Friday, January 29, 2016

Preparing Yourself For Success at the Micros in 2016

Succeeding in online poker in 2016
Since we are already almost a month into 2016 I hope that many of you are achieving your new year's goals at the poker tables. But if you are not then this article is going to be a quick guide to help you get refocused for success.

I have talked about having a winning mentality before but preparing yourself for success goes beyond simply believing in your abilities. You need to have the right strategy, goals and approach to the game as well.

A Winning Strategy for Micro Stakes Poker in 2016

First things first you should realize that there is no one correct way to beat the micros or any level of poker for that matter. Many different styles can win from a nitty approach to a tight and aggressive game to a loose and aggressive strategy.

A winning approach at the micros in 2016 is still surprisingly simple though. The basics revolve around:
  • Playing in Position
  • Playing with the Initiative
  • Value Betting

Playing in Position

Playing in position is vital to your success in this game. When you get to act last in the hand you wear the pants so to speak. You possess the massive advantage of seeing what your opponent does before you act on every street.

This allows you to dictate what size of pot you want to play, get thin value, make a bluff or simply get out of the way and look for a better spot. You can look in your Pokertracker or Hold'em Manager database and filter for hands played in position to see just how much higher your winrate is.

Playing with the Initiative

Having the initiative in the hand is also key. Despite all the talk of balancing your ranges and playing GTO correct in recent years the simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of your opponents at the stakes that I am talking about in this article are not paying any attention to this.

It is well known that in Crushing the Microstakes I advise a very heavy 3Bet or fold strategy. The reason why is because it simply works. Your average NL5 reg is simply not paying attention to how often you flat from the blinds for instance.

And once again, you can simply look in your poker tracking program and see for yourself just how much higher your winrate is when you have the betting lead in the hand.

I am not saying that you should never flat. There are definitely spots to do so especially when in position. But do not get wrapped up in the over-thinking trap that is fashionable these days. You do not need to re-invent the wheel in order to have success against really bad opponents.

Value Betting

Lastly, yes it is still all about value betting at the micros. These are the stakes where many of your opponents will have a hard time finding the fold button. And it is not just fish, it is sometimes the regs too. This is especially the case if you have been cultivating a wild image from time to time as I suggest.

Quite simply, you can't expect passive players who like to call a lot to build the pot for you. These are the guys with a Total AF (aggression factor) of 1 or 2 who you still see everywhere at these stakes.

There will be some aggressive regs as well (Total AF of 3 or 4). It is fine to lay traps against them and try to use their aggression against them. Against most players though you need to be betting your good hands and doing it often.

Goal Setting Prepares You For Success

It is very important that you set poker goals this year so that you know what you are playing for. There is a popular email in my free newsletter series which talks about going from NL2 to NL100 in a single calendar year.

The way to do this is by setting clear guidelines for when to move up and also for when to move down. Perhaps that threshold is 40 buyins move up and 30 buyins move down for you. Whatever it is, it is important that you lay it out clearly right now.

This is why I have talked before about the importance of having a blog. Many years ago when I started this website it was not to write articles like this one. You can go back through the history of this blog and see that it was all about goal setting and keeping myself accountable.

And by this I mean hand goals, not monetary goals. Life is going to get in the way in some months this year but it is important that you maintain a relatively consistent playing schedule. If moving up and succeeding in online poker is truly important to you then it can't be the 12th priority in your life.

Set clear monthly hand goals or even rakeback targets. Perhaps this is 20k, 50k or 100k hands for you. Just make sure that you set clear targets in order to hold yourself accountable. Because as I always say, the biggest winners are almost always the ones that you find at the tables playing, not the guys yapping on forums or Twitter.

When I first went pro in this game many years ago I played for hours every single night for a year before quitting my job. I made online poker the number #1 priority in my life and I got the results that I wanted.

Poker Is Not a Sprint, It is a Marathon

One of the biggest reasons why people lack consistency at the poker tables is because they get frustrated by poor results and quit. I think it is important to always remember that this is a long term endeavor where the only thing that matters are your results after months or even the entire year.

You can predict the future.

There will be many times this year where things will go bad. On a few occasions things will go horribly bad and you will lose buyin after buyin for days or even weeks and be unable to win a single hand.

All of this is part of the natural cycle of the game though. Everybody goes through it, not just you. If you choose to throw in the towel every time this happens, then you will seriously stunt your ability to put in the kind of big volume at the tables which is so crucial for your success.

This is not to say that you should never quit for the day or that you should battle through every downswing. On the contrary, it is a very good idea to recognize the signs of tilt and be able to walk away when things are not going your way.

However, the most difficult thing to deal with in this game is the fact that your results will never come fast. Even if you get lucky and go on a big heater this is not reality. At some point it will balance out.

