How to Beat 25NL - The Essential Guide (2021)

How to Beat 25NL

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

Getting to NL25 is one of the biggest milestones on your way to poker greatness, and is arguably one of the hardest limit jumps to make.

What is 25NL?

NL25 or 25NL is the popular 10 cent / 25 cent blinds cash games online where the maximum buyin is typically $25. 25NL games are usually played with either 6 players or 9 players.

There is a substantial relative skill difference between NL25 and the lower limits, and the reason for it is there is a lot more money involved, and people start to take it a bit more seriously. 

The amount of money is bigger, and substantially so, since the buyin and the blinds are 150% bigger, as opposed to only a 100% between NL5 and NL10, for example.

In fact, it’s the first limit where you might encounter full time professional poker players. Due to the lower cost of living in certain parts of the world, successfully grinding NL25 can equate to a national average salary. 

A player with a winrate of 4 big blinds per hundred hands playing 100k hands a month pockets on average a thousand dollars a month, with which you can live quite comfortably in some parts of Southern America or Eastern Europe, for example.

NL25 is also a good springboard to higher stakes games, where you can make a lot more money. For example, $100 a day, as BlackRain79 discusses in his latest video.


But making the transition to NL25 can be quite intimidating for some people. You’ll encounter new opponents who’ll be more skilled, more aggressive and less forgiving. 

So it might take some time to adjust, and you might not be able to stick to the limit on the first try. 

However, with the right strategy and proper preparation, you’ll be able to weather the storms, and be on your way to earning a considerable side income in no time.

And that is exactly what you are going to learn in this article. So without further ado, here are the keys to beating NL25.


1. Tight and Aggressive Style is Still The Way to Go


While transitioning to NL25 can seem like a huge jump, it’s still the microstakes. The money in play is no chump change by any means, but it’s not a fortune either. 

The players will be more skillful on average, but the especially skilled ones wouldn’t stick around for too long and would soon move on to limits where they can actually make a considerable income. 

So the player pool is better than their NL10 counterparts, but they’re no world class experts by any means. And fish are fish at any limit.

The game is the same, there’s only more money in it. If you are a consistent winner at NL10, there’s no reason you can’t win at NL25 as well. 

Since it’s still the micros, tight and aggressive style should still be your go-to strategy. The majority of your profits will still come from either the fish (albeit there’ll be less of them), or from weak regs who fold too much. 

Either way, the fundamental winning strategy stays the same: play in position and hammer in on them every chance you get.

There will be fewer huge whales sloshing about, so you should focus on exploiting other targets as well. You should look for weak regs, i.e. the players who “just play tight”, and that’s about as far as their poker prowess goes. 

Bad regs are the new fish, and there’s still plenty of them around NL25 if you know what to look for.


2. Mix it Up With a Loose and Aggressive Style


When you get to NL25, the player pool is going to shrink, so you’ll be playing against the same players day in and day out, and a lot of them will start paying attention to other players' tendencies and finding ways to exploit them. 

So in order not to become overly predictable, you should start mixing up your game from time to time. Playing ABC poker will only get you so far, and after a while, even the less perceptive opponents will catch on to what you’re doing. 

Here’s a rule to have in mind to figure out if your game has become overly predictable: If you are never caught bluffing, you’re not bluffing enough. 

You need to start taking calculated risks so your winrate doesn’t stagnate. This means expanding your arsenal and looking for more ways to win the pot other than just winning at showdown with the strongest hand. 

For example: You could play your suited connectors much more aggressively than normal as Nathan discusses in this video:


Another good place to start would be slightly expanding your starting hand selection. If you play 20% of the hands, for example, try bumping it up to 25%.

If you’re mainly 3-betting for value, try to incorporate some light 3-bets as well. Look for spots to 3-bet against blind stealing attempts. 

Expand your blind stealing range. You can often get away with open-raising close to 50% of all hands on the button, for example, especially with nitty players on your left. 

You should really get into the habit of all but abusing the button, because not only will you be able to steal the blinds often enough for outright profitability, you’ll also play in position with the range advantage if you get called. 

Then you can simply fire off a standard c-bet on all but the most unfavourable boards, or even continue barreling on future streets to apply maximum pressure on your opponents.

You should also float in position (i.e. call with the intention of taking down the pot with a bet on future streets) wider, especially against opponents with a large gap between their c-betting the flop and turn frequencies. 

When these players check to you on the turn, you can take down the pot with a half-pot bet with virtually any two cards. 

What all this entails is trying to get more value out of marginal spots. It doesn’t mean going crazy with any two cards. 

When jumping limits, a lot of players make the mistake of over-adjusting, thinking they need to radically change their strategy in order to stay ahead. 

That’s not really the case. 

Just because players are more skilled, doesn’t mean the game is fundamentally different. The basic concepts still apply, and you shouldn’t make any unorthodox plays just because you feel you should mix it up for the sake of mixing it up. 

