12 Quick Tips to Beat $1/$2 Poker Games in 2024

12 Quick Tips to Beat $1/$2 Poker Games

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

These days, live cash games are arguably the most profitable poker format out there.

The player pools at low stakes cash games are usually quite soft, meaning you can start winning relatively quickly with the right strategy.

In this article, we’ll go over 12 simple tips you can use to crush your local $1/$2 live cash games in no time.

By the way, if you play higher stakes, I have already written the complete guides on how to beat $2/$5 and how to beat $5/$10 live cash games.

Alright, let’s get right into it!

$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #1: Avoid Open-Limping

Open-limping is one of the telltale signs of recreational poker players.

When you open-limp, you’re basically announcing to the whole table: “I’m a huge fish, please take all my money!”

To open-limp means to just pay the big blind preflop when you’re the first player to enter the pot instead of open-raising.

If you’re the first player to enter the pot, you should always do so with an open-raise.

The standard open-raise is 3 big blinds. So if you’re playing $1/$2 cash games, you should open-raise to $6.

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You can adjust your bet sizing depending on the situation. Sometimes you can open-raise smaller, other times it’s better to increase the bet size to take advantage of specific table dynamics.

See my other article on optimal preflop bet sizing for the correct amounts to make your raises.

Here’s why you should open-raise instead of open-limping: 

a) to build up the pot

If you want to win big in poker, you need to win big pots. And the best way to do it is to build up the pot quickly with your strong value hands.

The bigger the pot you build preflop, the easier it is for you to ship the rest of your stack in the middle post flop.

For example, let's say you are dealt QQ preflop. You should always open-raise because your hand can often get called by a lot of weaker hands.

b) to get initiative

If you open-raise preflop, you have the opportunity to continue the aggression post flop with a continuation bet (or c-bet for short).

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 do so.

c) to avoid multiway pots

If you open-limp, you’re inviting other players to limp in behind you, which can often lead to big, multiway pots.

The more players involved in the pot, the harder it is for you to win the hand, because every player will have some equity against you, even if you have a very strong hand.

d) to steal the blinds

When you open-raise, you can sometimes win the pot preflop if everybody else folds.

If you open-limp, on the other hand, you’re giving the players in the blinds no incentive to fold, so you can win the pot outright preflop.

$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #2: Limp Behind With Speculative Hands

Unlike open-limping, limping behind can be a viable strategy at times, especially in very passive games.

To limp behind means to limp in when another player has already limped in.

Limping behind can be a good idea if you have some sort of a speculative hand that wants to see a cheap flop.

Speculative hands are the ones that aren’t strong enough in and of themselves, but can potentially make very strong combinations post flop.

This includes hands like suited connectors or small pocket pairs, for example.

Examples of speculative hands: 




$1/$2 Cash Game Example Hand #1

You are dealt 44 in the CO (cutoff). A loose and passive player open limps UTG+2 (under the gun). Another player limps behind in MP (middle position).

You: ???

You should call (limp behind).

In this spot, limping behind can be a good idea.

Small pocket pairs are very hit-or-miss hands, meaning they will either miss the flop completely, or completely smash it if you’re lucky enough to hit a set.

So a good way to play these small pocket pairs is to try to see a cheap flop, and simply give up if you don’t hit a set.

If you do manage to hit a set, however, you stand to win quite a substantial pot. 

By the way, I have already written a whole article on the correct set mining strategy you should be using.

$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #3: Call Preflop When You Get Good Pot Odds

As a general rule, calling should be the last option to consider preflop.

You should get to most flops as the preflop aggressor, meaning you should open-raise or 3-bet (re-raise) most of the hands you choose to play.

Being the preflop aggressor is statistically more profitable than being the preflop caller, because it gives you a better chance to win the pot post flop.

If you do decide to call preflop, you should only do so if you’re getting good pot odds on a call.

Simply put, pot odds are the ratio between the pot size and the price of a call.

For example, if the pot is $8, and you need to call $2, you’re getting 4:1 odds on a call.

The better the pot odds you’re getting, the more often you can continue playing the hand and vice versa.

The better the pot odds, the less hand equity you need to continue playing the hand profitably.

Your hand equity refers to the percentage chance of you winning the hand if all the players took their hand to showdown.

So your hand equity doesn’t really tell you how often you can expect to win the hand.

That’s because you won’t always be able to fully realize your equity, because you’ll often be forced to fold your hand before going to showdown.

See my ultimate poker odds cheat sheet for much more on all this.

$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #4: Make Bigger Isolation Raises Against Weak Players

We’ve already discussed why limping in is usually a bad idea.

