How to Beat Online Poker in 2018 (Step by Step Guide)

How to Beat Online Poker in 2018
As we enter 2018 this is the time when many people will vow that they are finally going to start beating online poker.

The breakeven or losing results are going to stop this year. And they will finally start achieving those real and consistent winnings that they always dreamed about.

And it really isn't even that hard to do.

The best way to beat online poker in 2018 is to get back to the basics with an ABC poker strategy, embrace the madness of the micro stakes, create a solid moving up strategy for your success, upgrade your poker skills and play in easy games. If you do all of these things then you can beat online poker in 2018.

Unfortunately though, I can tell you right now that this won't actually happen for a large number of people. Most of them will be right back here next year making all of the same promises.

But this doesn't need to be you.

This article is going to provide you with the step by step game-plan that you need to finally start beating online poker in 2018.


Can You Still Beat Online Poker in 2018?


You see playing winning poker, especially at the lower limits, isn't some impossible task only reserved for a few select super geniuses out there.

In fact, once you understand the basic strategy behind beating these stakes you will literally be laughing at yourself for ever thinking it was hard.

After all, I am talking about the micros in particular here. These are the stakes where you are playing for as little as $25, $10, $5 or even $2 online. These are probably the stakes that you play at as well.

And the reason why it is not difficult to beat these limits is because these are the stakes where you are also going to find some of the worst poker players on planet earth.

All you really need in order to beat many of them is a simple tight and aggressive strategy, a little bit of tilt control and a solid game-plan for moving up through each limit.

So in this article I am going to provide you with a step by step guide to finally start beating online poker in 2018.

And don't worry, if you play low stakes live poker (i.e. $1/$2 or $2/$5), then this article will still be useful for you as well.

Alright, let's get started!


1. ABC Poker - Your 2018 Poker Strategy


The first thing that you need in order to beat the low stakes poker games is the right strategy. Now luckily this still isn't rocket science.

But one of the biggest problems that I see these days among micro stakes poker players is a crazy amount of over-thinking and over-analysis.

I still see people trying to apply GTO theory (which is useful against solid professionals in mid and high stakes games) against a bunch of clueless regulars in the $5 games online. All they are doing is hurting their results.

Or you see them trying to run all sorts of crazy bluffs or slow-play big hands in order to "balance their range" because they saw their favorite high stakes pro do it against another world class professional.

Again, these are strategies which are definitely effective in mid and high stakes games. However, they will often negatively affect your results against the beginner level competition at the micros though.

There is even a name for all of this. It's called fancy play syndrome (FPS).


I created my entire poker career by keeping everything as simple as possible:



And the problem with all of this FPS, over-analyzing and over-thinking, is that it will simply go right over the heads of 90% of your opponents in micro stakes games.

And you will once again be left wondering why you still can't create consistent winnings against some of the weakest poker players on the planet.

In reality all you really need in order to beat the micros is a simple tight and aggressive strategy that many people also call "ABC poker."

And the heart of ABC poker is basically just making the most basic, straightforward plays at the poker table again and again no matter how painfully obvious they might seem to you.


More Specifically This Means:
  • Standard preflop hand selection, tight and aggressive and positionally aware
  • When you have a strong hand (overpair, top pair) you bet big and frequently
  • When you have a mediocre hand (middle pair, draw) you pot control and mostly try to get to showdown
  • When you have a bad hand (Ace high, nothing at all) you mostly just check and fold if they bet

Now there is obviously a little bit more to it than this if you want to truly crush the games. But this is the overall gist of it. Pretty simple stuff right?

So simple in fact that many people will fail to achieve their poker goals in 2018 because they just can't believe that it can actually be this easy.

They will convince themselves that there must be something more to it! And I can tell you right now that this line of thinking is only going to keep holding you back from achieving the results that you want in 2018.

I have made tens of thousands of dollars in these same games that you play in by using this basic, straightforward and simple ABC strategy that I just described above (and I talk about it in all my books and videos as well).

