Is It Worth it to Play the Micro Stakes Poker Games?

Is It Worth it to Play the Micro Stakes Poker Games?
A question that I often get asked is if it is worth it to play the micro stakes poker tables these days. Should you even waste your time with these low limits games?

Because after all, many people just want to play the poker games where there is some kind of significant money on the line like $1/$2 or $2/$4 blind games for example.

Usually in these cash games you will buy-in for between $100 and $400. These feels much more like "real money" to most people compared to a $5 maximum buy-in micro stakes game on the internet.

The same thing goes for tournaments. It can be hard for some people to get interested in a micro stakes poker tournament where first place might only be $1,000.

Because after all, it is very hard to win a poker tournament, and this is not exactly life changing money for most people!

So in this article I am going to cover it all for you. Is it worth it to play the micro stakes or should you just move straight into the bigger buy-in games?

Let's dive into it!


Is It Worth It to Play the Micro Stakes Poker Games? Yes, Here's Why


Alright, so let me just state right off the bat that yes, it is worth it for you to play the micro stakes poker games. And here is why.

Many people do not realize that if they cannot beat the micro stakes poker games, then they are not going to have any chance of beating higher stakes games with much better competition.

And many people also incorrectly assume that the micro stakes games online are just full of terrible players who they can quickly crush.

Actually, the exact opposite is true. Having played millions of hands at these stakes myself, I have seen the progression first hand over the years.

Even a 2c/5c cash game these days ($5 buy-in) will have some decent players in it. In fact, I would argue that your average 2c/5c game online is tougher to beat (has better players) than a $1/$2 live game in a casino.

Here is my complete guide by the way for crushing $1/$2 live cash games in the casino.

But yes it is true, many people are shocked to learn that even at very lowest stakes online, the competition is actually not that bad.

And therefore, if you decide to jump straight into a $1/$2 game online, you are going to find that the players in this game are far, far better skilled than an average $1/$2 game live in a casino.

You need to be very highly skilled these days and study a lot of advanced poker strategy, including solvers and some GTO in order to compete in an average $1/$2 online cash game these days.

This is why most people playing online for the first time who try to jump straight into this game, will quickly be outplayed by much superior opponents.

That is, they completely under-estimate the skill level required to beat $1/$2 online because they think it will be the same thing as a live $1/$2.

Nope, not even remotely close.

Online poker are live poker are completely different in this regard. The same stake online will typically be much, much harder to beat than it's counterpart in a casino or a private home game.


You Owe It to Yourself to Prove That You Can Actually Beat the Micro Stakes Games


Still though, many people just think that it is beneath them to play poker for $5 or $10. And believe me, I get it. There is nothing very interesting for me in winning a $20 pot either.

Because it just isn't a sum of money that will make any kind of real difference in my life. This removes the adrenaline and the excitement factor that many people play the game for in the first place.

Is It Worth it to Play the Micro Stakes Poker Games?

If there isn't any risk involved, we may as well be playing monopoly right?

However, let's forget about the money for a second and just think about your winrate. Because the only thing that really matters in poker is having a good winrate.

It doesn't matter if you are playing for $5 or $5000, if your winrate (measured in big blinds won/lost per 100 hands) is a negative number over a large sample of hands, then you shouldn't be playing in that game.

And the biggest problem is that if you cannot prove to yourself that you have a positive winrate in micro stakes games, then there is basically no chance on earth that you will have a positive winrate in higher stakes games with more skilled opponents.

Why is this though?


Bizarre Poker Math


Here's the thing.

Many poker players have this bizarre sense of poker math where they think that they will do much better in higher stakes games where the players are more "logical" and "respect their raises."

Because, as the story goes, this will allow them to get better "reads" and so on.

Guys, I honestly have to chuckle a little bit every time I hear this strange theory. Because nothing could actually be further from the truth!

If you cannot learn how to beat the wild, irrational (and sometimes drunk/high) beginners in the lower stakes poker games, then there is absolutely no chance on earth that you are going to beat the experienced, skilled (and in some cases professional) poker players that you will find at higher limits.

The poker math simply doesn't work that way. I am sorry!

So this is why it is extremely important that you prove it to yourself that you can beat these low stakes poker games first.

Now look, it doesn't need to take you more than a few weeks. If you are so good at poker and these games are beneath you, then just go ahead and prove it to yourself first.

What's the rush right?

The high stakes games that you want to play in aren't going anywhere. It is important to actually experience the micro stakes and prove to yourself that you can indeed smash these limits.

Because honestly, I have seen so many people make the mistake of skipping these limits because they just assume they can destroy them so easily.

Then they proceed to go get completely outplayed by much more experienced and skilled players at higher limits.

The ego is a very, very powerful thing in poker. Don't allow it to hold you back like it does for so many others.

There is no harm in spending a week or two at the micro stakes and proving that you absolutely can smash these limits, as you say.

If you are as good as you believe you are at poker, then trust me, you won't have any problems :)


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The Micro Stakes Builds the Foundation for All Your Future Poker Success


The final reason why I believe it is worth it to play the micro stakes poker games is because these are the limits that will build the foundation for all your future success at higher limits.

