15 Small Stakes Poker Tips Every Beginner Should Know

15 Small Stakes Poker Tips Every Beginner Should Know

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

Improving your poker game can be challenging. With so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to even start.

If you’re a beginner poker player and you’re ready to take your game to the next level, you’ve come to the right place.

This article will cover 15 easy, actionable steps you can take to improve your game right away.

These tips are meant to be easy to implement, so no intricate math or complex theories in this one.

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right into it.

Small Stakes Poker Tip #1: Enter Most Pots With a Raise

If you’re the first player to enter the pot, you should usually do so with an open-raise. This means you should avoid open-limping.


You have A♥️K♦️ in a $1/$2 game.

You should raise to at least $6 (sometimes more).

Open-limping means just calling the big blind instead of making an open-raise, and it’s one of the 5 telltale signs of recreational poker players.

When you open-limp, you can’t win the pot outright preflop, you are failing to build up the pot with your strong hands, and you run the risk of getting raised yourself.

Limping in also invites a lot of multiway pots (i.e. pots with more than two players involved), which makes it harder for you to win the hand.

Small Stakes Poker Tip #2: Limp Behind With Speculative Hands

Unlike open-limping, limping behind can be a viable strategy at times, especially if you’re playing in very passive games.

To limp behind means to limp into the pot after another player (or players) have already limped in.


3 people have limped into the pot and you have 4♥️4♦️ on the button.

The idea of limping behind is to see a cheap flop with speculative hands, i.e. hands that aren’t strong enough in and of themselves, but have the potential of making strong combinations post flop.

Speculative hands include small pocket pairs (66 through 22) or suited connectors (like 98s or 76s).

Make sure to check out my recent video for the 21 beginner poker tips you need to know (free course).

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Small Stakes Poker Tip #3: Set Mine With Small Pocket Pairs

Small pocket pairs usually don’t perform well post flop unless you happen to hit a set, in which case they can be insanely profitable.

This means that the best way to play small pocket pairs is to set mine with them preflop.

To set mine means to call preflop with the intention of hitting a set post flop and potentially taking down a big pot.

However, set mining is only profitable if you’re getting good pot odds and implied odds on a call.

The chance of hitting a set with a pocket pair is only 11.8%, so as a rule of thumb, you should only set mine if you expect to make at least 10 times the initial investment (i.e. 10 times the size of the call).

Set Mining Example Hand #1

Cash Game, Effective Stack Size: 100 BB 

You are dealt 44 on the BU (button). Villain open-raises to 3x from UTG (under the gun).

You: ???

You should call.

This is a good spot to set mine for a few reasons. The effective stack size is quite deep, meaning you’re getting good implied odds to call.

Also, the villain’s open-raising range is likely to be strong, meaning you’re more likely to get paid off if you do manage to hit your set.

Finally, you’re playing the hand in position, which will make post flop play a lot easier, as well.

Check out my other article on how to set mine profitably for a much deeper dive.

Small Stakes Poker Tip #4: Make a C-bet on Most Flops

If you enter the pot with a raise, you will have the opportunity to make a continuation bet (or a c-bet for short) on the flop.

A c-bet is a bet made by the previous street’s aggressor.


You raise preflop with T♥️T♠️ and then bet the flop of 8♦️5♦️4♣️

C-bets are usually profitable, so you should be inclined to make one on most flops unless there’s a very specific reason not to.

This means you can make a c-bet regardless of whether or not you’ve connected with the flop.

If you connect with the flop, you can make a value c-bet, where you expect to get called by a lot of weaker hands.

If you miss the flop, you can make a bluff c-bet (aka a light c-bet) to make your opponent fold.

The reason light c-bets are profitable is the fact that your opponent is just as likely to have missed the flop as you.

And since you are the preflop aggressor, you can credibly represent a lot of strong hands in your range.

This means that your opponent will have a hard time calling you down if they don’t connect with the flop (which will be most of the time).

This is the proven strategy for how to play the flop.

