Wednesday, December 9, 2015
65 Ways to Increase Your Winrate at the Micros Right Now
With multi-tabling some people play as many as 50k, 100k or even more hands of poker in a single month. When putting in this level of volume increasing your winrate by even half a big blind per 100 hands can mean hundreds or even thousands more in terms of actual profit (dollars) depending on the stakes that you play.
So in this article I am going to list more ways to improve your winrate at the micros than you could ever possibly need. 65 of them in fact.
Let's get started!
1) Play More at the Right Times. The games are always a little bit better (i.e., there are more recreational players) on the weekends and during the prime-time hours for Europe and North America. This means roughly 6pm-12pm. Try and put in the bulk of your play when the games are likely to be the best.
2) Don't Ever Sit in Games Without a Fish. If there is always at least one fish (40% VPIP+) at the table then you will always have a shot at getting that easy money. If you notice that there are no recreational players at the table, leave immediately and go find another one. Make this a non-negotiable point and your winrate will skyrocket.
3) Get Position on the Fish. Having position on somebody can make a massive difference to your winrate. When you have direct position on the fish then you will be able to isolate them every hand as well as value bet and bluff them as much as you want. If the table is short handed and the fish has position on you always leave and re-join in the seat to the left of them.
4) 3Bet the Regs Light When They Are Isolating the Fish. Some of the easiest money possible at the micros can be made by simply tossing in a few light 3Bets when it is obvious that a reg (regular) is trying to abuse a fish as I just described above. They will usually have a wide range and won't want to fight back without a big hand.
5) 3Bet Light Versus the Weak Regs. 3Betting light versus the weak regs has been one of my favorite tricks for years at the lowest stakes. You will still find plenty of people at these stakes who fold to 3Bets way too often (80%+). Don't 3Bet them with any two cards but you should increase your range significantly in order to collect all of that free money.
6) 4Bet Light Versus Chronic 3Bettors. It is best to try and avoid reg wars for the most part at the micros because it is a waste of time. There are much bigger fish to fry. However, many regs these days will 3Bet too much (3Bet% approaching double digits) but back down to a 4Bet. So pick a random ace or a broadway blocker hand and re-raise them on occasion.
7) Bluff the Weak Regs More Postflop. Most regs at the micros are passive and they don't like to stick big money in the middle without a big hand. In single raised pots where there is plenty of stack behind you should look for spots to bluff them. This is most effective on the turn and river on boards where it is difficult for them to have anything really strong.
8) Steal The Free Money Blinds. There are still tons of regs at the lower limits in particular who play way too tight and are simply mass multi-tabling on auto-pilot. These people don't defend their blinds anywhere near enough. Grabbing these extra couple of big blinds every orbit or so can make a huge difference to your long term winrate. If you see a couple of nits in the blinds, raise it up with a wide range.
9) Have the Betting Lead as Often as Possible. One of the two pillars of success at the micros (as discussed in my first book) is having the betting lead (being in control of the pot). You can load up your poker tracking program right now, throw in a couple of simple filters, and see for yourself just how much more money you are making when you are the preflop aggressor. Flatting is ok on occasion but try to be the one in control of the pot as often as possible.
10) Play in Position as Often as Possible. The other pillar of success at these stakes is to play in position as often as you can. You will make far more money from the button and cutoff compared to early position, middle position or the blinds. You will in fact lose money from the blinds. So once again, keep things simple. Play more hands from the most profitable seats at the poker table.
11) Stagger Your Preflop Raise Sizes Against Huge Whales. You can still get away with this especially at the lower stakes. If I see some massive fish playing 80% of his hands and I have AA, KK etc. why would I make it 3bb to go if I know that he will call 5bb or 7bb just as easily? This creates a much bigger pot after the flop and allows me to stack him much easier. If the table is full of regs (which you shouldn't be playing on anyways) then I would suggest that you do not use this strategy. I have been talking about over-raising for years now and everybody and their dog knows what it means. This strategy is only for huge fish.
12) Stagger Your Postflop Bet Sizes Against Huge Whales. The same thing goes for postflop bet sizes. When I am just trying to CBet and take it down with air I will bet 60% of the pot. When I have top pair or better though I will make it 80% of the pot or more. Really bad players are not paying any attention to this sort of thing. Also, at these stakes the money is largely insignificant to most people. If they have something that they want to continue with then 60%, 80% or 100% of the pot probably makes no difference to them. Again, this strategy is only to be used against huge fish.