However, if you’re playing in low stakes poker games, you are likely to see a lot of players limping in preflop.

These are more than likely to be recreational players, so you should try to get involved in a pot with them as often as possible.

And the best way to do so is to make big isolation-raises (or iso-raises for short).

As the name suggests, the goal of an iso-raise is to isolate the open-limper, and hopefully play in a heads-up pot against them post flop.

A heads-up pot is a pot with only two players involved.

The standard iso-raise size is 3 big blinds, plus an additional big blind per limper.

So $8 for one limper, $10 for two limpers and so on.

$1/$2 Cash Game Example Hand #2

You are dealt A♥️J♥️ in the MP (middle position). A loose and passive player limps in UTG (under the gun).

You: ??? 

You should iso-raise to $8.

By making big iso-raises,  you’ll often get to play a heads-up pot against a weaker player, and take advantage of all the post flop mistakes they’re likely to make.

Now, a lot of players object that they still get a lot of calls when they make iso-raises like this, which leads to huge multiway pots.

If that seems to be the case in your games, the solution is simple: just bet bigger!

If the $10 raises are getting too many callers, bump it up to 12, 14, or even 16 dollars.

This way, you’ll get less callers, and you’ll also build up the pot nicely with your strong value hands, which will translate to much easier post flop play, as well.

This is something that I actually discussed in my latest video.

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$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #5: Make a C-bet on Most Flops

If you are the preflop aggressor, you have the opportunity to make a continuation bet (or a c-bet for short) on the flop.

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

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 still make a bluff c-bet (or a light c-bet) with the intention of getting your opponent to fold.

The reason you should throw out an occasional light c-bet is because you always want to keep your opponents guessing.

12 Quick Tips to Beat $1/$2 Poker Games

If you only c-bet with your strong made hands, your opponents will quickly pick up on it, and they’ll simply stop giving you action every time you make a c-bet.

By mixing in a few light c-bets, on the other hand, it will be harder for them to guess your hand strength.

Another reason light c-bets are usually 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 your opponents will be forced to fold to your c-bet if they don’t have a decent hand (which is most of the time).

$1/$2 Cash Game Example Hand #3

You are dealt AK in the MP (middle position). You open-raise to $6. BB (big blind) calls. 

Pot: $13

Flop: J52

Villain checks. 

You: ???

You should c-bet $7.

This is a good spot to make a c-bet, regardless of the fact that you didn’t connect with the flop.

The board texture is very dry, so it’s very unlikely your opponent connected with the flop in some meaningful way.

There really aren’t any two pair combinations that make sense here, since villain probably didn’t call you preflop with hands like J5, J2 or 52.

Even if villain calls you with some Jx hand, you still have two overcards, so you can improve to a top pair, top kicker hand on future streets.

You also have a backdoor straight draw, which boosts your equity even further.

So you can either take down the pot right away with an Ace-high, you could improve to a best hand on future streets, or you can keep barreling and push your opponent out of the hand.

Check out my other article on the flop strategy for more info on the topic of c-betting.

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$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #6: Play More Hands in Position to Get an Edge

Playing in position means being the last player to act in a betting round, and it gives you a huge edge over your opponents.

Here’s why you should play most hands in position:

a) to get more information

If you’re the last to act, you get to see what your opponents do first, while they have no idea what you’re about to do.

This informational advantage will allow you to make better decisions and exploit weaknesses in your opponent’s game.

b) to control the pot size

When you’re the last to act, you get a final say at the price of the pot.

If you have a strong value hand, you can bet or raise to inflate the pot size. If you have a mediocre or a drawing hand, you can just call or check back to keep the pot size smaller.

c) to bluff more effectively

When your opponents are playing out of position, they will be less likely to fight for pots.

This means you can often push them out of pots with a well-timed bluff.

Important note: you should avoid bluffing the calling stations, because they will be unlikely to fold to your bluffing attempts.

Against them, it’s better to keep it simple and just value bet your strong hands instead.

So how do you play more hands in position?

You simply open-raise more hands in late table position (namely the cutoff and the button).

When you’re playing on the button in particular, you can often get away with playing quite a wide range, because you will ALWAYS play in position post flop.

Conversely, when you’re playing in early table positions, you should be way more selective with the hands you play.

$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #7: Thin Value Bet Wider Against Calling Stations

In poker, most of the money you’ll win will come from your strong value hands where your opponent has a weaker hand that’s willing to give you action.

However, strong value hands don’t come around very often, so you can’t rely on them alone to be a profitable long term winner.

This means you need to find ways to win pots even without a particularly strong hand.

You can do this by learning how to bluff effectively, or by extracting more value with your medium strength hands.

