Analyzing Set Mining Hands
Set mining hands are just as they sound, only good for sets. Set mining hands are those small pairs where you know you are probably only going to win if you make three of a kind. Yes, it is true that even the smallest of pocket pairs do have a bit of inherent showdown value, but you will seldom stack someone with a pair of fives.
Winning a raised pre-flop pot with a pair that doesn’t evolve into a set is hardly the easiest thing to do. Aside from needing to dodge actual landmines that would improve your opponent’s hand, you will also need to risk a lot of money on the hope that the other player is weak. Making big investments with small pocket pairs is not exactly step one to winning at poker. Small pocket pairs do not need to be played to the death, though. A smart player will be able to set mine with their pocket pairs. This will allow you to extract maximum value when you hit something big, and to also lose the least when you wind up bricking the flop altogether.
Small Pocket Pairs
There are some hands that are perfect for set mining, and other hands that are better played for showdown value in conjunction with set value. For example, TT and JJ can be uncomfortable hands to play, but they are definitely not set mining hands. TT and JJ will beat their opponent a large portion of the time. The only hands they are crushed by are QQ, KK, and AA, hardly the entire deck. As a result, playing these two hands for pure set mining value is a huge mistake. There are going to be spots where you are pretty sure that a set is the only way that your TT or JJ will win, though, so exceptions to this rule do exist. Don’t play your pocket tens and pocket jacks to the death pre-flop or post-flop, but don’t forget that they are still strong hands without the assistance of a third card on the flop.
Small pocket pairs are where the true set mining action is at. Needless to say, the bigger the pocket pair, the stronger your hand’s value. It is certainly not outside of the realm of possibilities for you to flop a set while your opponent also flops a better set. In these situations, you will be glad that you gave a little more value to pocket sevens than pocket threes. In other words, calling off raises pre-flop is much easier to do if your hand can beat a fair number of other starting pocket pairs. Remember, the more showdown value, the better.
Since TT and JJ are the cut off for hands that should be played for their set mining value, it is safe to say that anything less than TT will have frequent spots where they are used to fish for sets. A serious trouble spot for many players is a hand like 88 or 99 that misses a set, but remains as an overpair after the flop. The goal of set mining is to hit a set, but it can be hard to let go of 88 when the flop comes 2 3 5. In many situations, though, you will just have to fold your hand. You may have an overpair, but this won’t change the fact that you are still absolutely crushed by TT+. When you play a small pocket pair to set mine, play it to set mine. Changing your plan mid-way through a hand can often times lead to disaster. Yes, the ability to adapt is a positive attribute for any poker player to have, but sometimes you are better off sticking to the original game plan.
As with any hand in poker, your set mining hands are going to have a lot more value in late position than in early or middle position. Your true position in the hand is not going to be evident until after some action takes place. If you make a raise in middle position, force some folds, have the small blind call, and then get re raised by the big blind, suddenly you are sitting in prime position. Since the only people left to contend with will be forced to act before you on each street, you can effectively play your small pocket pair in hopes of landing a set. Even when you hit a set out of position, it is not easy to play. When you are in position, however, things are a lot more streamlined. No, the money isn’t going to instantly fall into your lap, but it will be much easier to extract maximum value.
Implied odds are perhaps the single most important factor in all of set mining. If you do not have improper pre-flop implied odds with your hand, set mining is definitely not going to be profitable. This is not just theory, either, it is an absolute fact. Pretend that you are in a .50/1 NLHE game. If you are playing with a $150 stack and your opponent has a $22 stack, you are not going to be able to set mine against a three bet. In this example, a three bet would likely cost you $6 or more. Say that you need to call off $6 with your pair of fours against a $22 stack who you are sure is strong. You will hit your set 1:9 or so times, but you will not even get paid off 100% of the time in those hands. With that said, just imagine you did actually get paid off 100% of the time that you hit a set; you still wouldn’t be profitable! You are paying $6 for the chance to win $22. If you only win 1 out of 9 times, this is hardly going to be a money making operation.