13) Put the Fish on Tilt. There is nothing more profitable in poker than a fish on tilt. This is when they will hand you their stack at a truly amazing pace. So I personally go out of my way to make this happen. The best way to get them on tilt is to get position on them, isolate the crap out of them and CBet a lot. Always remember that pride/ego is more important than anything else to a fish. Make them see you as a "bully" and they will pay out like a slot machine.
14) Put the Regs on Tilt. A reg who has lost his mind can be just as profitable as a fish on tilt. So I will often go out of my way to target one specific reg each session and be as annoying as humanly possible. I will 3Bet them light, 4Bet them light, bluff raise them postflop. I will do everything I can to start a war with them and try and put them on tilt against me.
15) Always Buyin for the Max. Your potential winnings are always going to be higher with the more money that you have in play. If you choose to buyin short then you handicap yourself and place an artificial limit on your winnings. Always buyin for whatever the table maximum is.
16) Play Deep Whenever Possible. Some of the most profitable poker tables that I have ever seen online are the deep stacked micro stakes tables on Pokerstars and elsewhere. These are tables where you can buyin for much more than the standard 100bb. There is nothing better for your winrate than hitting a set versus some fish when it is 200bb or 300bb deep and he can't let go of top pair.
17) Avoid Anonymous Tables. There are a handful of poker sites that do not allow the use of HUDs (heads up display). Being able to have information on your opponents is a huge help especially at the micros where you are facing thousands of different opponents. Try to avoid playing on these sites.
18) Avoid Sites Which Limit Table Selection. Table selection is also one of your most powerful weapons at the micros today in order to increase your winrate. There are a handful of sites which try to limit your ability to change seats or tables. Poker is not bingo. We make money by targeting the bad players. Avoid these sites.
19) Play on High Volume Sites. While it is true that some of the biggest sites like Pokerstars for instance might have some of the toughest games on the internet, the ability to choose from 100 different tables at the micros means that they will also have the most fish. Try to avoid sites that only spread a handful of tables at your current limit.
20) Play on Multiple Sites at Once. But if you must play on smaller sites then remember that there is no rule which states that you can only play on one poker room at a time. If you play on low volume sites then open 3 or 4 of them at a time in order to improve your ability to table select. This is especially the case for Americans whose playing options are currently limited.
21) Use Your HUD Effectively. Setting up your HUD properly and using it effectively is hugely important to your success at the micros. Don't play millions of hands in the dark like I did. These programs pay for themselves very quickly. Both major brands, Pokertracker and Hold'em Manager have a free trial. Check it out for yourself. If you are serious about online poker, use a HUD.
22) Tag the Fish Immediately. Once you can see on your HUD that somebody is playing 40%+ of their hands then you need to make sure that you tag them immediately. Nearly all poker sites will allow you to put a color, icon or a custom note beside an opponent. These are stored on your hard drive and show up every time you play on that site. This makes finding the fish that much easier next time you play.
23) Make Good Use of the Popup Display. There is a ton of information at your fingertips in the popup display for Pokertracker or Hold'em Manager. If you have a big sample of hands on somebody and want to find that custom line that will work the best, then open up the popup display and dig deeper into the rarely used stats.
24) Review Your Sessions on a Regular Basis. Reviewing your poker sessions on a consistent basis is one of the best ways to find our what you are doing right but also to fix what you are doing wrong. You won't always make the best decisions or be able to analysis a hand well in the heat of the moment. After your session is over, take a short break and then review the major hands (both winning and losing) in your poker tracking program.
25) Review Your Database on a Regular Basis. Conducting a regular database review is another great way to improve your results at the poker tables. One of the best features about these modern poker tracking programs is the ability to filter for very specific situations and then find the profitability (or lack thereof) and then make adjustments. You can also study the game of the best players at your limit. Make sure that you make use of this amazing information.
26) Don't Get Into Ego Based Reg Wars. As I mentioned before it is very important to remember why you are at the table especially at the micros where there are so many weaker opponents. If a decent to good reg grabs a seat to your left and starts 3Betting/4Betting the crap out of you then just get up and leave. You do not have to fight an uphill battle here to defend your ego. There are a million other tables to choose from.
27) Lose Your Ego at the Micros. Leaving your ego at the door is indeed one of the biggest keys to success especially at the very lowest stakes. Sometimes it will simply not be your day, week or even month. Instead of flipping out and trying to force something to happen just keep making the disciplined folds and wait for the big profitable spots.
