15 Proven Ways to Beat Small Stakes Poker in 2020

How to beat small stakes poker
People often ask me how to crush small stakes poker games these day. What are my top tips and tricks to continuing dominating these games in 2020?

And believe me, I get it. There is a lot of information out there. And it can all be very confusing sometimes!

Small stakes poker by the way refers to anything below about a $100 buy-in whether you play online poker or live poker.

These are the games that are typically full of many complete beginners and newcomers. A lot of them play poorly and will give you a lot of bad beats.

However, this is also why you can obtain some truly crazy winrates in these games as well. And if you multi-table online like I do to multiply your winnings, this can actually give you a pretty decent hourly.

Many people, including myself, have actually been able to play these games professionally for many years because of this.

Sure, you won't get rich playing small stakes games but you can certainly live a good life especially if you move to a low cost tropical country like I did.

But for many people small stakes poker can simply be a nice way to create a solid side income as well or a "side hustle" as some like it to call it these days.

So I wanted to create the ultimate small stakes poker strategy resource for you. The definitive guide on how to crush these games beyond belief.

As a 10+ year small stakes poker pro myself, these are my top 15 guaranteed ways to crush the small stakes poker games in 2020.


1. Tight is Always Right


The first step to any successful small stakes poker strategy is that you must play tight! This is one of those cardinal rules for beating these stakes that literally never changes.

And the reason why is because you will play against a lot of bad players at the small stakes who play lots of bad hands. Therefore, by having higher standards than them, you will put yourself at a statistical advantage in most situations.

Since poker is a long term game where we measure our success or failure over months, years and hundreds of thousands of hands, the math eventually overcomes these bad players, and they lose big because they play so many trashy hands.

So if you play 6max small stakes games, I would recommend playing roughly the top 20% of all hands that are dealt to you.

how to beat small stakes poker

And if you play full ring 9 player small stakes games, then I would recommend playing roughly about the top 15% of all hands that you are dealt.

how to beat small stakes poker

It is important to remember though that these charts are just rough representations that can and should never be taken literally.

Because in order to win at small stakes poker you must adjust your starting hand selection heavily according to your position at the poker table.

Depending on your position at the poker table you will sometimes need to play much fewer hands than those listed on the charts above (early position and blinds).

And sometimes you will need to play far more hands than those listed above (late position, otherwise known as the button and the cutoff).


2. Position is Your Best Friend in Poker


One of the most under rated aspects of a winning poker strategy, especially in small stakes games, is the value of position. This means getting to act last on the flop, turn and river.

In fact, having position in the hand is a statistically proven way to win more at poker. I laid out all the evidence over millions of hands to finally prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt in my first book.

So if you are having trouble winning consistently in small stakes poker games, one of the absolute best things you can do to turn that around right now is to start playing more hands from late position.


And by "late position" I specifically mean:
  • The cutoff
  • The button
These are the two seats at the poker table where you are almost guaranteed to act last after this flop.

how to beat small stakes poker 6max

This gives you a huge mathematically proven advantage that will help you start crushing small stakes poker games.

So you should try to play as many "playable" hands as possible from these seats and if it is folded to you on the button and there are two very tight players in the blinds, you can literally raise profitably with any two cards.

By the way, if any of this very basic position stuff is "news to you," that's a big problem. Because this stuff needs to be absolutely automatic for you.

In other words, you should never have to actually think about it when you are playing. It should be like riding a bicycle or driving a car.

This is why I wrote a free little poker cheat sheet which walks you through all the basics like this step by step.


3. You Gotta Confuse the Good Players


Another one of my top strategies these days to beat small stakes poker games is to constantly confuse the good players.

And this is because once you allow them to get a read on you, then you become very easy for them to play against.

So I make an effort to constantly mix up my play versus the good players and balance my ranges better on a daily basis. This means even changing my play style completely in some cases.

For example, one day I will play tight and aggressive (TAG), the next day I will play loose and aggressive (LAG), and the third day I might play like a total nit!

Here for example is a hand I played recently where I use a very specific strategy versus a good LAG player in order to confuse them and win a big pot:


I think you get the idea.

Basically, I am constantly mixing up my play at the poker tables, so that even if the good players are using a HUD and gathering data on me, my style of play changes every day.