We are not trained to think this way in our instant gratification modern society. But there is no way to force anything in poker. It can sometimes take hundreds of thousands of hands for things to sort themselves out.

Perhaps the single greatest skill in this game is realizing that your results in a single session or even a series of sessions (win or lose) are completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Final Thoughts

Despite the fears every year that the games are now impossibly hard at the micros and you need a PHD in mathematics in order to breakeven the recipe for success is still surprisingly simple.

A relatively tight and aggressive positionally aware strategy with an emphasis on value betting frequently versus the right opponents is still absolutely the way to beat the micro stakes cash games.
You don't need to practice balancing your ranges versus some mindless 18 tabling nit at NL5. Just keep things simple and profit the most.

Secondly, you really need to take goal setting seriously in order to have success in this game. And by this I don't mean monetary goals. I mean the goals that we actually have control over such as how many hands we play or what rakeback targets we hit.

You can create a free blog with Blogger, Tumblr or Wordpress in minutes. It takes no in depth computer know-how at all. Create an action plan detailing where you are now and where you are going to be by the years end. Post regular updates about your progress.

Lastly, predict the future this year. Poker will go bad and sometimes for long stretches. Don't fear this, embrace it as part of the natural cycle of the game. And also, don't allow it to deter you from putting in the effort at the tables which is necessary to achieve your goals.

There are no overnight success stories in poker. Bad stuff is going to happen. Those who achieve big results accept this and keep striving forward.

I hope this article helped prepare you for success at the tables this year in some small way. Let me know in the comments below what your goals are in poker this year and how you plan to achieve them.

If you found this article helpful then please do me a favor and share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter below!

Poker bad beats and how to deal with them.


  1. Love your stuff Nathan, you have definitely improved my game. Wondering what you like to do with AK while facing a 3b? I had experimented with calling in some spots, but my HM is pretty clear that 4bet, often with shove, is way more profitable for me at 10nl. It's not close. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi paper, thanks for the kind words! This is totally player and situation dependent so I couldn't comment on this in general terms.

    2. Perhaps that could inspire a future article or video??

    3. Perhaps I will cover this topic some more. I made a Youtube video last year which is all about how to play AK. I wrote a massive post on 3Bet pots last year. Also, both of my books cover this topic in even more detail with specific hand history examples against specific opponent types.

  2. I think it's opponent dependent, if they're 3betting with wide range, shove is definitely an option, but if they're doing it with a range of 3-4% of hands, i think call would be better.

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  4. Hi Nathan, another great article.

    I know you mentioned not to set monetary goals. Am I right in thinking that you wouldn't advise withdrawing your bankroll, or part of it, when you have made so much profit for example?

    1. Thanks. I would recommend trying to never touch your poker bankroll unless you play professionally or you are not interested in moving up any further.

  5. Inspiring!
    Thanks 4 doing this man, much appreciated! Keep doing it, keep doing.. it`s like watching 'Rocky' again u know, when things go out of control your blog always helps to gather myself. Thanks again/

    1. Glad I could help! Love the Rocky comparison haha. I write some of these articles for myself to be honest. It helps me remember to stay the course as well :)

  6. Great article Nathan!
    I really like the emphasis you put on the fact that things will go bad eventually. No one person is an exception. As I am going through a rough patch in my poker play, words like these from an experienced player are very helpful. Thank you, and keep up the good work :)

    1. Thanks NE! Yup, we all go through these stretches and no one is immune. As I mentioned above, I write some of these articles as therapy for myself! haha.

  7. Yo Nathan! Have been following your blog for more than a year.. have also read MSS.. I have also crated a blog recently .. big part of the success of my journey is due to your advice! Thank you once again! Keep it up like that! You are a true inspiration! Yo!

    1. Thank you very much and good luck with your blog!

  8. Hi Nathan, just want to congrats you about all your entire blog. I've been reading each of the articles and had found them really helpful.
    I used to be a regular nl50 supernova winner back in 2014 but then in 2015 everything collapsed (my game, my goals and my enthusiasm) By the end of December i found your blog and helped me focus back in the thing that matters to help me to improve the game. Luckily i live in central america where you play poker for a living even playing nl10. However as a poker game lover always want to improve as a player and i think your article would play a key role to help me returning back to nl50. I started the year by achieving January goal which was playing 100k hand at nl10 (first time ever and a decent 10bb WR) which it was an awesome feeling by Jan 30th :) February and March will be playing nl16 and hope to be playing nl50 by end of the Year with Supernova status. PS id: el cadejo89

    Keep it up! Your blog rocks my friend. Thanks!

    1. Thanks agustin and all the best at the tables!