If you see a potentially profitable bluffing spot, you should go for it, even though it might feel uncomfortable to you at first. 

If your opponent is showing strength, however, you shouldn’t feel compelled to push them out of the pot just because you feel you have to mix it up, or you have to show you won’t be pushed around, or anything like that. 

That’s not the winning recipe. Use your judgment. 

The point is gradually expanding your comfort zone and start looking for potential profitable spots you might have missed before, not making ill-advised plays just for the sake of it.


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3. Pay Close Attention to Your Table Selection


By the time you get to NL25, table selection is a must. While you can get away with just sitting down at random tables on lower limits, as the fish to reg ratio is pretty favourable, at NL25 recreational players are quite scarcer. 

Most of your money will still come from fish, but you don’t have the luxury of just waiting for them to come to you. You have to take a more proactive approach and be on the lookout for them, and sit to their direct right. 

You also have to take into account the players on your left as well. Ideally, you’ll want to find a seat to the direct left of the nitty players. 

You will get 3-bet a lot more often on NL25, and if you’re to the left of an aggressive player, it won’t be a fun experience. 

Not only will they 3-bet your stealing attempts, but they’ll often 3-bet when you isolate limpers. 

They will also 3-bet and flat call you often when you open-raise in the cutoff, thus significantly diminishing your positional advantage. 

This can get frustrating quite quickly, so if you find yourself in such a situation, you might want to consider switching tables. 

There’s no point fighting an uphill battle. Even if you win a couple of times, you’ll still lose the war in the long run. 

You have to pick your spots, and if the situation is unfavourable, walk away and live to fight another day.

On the flip side, if there are but a few recreational players around and the pickings are slim, you’ll need to expand the definition of fish. 

The skill difference is always relative. Someone who’s playing well at NL10 might be a fish on NL25.  So you shouldn’t just target the huge whales and calling stations, because there are too far and few in between. 

You should also target weak regs, the ones that play a reasonable amount of hands, but are way otherwise way too passive and timid. Nathan discusses this at length in The Micro Stakes Playbook.

They can be just as profitable to play against as the fish. But instead of value betting them relentlessly, you should bluff them repeatedly instead. 

This is especially effective if you are on their direct right on multiple tables. After you get them riled up and they start calling you down wide, simply switch gears and return to the value betting mode for maximum profits.

This is a strategy I personally picked up from BlackRain79’s bag of tricks, and there’s a whole article discussing it in greater detail.

The bottom line is table selection at NL25 is a must if you want to remain a solid winner. You have to set yourself up in profitable situations before you even begin playing. 

This will require patience and discipline on your part, though. It won’t always be easy to find a profitable table, but it pays to keep looking for it. 


4. Have a Proper Bankroll for 25NL


One thing to be aware of when climbing stakes (and particularly NL25) is lower winrate. I even discussed this specifically last week when I talked about how to increase your Zoom winrate.

So if you’re barely breaking even at NL10 (after rakeback), you should try to improve your winrate at NL10 before climbing up. 

If you’re winning at NL10, you can expect your winrate to decrease as much as 50% at NL25. Lower winrate means more variance, and you should be prepared for it going in. 

This might mean you might not be able to stick at NL25 on your first try due to the bad short-term results. So in order to make your transition less painful, it’s advisable to get a bigger bankroll. 

If you’re an experienced player, you might get away with having a smaller number of buyins at lower stakes, but by the time you reach NL25, I’d strongly recommend having 40 buyins at the very least. 

This means no less than $1000. If you're more risk-averse, you’d do well to bump it up even more.

how to beat 25nl

The more wiggle room you have, the more likely you are to play your A game without having to fret about losing your money and having to grind out the lower stakes again for an ungodly amount of hours. 

It’s better to err on the conservative side. Variance can be brutal, and having a 10 buyin downswing is totally standard when you get to this limit, even if you’re playing perfectly. 

And nobody is playing perfectly, especially when they lose 30 percent of their bankroll.

Having a bigger bankroll to cushion negative short-term results will make you more likely to keep playing your A game and avoid tilt. Speaking of which, it pays to look for edges in your mental game as well.


5. Start Paying Attention to the Mental Game


If you scoffed at the notion of needing to work on your mental game by now, it’s high time to start paying attention to it when you get to NL25. 

Poker is a game of razor-thin margins, and knowing the fundamental winning strategy can only get you so far.

Many of your opponents will be studying some sort of advanced poker strategy at this point and/or using a HUD to get better reads on you.

There is also a ton of good poker software and tools these days that can help you get ahead at 25NL. Nathan has already created a comprehensive list of all the best poker software.  

So, basically everyone with internet access can learn to play well fairly quickly, or at least learn to avoid costly mistakes. But theory and practice are very different. 