Set mining works best with implied odds when the stacks are deep. A deep stack will leave room for maneuverability and increases the chances of winning a bit pot. While deep stacks allow for big action, they can also be a tool in deception. A flopped set is not the type of hand that virtually any player will be able to identify. Because of this, a player holding KK will be hard pressed to fold on a flop of 659, regardless of what their opponent does. This is why set mining with deep stacks is an incredibly profitable play. You might need to call off a fairly sizable re-raise with a middle pocket pair, but if you know the re-raiser is super strong, why not shoot for a super strong, disguised hand? When players re-raise pre-flop, they will often get attached to their hands. Capitalize on other players’ inability to fold over pairs by set mining when the price is right.
Can You Get Into Trouble Over Online Poker?
Online poker’s history in the United States has been full of ups and downs. Few expected the game, and other forms of online gambling, to take the world by storm when the first online poker rooms began appearing in 1998.
Since that time, many countries, including the almost all of Western Europe, have decided to regulate and tax online gambling sites and provide safeguards to players through the legal system. These countries never opted for prohibition when it came to online poker markets.
The US took a different approach, mostly taking an indifferent attitude toward online gambling. For much of the early history of online poker in the US, the industry was left alone. It wasn’t until the 2006 passage of the UIGEA [A] that the US government actively went after online poker and casino sites operating offshore.
Since that time, quite a bit has gone on in the country in terms of online gambling legislation and acceptance of the practice. There are now three states (Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey) where online poker is legal, and there are dozens of bills across the country that may legalize the game in other states at the intrastate level.
However, despite the liberalization of online poker in some states, the vast majority of players are living in states without a regulated market. Therefore, if they want to play online, they have to use foreign operators and non-state-licensed online poker rooms.
Playing online poker at these offshore rooms isn’t as simple as depositing and playing. Once you’ve found a reputable site, there are plenty of other concerns and factors that players should consider when playing online.
I’ll go over the basic points in this article because this is an issue that deters many players from playing online. It’s paramount that players understand the distinction between criminalizing online poker operators versus criminalizing citizens who play online poker.
The UIGEA criminalized online gambling sites that offered services to Americans, but it’s crucial to note that there is not a single sentence in the UIGEA relating to player penalties. Depositing into an offshore poker room and playing has never been a crime on the federal level and still isn’t one today.
That’s not the case on the state level. In fact, despite three states having legal, regulated online poker markets and the DOJ reversing course on the Wire Act [B] – in several states it is a crime for individuals to play online poker.
Florida, Utah, and Washington prohibit online poker. The activity is not only outlawed for operators, but there are also player penalties in these states. For example, in Washington State, online gambling, including online poker, is a Class C Felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
The law is preposterous and draconian, especially considering there are brick-and-mortar cardrooms all over the state, but the good news is these laws aren’t enforced. No citizen in any of the above prohibition states, including Washington, has ever been criminally charged with playing online poker or any other form of online gaming.
To cut a long story short, individual gamblers in the US have virtually no risk from law enforcement when they decide to play poker online. No one has ever been arrested for playing online poker in the US.
Many players who frequent brick-and-mortar poker rooms across the country simply aren’t aware that this is the case. At least half of them think the online game is illegal. This notion has become somewhat of an urban legend at live cardrooms, but it’s a total myth. Playing online poker is legal in the vast majority of jurisdictions and isn’t enforced where it is prohibited.
Despite online poker not being a crime, it’s still a good idea to keep up with news regarding online poker in your state and any national headlines relating to the game. They’re not busting down doors with SWAT teams for someone who is playing a few hands of poker online, but it’s certainly possible a state or local government may push for a harder line on the issue someday.
However, that seems less and less likely as the years progress. Several states have already legalized the game, and gambling talk as a whole in the country has been trending towards liberalization.
US income tax law requires that gambling winnings be taxed [C]. It doesn’t matter where players won their gambling money, whether at a live cardroom, an online poker room or from a neighborhood bookie.
Gamblers in the United States get a raw deal compared with many other Western nations. For instance, gambling winnings aren’t taxable in the United Kingdom, Ireland, or in Canada [D].
Of course, it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to report your gambling winnings to the IRS. Players suffer the same penalties from the agency for unreported gambling income as they would with any other type of unreported income.
Deposits and Withdrawals
Below I will provide some general tips for depositing and withdrawing at offshore rooms.