I gotta warn you though that there is nothing flashy about this style of play. It's pretty boring most of the time and it requires a lot of discipline too.

However, it simply prints money at the micros. And that's good enough for me.

Here is a graph that was emailed to me just yesterday from someone who started at NL2 a year ago using my simple approach and now he is crushing NL50.

crush online poker 2018

Now I certainly am not responsible for all of this guy's success. He is obviously a very good poker player who has worked hard to improve his game well beyond an ABC level.

But I get "thank you" emails like this all the time. And the results simply speak for themselves. There is absolutely no reason why you can't replicate or even surpass these results for yourself in 2018.

But you have got to get back to the basics especially if you are currently playing NL2, NL5 or NL10 online. All of those fancy plays and 10th level thinking that you learned from some high stakes pro is only going to hold you back here.

Now, I don't have the space in a little blog post like this to go into every detail of my strategy to beat the micros. So if you want to know more then I would suggest picking up a copy of my free poker ebook.

blackrain79 micro stakes poker book 2018

This little book is only around 50 pages long so you can easily blast through it in an hour or so at the very most.

And it will teach you everything you need to know to get started beating stakes like 1c/2c, 2c/5c, 5c/10c online or $1/$2 or $2/$5 live.

Best of all? It's free.


2. Beating Micro Stakes Poker in 2018 - Embrace the Madness


Another reason why many people fail to achieve the success they envisioned at the lower stakes is because of the mental side of the game. And I am specifically talking about tilt here.

In fact, in my experience having coached 100's of people over the years at these limits, tilt is the #1 killer of bankrolls and dreams in this game.

I have seen it so many times. But believe me, I get it also.

Poker is the most challenging game from a mental standpoint that I have ever played. And really, nothing else even comes close.

Before I found poker and turned pro 10 years ago I was obsessed with games like Chess and Starcraft. And of course in both of these games I have lost many times as well.

But there was always one very clear difference. When I lost a game of Chess or a match of Starcraft it was pretty much always because I got outplayed by a better opponent.

They didn't hit some long shot miracle card. They didn't catch some lucky draw either. No, they were simply better at the game than me. Period, end of story.


So I had two options:
  • Don't play against them anymore
  • Improve my skill level so that I could beat them.

Pretty simple stuff again right?


But this isn't how it works in poker.

Bad players who are less skilled than you will regularly beat you in poker and there is absolutely nothing that you can do to ever stop that from happening.

And what's worse is that when they beat you, they will also take your money!

This is the main reason why so many people lose their mind at times when playing poker, go on tilt, and start throwing their money away.

Because it is almost impossible for any kind of competitive (and sane) person to rationally comprehend outplaying their opponent, making all the right moves, and getting "rewarded" by losing all of their chips.

It just doesn't make any logical sense. It's not the way it is supposed to work.

But this is the way that it does work at times in poker and you have to learn to start embracing the madness of this never-ending rollercoaster.

beat small stakes poker 2018 blackrain79 graph

Here is a typical short term graph of mine at the micros. Pretty messy huh? It is basically one long series of ups and downs.

In fact, you can even see by around the 35k hand mark that I am losing money. That's right, I played 35,000 hands of poker just to lose my money!

Most people would just quit right here or go on tilt and throw away some more money. Game over right? Time to throw in the towel, poker must be impossible to beat!

But guess what happens when we get to the long run at 235k hands? That's right. Almost $900 in profit.

And this really is the entire point of the game much of the time. How long can you endure the short term madness and stay focused on what actually matters, the long run.

But believe me, I get it again. Staying focused on the long run is not always easy at the micros.

These are the stakes where you are going to face more bad beats than anywhere because so many of your opponents will play poorly, chase every draw, never fold a pair and so on.

After having played 10 million hands at these limits I often joke that I have taken more bad beats than anyone in poker history. Most people think I am joking. I'm actually not.

