for a beginner to cop up with.

    1. I don't think complete beginners need to worry about this too much. You can still easily crush NL2 without doing any sort of light 3Betting at all. But once you move up a bit, you should start to learn this skill.