How to Beat 2NL: The Essential Guide [2024]

How to Beat 2NL
People often ask me how to beat 2NL online poker games these days.

And as someone who has made over 20k USD in this one particular game alone (likely the most of all-time?), I feel obliged to give an answer!

By the way, 2NL refers to the $2 maximum buyin no limit holdem cash games online. Some people also call it NL2, which means the exact same thing.

The blinds at 2NL are always 1 cent in the small blind and 2 cents in the big blind. By multi-tabling these games it is possible to make quite a bit of money.

Most 2NL poker games these days are full of beginners and people who are still just learning the game. So this is an ideal game for poker beginners to step into and see some quick success.

The best strategy to beat 2NL is a tight and aggressive style of play combined with a high degree of positional awareness. Other keys to beating 2NL include value betting widely, tilt control and hand reading. If you learn how to play a basic fundamentally solid poker strategy even a beginner can learn how to beat 2NL very quickly.

However, this is a fairly simplistic answer.

So in this article I am going to reveal step by step my 2NL poker strategy. Follow these simple strategies and start quickly crushing 2NL, whether you play Zoom, 6max or full ring.

1. Play Tight - The Best 2NL Poker Strategy

The first step to beating 2NL online is very simple and this is where most people go astray. You have to play tight!

This is simply the #1 best 2NL poker strategy that you can have and it isn't even close.

How tight? Well these are my recommendations for 6max and full ring:
  • 6max - play the top 20% of your poker hands
  • Full ring - play the top 15% of your poker hands

So what this means in plain English is that you should mostly only be playing your pocket pairs (33, 88, JJ etc), big aces (AJ, AQ, AK), broadways (KQ, KJ, QJ), suited aces (A5s, A9s etc) and suited connectors (JTs, 98s etc).

Here are some charts that I made to help you out:

2NL 6max suggested starting hands, play the hands marked in yellow (20% range).

how to beat 2nl 6max

2NL Full ring suggested starting hands, play the hands marked in yellow (15% range).

how to beat 2nl zoom

By the way these preflop poker charts were taken from my popular free poker cheat sheet. To learn my complete strategy for beating micro stakes online poker games, get my free cheat sheet right here.

Now I should mention that you can add in a few more hands than this when you are in late position (button or the cutoff) in order to steal the blinds. But for the most part the key to beating NL2 is to simply play tight.

There are tons of really, really bad players in these games who love to play nearly any two cards. The key to beating them is to simply start with a better poker hand.

This way the odds are in your favor to make a better pair, a better flush, have a better kicker and so on. The #1 reason that amateur poker players cannot beat 2NL is because they simply play too many bad hands.

Play better hands than your competition and you will start winning at this stake. This will always be the absolute best NL2 poker strategy especially for you beginners reading this.

By the way, if you want to be able to quickly spot the loose players, I highly recommend using a good poker HUD if you play online.

This will quickly give you the reads you need right on your NL2 poker tables.

To find out EXACTLY what hands you should play at NL2 in all situations, check my new video below: 9 PREFLOP Poker Tips For Beginners (Just Do This!)

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2. How to Beat 2NL - Raise Preflop

The next thing you need to know about how to beat NL2 poker games online is that aggression almost always wins in poker.

This is why I suggest that you come into the pot for a raise almost all of the time when you choose to play any of the hands above.

And yes, even if somebody has already limped before you. Raise it up! My suggestion is to raise 3x the big blind at 2NL and add another big blind for each limper.

So for example:

You have AK on the button in a 2NL 6max game and you are first to enter the pot.

You should raise it to 6 cents.

You have AK on the button in a 2NL 6max game and one person has already limped.

You should raise it to 8 cents.

Make sense?

Also, if somebody has already raised it before you get a chance to act then I would suggest 3-betting (re-raising) with your premium hands most of the time (AA, KK, QQ, JJ and AK).

The 3-bet sizing I suggest is 3x when in position and 4x when out of position.

So for example:

You have AK on the button in a 2NL 6max game and somebody has already raised to 6 cents.

You should re-raise (3-bet) to 18 cents.

You have AK in the big blind in a 2NL 6max game and somebody has already raised to 6 cents.

You should re-raise (3-bet) to 24 cents.

I hope this makes sense. To be honest it really isn't that difficult once you get the hang of it.