Small Stakes Poker Tip #5: Double Barrel the Turn

After you make a c-bet on the flop and your opponent calls you, you have the option of firing another shell on the turn (hence the term double barrel).


You have K♥️K♦️ and bet the flop of 4♠️4♥️6♣️

Turn comes with the T♦️ and you bet again.

Double barrelling can be insanely profitable if you do it in the right spots.

A lot of players will call the flop c-bet fairly liberally, but will have a hard time calling another bet on the turn if they don’t happen to have a very strong hand.

And since making a strong hand is more of an exception than the rule in no-limit hold’em, your double barrel bluff is likely to generate a lot of folds for you.

The best spots to double barrel are the ones where you pick up a lot of equity with the turn card.

For example, the turn gives you some sort of a draw (like a flush draw or a straight draw).

When this happens, you should be inclined to make a double barrel, because you can either take down the pot right then and there.

Or you can improve to a strong hand on the river and potentially take down an even bigger pot.

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Small Stakes Poker Tip #6: Value Bet Your Strong Hands Relentlessly

In poker, most of the money you’ll earn will come from your strong value hands, so don’t be afraid to bet big when you have a monster hand.

A value hand is a strong hand that can get called by a lot of weaker hands in your opponent’s range.


You have A♥️K♦️ on a flop of A♠️8♦️4♣️

These strong value hands don’t come around often in no-limit hold’em, so you need to make sure you get your money’s worth when you actually get them.

And the best way to do so is to play them fast (i.e. betting and raising a lot).

Don’t be afraid about “scaring your opponents off” with big bets.

In most small stakes games, a lot of players tend to overcall, and generally have trouble finding the fold button.

Also, most players at the small stakes tend to be pretty inelastic when it comes to bet sizing.

This means that the bet size they face doesn’t really affect how often they continue playing the hand.

If they have something they perceive as a strong hand, they will continue playing it regardless of the bet size they face.

Conversely, if they don’t like their hand, they’ll just throw it away no matter how good of a price they’re getting on a call.

So the best way to play against these players is to bet exploitatively, meaning you bet big with your strong hands, and size down your bet size when you’re bluffing.

Speaking of bluffing…

Small Stakes Poker Tip #7: Don’t Bluff Recreational Poker Players

Seriously. Just don’t do it. 

Bluffing is a huge part of any advanced poker strategy, and finding the right spots to bluff can make or break your winrate.

But you should only attempt to bluff against players who are actually capable of folding, which often won’t be the case when playing against recreational poker players.

One of the most common mistakes recreational players make is calling down too much, so it doesn’t really make much sense to try to push them off their hand.

No matter how well thought-out your bluff is, no matter how well you think you’re “repping” a strong hand, stuff like that is just going to go over their head, anyway.

They’re just going to call you all the way down to showdown with their third pair or some other nonsense hand.

So save your bluffs for players who are actually paying attention, and might actually find the fold button.

Against recreational players, keep it simple, wait for a strong hand, and value bet it all the way down to showdown.

Small Stakes Poker Tip #8: Play Most Hands in Position to Get an Edge

In poker, playing in position is just about the biggest advantage you can have over your opponents.

To play in position means being the last to act in a betting round.

Here are a few key benefits of playing in position:

a) you have an informational advantage: you get to see what your opponents did, while they have no idea what you’re about to do.

b) you can control the pot size: if you’re the last to act, you get a final say at the pot size. If you have a strong hand, you can bet or raise to inflate the pot size, and if you have a marginal or a drawing hand, you can call or check behind to keep the pot size more manageable.

c) you can bluff more effectively: your opponents will have a harder time calling your bets when they are playing out of position. This means you can apply more pressure and try to push them out of pots with a well-timed bluff.

So how do you play more hands in position?

You simply open-raise more hands in late table positions (the cutoff and the button), and play less hands in early table positions and in the blinds.

When you’re playing on the button in particular, you will ALWAYS have positional advantage post flop.

15 Small Stakes Poker Tips Every Beginner Should Know

This means the button will be your most profitable seat by far.