Most people honestly are not currently at the skill level required to compete in mid or high stakes poker games online or even in the casino for that matter.

I have coached 100's of students in the past and the biggest problem most of them had was consistently making fundamental mistakes.

You know, all the stuff that a solid experienced mid or high stakes poker player already knows like the back of his hand.

For example, my students often did not understand basic preflop starting hand selection and using their position at the poker table to their advantage.

They often did not understand the fundamentals of CBetting and double barreling strategy, what opponents to do it against, and more importantly, which board textures to do it on.

Honestly, I could go on and on. And I should preface this by saying that some of it was tilt inspired because this the other hallmark of low stakes poker players, very poor tilt control.

But in most cases it was simply a poor understanding of the fundamentals of basic winning poker strategy, also known as tight and aggressive (TAG).

This is why I have actually written 3 best selling poker strategy books on micro stakes poker strategy.

Is It Worth it to Play the Micro Stakes Poker Games?

Because it is very clear to me that most people do not actually understand the fundamental mechanics of solid tight and aggressive poker strategy as well as they think they do.

As I mentioned above, this is the stuff that is automatic among good mid and high stakes poker players. In other words, they don't even need to think about it.

And the great thing about the micro stakes is that you get a complete education in the fundamentals of winning poker strategy for a very low price.

Because after all, if you make a big mistake, as many people will again and again, it will only cost you $5, not $500.

So this is why it is a great idea to spend a fair bit of time studying poker and learning not only the basics of TAG poker, but also some advanced poker theories like card removal, how to use blockers, understand equity analysis and balance your ranges in all situations.

If you play tournaments then you want to learn not only a solid TAG strategy to beat bad low stakes MTT players, but also the basics of ICM, how to abuse your stack at every stage, especially the bubble, optimal push/fold ranges for a short stack and so on.

You should also learn the basic math at this point in your development as a winning poker player as well. This includes pot odds, implied odds and basic hand odds.


Get Your Poker Education at the Micro Stakes


The micro stakes are also a great place to simply put in a huge amount of volume and just learn the fundamentals of the game through sheer brute force.

This is largely what I did because I started playing poker over 15 years ago when we simply didn't have all of the great poker training materials that are available today.

So how did I learn the fundamentals of solid tight and aggressive (TAG) poker?

I learned by playing millions and millions of hands of poker and beating it into my brain again and again not only what works, but also, what doesn't.

I became known as the sickest grinder around at the micro stakes by simply playing way, way more hands of poker than anybody else, often 20 or 30 tabling on multiple monitors for hours and hours on end every day.

Is It Worth it to Play the Micro Stakes Poker Games?

Even still though, some lessons were very hard to learn.

For example, it literally took me years to learn that when a tight player raises you on the turn or river, your over-pair (such as AA or KK) is almost always no good.

And this is because after losing in this situation so many times, it was finally drilled into my brain, to just fold. This is the power of overwhelming amounts of direct experience at the poker tables.

Once I finally got PokerTracker and just filtered for this exact situation, the overwhelming losses when I called were kind of hard to ignore as well.

You can't fight the cold hard data!

But the bottom line is that there is also absolutely no price tag that you can put on this level of poker experience that I received at the lower stakes before testing myself at higher limits.

And the great thing about the micro stakes is that there are often endless amounts of tables to choose from both day and night.

So in my early days of learning how to become a winning poker player I would often just load up as many poker tables as I could handle, and play until I could barely see straight anymore.

Honestly, I have played more hands of poker than many live poker pros like Doyle Brunson will see in their entire lifetime.

In fact, far more.

And it doesn't matter if poker doesn't come naturally to you. When you get this much direct experience and see the exact same situations hundreds or even thousands of times, you will learn eventually.

This is like the 10,000 hours theory of mastering something on steroids.

Because you can quite literally just load up a nearly infinite amount of micro stakes poker tables and grind out an absurd amount of hands. And your mistakes won't cost you a fortune either.

That is why the micro stakes is a great place to get your poker education.

Instead of spending countless hours (and money) studying advanced poker strategies meant for high stakes, make sure you have the fundamentals down first, and believe me, your poker profits will skyrocket.


Final Thoughts


So is it worth it to play the micro stakes? Well, I think you already know by now that I believe, yes, it is well worth it in pretty much all cases.

Because you see, here's the thing.

Even if you are an absolute world-beater highly experienced live poker pro, it won't take long for you to quickly prove that you can smash the micro stakes games online.

You owe it to yourself to at least prove this to yourself first.

Because the truth is that if you cannot crush these games, then there is no way you are going to succeed in higher stakes games against much superior players.

The poker math simply does not work that way!

Also, the micro stakes are simply a great training ground to learn the fundamental mechanics of a winning TAG poker strategy, which is going to help you succeed against highly skilled players in mid and high stakes games.

This is the time to absolutely drill the fundamentals of the game into your brain so that they are completely automatic.