The bottom line is to be aggressive, don't just limp along like the rest of them. That is why they lose at poker. Always take control of the pot right away, because that is winning poker.

And as I always say, you don't even need to take my word for it.

All you need to do is load up your PokerTracker database and filter for hands where you raised preflop versus hands where you limped preflop.

I can pretty much guarantee that your winnings will be much, much higher when raising preflop versus limping. You can't argue with the cold hard facts!

Raising preflop is absolutely essential to a winning 2NL poker strategy.

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2nl poker strategy
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3. How to Beat NL2 - Play in Position 

It doesn't matter if you play 2NL Zoom, 2NL 6max or 2NL full ring, the key to beating these games is using the power of position to your advantage.

As I talk about in my book Crushing the Microstakes, the two pillars of success for beating 2NL poker games are the power of initiative and the power of position.

In fact, focusing on these is how I created some of the highest winnings in online poker history at 2NL!

We just discussed the power of initiative above. You should be raising or re-raising the large majority of the time when you choose to play a hand preflop.

But you should also try to get the power of position as often as possible by trying to play as many hands as possible from late position (the button and the cutoff specifically).

If you are in early position or in the blinds you should play very tight. Only play the strongest hands from the charts above.

And here is a poker hand that I recently reviewed which perfectly illustrates why we need to play extra tight from these positions.

Never miss my new poker videos, join 100,000+ who are already subscribed.

But if you in late position (button or the cutoff), then you should play all of the hands on the charts above and even some more as well.

And once again, you do not need to take my word about any of this.

Just load up your PokerTracker database once again and filter for your winnings by position. Your winnings will be much, much higher on the button or the cutoff compared to any other position at the poker table.

Therefore, it only makes sense to play the majority of your hands from these seats.

Check out my complete guide to fixing your poker leaks with PokerTracker if you want to learn how to check all this and more.

4. Patience and Multi-Tabling

So in order to play tight like I suggest above then you are going to have to learn to either be very patient or learn how to multi-table.

The reason why so many amateur online poker players in 2NL games end up playing a lot of bad hands is because they get "bored."

Now, I am sorry but I really just need to be blunt here. If you find yourself getting "bored" often at the poker table, then you simply aren't serious about winning.

Getting bored and playing a bunch of bad hands is for undisciplined amateurs who are just there to have fun.

And that is totally cool if you just play this game as a hobby and do not care about winning or losing. But I suspect that you probably wouldn't be reading this article if that were really the case.

Professional poker players, or people who play poker to make a nice side income, understand that discipline is a huge part of a winning poker strategy.

2nl poker strategy

Now if you seriously cannot control yourself though then my next suggestion is to simply play more poker tables.

The reason why this fixes your issue with playing too many bad hands is because you simply won't have the time to play so much junk anymore!

When you learn to start playing 2, 4, 10 or 20 poker tables at a time, believe me, you won't have time to get "bored" anymore.

Now I know that playing this amount of poker tables might seem absolutely crazy to you at first. But it is not nearly as difficult as you might think.

I believe it is something that anybody can learn how to do over time. I have played millions of hands of low stakes poker online and most of it was done while I was playing 20 or 30 tables at a time.

I have already written the #1 guide on the internet for how to play more online poker tables.

5. Study Advanced Poker Theory to Improve Your Game

If you really want to take your poker game to the next level and start crushing the 2NL games then you should also consider studying some advanced poker theory and strategies.

Because the thing is, poker games today (even at 2NL) are always changing. This means that anyone who thinks they "know it all" often quickly gets left behind.

One of the best poker training programs to improve your game at NL2 is my brand new Elite Poker University.

How to beat NL2

17+ hours of advanced poker lessons showing you how to crush 2NL and quickly move up the stakes.

There are hundreds of step by step example hands and "cheat sheets" as well, which you can download.

In this poker training program I teach you how to play a fundamentally sound tight and aggressive strategy to crush 2NL games.

This is the exact same strategy that I used to create some of the highest winnings in online poker history in NL2 games.

I also teach you how to start thinking about the game of poker on a world class level by really thinking deeply about their range, and ultimately, how to read their poker hand.

These are some of the most essential poker skills that you need to learn especially when you start moving up to higher limits and playing against better poker players.

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The bottom line is that if you want to really starting crushing the NL2 poker games, then you should consider improving your poker game by learning some advanced poker strategies.