It’s one thing to know which hands to play in which position, but sticking with it when cards don’t fall your way is something you can’t learn except through direct experience. 

And most people simply don’t have the mental fortitude to endure it, regardless of their technical prowess. 

All the talent in the world isn’t going to help you if you tilt away your progress as Nathan recently discussed.


It’s important to keep it in mind, as you’re quite likely to encounter a number of tilt-inducing situations at NL25, namely the incessant aggression from the regs on your left, or the suckouts from the scarce fish on your right. 

The losses hurt much more when there’s less opportunities to offset them in the future. When you add the fact that the money lost is in triple digits, it can be quite disheartening. 

So working on your mental game as well as your technical game starts being a must, rather than a should. A great place to start is Jared Tendler’s book: The Mental Game of Poker. 

Jared is a performance coach of the highest caliber, and has worked with some of the greatest players in the industry, including the legendary Dusty Schmidt.

Nathan actually interviewed Jared here on the blog a couple of years ago.

His book takes a deep psychological dive in emotions like tilt, fear, motivation, confidence and everything in between. 

A great thing about the book is you can never really read it completely, and you can always come back to it. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

You can just read it cover to cover, of course, but that’s not how you get the most of it. 

Jared describes it as a “choose your own adventure” book, where you can find sections most relevant to your particular problem, work on it, try to fix it, and move on to the next one. 

After a while, you can come back and see the progress you’ve made (or lack thereof), and use it as a waypoint to further improvement. 

The beautiful part is there’s always something to work on, no matter where you are on your poker journey.

For more on mastering the mental side of the game I would also recommend Alec's Academy, which I reviewed a few weeks ago here on the blog. 


Can Anyone Learn to Beat 25NL These Days?


Getting to NL25 is one of the biggest milestones in your poker journey. 

It’s a limit where you can finally start making a substantial amount of money and have something to show for all your hard work.

This is also the time to start studying some advanced poker strategy by the way. But can anyone learn to beat it?

Well, the greater the reward, the greater the risk, and if not approached carefully, 25NL can be an outright disaster for your bankroll, as well as your confidence. So a right strategic, as well as a psychological approach is needed.

I do think that most people can learn to beat NL25 eventually but it doesn't happen right away for most people. Often they need several cracks at it.

Here are a few tips to help you beat 25NL quicker though.

First of all, despite a substantial skill difference between NL25 and the lower limits, it’s still the same game, and it’s still the microstakes. 

If you’re a consistent solid winner at NL10, there’s no reason not to replicate your success on NL25 as well. Keep doing what works, and don’t make the mistake of over-adjusting. 

The tried and true TAG strategy is still the name of the game. Fish are fish at any limit, and they’ll remain your primary income source at NL25.

With that said, the fact is the player pool will start shrinking considerably at NL25, especially if you don’t play in prime time hours. 

While a simple exploitative TAG strategy will work like a charm against clueless recreational players, it’s not going to cut it against your more observant opponents. 

Against them, you’ll need to mix it up with a LAG strategy from time to time to keep them guessing.

Again, this doesn’t mean over-adjusting and just going crazy with any two cards just for the sake of it. It means looking for potentially profitable marginal spots you might have missed before, or weren’t quite comfortable playing. 

This means expanding your stealing range, light 3-betting range, floating wider, double/triple barrel bluffing and so on. Focus on one thing at a time until it becomes automatic, then move on to the next one.

All the right strategy and perfectly balanced ranges can only get you so far, however. Poker is a game of razor-thin margins, so it pays to look for edges even before sitting down at the table.

The best way to do this is to find your leaks away from the tables by using a program like PokerTracker. This will allow you to quickly see where you you to improve in order to crush 25NL.

Also, if your poker site allows it, get into the habit of table selecting and seat selecting to make your life easier. 

Pick seats to the direct to the left of the fish (aka the Jesus seat), and ideally to the right of a nit/passive opponent. 

If you are sitting at a particularly unfavorable table, stand up and walk away. There’s no point in fighting an uphill battle.


Final Thoughts


Playing NL25 will yield weaker results in your winrate than the lower limits, due to the more skilled competition and less recreational players around.

There are many people who have read Nathan's book Modern Small Stakes by now for example!  

Lower winrate means more variance, so it’s advised to bump up your bankroll to at least 40 buyins. More would be even better, of course.

Lastly, the more you climb up the stakes the lower the skill gap between players, so it pays to look for edges beyond just the technical game knowledge. The best strategy in the world isn’t going to help you much if you tilt away your progress.

A great place to start working on better managing your emotions on and off the felt is The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler. 

There is always something to work on in your mental game, and the positive effects from your improvement will spill into your life in general. 

With a positive feedback loop like that, you’ll be crushing NL25, and any limit beyond in no time.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy to crush 25NL games, makes sure you grab a copy of the free BlackRain79 poker cheat sheet.

How to Beat 25NL