But there is a reason why I and several others have been able to post some of the most absurdly high win-rates on earth in these games, upwards of 30bb/100 in some cases.

And this is because it doesn't matter who you are: you can't fight the math in poker.

Yes, they play terrible and chase every ridiculous draw. And yes, sometimes they will hit their miracle card and it will be painful and frustrating. Believe me I know!

But over the long run, most of the time they will miss. And therefore, they are really almost giving their money away to you.


Bottom Line:

You need to reconcile yourself with the madness that is micro stakes poker. You will face endless numbers of bad beats at these limits.

You are going to lose countless hands in 2018 and sometimes in the most bizarre ways possible. Go ahead and just accept that fact right now. Predict the future and be 100% right about it!

But also know that by applying the same consistent strategy that I discussed above and keeping your emotions in check, that you will win in the long run when it actually matters.

You are going to lose many battles at the micro stakes poker tables in 2018. That's ok, you stay focused on winning the war.


3. Create a Blueprint for Your 2018 Poker Success


So building off of that last point, your main goal in poker in 2018 should be to focus on the entire year. This of course means all 12 months.

Things might not go according to plan for you in January. You might hit a downswing where you can't make a hand to save your life and they are hitting every miracle river card.

It sucks. There is no way to sugarcoat it.

But you are equally likely to hit an upswing at the start of the year as well and knock it out of the park. This is the short term madness that we just discussed above.

That is why if you want to start beating online poker this year in 2018, then you need to be in it for the long haul, the entire year.

poker success plan 2018

So I would suggest that you immediately begin creating a blueprint for your success which spells out exactly how you are going to improve as a poker player and increase your winnings every single month in 2018.

Now as I have talked about before, I think that for a highly dedicated poker player it is possible to go from the very lowest limits online ($2 games) to the $100 games in a single calendar year.

And keep in mind that the $100 games are the first limit where you start seeing a significant amount of professionals because the best players will make thousands of dollars a month on average.

Here is how your journey to get there will go assuming 30 buyins at each step of the way.
  • NL2 - $60
  • NL5 - $150
  • NL10 - $300
  • NL25 - $750
  • NL50 - $1500
  • NL100 - $3000

You can opt for a more conservative bankroll management strategy and use 40 or 50 buyins for each limit (my recommendation) but I think you understand my overall point here. If you want to make it to the $100 games in 12 months from now, then you need a proper game-plan.

You can be an NL100 regular by the end of 2018 if you successfully move up 5 times assuming that you started at the very lowest limit, the $2 game. This means that you need to make a jump to the next limit roughly once every two months this year.

Challenging yes. Impossible no.

But by having clear and unambiguous bankroll targets like this, you know exactly what you are shooting for and where you are going this year.

And even better in my opinion is making these goals of yours public. This is a proven way to make yourself more accountable because other people are following your progress and you don't want to let them down.

poker blogger 2018

Many people do not know that I actually started this website way back in 2007 and for the first 4 years all I used it for was to write down my poker goals and keep track of my results.

It was immensely helpful and the handful of people who read and commented back then helped keep me on track.

You can easily start a blog for free with Wordpress or Blogger. If you want to be a little bit more serious about it then you can set up your own hosting for as little as $3 a month.

You can also start a free Twitch channel, Youtube channel or choose from endless other platforms.

Or you can even just privately write down your goals the old fashioned way by opening up Office or even just grabbing a pen and paper.

The bottom line is that real success at the poker tables all starts with a solid game-plan. You need to know exactly where you are going in 2018 and exactly how you plan to get there, each step of the way.

You don't have to make it all the way to NL100 by the end of the year in order for 2018 to be considered a success. Quite frankly, most people won't achieve this.

But you should be able to see some clear progress in your development as a poker player by the end of the year and this should be reflected in your results as well.

Start planning it out right now and commit to achieving your poker goals this year.


4. Invest in Your Poker Game


One of the best things that you can do to get better results at the tables in 2018 is to invest in yourself and your poker game.