6. NL2 Poker Strategy - Value Bet Them Relentlessly

Most 2NL games these days are still full of calling stations. Even many of the regs can't fold anything!

A "calling station" in poker by the way is somebody who chases every draw, can't fold bottom pair and so on.

Now if you don't believe me, go watch the video series I made awhile back showing how to crush the NL2 games on PokerStars.

I played for 6 hours in total on 2NL Zoom, 6max and full ring games on PokerStars at completely random tables. There were huge fish on every single one of my tables.

So how do you beat a bunch of bad poker players like this? Easy, you value bet the crap out of them and almost never bluff.

What do I mean by "value bet?"

I basically mean that any time you have the best hand, you bet. And even if you only have middle pair, this is still often the best hand because they are chasing some ridiculous draw.

Here are some hands I played showing how to beat NL2 Zoom where I talk about this further:

The bottom line is that the key to beating 2NL poker games is to value bet them relentlessly. You need to always get all those extra little bets in and make them pay.

You will often be surprised at the kind of nonsense they will call you with! I have been snap called by hands as bad as queen high many times at 2NL.

Gotta love them :)

7. 2NL Poker Strategy - Learn to Hand Read

Hand reading is an important part of a solid winning 2NL poker strategy.

Hand reading sounds like a big fancy term in poker but actually it is pretty simple. If you know your poker player types, (which I suggest memorizing if you don't), then you already know their range.

A "range" in poker by the way is a certain set of hands that a specific player can have in a certain situation.

For example a tight poker player who raises preflop and then bets the flop and the turn is going to have a very tight range made up almost exclusively of strong value hands like top pair or better.

A loose maniac on the other hand can take the exact same line but his range will have far more total bluffs and garbage in it.

Here is another video I made showing you how to hand read at the micro stakes.

Now how do you know what the player type is you might be asking yourself?

Well the easiest way is to simply check their HUD stats. When I am playing 20 or 30 tables of 2NL at a time, there is no way I can do this without the help of my HUD.

And this is because it allows me to have stats on all my opponents displayed right on my screen. This helps me quickly figure out their player type, and therefore, the best strategy to beat them.

But even if you don't use a HUD (or you play live poker for instance), it is still pretty easy to tell what type of player you are up against with some basic observation.

Has your opponent only played 2 hands in the last hour? Did he only win a small pot with a very strong hand? This is a tight passive player type.

Has your opponent played 20 hands in the last hour and routinely calls down to the river with total garbage? This is a classic fish or "whale" player type.

I think you get the point.

By the way, I discuss this in much more detail in my new Elite Poker University training. 

Learn EXACTLY how to start crushing small and mid stakes poker games, play semi-pro or even full time pro. Use my proven elite poker strategies to start winning fast.

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8. The River OverBet Shove

Alright, I am now going to let you in on one of my all time top NL2 poker strategies that has literally made me thousands and thousands of dollars in these games.

And this is the river overbet shove.

Now I want to say right away that you should only use this NL2 poker strategy against really bad players who can't find the fold button to save their life.

But luckily this is NL2 we are talking about so this includes a lot of them!

Basically the concept is this. You have an extremely strong hand like a full house on a very draw heavy river board runout.

Let me give you an example:

You have 66 and the board on the river is:


We have an extremely strong hand in this situation, a full house. But there are a number of very, very good second best hands available on this board.

For example, any 5 makes a straight and any two diamonds makes a flush. If they have a 4 in their hand, then they could also have trips.

Now let me tell you something about bad poker players at 2NL. They don't fold straights, flushes or trips for ANY amount.

Seriously, they will take out a second mortgage on their house if they have to, they are calling you down!

Therefore, it would be a huge mistake to just bet a small amount here like everybody else does. The correct 2NL poker strategy here is simply to go all-in.

Like I said, I have literally made thousands of dollars over the years by simply overbet shoving action rivers like this when I know it is likely that a bad player has a good second best hand.

People often ask me why my 2NL poker win rates over the years have consistently been so much higher than everybody else (20bb/100+).

It is because of plays like this!

I don't make a little bet here and win a little pot like everybody else. Instead, I recognize the player and the situation and I make them pay the maximum, every single time.

This is something that I discuss in much more detail in Crushing the Microstakes.

This includes exactly what boards to make the huge river over-bet shove on and what type of players to do it against.

9. Enjoy the Madness

The final piece of advice that I have for you to start beating NL2 6max, Zoom or full ring poker games online is to simply embrace the madness.