This way, they will never be able to get an accurate read on how I play.


4. Float the Flop and Take It Away on the Turn


Another one of my favorite strategies to beat the good players in today's small stakes games is to float them on the flop and then take it away from them on the turn.

This cuts to the very heart of what winning poker is really all about. That is, learning how to win pots even when you do not have the best hand.


For example:

I have JT on the button.

A TAG regular opens to 3x the big blind from early position. There is a fish yet to act in the blinds.

This is a typical spot where I am going to just flat preflop, not only to try and outplay the reg, but because there is also a fish who might get involved as well.

And since we are on the button, we will of course have position on both of them postflop. We already talked about how important that is.


The flop comes:

973

The TAG regular makes a CBet and we call.

This is a totally routine spot to float the flop these days as I talk about in The Micro Stakes Playbook.

You need to be making lighter calls on the flop, especially in position, when you have some reasonable equity like we do here with the gutshot straight draw and the backdoor flush draw.


The turn comes:

5

The TAG regular checks.

What should we do?

BET!


This is a perfect spot to take away the pot from a regular who likely has something Ace King or Ace Queen and is ready to give up on the pot.

In a situation like this, if we just make a simple bet here, they will often fold and we can take down a decent sized pot with the worst hand.

If you want to truly know how to win at poker in a nutshell (not even just small stakes games, this applies to any stakes), this right here is it.

Outplay them.


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How to beat small stakes poker
That is why I wrote this free little 50 page poker cheat sheet to give you the exact strategies to start consistently making $500-$1000 per month (or more) in small stakes poker games right now.

These are the exact poker strategies that I have used by the way as a 10+ year small stakes poker pro. And I lay them all out for you step by step in this free guide.

If you play small stakes zoom, small stakes 6max, small stakes tournaments or small stakes live games, these are the strategies that you need to know.

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5. You Have to Table Select Like a Pro


Now, as much as I am all for finding good strategies to beat the good regulars, at a certain point there is only so much money that you are ever going to make off of them.

Why?

Because good poker players don't make large fundamental mistakes like the recreational fish players do. And this in turn limits how much they will ever lose to you.

For example, good players don't play very many bad hands like the fish do, so this automatically puts a limit on their losses, even if they also play bad.

Sure, the fish will get lucky against you sometimes like in this hand I recently discussed on YouTube:


But in the long run, they will lose massively to you because they play so bad.

This is why it is so vitally important that you are paying close attention to your table selection these days. There should be at least one clear recreational player who has a VPIP=40+ on all of your tables.

This means that they are playing at least 40% of their hands. This is one of the key HUD stats that you should be using if you take online poker seriously.

And this is because it will help you quickly identify the bad players and get involved in more hands versus them. This in turn will dramatically increase your winnings.

People still think I am crazy when I say that I spend as much as half my time these days table selecting as opposed to playing poker.

But all of the big consistent winners in small stakes, mid stakes and high stakes are all doing the exact same thing.

It's the small winners and the break-even players who still don't get how important table selection is. And they pay a big price for hanging on to these outdated beliefs.

Real poker pros and semi-pros know better than this.


6. Thin Value Betting is Key


One of the biggest mistakes that most small stakes poker players make is not value betting enough, and especially not thin value betting anywhere near enough.

What do I mean by "thin value betting?"

I am talking about situations where you probably have the best hand (i.e. middle pair) but it is close.

If you aren't pushing the envelope and trying to extract every last chip out of them in situations like this, then you are leaving a mountain of money on the table.


For example:

You have 88 and by the river the board looks like this:

KT462

Now let's assume a typical line of action here where you raised preflop, got called, bet the flop, got called, the turn went check/check, and your opponent checks to you again on the river.

This is an absolutely AUTOMATIC bet for me. Because when small stakes players show me weakness, I always pounce on it immediately.

But many people make the huge mistake of just checking behind here especially against the bad recreational players who will gladly look you up with hands as weak as Ace high, because they hate to fold anything.

You must always go for thin value in spots like this. If you aren't prepared to do this, then you can't expect to have one of the best winrates in small stakes games.

How do you know if you are doing it right?

Easy.