In fact the greatest investor of all-time Warren Buffet has said many times that the #1 investment that you can ever make is in yourself.

What does this actually mean though regarding poker?

Well, it means making use of the massive amounts of educational resources and tools that are available these days in order to make you a better poker player. Some of them don't even cost a thing.


Here are a few:
  • Study poker books
  • Study poker courses
  • Study training videos
  • Study your own game in a tracking program
  • Study the best regulars in a tracking program
  • Read poker blogs
  • Post your hands on poker forums
  • Watch Twitch streams
  • Watch Youtube educational videos and vlogs
  • Listen to poker podcasts
  • Form a study group (Facebook, Skype)
  • Hire a coach

I am sure you get the point. The amount of ways to improve your poker game these days is endless and it almost seems overwhelming at times.

This is why I suggest that you pick a few sources to listen to that you trust and also try to learn from people who actually play somewhere near your stakes.

And there are two of them in particular that clearly stand out above all the rest.


Upswing Poker Lab


The #1 poker course in the world these days is the Upswing Poker Lab.



This comprehensive video based learning program is taught by some of the best poker players in the world including Doug Polk, 3-time WSOP bracelet winner with millions of dollars in winnings online and live.

You can read my full review for it right here.


Crushing the Microstakes


If you are new to the game of poker or struggling at the lower limits online (NL2 or NL5), then your best option is my first book, Crushing the Microstakes.

How to Beat Online Poker in 2018

This book has now helped thousands of people start quickly winning at these limits. And the reason why is very simple:

I (as the author) have the best results in the history of online poker at the stakes discussed in this book, 1c/2c and 2c/5c.

This is also the only poker book ever written focusing solely on these two micro stakes limits. So it offers the most cutting edge strategy in the world to beat these two games.

There is now also an optional video course that goes along with the book to show you exactly how to implement the strategies at the poker tables.

You can learn more about Crushing the Microstakes right here.


PokerTracker 4 - Study Your Game


The other investment in your poker game that I always recommend considering is a good poker tracking program. I personally use PokerTracker 4.

Many people do not understand just how powerful these programs are. They are so much more than just the HUD which shows people's stats to you and the ability to graph your winnings.

The cash game filters for instance allow you to analyze whether you are profitable or not in literally any situation imaginable (i.e. 3Bet pots with AK).

pokertracker study poker plug your leaks 2018

This is the #1 way that I find the leaks in my game and fix them. Because the raw data in your own database never lies. You are either winning or you are not.

I have also spent countless hours in PokerTracker studying the best opponents that I play against not only to find better ways to beat them, but also to learn from them as well.

Because after all, who better is there to study and learn from than the guys who are already crushing the exact games that you play in?

I would recommend at least checking out the free trial. You can find that right here.

The bottom line is that if you want to see real success at the poker tables in 2018, then you should also be spending time studying and improving your game away from the tables as well.


5. Play Poker the Easy Way


The last thing that I recommend if you are serious about creating big winnings this year at the micros is that you play against the right opponents, the fish. In other words, play poker the easy way!

I can't tell you how many times people have told me how much their results improved because they finally stopped playing in tough games and focused on weaker competition instead.

And really, it is pretty obvious why this is the case. Poker is a game played between people. Your results are always going to be directly attributable to who you play against.

Even if you happen to be the 6th best poker player in the world, if you are playing at a table with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th best players in the world, then guess what?

Yup, you guessed it. You are the fish!

Winning poker is literally ALL about which games you choose to sit down and play in.

Now one of the easiest ways to start playing in better games is to just play at the poker rooms which are already well known for having the softest competition.

I have already created a list (which I recently updated for American and Australian poker players) that gives you my top 5 easiest online poker sites to play at.

But beyond this you should also make sure that there is always at least one weak recreational poker player at any table you decide to play at in 2018. No exceptions.

How can you tell who is a bad recreational poker player?


