Unfortunately most will fail.
Poker is not always a walk in the park these days even at the lowest stakes. And due to the nature of the game itself, only maybe 1/3 people end up winning in the end. Even fewer end up winning big time.
However, this is still a substantial amount of people when you consider that millions play poker worldwide. And also, the real reason why most people don't win is actually because they lack a coherent strategy, a solid plan to climb the stakes and the mental fortitude to see it through.
In this article I am going to address all three of these. Because there really is no reason why you shouldn't be able to at least beat (if not crush) the lowest stakes in 2017.
Getting Back to the Basics (Eliminating Fancy Play)
I have been saying it for years here on this blog and in my books and videos. The key to beating the lowest stakes online (NL2, NL5 and even NL10 in particular) is a very simple approach. This also applies to most live games at stakes of 1/2 and 2/5.
"Fancy play syndrome" (FPS) as it is often called is all too often the death knell of so many bankrolls at the micros. FPS in a nutshell is basically an attempt to do way too much at the poker tables.
- Making some ridiculous river bluff check raise for no good reason
- Light 4Betting the nit who just 3Bet you (yes he has the nuts)
- Trying to triple barrel a fish off his middle pair (no he isn't folding)
And so on and so forth.
All of this sort of stuff just goes completely over the heads of 99% of the people who you are going to play against at these limits. Most of the time they are simply going to call your ass down and you will end up being even more frustrated and tilted.
One of the biggest keys to my success over the years in these games has been an iron discipline. Don't get me wrong, I am still human and I make stupid bluffs and bad calls sometimes. But they are extremely rare.
For the most part I am able to bite my tongue and either check it down or fold even when I have been getting pounded on for days or weeks.
The real key thing to understand here is that each hand in poker is an independent event. Just because they have been check/raising your CBets for hours or even days on end doesn't mean that they are bluffing you this time.
It just means that they have been running good against you (making a lot of hands) and you have been running bad yourself (not making very many good hands).
You can get angry and frustrated and run a silly bluff against them but you know what is going to happen most of the time. They are going to call or shove on you 9 out of 10 times and you will be in a world of hurt with your crap hand.
The 1 out of 10 times when your crazy bluff forces them to fold you can go ahead and pat yourself on the back because you caught them bluffing but the problem is that you still lose big time in the long run.
Most players at the lower stakes are extremely passive when it involves big portions of their stack. They aren't bluffing you, believe me.
Even if they appear to be overly aggressive by raising up a lot of hands preflop and CBetting a lot this is a totally different thing from putting their stack on the line.
When a player at these stakes starts moving big portions of their stack in the middle postflop this is almost always a sign that they have a very strong hand (two pair or better).
This is where the discipline comes in. You have to be able to lay down strong hands here, even an over pair sometimes. Getting all fancy here and shoving it back in their face is a recipe for disaster and will directly hold back your progress at these stakes.
So here's the deal:
Starting this year in 2017 you are going to make it a rule for yourself that you are going to stop flipping out in these sorts of situations with crazy bluffs. Put it on a post-it note and stick it to your monitor if you need to.
Just find a way to remind yourself that this sort of decision making will, without a doubt, prevent you from achieving your goals.
Sometimes you are going to run bad for days or even weeks and it can seem like they are just playing with you. Trust me, they are not. You have to learn how to keep your cool in these situations and just keep making the folds.
I have some of the best results in online poker history at the lowest stakes, and believe me, this is one of the biggest reasons why. Stay disciplined at these stakes (most of your opponents will not by the way) and you will profit greatly.
Keep in mind also that the nature of No Limit Hold'em means that it only takes one or two silly mistakes a session to really screw your winrate over badly. Don't let this happen anymore. Stop sabotaging your results in this game.
Getting Back to the Basics (Solid TAG Strategy)
Another key piece of the puzzle to beating online poker in 2017, especially at the micros, is a solid and coherent strategy that you consistently apply.
What does this actually mean?
Well it's been the same thing for many years actually. A simple TAG (tight and aggressive) strategy is the biggest key to success at these stakes.
I am going to briefly outline this below. For a more detailed look I would suggest picking up a copy of my free poker ebook.
Basics of a TAG strategy for the micros:
- Play 15% of hands in full ring, 20% in 6max
- Skewed heavily for position (play 3 times as many hands from the button compared to UTG)
- 3Bet 5%-8% of hands mostly for value and mostly against middle and late position opens
- CBet the flop 60%-70% of the time, less often in multi-opponent pots
- CBet again on the turn roughly 50% of the time mostly for value, bluff the nits on scare cards
- Value bet wide on the river especially against calling stations and recreational players
- Occasionally semi-bluff raise your draws on the flop or turn versus highly aggro regs
- Understand the basics of player types (i.e. you can't bluff a calling station or rec player)
This is a barebones idea of what a solid TAG strategy looks like for the lower stakes. When applied consistently at the micros it is a recipe for success. And at the very lowest stakes, it will absolutely crush those games.