Look guys, I have some of the highest winnings in online poker history in this game alone, tens of thousands of dollars in winnings.

But I have also perhaps taken more bad beats than anyone in the history of poker in order to create all these profits. People think I am joking when I say that. I am not.

And I could rattle off endless more 2NL poker strategy advice here for you to play your AK better or bluff more or so on.

But the bottom line is that if you don't get the mental game down for 2NL, then none of this even matters at all.

NL2 is pure madness sometimes. They will call you down with anything. The beats are endless and they are completely insane. I often refer to NL2 simply as "The Circus."

You have to learn how to just get away from the game sometimes. I live on an island so I will often just hop on my scooter and ride down to some deserted beach.

How to Beat 2NL

If the bad beats are piling up at 2NL for you, then go do what makes you happy that doesn't involve playing poker or thinking about poker.

And then come back to the 2NL tables the next day with a clear head.

But you always need to remember as well that it is actually awesome that 2NL is full of bad players who will call you down with anything.

Because this is why you can have absurd win rates in a game like this of 10 or 20 big blinds per 100 hands (simply impossible in any other game).

But this also means that you are going to take an ungodly amount of bad beats and "suckouts." You simply have to get used to this if you want to learn how to beat NL2.

You can't take it personally every time some guy hits a ridiculous gutshot straight on the river or catches trips with his bottom pair.

It is simply going to happen guys. And it will happen again and again and again and again. It's how the game of poker works.

No matter how bad they are at poker, they almost always some equity in the pot. They are simply going to realize that equity sometimes.

The fact that the bad players can get lucky sometimes is also why they keep coming back again and again to deposit more money and lose it again.

If you are not prepared for this then I am sorry but there is no way that you are going to be able to beat 2NL.

Most people honestly cannot handle it. They tilt all their winnings away every time a fish bad beats them. Then they get online and rant about how rigged it is against them.

But the reality is that they simply cannot handle the madness that is 2NL. You have to embrace it, learn to laugh it off more and understand that at the end of the day, the math is on your side.

As I often say, you cannot fight the math and expect to win in poker. Sooner or later all of their bad plays will catch up to them. And that is why 2NL is actually so insanely profitable.

How to Beat 2NL Zoom

Now I want to touch a bit upon 2NL Zoom games in particular here as well. Honestly though, your Zoom poker strategy really doesn't need to be that different from your strategy at a regular poker table.

The only difference in a 2NL Zoom poker game from a regular poker game is that you are given a random seat at the table every hand and it is also much harder to get reads on your opponents.

Example Zoom Hand (Fold a straight?):

The player pool in a 2NL Zoom game on PokerStars can be over 500 people during prime time hours. This means that if you are playing 2NL 6max Zoom then you might only see the same player once every 83 hands!

500 / 6 = 83

This makes it very difficult to build up any kind of reliable HUD stats or reads on your opponents. And therefore you are often simply playing against a bunch of complete unknowns.

This means that you have to play a much more ABC basic style of poker. You cannot for example increase your bluffing frequency towards weak tight players who have a low WTSD% (went to showdown percentage).

And this is because you simply don't have that data available on your HUD like you would at a regular poker table.

Also, you often won't know who the aggressive regulars are compared to the passive regulars. So you really have to just play it safe and take more straightforward textbook lines in all situations.

If you want a complete breakdown of my strategy to beat NL2 Zoom poker games, I have already written the #1 Zoom poker strategy guide available on the internet today.

2NL Poker Bankroll Guidelines

Alright lastly, let's talk about your bankroll for 2NL. Because quite frankly, this is extremely important.

One of the biggest reasons why many poker beginners end up going broke at 2NL over and over again is because they simply shoot themselves in the foot by not having the proper bankroll.

Your bankroll by the way is the total amount of funds you have allocated to play poker. Many people say that every poker player goes broke sometimes, even the pros.

Frankly, I completely disagree with this.

I have personally never gone broke in my 10+ year poker career and that is because I have always exercised proper bankroll management.

So what is a good 2NL bankroll?

2nl poker bankroll

Well, I would suggest having 30 buyins as a bare minimum. Since a full "buyin" at 2NL is $2, then this means that you should have $60 in your bankroll.

Now I know this might seem excessive to some, but believe me, the swings in poker can be very brutal at times.