Look for cost-effective methods, both when depositing and withdrawing. Most sites won’t charge a fee for deposits via credit or debit card. Most will also reimburse transfer fees if players send via Western Union or MoneyGram, provided the transfer amount is more than $200–300.
The same goes for withdrawals. These can be quite costly and can amount to 10% of your winnings if you are paying a fee every time you withdraw. US-facing rooms will usually offer a free withdrawal per month via check and sometimes through other methods.
Although we suggest players cash out frequently due to the uncertainty at offshore gambling sites, if possible, players should look to take advantage of these promotions. Withdrawal fees can easily amount to several thousand dollars a year for those that are winning. Avoiding those fees should be a priority.
Bitcoin, a crypto-currency that is now available as a cashier option at several top online poker rooms, is free for both deposits and withdrawals, regardless of the amount requested. It’s an excellent method for cutting down on processing fees and can sold for dollars at favorable exchange rates.
Issues with Receiving Withdrawals
Just because online poker is legal doesn’t mean that banks will look the other way if they are aware that you’re receiving payments from offshore poker sites. In rare cases, this can result in the closure of your bank account. However, none of your funds will be taken, and there will be no criminal charges. Once again, though, this is rare.
A typical scenario for players that can potentially cause them trouble is depositing a check from an offshore poker room. All checks from offshore sites, these days are issued by foreign banks. It’s rare for bank tellers to deal with foreign checks, as most of their other customers are depositing domestic checks or are being paid via direct deposit.
Depositing checks via ATM or smartphone app is an excellent way to bypass this process, but it’s not always possible, depending on the size of the check and bank policies. When players deposit a check through the bank window, there’s a chance the bank teller will ask questions about the check.
It’s critical not to mention anything about online poker or online gambling when depositing. It’s best to say it relates to a job or freelance work. My favorite explanation is to tell bank tellers that I’m a consultant. Some players may still have issues, but in my experience, that has been enough for them to accept the check.
There have certainly been horror stories of players having two-week holds on their checks, but even in these situations, they were eventually credited with the funds after the check fully cleared.
High volumes of withdrawals through Western Union or MoneyGram may also disqualify you from using their services. Both companies can be held criminally liable for processing online gambling payments, so they will ban anyone who is using it for that reason.
Like cashing checks at a bank, it’s vital not to mention that your transfer is related to online gambling. Even if they have no suspicions of online gambling, high-volume transfers from foreign countries may eventually get your account closed.
This risk is certainly something to consider if you need to use Western Union or MoneyGram for your work, or you value keeping an active account with either service. Both are extremely quick in terms of payout speed (normally 1–2 days), but they come with larger fees compared to other methods.
Withdrawals back to Visa cards are now an option at many US-facing rooms. This is an excellent method because it’s processed in about one week’s time in most cases, which is faster or similar to check speeds. It also bypasses issues players may have when depositing checks into their accounts.
Not only that, but it’s more convenient for players as well. They aren’t forced to wait for the check, drive to the bank, and then wait for the funds to clear. Their withdrawal will automatically hit their debit card, and there’s zero hassle.
This option is often called Visa Fast Funds under the cashier option. For players in the US market,withdrawals using Visa and Bitcoin are my favorite options.
Safeguarding Your Personal Information
Online poker players and anyone who gives away their personal information online need to have at least some level of trust when dealing with a website or service. It’s smart to keep your personal information safeguarded in these days of electronic theft.
Offshore poker sites will generally ask players’ name and address when they sign up. Depending upon your deposit and withdrawal methods or the requirements to cash out, it’s likely that they will also have to share further information.
Handing over personal data to a foreign gambling site might not sit well with players. Their concerns are understandable, but there’s been very little fraud in the industry over the years when it comes to identity theft or bank or credit card fraud.
Some of the worst debacles in online poker history included failures related to mismanagement of player and company funds or outright crooked business practices. The only other cases have been insider cheating scandals, but as far as identity theft and the use of personal information, such cases are almost nonexistent.
Sure, your email might end up being passed around if a new site comes online, but there’s little reason to be worried about your personal information. Like other secure sites, such as online stores like Amazon.com, online poker rooms use encryption to keep the private data of their users exactly that, private. There’s little reason to fear this stuff getting into the wrong hands.