If you’re using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4, you can check these stats yourself.

Chances are, you'd be surprised by how much more money you win on the button compared to other table positions.

Small Stakes Poker Tip #9: Steal the Blinds More Often

Since you will always play the hand in position when seated on the button, you can often get away with playing a lot more hands on the button compared to other table positions.

If everybody folds to you when you’re playing in late table positions (the cutoff, the button, or the small blind), you have the opportunity to try and steal the blinds.

To blind steal means to open-raise in late table positions with the intention of getting your opponents to fold and taking down the pot preflop.

Most of the time, your opponents won’t have anything worthy of playing preflop, so you can often get them to fold and take down an easy pot.

Now, winning a blind and a half might not seem like it’s worth the hassle, but it’s not the size of the prize, but the sheer frequency that makes blind stealing so profitable.

If you’re playing 6-max cash games, for example, you can potentially have up to 3 blind stealing opportunities per orbit.

Poker is a game with razor-thin margins, so winning a few extra big blinds can do wonders for your winrate.

Also, blind stealing is incredibly simple to add to your game, and you’d be surprised by how many blind stealing opportunities there are if you keep looking for them.

Here are a few example hands you can blind steal with: 




You get the point. While these hands could get you in serious trouble if you flat call with them or play them from earlier table positions, they’re perfectly fine to blind steal with.

That’s because your hand strength (or lack thereof) is irrelevant when you’re blind stealing.

What matters more is the playing tendencies of your opponents.

For example, if somebody folds 8 out of 10 times to stealing attempts, you can practically blind steal with just about any random 2 cards.

Check out my blind stealing cheat sheet to learn all my secrets as a pro!

Small Stakes Poker Tip #10: 3-bet Resteal More Often Against Blind Stealing

Blind stealing can be quite profitable, but what if another player tries to steal your blinds all the time?

It’s important to recognize that you’re going to lose money over the long run when playing in the blinds, no matter how well you’re playing.

This is just how the game is set up: the money always flows from players playing out of position to players in position.

So when playing in the blinds, your goal is not to win money, but try to lose as little as possible, then make up for the difference when you’re playing in position.

However, this doesn’t mean you should just fold everytime you’re playing in the blinds. If you do that, you leave yourself vulnerable to getting exploited.

To prevent other players from stealing your blinds with impunity, it’s a good idea to throw out an occasional light 3-bet (or a bluff 3-bet).

A 3-bet is a re-raise against another player’s open raise.


Somebody raises to $6 and you re-raise to $20 with A♥️A♦️

When players are blind stealing, they’re usually doing it with quite a wide range. And most hands in that range can’t stand the pressure of a 3-bet.

This means you can generate a lot of folds when you 3-bet against stealing attempts.

However, you don’t want to go overboard and start 3-betting with just about any random hand.

Ideally, you want to do it with hands that have some sort of playability post flop in case your bluff gets called.

Small Stakes Example Hand #2

You are dealt A3 in the BB (big blind). A tight and aggressive (TAG) player open-raises to 2.5 BB from the BU (button).

You: ??? 

You should 3-bet to 10 BB.

Calling is not terrible in this spot, but a 3-bet is likely to be a better alternative.

Here, you can expect the villain to be blind stealing with quite a wide range, meaning you can often make them fold with a well-sized 3-bet.

You also have a great light 3-betting hands that blocks a lot of strong combos in your opponents range.

If you hold an Ace in your hand, it’s less likely for your opponent to have strong combos like pocket Aces, Ace-King, Ace-Queen and so on. This makes them more likely to fold to your 3-bet.

Even if you get called, your hand still has great post flop playability, with the potential to make the nuts flush, as well as a straight.

In today’s games, it takes more than waiting around for the nuts to be a long term winner.

You also need to know how to play in more marginal spots, like playing out of position against strong opponents who won’t just roll over.

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Small Stakes Poker Tip #11: Always Buy in For a Full Table Amount

This one only applies to cash game players. 