It is certainly possible for a good winning player at 2NL to lose 10 buyins. If 10 buyins ($20) is your entire bankroll, guess what? You go broke and have to reload.

This is really psychologically difficult especially for a solid winning player. My advice, do things right in the first place by having a proper bankroll for 2NL.

If you would like to know my bankroll recommendations for all stakes, check out my ultimate guide to poker bankroll management.

Final Thoughts

So there you have my guide to beating 2NL games online. And it doesn't matter if you play 2NL 6max, 2NL Zoom or 2NL Full Ring. The best 2NL poker strategy is similar for all of them.

To be completely honest, any good poker player can still easily crush these games with even a very basic poker strategy.

If you want some extra help then I would suggest checking out Crushing the Microstakes and the video series I made which comes with it where I play at 6max, Zoom and Full ring.

You get to essentially "look over my shoulder" as I show you exactly how I created some of the highest winnings in online poker history at 2NL.

But the real key to beating 2NL is just to play tight, play in position, value bet the crap out of them and don't tilt. And then, eventually the math will catch up to them.

This is how I was able to post some of the highest winnings in online poker history in these 2NL games. I would literally just mass multi-table these games in my sleep and play solely for the long run.

I was never interested in my day to day or even week to week results because these never matter in poker. With all the bad players at 2NL, they will get lucky against you sometimes in the short run.

But over the long run I always crush them with a simple tight and aggressive poker strategy. And when I start to feel frustrated by a string of bad beats, I just quit for the day and go do something else completely unrelated to poker.

When you are ready to make the jump up to 5NL, I have already written the definitive guide to beating 5NL as well.

Make sure you take it one step at a time though.

Lastly, if you want to know how to start consistently making $1000+ per month in low stakes games like 2NL, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.


How do you beat 2NL poker games online? What is your 2NL poker strategy? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Beat 2NL zoom


  1. Hi Nathan,

    what do you say that all poker rooms block the HUD?
    I was shocked that you can no longer use HUD in so many rooms, except Stars and 888. I think in the long term, 888 and stars will lock the HUD.
    what is your opinion about it?

    Best regards

    1. Hey Semih,

      Most major online poker rooms allow the use of a HUD.

      Also, the biggest reason why I use PokerTracker actually isn't the HUD at all. It is the ability to study my hands and find my leaks. I also spend a lot of time studying my opponents in order to create the strategies to beat them.

      As long as the online poker room issues hand histories (which is almost all of them), then you can do this.

    2. The selection of poker rooms depend a lot on, where you live. For someone like me living in Europe, apart from some really small sites, my options are the following with the numbers being 7 day average cash game traffic:

      Pokerstars (7.000) - HUD allowed
      GG Poker (1.350) - HUD not allowed
      PartyPoker (1.200) - HUD not allowed
      888 Poker (850) - HUD allowed
      Winning poker network (700) - HUD allowed

      Maybe I forgot some, but out of these 5 options, there are 3 sites, that allow HUDs and only 2, that dont, and PokerStars see more traffic than the other four sites combined. So there are still way more people playing on tables, where HUDs are allowed than on tables, where they are not.

      What PokerStars will ultimately do, only time will tell. They have implemented many changes already over the last several years, some of them good and some of them definitely not so good like increased rake etc.

    3. All good points Lars.

      These HUD comments honestly are starting to get a bit crazy. Most online poker sites DO allow HUDs including by far the biggest one in the world, PokerStars.

      These are simply the facts.

      But even more importantly, you do not even need to use a HUD in order to beat 2NL, which is what this article is actually about!

      However, most people who are serious about online poker may want to look into using a HUD at a certain point.

    4. I like a lot of it is about the recent changes on PartyPoker and all the advertisement, they have done for it. They might lead some people to fell, that PartyPoker is more important, than they actually are.

      And as you wrote elsewhere the really issue with the changes on PartyPoker is not, that HUDs are no longer allowed. The issue is, they have gotten rid of hand histories.

      There are many storys about issues at winning poker network (ACR) and to a smaller extend GG Poker, so with these recent changes on PartyPoker, of the 5 sites listed, I am only 100% comfortable with playing at 888 and Stars.

      For US residents maybe Ignition is the best alternative. I dont like their anonymous tables, but you can at least download hand histories, and as I understand it, you can even use a HUD, but of course it will only show in session stats. But even so against fish this will often be all, you have anyway, so its still a big help.