You will know that you are thin value betting correctly when you are getting called from time to time by better hands.

This is a good thing, not a bad thing because it means you are doing it right!


7. Learn the Latest Advanced Small Stakes Poker Strategies


As most people know, poker is a game that is always evolving and that means that the strategy required to beat small stakes poker is often changing as well.

So, much like a business or IT professional, it is important that you are consistently upgrading your skills if you want to stay on top of the game.

This is why I recommending reading the newest poker strategy books, joining some good poker training sites, studying some advanced poker training courses, posting hands on your favorite forums and possibly even hiring a coach.

I actually recently created a step by step walkthrough video on YouTube of my #1 recommend advanced poker training program for 2020.


In the Upswing Poker Lab you will learn all the latest cutting edge poker strategies like:
  • GTO theory
  • How to balance your range in all situations
  • Advanced poker math
  • Advanced solver analysis
  • How to count card combos
  • Understanding blockers and how to use them to your advantage 
And so much more.

There is a reason why The Upswing Poker Lab has been my #1 most recommended advanced poker training program for small stakes players for several years now.

Because this is the kind of stuff that elite level small stakes players are learning these days to really take their game to the next level.

But there are so many options out there these days to improve your game. This isn't like the old days anymore where a handful of top pros kept all of the information to themselves.

In fact, one of the greatest poker players of all time (Phil Ivey) recently came out with a new Masterclass poker training course, where he reveals all his secrets.

The bottom line is that the information is out there these days. Make sure you are spending some time away from the poker tables learning the cutting edge strategies to crush the small stakes poker games.


8. You Need to Check Raise the River With Bluffs Sometimes


Another advanced strategy that you will need to learn in order to beat the small stakes games these days is to create a check raising range on the river that doesn't just consist of the nuts.

Most people in small stakes games these days will only check raise you on the river with an extremely strong hand like two pair, a set, trips, a straight or a flush.

Now the problem with any extremely unbalanced poker strategy like this is that it makes it very easy for your opponents to read you.

And that in turn allows them to play near perfectly against you when you check raise the river. For example, by making easy laydowns versus you even with a top pair hand because they know you will only check raise the river with monsters.

How to beat 6max small stakes poker
My online poker "office"

So if you want to learn how to confuse the regulars, bluff them out of the pot, and also get more calls with your good hands, then it is essential that you start check raising the river from time to time with hands like:
  • Missed draws
  • Bottom pair
  • Ace high
Now please don't get me wrong.

I am not saying that you should do this often. In fact, it should be rare and most of your range when check raising the river should still be clear value hands.

But when you start learning how to balance your range a little bit better like this in all situations, you will make yourself a much tougher player to read and play against.

You also want to make sure you are picking the right players to check raise the river against. These are the weak/tight nits who have a low WTSD% (went to showdown percentage).


9. Learn to Dominate the Game Within the Game (The Mental Game)


Many people ignore the mental game these days. The mental game includes staying off of tilt, putting others on tilt, developing the work ethic and discipline to succeed and staying focused during long sessions.

But all of the top small stakes players these days are focusing heavily on this aspect of the game because it is arguably the #1 way to get ahead these days.

Here is my popular video of the top 5 mental game tips for beginners by the way:


First and foremost, you need to develop a proper quitting strategy in order to remove the devastating aspects of tilt from your game.

For complete beginners I recommend leaving the table and quitting for the day if you lose more than 3 buy-ins in a cash game in one session.

Since one buy-in is 100 big blinds, then this means 300 big blinds.

For more experienced small stakes poker players, with a proven track record of success in the game, you can work with a larger Stop Loss of 5 buy-ins. 

The bottom line is that you MUST learn to physically remove yourself from the poker table before you start tilting away your winnings with poor emotionally charged decision making like most people do.

Secondly, you need to be actively putting other people on tilt. Why it is that nobody seems to talk about this small stakes poker strategy still, completely blows my mind!

But this has been one of my very greatest weapons over the years and I have even written a complete guide on how to put other players on tilt.

If you aren't actively learning how to put other people on tilt, you're crazy. Or you hate money. It's literally one of the best things you can do to get ahead in small stake games.

Lastly, work ethic and discipline are absolutely vital to your success. If you don't play, you will never win big in small stakes games.