Here are some common signs:
  • Plays too many hands or VPIP is 40%+ (Your HUD will tell you this)
  • Limps a lot
  • Doesn't fold to 3Bets
  • Doesn't fold to 4Bets
  • Doesn't understand position
  • Min-bets the pot
  • Frequently donk bets
  • Posts the blind immediately when joining the table
  • Calls with any pair, draw or even with nothing at all
  • Bought in with a short stack and not refilling

These are all clear signs of a weak recreational poker player.

By analyzing millions and millions of hands in PokerTracker over the years I have found that most of these players lose their money at least 5 times faster than the very worst regulars that you will play against.

So it doesn't take any kind of a math genius to realize that your win-rate is simply going to improve when you start consistently playing against the guys who are losing their money way faster than everyone else.


But I Play Zoom or on a Small Poker Site!


Now people tell me all the time though that they can't table select because they play on a small poker site with a limited number of tables.

Or they play a fast fold version of poker like Zoom, Snap or Fast Forward and they can't know for sure who they are playing against.

There are clear options in both of these cases however.

First off, if you play on a small site without many tables, then you should start playing on some other sites as well in order to increase the number of overall tables that you can choose from.

I personally often have money on as much as a dozen different poker sites at once in order to make sure that I am always able to find a soft game to play in whenever I want.

And even if you are from the USA where the online poker options are currently limited, there are still enough sites available to make this happen.

If you play Zoom poker there are also some strategies that you can use to make sure that you are always playing in soft games.

Firstly, you are going to need to start analyzing the player pool before you sit down to play. How exactly do you do that though?

Well as I recommend all the time, you should be tagging the recreational players right away as soon as you spot them. Nearly all poker rooms give you the ability to make a note or a color tag on a player.

These notes and tags NEVER go away as long as you don't erase your hard drive. You can transfer them over to a different computer as well.

This makes the process of table selecting infinitely easier when playing online poker because you can see them right from the lobby, you don't even need to sit down at the table!

So for instance, I can load up the PokerStars lobby right now and pull up a Zoom player pool:

pokerstars zoom table selection 2018

I can already see that two fish are playing (I blacked out their names for privacy). And this is because I have marked them with those yellow tags on some previous occasion. It literally could have been years ago!

So from there I will just use a little bit of simple math to find out if I want to play in this game or not.

If I am playing 6-max and there are 100 people in the player pool, then this means that there are going to be about 16 tables running simultaneously (100/6=16).

So, I want to be able to count about 16 players in the lobby who I have marked as a recreational player in the past. This will ensure that there will always be at least one of them on each table, on average.

If I can't count 16 bad players from the lobby then I don't play, that simple. Although I should note that I will often still play if there are a few less (13, 14, 15) because there is a good chance that I discover some new ones.

But you get the idea. There really is no excuse to not be table selecting these days even in Zoom. Bottom line is that if you want to be successful in poker, then you will start doing it.


Final Thoughts


Learning how to beat online poker in 2018 isn't nearly as difficult as some people make it out to be. And this is especially the case at the micros where there are still plenty of bad players.

The biggest keys to making your poker success a reality this year is getting back to the basics with a simple ABC tight and aggressive strategy. Leave the fancy plays alone for now until you get to the higher stakes games where it might actually be effective.

You also need to start embracing the short term madness of poker and realize that you are in this thing for the long haul. Results over days and weeks do not matter. Focus instead on months and years.

You should also have a clear game-plan for how you are going to succeed at the poker tables in 2018. Where do you plan on being one year from now and how will you get there?

Lastly, you should also be consistently improving your poker game and focusing on playing against the easiest competition. Believe me, all of the top players are doing this already.

I know that I covered a lot of different ways to improve your game in this article. So if you want one compact list of all the poker tools I use, you can find that right here.

I want to thank you guys for reading as always, and you can expect plenty more micro stakes strategy articles this year on my website, so stay tuned!