28) Ignore Ego Based Stats Like the Red Line. This is only for people to brag about on forums. You do not even need to have a positive red line (non-showdown winnings) in order to have big success at the lower end of the micros. I am one of the biggest winners of all-time at NL2 and NL5 and my red line goes downwards at a 45 degree angle in both games. You can't run over recreational players and calling station regs with huge bluffs. Focus on the only line that matters, the green one (overall winnings).
29) Ignore Results Orientated Stats Like All-In Equity. I also suggest ignoring or removing stats in your poker tracking program such as all-in equity. This is another one of those stats that people love to spend way too much time focusing on even though it has very little importance. All-in equity can sometimes take as much as a million hands to balance out properly. Who cares if you happen to be on the good side or the bad side of variance right now. Focus on what matters, playing your best in the next hand.
30) Hire a Good Poker Coach. I don't think there is any method of studying the game which is more effective than getting coaching from an experienced winning player. They can sweat you or look over your database and find leaks in your game which you might not normally notice. The downside is that the price of a good poker coach can be expensive for somebody playing at the micros.
31) Join a Good Video Training Site. There are more video training sites than ever on the internet to choose from these days. Getting to look over the shoulder of a solid winning player and listen to how he/she thinks about the game can be a huge help. And the price is often a lot more suitable for a micro stakes player than coaching. Make sure that there is plenty of regular content being released at the stakes that you actually play at.
32) Read Modern Poker Books. Poker books are a good way to study and learn about the game on a much deeper level. So much more information can be provided in a 300 page book as compared to a 45 minute training video or an hour long coaching session. In recent years a ton of new titles have come out which cover the modern online game. I have written two of these myself, Crushing the Microstakes (NL2, NL4 and NL5) and Modern Small Stakes (NL10, NL25 and NL50).
33) Post Hands on Forums. One of the easiest ways to get immediate feedback on your game is to post hands on any of the various poker forums. There is of course no guarantee than you will get high quality advice. In fact most of the people commenting will probably be losing players. And you might get flamed as well! But it is 100% free and sometimes getting a bunch of different perspectives can be beneficial.
34) Start a Poker Study/Discussion Group. Many top level poker players these days have a small group of friends who are also winning players to discuss hands with. You can create a Skype group and have regular discussions or just chat 1 on 1 with other good players. The point is, find a handful of dedicated, winning players to bounce ideas off of and help push yourselves to success. Poker does not have to be such a solitary pursuit.
35) Use Proper Bankroll Management Strategy. There are enough things to occupy your mind in the fast paced world of online poker. Wondering if you have the bankroll to withstand standard variance should never be one of them. Make sure you implement a good bankroll management strategy. This typically means 30 or 40 buyins per limit for most people.
36) Set Clear Move Up (and Move Down) Targets. What stakes you should be playing and when to move up is another one of those things that you should never have to worry about at the tables. If you are brand new to online poker then simply start at the very lowest stakes. After that, make clear goals or targets for when you will move up and move down if things don't work out at first. If you have signed up for my free newsletter then you have probably already received your complete plan for how to go from NL2 to NL100 in a single calendar year.
37) Understand Basic Poker Math. There is a crazy obsession among some people these days who seem to think that you need a PHD in advanced mathematics in order to beat the micros. This is silly but you should definitely be aware of basic pot odds, hand odds, and implied odds. You can learn all of this very easily with a few quick Google searches or by picking up a basic poker math book.
38) Play Your Draws Effectively. If all you ever do with a flush draw or a straight draw is call and hope to hit then you are losing a lot of value. Draws are a great weapon to use at the micros to help you take away a few more pots from the weak regs. This is often done by raising with them or barreling them. Make sure that you know how to play your draws effectively at the micros.
39) Don't Overplay (Or Underplay) Top Pair. Top pair is another one of those tricky hands that can be played in many different ways depending on the opponent and the situation. Generally against the recreational players you should be aiming for at least 2 streets of value. Against the regs this is often the most that you will get and if you face serious pushback from them then you should highly considering folding in fact.
40) Raise Donk Bets. Donk bets are when somebody leads into the preflop raiser for a small amount. In other words it is a play that goes against the flow of action in the hand and is usually done by a recreational player. Usually this means that they don't have very much. You should be raising donk bets (or at least flatting when in position) with all of your made hands, draws and even some air hands.