Every elite winning poker player at any limit (not just small stakes), has incredible work ethic and discipline. They put in the long hours at the tables, even when they don't feel like it.

You gotta find that will to success from deep within if you ever want to truly crush the small stakes games. They call it a "grind" for a reason.


10. Lower Your Expenses Drastically by Moving Overseas


Now every time I recommend travel or moving overseas for small stakes poker players I get some weird looks. But it is true, if you really want to take your game to the next level, then you should do this.

And one of the biggest reasons for this is the much lower cost of living. I moved to Thailand over 8 years ago and I also spend a lot of time in places like The Philippines and Bali.

How to beat small stakes poker
As long as I have my laptop I can make money 
from small stakes poker anywhere on earth.

All of these places have a much, much lower cost of living than where I come from in an expensive Canadian city, Vancouver. In fact, my expenses are as little as 25% of what they used to be.

A decent apartment these days in Downtown Vancouver will start around $1500 per month.

But I can get the exact same thing for $400 per month in Bangkok. And internet, utilities, food, transportation and so on are all far cheaper in Bangkok as well.

So as much as I love the city I come from, I would have to be absolutely crazy to live there full-time from a financial point of view, if I work online, which poker allows me to do.

And so moving overseas allowed me to save a lot of money that normally would be going to crazy high rent prices, bills and so on. And focus 100% of my efforts on poker and growing my bankroll instead.

Traveling or moving to the other side of the world is definitely not something that is for everybody. Believe me, I get that.

But if you are serious about becoming a semi-pro or a full time pro in small stakes games one day, then you absolutely have to lower your expenses.

And if you come from an expensive Western city like I do, that is often not going to be possible.

By the way, I have actually written about moving overseas as a poker player in much more detail many times on this blog before, such as this article.

Bottom line: I have never met so many small stakes online poker pros until I finally decided to take the leap myself and get on a plane to Southeast Asia.


11. Learn to Embrace the Grind


I have said it before many times on this blog.

Nearly all of the best poker players I know, and every pro I know, have played an absolutely ridiculous amount of hands.

There is a direct correlation in poker (at any stakes) between experience and success.

And it only makes sense when you think about it. More hands means you see the same situations over and over again.

Eventually you are going to start seeing the patterns and putting the pieces together.

So if you are really serious about crushing small stakes poker games, one of my most simple and seemingly obvious suggestions is just to play more poker!

This means that you learn to embrace the grind by playing every single day (if possible), for several hours or more.

Even if you work a full time job or go to school full time, everybody can always find a few hours at the end of the day.

It's just about setting your priorities straight if poker is indeed something you really are serious about.

This definitely doesn't mean you should ignore your kids, wife or other family members. But this does mean that instead of binge watching that Netflix show, you choose to grind out a bunch more hands instead.

You must make time for poker every day if you are really serious about beating small stakes poker games.


12. Get a Good Poker Setup


So in order to grind long hours at the online small stakes poker tables, the first thing you want is a good setup.

Now people ask me about this all the time. The truth is that you don't need three monitors and some expensive gaming rig to play online poker.

Although you absolutely can go all out if you want to.

But it absolutely is not necessary. Online poker does not require a super high spec machine with tons of RAM. Any modern computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet will do.

In fact, for me personally, since I travel a lot I don't even have a desktop computer anymore. I do everything, including poker from my little 13" Macbook Air.

how to crush small stakes poker multi tabling

But I have used a multi-monitor setup with a PC in the past and that is fine too. The bottom line is to find what works for you, get a comfortable chair, and be prepared to put in the long hours.

This also includes creating an environment with minimal distractions so that you can stay 100% focused on poker.

It is fine to have your phone with you while you play, but I would recommend setting it to "airplane mode" so that you aren't distracted by constant notifications.


13. Multi-Table to Multiply Your Winnings


The other thing that you are absolutely going to have to do if you want to start putting in more hands is multi-table.

Now I have already written a complete guide on how to play more online poker tables.

But the bottom line is this:

When you play more tables, assuming your level of play stays the same, then you will be able to multiply your winnings.

Now of course, in practice it doesn't always work this way. Because the reality is that when you add more poker tables, your decision making and your ability to table select will suffer.