When it comes time to cash out, players may be required to verify their identity even further. Sites may ask them to send in one or two forms of identification, which usually includes scanning a driver’s license, credit card, bank statement, or utility bill.
Many players are caught off guard by this practice, but it’s standard procedure for almost all online gambling sites. Sites just want to be sure who they are dealing with to prevent multi-accounting and bonus abuse. The verification also helps players to be sure that their identity isn’t being used without their permission at an online poker room.
Compared to offshore sites, those using state-licensed rooms will have to give up more personal information when they sign up. In Nevada and New Jersey, players will need to provide their social security number before they can play.
Once again, this is for identity verification purposes and to keep track of winnings for taxation purposes. Your information is in even safer hands within states where the game is legal and regulated.
So many of the legal issues surrounding playing online poker in the United States are myths. There’s no reason to fear legal action for playing online poker. It’s not a crime on the federal level, and the several states that have criminalized online gambling have never charged anyone for playing online poker.
For the most part, playing online poker is common sense. If you’re lucky enough to be in a regulated market like New Jersey, Delaware, or Nevada, you’ll have plenty of excellent regulated options. For those in the other 47 states, offshore sites will be your bread and butter.
Certainly, not every site is created equal, and there have been plenty of bad apples in the industry over the years, but for the most part, the vast majority of players haven’t had any issues. Their withdrawals have been processed in a timely fashion, and the integrity of the game hasn’t been compromised.
Like I mentioned above, it’s worth following industry news relating to online poker and state laws to keep informed, but there’s no reason to fear legal repercussions for playing online poker in the current climate.
6-Max Micro Stakes NLHE Strategy
6-max and full ring micro stakes tables are the most popular and active in every online poker room. These games are filled with everything from complete fish to regulars. There is a very distinct strategy in these games that is much different than what you will find in the small stakes and higher limit games. You will be able to effectively apply a strategy that allows for repetitiveness and consistency rather than the need to be creative or make plays. This is something that is generally a bad idea in poker, but online micro stakes games are one of the few areas where it makes sense. In other words, making a 5 bet bluff at 50NL is going to put you in a world of hurt 99% of the time, whereas it might be profitable at 400NL. Trying to play too tricky is one of the biggest downfalls for the majority of 6-max micro stakes players.
The pre-flop strategy in 6-max games calls for a tight approach with a fair amount of aggression mixed in. While you don’t want to be playing in every single pot, sitting on the sidelines is going to do nothing more than allow your bankroll to bleed. 6-max games are where you can profitably make a lot of steal attempts and re-raises to try and win without a contest. To aptly execute a steal or re-steal, however, you should understand which hands are ideal to make a play with, and just how much you should be raising to.
For steals, the first step is to ensure that the action has folded around to you. If there are a number of people who either limped in or raised the pot, you shouldn’t be trying to force the issue by stealing in late position. In these spots, the better play is to simply call (or fold) and move onto the next hand. The entire premise of a late position steal is that you only need to get through a handful of players, but stealing with limpers in the pot means that you will need to force additional folds.
For raise sizes, reduce the amount to a tad under your normal open. In other words, if you are on the button and would normally raise to $2 at 50NL, raise instead to $1.50 or $1.75. You will find that this works because most players who were going to fold to a $2 open raise will also fold to a $1.50 or $1.75 raise. Beyond this, if they end up re-raising you, it will save you a little bit of money. The difference between $2 and $1.50 or $1.75 might not seem like much, but it will definitely add up over time. As far as hand selection goes, look for any good suited hands, random aces, and so on and so forth. If you raise with anything stronger than this, it is for value and is not longer considered a steal attempt.
When you are dealt a strong starting hand (JJ+ and AQ+), the best plan of action is usually to play it fast. The issue with trying to slow play these hands or playing them in a tricky fashion is that a lot of players will limp in and put your hand at risk. You can’t assume that someone else at the table will open the action as is more likely to happen in a higher limit game. There is no need to mess around here and you should make significant raises to maximize value and weed out the stragglers. Don’t be afraid to add a little bit to your normal raise size when you have a super strong hand, either. Players who will call 4-5x bb opens are also likely to call an open raise of 6x big blinds.