For me personally, I don't even need to think about this stuff anymore. 99% of my decisions at the poker table are simply automatic due to massive amounts of experience.

This is why I often tell people that I can multi-table the lower stakes in my sleep. Because honestly after playing so many hands, no thought is even required for me. It's just clicking buttons.

Lastly, you should also use your time at the micro stakes to study some of the latest advanced poker strategies and get a free poker education on the cheap by playing a ton of hands in these games.

If you want to know the complete strategy for crushing the micro stakes poker games that I have used as a 10+ year poker pro, then make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

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Do you think it is worth it to play the micro stakes poker games? Let me know in the comments below.

Is It Worth it to Play the Micro Stakes Poker Games?

14 comments:

  1. It always makes me laugh when somebody complains he can't win at microstakes, because competition is too stupid :)

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    1. I can't really disagree, so many bad players at these stakes. If somebody is not winning it is because there is something fundamentally wrong with their game (or a massive tilt problem).

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  2. Hi Nathan,

    I fully agree that to move from micro to small stakes poker it is "a great idea to spend a fair bit of time studying poker and learning not only the basics of TAG poker, but also some advanced poker theories." You have on several occasion recommended Upswing as the best place to to do that. Problem is, I have a hearing impairment and after inquiry discovered that none of the Upswing courses have closed captions or subtitles, making them useless for me.

    I already have all of your books, but the Small Stakes book relies heavily on HUDs which I cannot use on the sites I can play. Do you have any additional recommendations as to how I might move to a higher stakes game?

    Thank.

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    Replies
    1. Hey zwrdl,

      That's too bad, I will bring that up with the Upswing guys and see if they can include captions for somebody like yourself.

      I am glad my books have helped you as well. I know I talk a lot about HUDs in a few of them. If you play on a site that does not allow HUDs you just have to make reads the old fashioned way (like in live poker), and then use the strategies that I suggest.

      I will also have a new micro stakes course coming out later this year which will only include a small amount on HUD use. I will also make a note to include closed captions.

      Thanks for being a long time reader and loyal supporter of my work!

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  3. Wow! Thank you for such a wide explanation, Nathan. Passing the micros should become a useful adventure in the very start of the Career.

    My question is, Nathan, - how do you think, can I beat (or just pass with +1bb/100) the micros in the LAG style, which I truly love? The TAG for me (I have played it for a while) is too simple, T-I-G-H-T and limiting the creativeness and ingenuity, plus with time one uses to play simply and avoid any difficulties. - One cannot rise without overcoming difficulties.

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    1. I think that if you enjoy playing a LAG style (I do too), then that is the style you should play. But you should also always be looking to maximize your profits.

      So for me, I play the style that beats the games I am playing in for the highest winrate. I also regularly switch things up at higher stakes, Nit one day, TAG the next day, LAG the next day just to confuse the good regs and always keep them guessing.

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  4. ran from $300 to $4100 playing daily consistently at micro stake last month
    of course some of it are part of jackpot and rakeback...
    still feeling awesome, the poker dream is still possible if you work hard enough, of course observant against villians you're playing....

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    Replies
    1. That's great! Which stakes did you play ? And which network ?

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    2. Hi Nathan, thanks for the great article. I've been following them for quite some time now!

      If you dont mind, I had a question for you regarding learning and applying theory/strategy. I have been poker for 15 years now, starting in bars and at home games, moving to online tournament play and occasional online cash. I have never been able to beat tournaments online but seem to do reasonably well at the live 1/2NL and 1/3NL games.

      That being said, having learned the game 15 years ago, I have developed many bad thinking habits and "autopilots" that I just cant seem to shake/correct. It is most apparent in my postflop play. I have a decent understanding of the theory concepts, have studied your articles + Upswing's and RYE's tournament content.. but I find I still play on autopilot and cant apply basic concepts like thinking in ranges postflop, eliminating obvious hands based on postflop lines that would preclude them. This is especially costing me money in OOP (and IP) spots postflop where I'm not checking correctly and also on turns/rivers where I'm calling or folding incorrectly.

      I'm realizing Im just automatically check/calling my second pair type hands, betting my values/draws etc... but not really thinking about villain ranges at any point based on their actions. I try to be cognizant, but especially in live play, there are so many things like effective stacks, pot odds, bet size etc that I can never remember to consider to here and villain ranges.

      Do you have any suggestions on how to unlearn these bad habits? I'd generally consider myself a smart guy and feel like I'm capable of playing much better if I could think like other good players. I'd really like to start playing with applying these concepts, but cannot for the life of me stay mindful enough to apply them.

      Thanks in advance!

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    3. I am glad this article helped you! It's best to post some hand histories on my private poker forum. This way I and others can help you with specific spots like this better.

      https://www.blackrain79.com/p/forum.html

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  5. Great article. But I hated live nickel poker because no one ever folded. Except me .

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    1. Thanks alot I love playing I played for 5 years in the D.o.c I would like to be a pro and I'm going work very hard at it and hope I get to play against you sometime and again thanks

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    2. Thanks Jules! When nobody folds except you, this is very often a good thing :)

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