And if you start mass multi-tabling like I used to do (20 or 30 tables at once), then it will be virtually impossible to make high quality poker decisions in every single hand and make sure there is always a fish at your table.

As a consequence of this, your winrate definitely will suffer as a result.

However, at the end of the day, this is a tradeoff that most small stakes poker pros are willing to accept. Because playing more hands means more profit and also more rakeback and bonus rewards.

And of course you don't need to play 25 tables at a time either!

Most people can (with practice and the use of software aids), get themselves to comfortably play 4, 8 or 12 tables at a time though.

Another very important point to note is that many online poker sites these days will give you a percentage of the rake you pay back. And usually the more you play, the more of these rewards that you are going to earn.

This is commonly referred to as "rakeback" and earning a lot of it is another huge part of beating small stakes poker games these days. People who play more hands, almost always earn more.

So for all of these reasons, it definitely pays to learn how to multi-table if you want to crush the small stakes poker games online.


14. Bluff More the Weak/Tight Players (Improve Your Red Line)


Now, we already touched on bluffing a bit above but the truth is that you need to get comfortable bluffing more in all situations if you want to beat small stakes poker games.

At the very lowest stakes like NL2 or NL5 you can still get away with just sitting around waiting for the nuts. Check out my complete guide to beating NL2 for more on that.

But by the time you get to NL10, NL25, NL50 and beyond, the competition starts to get a bit better and you have to add a few more tricks to your game.

And what this really means, is that you are going to have to take away a few more pots without showdown.

Or, as we also say in poker geek speak, you need to improve your red line.

One of the best ways to improve your non-showdown winnings (or red line), is to bluff the weak/tight players more often.

These are the players who are afraid of going to showdown without a really strong hand and you will find them everywhere in small stakes games these days.

Here is an example hand that I recently discussed on YouTube of a big bluff at low stakes:


How do you find the weak/tight players you might be asking?

Easy.

Just check your HUD for players with a WTSD% (went to showdown percentage) of 25 or less. Here is another example hand.


Example Small Stakes Hand Versus Weak/Tight Opponent:

You raise preflop with 98 on the button and a weak/tight regular with a WTSD% of 23 calls you in the big blind.


The flop comes: 

AT2

You make a continuation bet and the weak/tight regular calls.


The turn comes:

K

What should you do?

Make another bet!


This is a perfect example of a spot where I am just going to keep laying on the gas pedal versus a scared tight player at the lower stakes.

The board runout here is also perfect because it has lots of big scary looking cards. And it is unlikely that this player nailed this board hard with something like:
  • AA
  • KK
  • TT
  • AK
Why?

Because he would have very likely re-raised us preflop with all of these hands.

So this player is probably just hanging on with some sort of weak top pair or worse and they are literally begging us to blow them out of the hand.

You need to be willing to fire the third shell on the river here sometimes as well.

The bottom line is that bluffing the weak/tight nits like this in small stakes games is going to help you get ahead and increase your winrate dramatically.

You can't just sit around waiting for the nuts anymore if you want to truly crush small stakes poker games.

You are going to have to actively look for situations like this to take some pots away from them with the worst hand.

This is something that I discuss at length by the way in Modern Small Stakes.

There are over 100 example hands of advanced small stakes poker strategy just like this, teaching you how to force the weaker players how to fold.


15. Bring Your "A-Game" Every Single Time


The last tip I have for you to beat small stakes poker games is to bring your "A-game" every single time you play.

This is a term that is used widely by poker mental game coaches and authors within poker to describe playing your absolute best game and being in a peak performance state.

So this means that you are well rested, you are not stressed out from something at your job or in your personal life, you are in good physical and mental health and so on.

Basically, you are feeling confident, clear headed and ready to crush some souls.

This is why many serious poker players these days place a large emphasis on "off the table" training such as optimizing their sleep, using meditation, eating for performance and getting regular exercise.

In other words, all the stuff that we should all be doing normally anyways!

I have been preaching this stuff on this blog for years. I am in the gym every morning at 8am for a reason, long before I even think about playing poker.

I am getting myself mentally and physically prepared to perform better than my opponents.

how to beat small stakes poker games

And this helps me to excel in all aspects of my life, not just poker.