Knowing how to bluff effectively is a crucial part of any advanced poker strategy advanced poker strategy, but bluffing too much at lower stakes is not likely to be very effective.

That’s because a lot of players at lower stakes tend to overcall, meaning they generally have trouble folding.

Against these players, a better strategy is to thin value bet more often.

You’re thin value betting when your hand is a favourite to win, but not by a huge margin.
In other words, your hand has slightly above 50% equity against your opponent’s calling range.

This is different from “thick” value betting, where your hand is comfortably ahead of your opponent’s calling range.

The reason why thin value betting is so effective at lower stakes is the fact that a lot of players at lower stakes will call down too widely.

This means you don’t have to wait around for the absolute nuts to take their money.

Let’s use an example to illustrate the point.

$1/$2 Cash Game Example Hand #4

You are dealt KJ and the board is J923A  

You c-bet the flop, you c-bet the turn, and now you’re considering firing a third shell on the river.

A lot of players might get apprehensive about betting against because an Ace came on the river.

But you should still go ahead and fire that third shell.

There are actually multiple examples of this in my live play video course where I show you how I get more of their chips with this simple play.

Your opponent might occasionally show up with an Ace, but there’s a number of weaker hands that would still pay you off if you bet.

Your opponent can still call you down with Jx hands, 9x hands, pocket Tens, pocket Eights, you name it.

Bottom line: when playing against recreational players, their calling ranges are going to be wider than you might expect, so make sure you always get max value out of your strong hands.

$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #8: Always Buy in For a Full Amount

When playing cash games, you have the option of choosing your buyin amount.

You should always buy in for the maximum amount allowed, which is a 100 big blinds on most tables.

There are a few reasons why you should avoid buying in for less than the table maximum.

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First of all, if you buy in for less than 100 big blinds, you’re announcing to the whole table that you’re not quite confident in your playing abilities. 

This can put a target on your back as soon as you sit down to play.

Good poker players always want to have as many chips in front of them as possible.

The more chips you have, the more you can potentially earn, because you can only win as much as you put into the pot.

Having more chips also means you can bluff more effectively, because you can apply more pressure on your opponents by making big bets.

Now, some players might avoid buying in for a full amount because they’re not quite comfortable losing their whole buyin.

But this equates to planning for failure, and it’s not the most profitable way to play poker.

When playing poker, losing money from time to time is inevitable.

So if you’re not comfortable with losing your whole buyin (or a couple of them, for that matter), it’s a good sign you’re playing in games beyond your bankroll or skill level.

If live cash games are too cost prohibitive for you, you can try playing poker online, where you can buy in for smaller amounts.

I have some of the highest winnings of all-time in these games and I wrote an entire book showing how I did it.

$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #9: Float the Flop More Often

We’ve already discussed the importance of making a c-bet on most flops.

But how do you react against players who make a lot of c-bets themselves?

The answer is simple: you simply float them more often (preferably in position).

To float the flop means to call a flop bet with the intention of taking down the pot on future streets (usually with a bluff).

The reason why floating is so effective is the fact that a lot of players will make a standard c-bet on the flop, but won’t follow through with another bet on the turn unless they happen to have a very strong hand.

Against these players, you can try to float the flop when playing in position, then you simply bet every time they check to you on the turn.

The beauty of this strategy is that it’s very easy to implement, and the best part is that your hand strength (or lack thereof) is often irrelevant.

If your opponent is very likely to give up on the turn, you can float them with basically any two cards.

Take this with a grain of salt, of course. You are still better off floating with hands that have decent equity, rather than complete air.

But the point is that you can usually float with a very wide range, especially if you have a skill edge over your opponent.

$1/$2 Cash Game Example Hand #5

You are dealt 87 in the BB (big blind). Villain open-raises to $6 from the CO (cutoff). You call.

Pot: $13 

Flop: K92

You check. Villain bets $5.

You: ??? 

You should call.

Floating is likely to be more profitable in position, but in this spot, you can still continue playing the hand.

You have a backdoor straight and flush draws, and a lot of turn cards can improve your equity.

Any heart will give you a flush draw, any Ten or a Six will give you a straight draw and so on.

If the turn goes check-check, it means the villain has probably given up the hand, which means you can take a stab at the river and try to take down the pot.

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

You also need to learn how to play in less than optimal spots, like playing out of position without the initiative.

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$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #10: Call Down Wider Against Maniacs

In most low stakes poker games, players will tend to play too passively, meaning they will check and call a lot instead of betting and raising.

So the most effective way to play against them is to use a simple tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy.

However, sometimes you’ll encounter very aggressive players who will bet and raise you at any opportunity.

These players are also known as maniacs, and they can be quite frustrating to play against.