When you buy in at a cash game table, you should always choose the maximum table amount, which is 100 big blinds at most tables.


You're playing in a $1/$2 cash game.

You should buyin for $200.

In poker, your chips are your ammunition, so a good poker player will always want to have as many chips in front of them as possible.

Having more chips means having more options to outplay your opponents, and it also allows you to maximize your potential winnings.

Some beginner poker players buy in for less than a maximum amount because they don’t want to risk losing their whole stack, but there are multiple problems with this approach.

First of all, losing some money from time to time is inevitable when playing poker. So if you’re not comfortable with losing your whole stack (or a couple of them, for that matter), it’s a good sign you’re playing in games beyond your skill limit or beyond your bankroll.

Another problem is that you’re telegraphing to the whole table that you’re not really confident in your playing abilities, which automatically puts a target on your back.

Small Stakes Poker Tip #12: Don’t Look at Your Cards Until it's Your Turn to Act

One of the advantages of live poker is the fact that you can see your opponents, meaning physical tells become a big part of the game.

Knowing how to spot tells is important, but it’s equally important not to give off any tells of your own.

One of the examples of players unconsciously giving off tells is when the hole cards are being dealt.

Recreational poker players will usually immediately check their hole cards as soon as they’re dealt, which is a big mistake.

15 Small Stakes Poker Tips Every Beginner Should Know

Instead, you should observe the other players’ reaction to their hole cards, and only check your own hole cards when it’s your turn to act.

This accomplishes a few things.

First of all, you’re getting valuable information about your opponent’s potential hand strength based on their reaction.

If a player quickly glances at their chips, for example, it may be a good indication that they like their hand and are thinking about betting.

Secondly, you’re denying your opponent’s information about your own hand strength.  Even though you might think you have an unreadable poker face, it’s still better to deny your opponents any potential information.

The problem with tells is the fact that you’re not even aware that you’re giving them off, so it’s better to find ways to limit the amount of information you convey to your opponents.

Small Stakes Poker Tip #13: Call Down Wider Versus Maniacs

One of the most frustrating situations in poker is dealing with overly aggressive poker players who seem to hit their miracle river card every time you get involved in a pot with them.

You know the type. The crazy gamblers that can go all in preflop with any two cards, or start betting crazy amounts out of nowhere.

And somehow, it seems to keep working for them, and you often find them sitting on top of a huge stack.

But even though their crazy antics may “work” from time to time, it’s important to recognize that these types of players are statistically the biggest losers over the long run.

They may go on a “heater” here and there, but their triumphs are very short-lived.

That’s because any decent poker player will know how to deal with such mindless aggression.

The trick to beating these crazy players is actually very simple: call them down wider and catch their bluffs (preferably in position).

You don’t have to wait for the absolute nuts to beat them.

A lot of players make the mistake of waiting too long and trying to “trap” these players, but by the time they get a strong hand, another player has already stacked them.

So the trick is to simply call them down with a wider range and let them donate their stack to you.


You have T♦️9♦️ and they are bluffing on a board of K♣️T♥️7♦️4♥️3♠️

This takes a bit of patience and courage, because you may be forced to back your intution and make insanely wide “hero calls” you may not be comfortable with.

Also, this tactic may not pay off 100% of the time, because even maniacs can get dealt pocket Aces.

And this is what makes playing against maniacs so difficult. When they have a strong hand, nobody gives them any credit and they get paid off.

But it’s important to recognize that most of the time, they won’t really have anything.

So next time you’re up against a maniac, take a deep breath and call them down with your third pair or Ace-high.

Small Stakes Poker Tip #14: Check-Raise The Flop

You won’t always have the luxury of playing a hand in position. 

When you’re playing out of position, you can offset your positional disadvantage by adopting a check-raise into your arsenal.

A check-raise is usually a better alternative to donk betting, especially against opponents who are likely to c-bet the flop with a high frequency.

To donk bet means to bet into the previous street's aggressor.

Since it’s easier to miss the flop than to connect with it, your opponents will often be c-betting even without a particularly strong hand.