41) Understand the Betting Patterns of Fish. Another thing that the fish will do is tell you the strength of their hand through the size of their bets. One of the classic ones is the triple barrel for a small amount (bet flop, turn and river) and the bet size never changes. This typically indicates that the strength of their hand didn't change either. So you can often call down fairly wide in these spots or even bluff raise on the end.
42) You Should Bluff the Fish (Sometimes). I know the ancient mantra at the micros is to never bluff the fish but truthfully you can get away with it sometimes especially when there is no history between the two of you. You still don't want to make a habit of it though. I discussed bluffing the fish in more depth in a recent article for PokerNews.
43) Use The Search Player Feature. If you are ever in doubt about what type of player you are up against just search them. If it is a reg then they will most likely be on 6, 12 or even more tables. If they have blocked themselves from search then it is probably a reg as well. If they are not blocked and only on 1 or 2 tables, then it is probably a fish.
44. Understand the Different Player Types. When you can quickly identify the various player types it makes it really easy to take specific lines against them without having to think too much. I classify regs into 6 different categories at the micros: Super Nits, Nits, TAGfish, TAGs, SLAGs and LAGs. I then also have 3 categories for fish: SLP, Whale and Maniac. You can go read more about how I classify them along with how to exploit each one right here.
45) Turn Off the Chat. There is no reason to ever have the chat on at the poker tables. It is distracting and often filled with some of the most vile and crude stuff you will find anymore. This is because poker is an emotional game and on the internet people will not hold back in what they say. Don't waste your time listening to the table captains, the drunken rants, the whiners and others. If you want to chat go turn on Facebook or go have a coffee/beer with a friend. Poker is all business. Turn the chat off.
46) Use Timing Tells and Betting Patterns To Your Advantage. One of the key ways that we find "tells" in online poker is through the timing of various actions and betting patterns. When a fish leads into you very quickly for instance on the flop this usually indicates a mediocre hand at best. When a reg "Hollywoods" the river and then raises this usually indicates a monster though. I have discussed timing tells and betting patterns before. Make sure you know them.
47) Balance Your Range Against Good Regs. Against some of the good regs at the micros it does become necessary to start balancing your range against them. This means that you will show up with nut, mediocre and air hands in equal measures and in all situations. This keeps them from ever getting a read on you and makes you impossible to exploit. Don't worry about this too much until you get to NL25 and higher though.
48) Have More Heart. Again when playing against good regs at the upper levels of the micros it is important to be able to think on a higher level versus them. Sometimes this means having the heart to stick all the money in preflop with a mediocre hand or triple barrel bluff them. This kind of stuff should only ever be done sparingly against good opponents at the micros. At higher limits plays like this do become more common though.
49) Be a Specialist. Don't run around playing different formats such as SNGs and MTTs. If you want to play cash games for instance then stick to cash games. Don't jump around playing different limits or mix short handed with full ring either. Have a clear bankroll management strategy as mentioned before and be very specific about what you play. People who jump around all the time and play whatever fancies them at the time become a jack of all trades and a master of none.
50) Minimize Your Losses, Maximize Your Winnings. Understand that there will be winning days and losing days no matter how good you are. If the cards run poorly enough Phil Ivey could have a losing day at NL2. It is extremely important that you learn to cut your losses on the bad days by remaining calm or quitting if you find yourself getting frustrated. On the other hand, you should strive to extend your sessions and play as much as you can when you are winning big and feeling great.
51) Don't Concern Yourself With Individual Sessions. This might at first seem to clash with the previous point but it really doesn't. Play more when you are confident and feeling good (this is almost always the case when you are winning). And play less when things aren't going your way. But more importantly, understand that your poker career is really just one big session. Individual sessions don't actually mean anything. Your results after a month, 3 months, 1 year or 5 years are what actually matter.
52) Don't Check Your Results While Playing. One of the best things that I ever did to reduce my tilt and focus more on the process instead of the results was to stop spam clicking the cashier button. Because as I just mentioned, when you really think about it, it is totally pointless. We all want instant feedback and fast results but this just isn't the way that it works in poker. Should Phil Ivey quit poker because he has a losing day at NL2? Don't focus on short term results especially while you are playing. It is a completely unnecessary waste of time. Many pros ignore daily or even weekly results altogether.
53) Know Your ABCs. I know it might sound cliche but solid, fundamental ABC poker is really still the way to go especially at the very lowest limits online. Many people claim to know what this means but they don't in reality. It means having a solid positionally aware understanding of the preflop game, value betting correctly (with the right bet sizes) postflop and tossing in a bluff for the right reasons from time to time. It means keeping your tilt to a minimum as well. I have written about all of these topics at length on this website. I would recommend checking out my "Start Here" page to begin.