Post-flop strategy in 6-max games allows for more aggression and creativity than pre-flop. Where everything is somewhat standardized and straightforward pre-flop, there are many different ways to play any given hand post-flop. With that in mind, you should have a general idea of what plays work and which plays don’t. For example, if you find that check raising with a big draw is seldom able to garner any folds, this is a play that you will want to abandon. The exact limits that you are playing at will play a role in what you can and can’t get away with. There is a somewhat significant difference between how players play at 25NL and the competition at 100NL.
In the micro stakes, you are going to run into a fair amount of players who can’t seem to ever locate the fold button. These are the guys who you want to both attack and stay away from. You should be looking to play in pots with calling stations when you make a hand, but avoiding them when you are weak. Calling stations love to pay everyone off, but they will crush you if you try to bluff them. A lot of people complain that calling stations make the games “hard,” but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, they make the game significantly easier.
Calling stations are a stepping stone to the most basic elements of winning strategy in 6-max micro stakes games. In the end, your goal should be to value bet as often as possible. Even players who wouldn’t be defined as calling stations are very much prone to calling you down much lighter than they probably should. As a result, it is much better to wait for made hands than it is to get tricky. With that said, however, there is still plenty of room for continuation bets and even the occasional double barrel. Be careful, though, as running a lot of big bluffs is the perfect recipe for disaster. The best micro stakes 6-max players adhere to strict tight aggressive style of play, but they know when it is time to put on the brakes. Aggression is great in these games; it is being able to draw the line between recklessness that will make you a winner.
Micro Stakes Variance
There are plenty of great things about micro stakes poker, but there is no doubting that it has its downsides as well. If you are in the micro stakes, the odds are that you lack the experience of most other online players. Online poker experience can go many miles in ways that most players would never think to consider. Sure, you are going to understand dynamics, plays, and other game play elements more thoroughly, but experience will also teach you some intangibles, like how to properly deal with variance. Variance is going to happen in any form of poker, but luckily for you, the micro stakes tend to have the fewest big swings. Even though the micro stakes will have less overall variance than their small stakes and mid stakes counterparts, even the games within the micro stakes limits will vary wildly in their consistency.
Heads up, 6-max, and full ring games are hardly the same thing, even if they all exist within the realm of the micro stakes. A heads up player is going to experience infinitely more variance than a 6-max player. Even 6-max players, though, will have more roller coasters to deal with than full ring players. The complete counter punch to this is that the higher variance games also tend to carry the highest win rates. In the end, it is the players who control their mind and emotions the best who come out on top. It isn’t always about knowing the right play that wins you the real money in poker.
Your First Real Downswing
A downswing can be difficult to define. For most people, anything over 5-10 buy-ins, in any game, is large enough to be considered a downswing. In fact, anything over 10 buy-ins at the micro stakes would be a relatively large loss. Most players won’t encounter anything that breaches 20 buy-ins through the course of their entire micro stakes career, though it is hardly impossible. In the end, the truth is that a downswing for one person is another day at the office for someone else.
When you finally do hit that first downswing, however large that may be, you are going to be feeling a number of things. There isn’t any doubt that your confidence will be shattered. No poker player can honestly say that their confidence at the tables was not affected after the first time that they went on a sustained bad run. Recovering from this first downswing is pivotal to your success in the future.
How to Recover
One of the first things you can do to rebuild some confidence in your skills is to analyze your game. While you are going to naturally associate a bad run with some unfortunate luck, there is a good shot that a bit of bad play was mixed in as well. The only way to tell whether it was purely bad luck or also some sub-par play is to check your hands and how you have been performing. You might be surprised to see how many mistakes were also made amidst your unlucky hands. When you lose a few big pots with good hands, it becomes much easier to play sloppily. You could lose focus, want to try and get your money back, or simply stop caring. No matter what the reason, you need to build the self-discipline to control yourself. Admitting that you were at least partially at fault will give you confidence because it allows you to realize that you truly are in control.
A time tested method of recovering, both mentally and financially, from a downswing is to simply reduce. Reduce your limits, the amount of tables you are playing, a combination of the two, or something else that is just too much of a distraction. When you are winning and things are going well, it is easy to lose focus and concentration on the matter at hand: poker. Players who regularly sit at 16 tables would benefit greatly from a reduction to even 8 tables, if only for a little bit of time. You would be very, very surprised how easy it is to think clearly with 8 tables when you used to attempt the same thing with double the amount of work. Plus, it is much better to win $20 an hour than it is to lose $5 an hour. Running yourself past the point of profitability is a every dangerous mistake in online poker, but it is also relatively easy to fix.