This means they will be likely to fold to your check-raise, especially when the board favours your range.

A lot of players at the lower stakes will have a hard time when faced with a check-raise, and will often just give up if they have a weak or mediocre hand (which is most of the time).

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should check-raise at every opportunity.

The best spots to check-raise as a bluff will be spots where you have some equity to fall back on in case your bluff gets called.

For example, if you have a strong drawing hand like a flush draw or an open-ended straight draw, consider check-raising.

Remember, you don’t need to rely on hitting your outs if you can make your opponent fold right away.

Small Stakes Example Hand #3

You are dealt A7 in the BB. Villain open-raises to 3 BB from the CO. You call.

Pot: 7 BB

Flop: Q5♣2

You: ???

You should check-raise.

This is a textbook spot where it pays to play your strong draws aggressively.

Preflop you have a standard call in the big blind. You can mix in a 3-bet from time to time as well, but there’s nothing wrong with flat calling, either.

On the flop, you are drawing to the nuts flush, meaning you don’t have to worry about the reverse implied odds.

As a general rule, the stronger your draw, the more aggressively you can play it.

By check-raising here, you can either win the pot outright with Ace-high, or you can potentially win an even bigger pot if you manage to hit one of your outs on future streets.

This is the proven strategy for how to play flush draws.

Small Stakes Poker Tip #15: Don’t Cold Call 3-bets

As a general rule, calling should be the last action to consider preflop. Getting to the flop as the preflop aggressor will be much more profitable than being the preflop caller.

This applies to calling open-raises, but especially calling 3-bets.

Calling a 3-bet preflop is going to cost you money over the long run, especially when you’re cold calling.

To cold call a 3-bet means to call when you are not already involved in the pot.

There are a few reasons why (cold) calling 3-bets is a bad idea:

a) you run the risk of your hand being dominated 

At the lower stakes, players will usually have strong 3-betting ranges, so if you call a 3-bet with a mediocre hand, your hand is often going to be behind.

For example, if you call a 3-bet with a hand like QJs, your hand can be dominated by a number of stronger hands like premium pocket pairs, AQ, AJ, KQ, KJ and so on.

b) calling 3-bets is expensive

By calling a 3-bet, you are committing a significant chunk of your stack into the pot preflop. 

And since you are going to miss the flop more often than not, it’s going to be very hard for you to make up for all the misses.

Even if you manage to hit a monster hand on the flop, your opponent is not guaranteed to pay you off.

c) calling a 3-bet can put you in an awkward spot post flop

If you call a 3-bet and miss the flop, you’re going to have to fold to your opponent’s c-bet most of the time.

And if you hit a decent, but not great hand, this can cost you even more, because your hand can be easily dominated.

For example, if you call a 3-bet with AJ, and the flop is AT8, you may be compelled to continue, but your hand can be easily dominated by AK or AQ.

This is why knowing when to call preflop is so important.

15 Small Stakes Poker Tips Every Beginner Should Know - Summary

You don’t need to learn a bunch of advanced poker strategy to beat most small stakes games.

With proper game selection and a bit of patience, you can start winning at lower stakes relatively quickly.

All you need to do is master the basics of tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy.

This includes:

a) only playing strong starting hands

b) playing most hands in position

c) playing your hands aggressively both preflop and post flop.

If you really want to crush small stakes games, though, you’ll need to mix up your game from time to time and adopt a loose and aggressive (LAG) strategy.

This entails opening up your starting hand selection a bit and bluffing more often, especially against weak and timid opponents.

Improving your poker game can take a while, so don’t feel the need to rush it and add new lines into your game just for the sake of it.

By taking small, but consistent steps in improving your game every day, you’ll be climbing up the stakes in no time.


This article was written by Fran Ferlan

Poker player, writer and coach
Specializing in live and online cash games

For coaching enquiries, contact Fran at email@franferlan.com
Or apply directly for poker coaching with Fran, right here

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

15 Small Stakes Poker Tips Every Beginner Should Know