Most people already know a lot of the above though. There is nothing really groundbreaking here. The real key to it all is consistency.
Having coached close to 100 people in the past at the lower stakes, I know that consistently applying this strategy, no matter how things have been going or how they feel, is one of the biggest problems.
It is not ok to just suddenly turn into a LAGtard and start raising 30%+ of your hands in 6max just because you are tilted or bored. It is not ok to start "experimenting" with raising all your suited connectors in early position. It is not ok to triple barrel bluff a calling station reg just because you want to get back at him, "show him who is boss."
And so on.
The key to success with a TAG strategy is that you apply it at all times no matter what the circumstances may be. This is similar to the discipline and avoiding fancy play that I discussed above.
You don't get to take certain days off from your strategy just because you feel like it. You apply it at all times no matter what.
Make sure that you fully understand what a solid TAG strategy means and then apply it at all times in 2017. Treat this game like a professional and it will treat you well in return.
Have a Solid Plan for Climbing the Stakes in 2017
As I have discussed before, one of the key aspects to building your bankroll at the micros is having a solid plan to climb up the stakes.
There really is no reason why you can't go from the very lowest stake, which is NL2, and be playing NL100 before the end of the year.
NL100 (blinds 50c/1$ with a $100 buyin) by the way is where you can start making some very serious money in this game. I am talking thousands of dollars per month even part time.
Think about it this way. There are only 5 steps between these limits:
- NL2 to NL5
- NL5 to NL10
- NL10 to NL25
- NL25 to NL50
- NL50 to NL100
This means that you only have to successfully move up to the next limit less than once every 2 months over the course of the year in order to be an NL100 reg making solid money one year from today.
With consistent play, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot do this. And this is even knowing full well that you will likely fail in your move up attempts on several occasions.
Check out my article on moving up the stakes for more on that by the way. I don't want to get into a deep discussion here about why moving up is sometimes difficult and why even the very best players will fail on occasion.
So further to this you can even set bankroll targets for when you are going to move up (and down as well). I typically suggest having at least 30 buyins these days for any limit that you play at the micros.
By a "buyin" I am referring to the maximum amount that you can put on the table in most online cash games which is 100 big blinds.
So this is what 30 buyins means at each level of the micros:
- NL2 (blinds 1c/2c) - $60
- NL5 (blinds 2c/5c) - $150
- NL10 (blinds 5c/10c) - $300
- NL25 (blinds 10c/25c) - $750
- NL50 (blinds 25c/50c) - $1500
- NL100 (blinds 50c/1$) - $3000
Now remember that these are the bare minimum bankroll levels that I suggest. It is totally fine (and preferable in my opinion) to err on the side of caution and use 40 buyins or even 50.
This allows you to stop stressing over the routine 10 buyin downswings. And when the 20 buyin downswing happens you won't be losing your mind along with a massive portion of your bankroll.
Whatever amount of buyins you decide to use I suggest setting some goals for exactly when you are going to move up and then give yourself a 5 or 10 buyin "shot".
What it is a shot?
A shot is a controlled attempt to move up to a higher limit and play there from now on. The reward for success is that you can potentially double your poker earnings by playing for more money.
It is important to note that you should only ever try to move up to the very next stake by the way. Never skip over any stakes no matter how experienced you are.
There is no big rush to get to the top. Even if you have huge success right away stick around at each limit for a week or two just for the experience that it provides.
How to Make Your Poker Success a REALITY in 2017 (no more playing around)
I would also highly suggest that your publicly state your goals, bankroll targets and track your progress in the form of a blog or perhaps a vlog or twitch channel if video is more your thing.
You can set up a free blog using Blogger or Wordpress in a matter of minutes with zero technical know-how. Everything is pre-programmed for you. You just type your thoughts and then hit publish.
You can also set up a Youtube channel for free in a matter of minutes if you prefer video. You just record a video of your thoughts (or even of yourself playing poker) and then hit the upload button.
You do not actually have to show your face or anything by the way. You can simply record what's on your screen and just voice your comments over the top by using a free program like Screencast-O-Matic. For a more professional option check out Camtasia (although only free during the trial period).
Twitch.tv has exploded in popularity in recent years in the poker community and it involves streaming in real time. Once again you do not have to show your face if you don't want to. It is also even easier to set up. Here is a good guide to get you started.
Why is all this so damn important?
Let me get to the real reason why this is so important. The act of publicly stating your goals will hold you more accountable and make you much more likely to actually follow through on them even if only your mom and grandma are reading your blog or watching your videos at first.
Secondly, your blog/youtube/twitch channel will help you interact with other poker players and get advice, suggestions and even make friends or form a study group. I have people who have literally been commenting on my blog posts and videos for years.