All the best at the poker tables in 2018!


Let me know in the comments below how you are going to start beating online poker in 2018. Or if you have already been crushing it like a boss, feel free to brag about it.

This post took me a long time to write. If you found it helpful do me a quick favor and smash that "Like" or "Tweet" button below. Thanks!

How to beat online poker in 2018

12 comments:

  1. Nice post man! Your graphs showing your swings are always a good reality check for me. Seeing variance happen to you, who has one of the highest winrates in low stakes, keeps me going. I hang in there.

    I made it in 2017. I moved from 10nl to 100nl. I won around 16000$, playing recreationally after work. 5000$ of them evopareted after the site i play decided to take everyone's money and leave. Shoping for a high rakeback deal cost me more than 30% of my winnings. Playing on illegal sites have such downsides. I guess that is one of the reasons that you moved to Thailand...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @tolkien on what site did you played ? So you made it to 100NL in one year ? That means if you have the bankroll now you can start on any site and maintain yourself at NL100 or NL50 with no problem ?

      Delete
    2. Hey tolkien,

      Nice results! Unfortunately playing on smaller less known sites does run a risk sometimes like this. It has happened to me before as well. But then the fish filled games on these sites can also make up for it too. All the best in 2018, keep crushing it!

      Delete
    3. @Mirca Enache
      It was a Turkish site. Site's name is StilBahis. Network is KlasPoker. Many foreigners ripped off too.
      I bought stocks and bonds with most of my winnings. Fortunately i saved some to play 50nl on GG network.

      Delete
  2. Hi Nathan do u think its possible for someone to make 8k year variance aside playing 25nl on euro sites playing abc and puting alot of work off the tables if thay can dedicate 30 hours a week
    Thanks
    Adrian

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Adrian,

      Ya I don't see why not. 30 hours a week is quite a bit and I believe many euro sites still have pretty good games.

      Delete
  3. Anonymous05 January

    Nathan, your blog is excellent. I read it and this is my first post.

    It seems sth I miss. I play super-tight. I increase me stack from 2$ to 3.5$ or 4$ and then ALWAYS i lose it to a ludicrous bad beat with AA. Yesterday another suckout from AA vs QQ. It seems that I can't boost my bankroll no mattter what, but I know that something i do wrong.

    So my questions:

    -is it good strategy to always shove AA pre vs a 3bet knowing that idiot villain will call with AQ, QQ, 88, QJs? I mean the suckouts destroy any boost i give to my bankroll.My bankroll went from 60$ to 31$.....
    -any guy that has a stack of less than 80bb, I mark him as a fish (I also use the yellow). Is it correct? At the 2NL, at least 80% of people fall into this category.....
    -I'm really start thinking to lower a bit my c-bet with air (followin your advice), and unless the flop texture justifies it, then to fire a c-bet with air. It seems that a lot of my air-cbets get called from people who don't fold, and all those little amounts "eat" my bankroll. What I wonder is that if I start play "fit or fold" post, the good regs will start to adjust.
    -Is is correct strategy to TOTALLY avoid regs, and only focus on fish? Really, the amount of retards at the nanos is high.

    Again, thank you for your solid blog !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Nick glad you enjoyed this post!

      Delete
  4. Hi Nathan,

    I hope you doing well.
    Just a quick question about the bankroll management if you do not mind .
    Thanks for you after 2 months(started NL2) I am about to move up on NL10 .
    I am not sure if i am playing on 4 tables , i have to get 4 times 30 buy in or just 300$?
    Thx,
    Andy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Andy nice job and I am glad that I could help! I recommend 30 buyins for each limit regardless of how many tables you play. So for NL10 that would be $300.

      Delete
  5. Hi, what's your nickname on PokerStar? I wanted to transfer you some money, for your work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much for the thought. Instead of transferring me money on a poker site you could just buy one of my books as a thank you. Either way, thanks for reading my blog and I am glad I could help :)

      Delete