The problem with a lot of poker educational material and training these days though is that it focuses on teaching you how to become a mediocre winner. And if grinding out that 2bb/100 win rate for years on end at the micros is your goal then by all means, have at it!
Keep burning the midnight oil studying "game theory optimal" strategies so that you can eek out another fraction of a big blind edge against strong opposition (in theory of course). Or keep crunching "SPR" numbers or counting hand combinations until you find the perfect bet size or play (again, in theory of course).
The problem with all of this is that most people don't want to study complex mathematical theories for years on end in order to go from a 2bb/100 winner to a 2.5bb/100 winner. They want to be a 5bb/100 or 10bb/100 winner and also, they want to do it now, not next year.
So in this article I am going to discuss a few of the main ways from a practical perspective to cut the line and start generating the big win rate that you actually want at the micros.
Modern Poker Theory is Backwards
Let's start by talking about the key problem with literally all modern poker theory. Most of it is based on what I call the "banging your head against a wall" approach to poker.
That is, it focuses almost entirely on how to beat solid thinking opponents. That is great and all but nobody turns a big profit against solid thinking opponents. These players simply do not make enough fundamental mistakes in order for you to ever gain a big edge against them.
This is why I constantly talk about the importance of finding the fish, tagging them, chasing them around, finding the right seat against them and so on on this blog, in my videos, books and everything.
I prefer to play against players who do in fact make big fundamental mistakes at the poker tables because again, my goal is to win big in this game, not to grind out a tiny win rate against strong regs.
I get a lot of flack for this. I have been called the "bumhunter king of the micros" among other things for instance. And that is fine. I actually take it as a compliment.
"Bumhunter" by the way is a pejorative term that some people use to describe people who focus almost exclusively on playing against the recreational players. In other words intelligent poker players who understand where the money actually comes from in this game.
The bottom line is that if you focus all of your attention on trying to beat the toughest opponents then you are simply trying to deny the fundamental rule of poker that nearly all of the profit comes from the weaker players.
You can keep banging your head against a wall by trying to outwit solid thinking opponents who take the game just as seriously as you do.
Or you can focus your attention on finding the weakest players, getting position on them and exploiting their bad play in order to truly crush the games.
I have already written the ultimate guide to table selection at the micros if the latter approach seems a little bit more effective to you. And yes it is completely free (although it shouldn't be).
Exploitative Strategy is the Key to Big Success
When I talk about exploitative strategy (which I am a huge proponent of) I am talking about finding the biggest weaknesses in my opponents and hammering on them. Everybody has weaknesses at the micros (even the good regs) and I am all about doing things the easy way in poker.
If I can see on my HUD for instance that my opponent plays well preflop and on the flop but shows significant weaknesses on the turn and river guess where I am likely to attack him? It doesn't make sense to battle your opponent where they are strong.
So the classic example is the weaker reg at the micros who folds to 3Bets too much. You still see them at the lower stakes all the time folding 80% of the time or higher. I won't ever be trying to "balance my range" against these players. I am just going to 3Bet the crap out of them, like literally every time I get a chance.
You will find many other areas where the recreational players and the weaker regs have huge leaks in their game by making effective use of your HUD. Here are just a few of them which I regularly exploit as well:
- Fold to 4Bet is too high
- Fold to flop raise is too high
- Fold to turn float bet is too high
What if your opponents don't make glaring mistakes in some key areas? Refer to my first point above. I don't play in games where everyone at the table is a strong, well balanced reg.
Be a Little Non-Standard Sometimes (It's OK)
Another thing that holds a lot of people back is this idea that there is some so called "standard play" for every situation. Or even more silly, that there is a perfect bet size.
This is No Limit Hold'em. You can bet whatever amount that you want.
One of my favorite high stakes players to watch back in the day was Prahlad Friedman. Most people today have probably never heard of him but he had a big impact on online poker in it's early days. He played under screen names like "Mahatma" and "Spirit Rock."
Arguably his biggest contribution to the game was the massive over-bet on the river. He would regularly bet 10k into a 2k pot with a wide range of bluffs and value hands. It absolutely dumbfounded his opponents at the time and often put them on instant monkey tilt if they guessed wrong. This, of course, would allow him to win much, much more.
There are many more examples of players like this throughout the history of poker who ignored the "standard play" and revolutionized the game in the process. Sure, people eventually figured out ways to counter their strategy but for a time they reigned supreme and annihilated the games.
If you want to get the same results as everybody else (marginal winner at best) then you should go ahead and do what they all think is the standard play at that moment in time.
But elite winners and poker sharks know that the game is always changing. In fact it often swings back and forth from one extreme to another in cycles. 5 years ago when limitless aggression was at it's peak in online poker they called you a "donkey" if you called too much.
These days though the pendulum has shifted back in the other direction because everybody has finally realized that the answer to hyper-aggressive players is to call a lot wider. Now all of the sudden you can post your "donkey" hand histories again on the poker forums and get a virtual high five instead of ridicule.
Don't listen to the masses of breakeven players with their "standard plays." The game is always changing. There is no such thing as a standard play. The biggest winners are at the top of the curve and are actively creating the strategies to counter what everybody is doing right now.
The same people who laugh at them and ridicule them today will be copying them and praising them tomorrow.
As I mentioned at the top, poker is really a lot more fun when you win big. Most people never get there though because they take things far too seriously and over complicate everything.
The biggest key to being a poker shark and a huge winner will always be in playing against the fish and to a lesser degree the weaker regs.
Many people choose to keep sitting in terrible games though trying to draw blood from a stone. Or they think that there is some secret mathematical formula which will help them crush solid thinking opponents.
Poker simply does not work this way.
If having a big win rate is a priority of yours then you absolutely have to change this way of thinking. You have to understand that game selection is a skill in and of itself. And in an era of poker like we have today when the games typically play tighter and the fish are harder to find, it is more important than ever.
Secondly, you need to focus on finding and exploiting the biggest weaknesses that your opponents have. Instead of spending so much time thinking about how to "balance your range" in all situations you should just hammer on them more often where they are weak.
Lastly, don't be afraid to try out new strategies and even unconventional bet sizing. Show me somebody who makes a lot of "standard plays" and I will show you a mediocre winner or a breakeven player. The standard play is a myth. Poker is always changing and those who truly crush the games are riding the crest of that wave.
Let me know in the comments below what you think it takes to really crush the games today. By the way, if you want some concrete numbers on what it means to really destroy the games I talked about that in a popular blog post located here.
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