This is especially the case if they happen to catch a particularly lucky run of cards against you.

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However, frustrating as they may be, you can still beat these players relatively easily by making a few adjustments to your game.

One of the ways to do that is to simply call them down wider (preferably when playing in position), and simply let them donate their stack to you.

A lot of players make the mistake of tightening up too much against maniacs, and they resort to waiting around for a monster hand to “trap” them.

This is not the most effective strategy against maniacs, because monster hands really don’t come around often enough in no-limit hold’em.

So by the time you actually do get a strong hand, the maniac might have already spewed their stack to another player.

So a better strategy is to simply call them down and try to catch their bluffs.

To bluff catch successfully, look for hands with a lot of showdown value.

Hands with showdown value are the ones that aren’t strong enough to value bet with, but can often win at showdown unimproved.

For example, hands like top pair with a weak kicker, second pair, third pair and so on.

Of course, if you do wake up with a monster hand against a maniac, all the better. Simply sit back and watch them donate their stack to you.

I actually discuss this in much more detail in my latest book, The Micro Stakes Playbook.

$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #11: Don’t Look at Your Cards Until It's Your Turn to Act

Poker is a game of incomplete information, and the player with the informational advantage will come out on top more often than not.

This means you should try to give off as little information to your opponents as possible.

This is especially important in live settings, where physical tells become a big part of the game.

This is why you should make a habit of not looking at your hole cards until it’s actually your turn to act.

There are two benefits from doing this.

First of all, instead of looking at your hole cards, you should look at other player’s reactions to THEIR hole cards.

Their reaction can tell you a lot about their potential hand strength.

For example, if they quickly glance down at their chips, it may be a good indication they like their cards and they’re thinking about betting.

Conversely, if they make a dismissive gesture as if they are about to muck their cards, it may signal weakness.

If you look close enough, you may even spot a microexpression that can indicate their feelings towards their cards (like disgust, excitement, and so on).

Another reason not to look at your hole cards is that you don’t want to give off any tells yourself.

You may think you have an unreadable poker face, but the problem with physical tells is that they’re unconscious, so you’re not aware of them by definition.

Also, microexpressions are very hard to control, since our facial muscles movements aren’t completely voluntary.

If you’re not sure which player you should observe when the cards are being dealt, you should usually focus on weaker players, since they’re more likely to give off tells.

If you’re not sure who’s a weaker player, or all the players have a similar skill level, look to the player at your left.

Since the player on your left is going to act after you, having insight into their potential intentions is going to be the most useful.

Physical tells are an important part of live poker, but they can't really tell you the whole story.

See out my other article on basic hand reading for much deeper dive on this.

$1/$2 Poker Cash Game Tip #12: Be Patient

One final tip to beat $1/$2 cash games is to arm yourself with patience.

Beating low stakes cash games is not overly complicated in theory, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to do in practice.

Even if you follow all the other tips to a tee, it doesn’t mean you can just sit down and print money every time you play.

One of the limiting factors of playing live cash games is that action is often moving at a snail’s pace.

There’s likely to be a lot of limping in, passive play, and needless hollywooding that’s going to slow down the action to a crawl.

This means you won’t be able to play a huge volume in live cash games.

You can expect to play only about 30 hands an hour in live cash games.

This number may vary depending on the number of players and other factors, but it’s still going to be a lot slower than online poker, for example.

This means you’ll need to endure a bit of boredom here and there, especially if the cards aren’t falling your way.

If the deck goes cold on you, avoid the temptation of getting involved with marginal hands just for the sake of playing.

Trying to force the action is likely to backfire more often than not.

Instead, try to use the downtime to observe your opponents and find weaknesses in the game.

This will keep you engaged in the game, and it will prevent you from playing hands you very well know you shouldn’t be playing.

I actually discussed this in my most recent video about the "boring" but highly effective strategies to beat $1/$2 games.

12 Quick Tips to Beat $1/$2 Poker Games - Summary

You don’t need to spend all day studying advanced poker strategy to beat most $1/$2 cash games.

You can start winning at these stakes relatively quickly by following a tried and true TAG (tight and aggressive) strategy, which includes:

a) only playing strong starting hands

b) playing most hands in position

c) value betting your strong hands relentlessly.

Winning consistently in low stakes cash games mostly comes down to discipline. This means enduring a bit of boredom here and there, not chasing the action, and waiting for the right spot to get involved in a hand.

This is not the most exciting advice you’re going to hear, but that’s because it works.

By following these tips and and working off the felt to improve your game, you’re guaranteed to climb 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 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.free poker cheat sheet.

How to Beat $1/$2 Live Cash Games