54) Develop a Playing Routine. For most people, playing regularly at specific times is probably the best for their game. If you are committed to poker and want to succeed then you can't go about it haphazardly. I have discussed my transition to pro several times before on this website and in interviews. I played every single night after work without exception for a year before quitting my job. I still put in decent volume to this day even though I am not a full time pro anymore. Get a playing routine and stick to it.
55) Develop a Study Routine. The same thing goes for studying the game. As I mentioned before, you should be doing regular session reviews. However, you should be doing the deeper database reviews and analyzing the play of your opponents that was discussed before as well. You should also constantly update your skillset by watching training videos and reading poker books. Make sure that you set aside specific times each week for studying the game.
56) Remove All Distractions. Do not allow yourself to be distracted for any reason besides an emergency while playing and studying the game. If you live with others, close the door. Put your phone on mute. If there is a TV in the room, remove it. Turn off the Facebook, the Instagram and whatever else. Elite poker players treat poker like a job. Get to work by removing all distractions.
57) Be More Patient at the Micros. At the very lowest stakes one of the biggest keys to my success is being more patient than most others. I know that most of my opponents are calling stations and I don't allow my ego to get involved by trying to win every pot. Some pots are simply unwinnable when you are playing against somebody who doesn't like to fold. Learn to just give up more at the very lowest stakes.
58) Value Bet Them Relentlessly. It goes the other way too. When I have a big hand (or even just a good or mediocre hand) against a calling station I am absolutely going to ram it down their throat. One of the other big keys to my success at these stakes is getting the absolute maximum out of my opponents when I have it. Always make them pay.
59) Breathe...Just Breathe. When you bet like crazy with your overpair, top pair etc. against a fish sometimes they are going to hit some ridiculous two pair or a gutshot draw on the river. You will lose a massive pot and you will be cursing the day that you ever heard of this BlackRain79 guy who told you to always make them pay. However, when they miss their ridiculous nonsense (which happens most of the time), then you will win a huge pot and you can send me a Christmas card later.
60) Move to a Different Country. Ok, this one isn't for everyone and it also won't improve your winrate either, at least technically. However, everybody is always concerned these days about making more money at their job, in poker etc. When you go live in a country where the cost of living is 1/2 or 1/3 of where you live right now then you are effectively raising your income or winrate overnight. Thailand has been a popular destination for many online poker players including myself.
61) Listen, But Decide For Yourself. There is more information than ever these days about the game of poker especially on the internet. Everybody will be happy to give you their two cents. The problem is that not all two cents are created equally. As much as 80% of people actually lose at this game in the long run. Listen to those who are proven winners and ignore the rest. But even still, develop your own style and way of thinking about the game. You can't copy somebody else and achieve big success in this game.
62) It is ALL About the Fish. I have beaten the table selection drum to a bloody pulp on this website and elsewhere. Even I am sick of talking about it! Simply put, you will not win big in today's games unless you go find the bad players and play against them on a consistent basis. But just finding the fish and getting the right seat against them isn't enough. It is also important that you isolate the living crap out of them, put them on tilt and value bet them like crazy. It is all about the fish. They bankroll the entire industry. They need to be your #1 priority when playing this game at all times.
63) Confidence Breeds Success. When I sit down at the table in any poker game I already know that I am the best player in that game. If I don't think that I am the best player at the table then I won't sit down and play. Some might see this as bragging, I see it as confidence. And being confident in your own abilities will do more for your winrate than nearly anything else. Confidence comes from huge amounts of time spent playing the game and studying it. But it also comes from simply believing in yourself.
64) Be a Beast at Life. Many of the most successful poker players that I know would probably succeed at anything they do in life. This is because they are positive, driven people with a high degree of belief in their abilities. Most of them also work hard to take care of their mind and body. If you want to kick ass at the poker tables (or in business and life) then one of the best places that you can start is by striving to be the best possible version of you.
65) Have Fun. Poker is a game and games are meant to be fun. You probably started playing poker for that very reason. I know I did. It is so easy to get bogged down with all of the numbers and theories and variance. The reason why the top players are almost always found at the poker tables though is not because they win more than everybody else. It is because they truly love the game. And this makes them also study more in their spare time and therefore achieve even more success. Always remember to have fun when playing poker. That is the whole point of the game. If you work hard and follow your passion, the results will follow.
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