In fact, it has been discussed so many times now that most successful people exercise much more often than the average person.

And many of them do it first thing in the morning like I do in order to build that mental clarity and focus for the day ahead.

This is even more important with poker. Because the game of poker is such a mental grind and an emotional rollercoaster.

You have to be prepared to play your best at all times, or else somebody who is better prepared will beat you.

My diet is also highly optimized towards success in poker as well, for this very reason. I almost never eat "junk food." I eat for performance instead.

And my sleep schedule is also highly optimized for between 7 to 8 hours of solid rest each night. I know that there is a direct correlation between good sleep and tilt control.

Now, none of this is probably going to be earth shattering advice to you. Or at least it shouldn't be. This is all the stuff that we already know to do already.

For example, this is what professional athletes always do. They always show up many hours before the game to prepare themselves mentally and physically for battle.

If you are truly serious about beating small stakes poker games then I would suggest optimizing some of this seemingly unrelated off the table stuff.

Because the clear thinking, confident, well rested person is always going to beat the stressed out, unhappy, sleep deprived player over the long run.

Take care of your mind, body and soul and you will see positive improvements in all areas of your life, not just at the poker table.


How Much Money Can You Make in Small Stakes Poker Games? (Bonus #1)


As a sort of "bonus" to finish up this article let me quickly answer a few very common questions that I get.

First off, how much money can you make playing small stakes poker?

Well, it really depends on what stakes you are specifically talking about, how many hands you play, your skill level (winrate) and so on.

But I would say that for the average person who takes poker seriously and is ready to work hard and play regularly you can make anymore between $500 to $5000 per month.

Look, nobody gets rich playing small stakes poker. That's not the goal.

You should be playing small stakes games to learn, improve and ultimately get to the higher stakes games where you can make a lot more money.

But for somebody with a high amount of drive and work ethic, it is certainly not that hard to make for example $1000 per month in small stakes poker games these days, whether online or live.

That of course is enough for a pretty decent life in many countries around the world or a good side income in most Western countries.


How Long Does it Take to Beat Small Stakes Poker? (Bonus #2)


Another question that I get asked very frequently is how long does it take to beat small stakes poker games.

Once again, this is going to differ tremendously depending on the person. Some people catch onto the game and learn how to beat it much faster than others.

For many others, it takes them time, and perhaps they need to study a good poker training program or get the advice or other top players first.

But I would say that for the average person, you should expect it to take at least 6 months before you are solidly beating small stakes poker games.

The real key with beating small stakes poker is just to keep putting one foot in front of the other every single day. Some days you will be up big and others will be a complete disaster.

Don't get too high or get too low when this happens. In fact, it is best to just ignore your short term results altogether because they are completely meaningless from a statistical point of view.

You need to stay focused on the long run in poker instead and concentrate on improving your game each day and playing every hand to the best of your ability.

Because at the end of the day, this is the only thing that you can really control.


Final Thoughts


Learning how to beat the small stakes poker games in 2020 isn't as hard as you might think. But it also isn't exactly a walk in the park anymore either.

People who are serious about playing these limits semi-pro or even pro need to learn how to play a solid tight and aggressive game with a heavy emphasis on abusing position at the table.

You also need to incorporate some advanced poker strategy by confusing the good players with wide multi-street calldowns, check raising the river with bluffs and floating the flop more often among other stuff.

You also need to start taking table selection very seriously, learn how to get the maximum amount of thin value out of the weaker players and spend time away from the tables learning the latest cutting edge strategy and theory.

Beating the small stakes games these days also requires a firm commitment to mastering the mental game both in terms of tilt control but also in worth ethic and being prepared to play your best at all times.

You are also going to need to learn how to multi-table effectively and create a perfect poker playing environment with minimal distractions for those long sessions.

Lastly, if you are truly serious about playing small stakes poker professionally or semi-professionally, especially online, one of the best things that I ever did was move overseas and lower my expenses dramatically.

This of course is certainly not for everybody, but if you come from an expensive Western country like I do, and you take the game very seriously, then this is an obvious next step for some.

And finally, if you want to know the complete strategy that I have used as a 10+ year small stakes poker pro, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

How to crush small stakes poker games