Almost all of them found me through this blog. Some of them are even real life personal friends now. Their support and advice over the years has been crucial to keeping me sane at times in this crazy game.
Branding: So many poker players STILL do not get it.
And finally, the third (and most important reason) why you should get started with a blog or video channel this year is because you should begin building your brand as a poker player immediately.
I don't want to get into too much detail in this post as I will have a lot more to say later in 2017, but the very website you are reading right now, blackrain79.com, which is based off my online poker screen name, is now a well known brand in the poker community and even a full time business as well.
This opens up more opportunities than I can possibly name. It also allows you to add tons of additional revenue streams to what you already make at the tables. Poker players who still do not realize this in 2017 (which is most of them) are absolutely crazy in my opinion.
Doug Polk (WCGRider), who is arguably the best heads up NL Holdem player on earth, is one of those guys who absolutely does get it. He does a brilliant job of branding himself on Youtube and driving huge traffic to his new training site. I am guilty of watching his clickbait videos all the time!
Start thinking big and outside the box in 2017. As a successful poker player you have a skill that is highly in demand. Poker is also a huge market that is absolutely starved by a lack of quality or even entertaining content.
Even if you are not yet a successful poker player start that blog/youtube/twitch channel anyways with a "Follow my journey up the micros" type approach. Talk about both your successes and your failures. People absolutely LOVE that sort of thing.
Lastly, if you are still up in the air about how important branding yourself is in 2017 just think PewDiePie and 12 million dollars a year from Youtube alone.
Do I even need to say anything more?
Only the Strong Will Survive
Even with everything that I just said above, the biggest reason most people do not achieve their goals in this game (or even win at all) is because they lack the mental strength to carry them through the tough times.
The way that I like to look at poker is that you are signing up for mental pain. Most of the time this game is boring as hell and you are slowly hanging on, losing or getting kicked in the teeth.
All of this is interspersed by a few very brief periods where you make a strong hand or go on a rush, make a bunch of money and the game is fun. Most people though end up losing their minds and throwing away all of their profit (and sometimes more) during that 90% of the time when they are hanging on or getting crapped on.
The game isn't going to change for you. It is up to you to adjust. I have said it many times before, winning poker especially at the micros, is boring. It requires tons of discipline and mental fortitude. It's honestly not that "fun" most of the time. They call it grinding for a reason.
If you are looking for a get rich quick scheme with poker or you are an action junky trying to emulate Daniel Negreanu every hand, this game is probably not going to work out very well for you.
This same thing goes for blogging, Youtube and Twitch by the way as well. The reason why blackrain79.com is now arguably the #1 micro stakes strategy website in the world is because I kept hitting the publish button for years even when absolutely NOBODY was reading this thing.
I didn't give up. Everybody else did.
The same rules apply in poker. Give up when the going gets tough and you will fail for sure. I can absolutely guarantee you of that. That's the easy thing to do. That's what everybody else does.
Learn How to Predict the Future
You should fully expect to lose for days or weeks on end several times this year and this is absolutely normal. You might even have a losing month or two or three.
Nothing is wrong with the dealer, the RNG or the software. This is a normal occurrence that all serious professionals understand can and will happen at some point. This is why bankroll management is so important as I discussed before.
This is the mental pain that you are are signing up for when you decide to take this game seriously. You can easily predict the future with poker. This is why there is no reason to freak out and throw away all of your winnings (like everyone else) when the inevitable 10 or 20 buyin downswing happens.
Mark it on the calendar, several really nasty downswings are going to happen to you this year in 2017. Don't be shocked when they actually do happen.
The only question is are you going to crumble underneath it like 90% of other people, complain to your friends online, spew off buyin after buyin with tilt or even put on your tinfoil hat and go full rigtard?
Or will you be like the 10% of elite and professional poker players who stay disciplined or take a break if they feel like the tilt is too much to handle. Either way, they do not allow it to influence their actual decision making at the poker tables.
This is the #1 thing that separates them from everybody else. It is why they make a full time living or a solid part time one from this game.
Your choice in 2017.
Beating online poker in 2017 is not going to be a walk in the park. The games aren't always easy these days even at the lowest stakes. And worse yet, poker can be a brutally difficult and cruel game at times even under the best of circumstances.
But there is still a sizeable portion of people who do win or at least break even every single year. And there is also a smaller amount who absolutely crush the games and become semi-pros or even full time professionals.
I know this because I have been a part of this latter group for nearly 10 years now and it has changed my life completely (living in Thailand, traveling the world etc.). All detailed in my free ebook Massive Profit at the Micros.
There is no reason why you can't start crushing the micros at least in 2017 if you consistently apply a solid TAG strategy, have a solid plan for moving up the stakes and have the mental fortitude to see it all through.
Let me know in the comments below what your goals are this year in poker. More importantly, let me know exactly how you are going to go about achieving them.
Thanks for reading and all the best in 2017.