If you are already playing just a few tables at a time, the next best idea is to move down in limits. A lower limit game will reduce your pent up stress that is inevitably tailing you as you ride the downward spiral of a downswing. In addition to this, you won’t be afraid to try new things out in an attempt to fix some previously gaping holes. A lot of players avoid moving down in limits during a downswing because their ego will be damaged, but you need to be able to put this to the side. If you are unable or unwilling to move down in limits for the sake of rebuilding your bankroll, be prepared to go broke.
There is no shortage whatsoever of poker players who complain about their downswings, while in reality they are just not winning players. It is hardly realistic to complain about losing when your play does not cater to profitability. This is one of the hardest and harshest realizations for the majority of poker players to make. In fact, if it wasn’t for the complete and total denial that a lot of players put themselves in, the games would be a fair amount more dead than they are. Delusion is a wonderful thing in poker because it allows bad players to think that they are unlucky or that things will turn around.
Take an ample sample size of your play and determine whether you are a winning player who is on a downswing as opposed to a losing player who is still losing. A winning player can definitely lose, but a losing player does not go on intermittent downswings. A generally accepted sample size for online poker is 50,000-100,000 hands. This may or may not take awhile for you to reach, but it will allow you to accurately gauge whether this downswing will pass or if it is inevitably permanent.
Full Ring Micro Stakes NLHE Strategy
Full ring micro stakes no limit Hold’em is the single most popular variety of cash game poker on the internet. This is where some players go to start out, others go to live, and yet others go to die. As easy as these games are to beat, they can also be incredibly boring. You do not need to have an understanding of incredibly complex strategies in order to beat the full ring micro stakes games. The majority of your opponents won’t be better than very average at best. This will work to your advantage if, and only if, you know how players in these games think.
Your average competition is going to look for every opportunity to slow play, won’t ever be able to fold a draw or a big pocket pair, and so on and so forth. It can’t be emphasized enough, these are the easiest cash games out there. The only thing better than playing full ring micro stakes cash game players is playing a tournament player in a cash game. Strategy is quite basic in these games and can be applied over and over again with relative ease.
Pre-flop strategy in any full ring game is going to be more passive than its 6-max counterpart. Whereas 6-max games are full of relentless aggression and action, the full ring tables are often quite slow in comparison. You will see a lot of limps, weak raises, loose calls, and so on and so forth. There are a lot of people who simply want to see the flop, just as there is in almost any poker game. Certain plays and moves will allow you to identify a player as particularly inexperienced. Some of the things to look out for at the table include open limping, check calling (frequently), check folding (frequently), obvious check raises for value, min raises, and folds to small river bets. These plays are all indications of someone who is thinking on either level one or two. In poker, the first level of thinking is “what do I have?” This means that the players are giving consideration to, and only to, the hand that they are holding. If their cards don’t connect with the board, level one thinkers disregard the possibility that you missed as well. They give up easily when they miss, and die hard when they hit. Level one thinkers are the exact people who you want to get involved with pre-flop because they will be exceptionally easy to beat post-flop.
For straightforward pre-flop strategy in these games, position and value are everything. There aren’t too many poker games were position is not a valuable asset, so you should look to play as many pots in late position as possible. In later position, calling with suited connectors, small pocket pairs, and other similar hands is wildly profitable. Because of the caliber of your opponent, you will know exactly where you are and it will be incredibly easy to either make plays or extract value. In addition to playing hands in position, you should also be looking to maximize total value out of everything that you have. It is a major mistake to let money slip out of your hands unnecessarily, particularly in these games.
As mentioned previously, players in these games tend to hate folding with a passion. Because of this, it only makes sense to squeeze out every nickel and dime possible when you have a strong hand pre-flop. The best way to do this is to always make sure that you are raising with a strong hand, and making even larger raises when there are limpers and/or someone who won’t fold anything. This means that pocket aces could warrant a 6x big blind raise, whereas AJ might only call for a 4x or 5x open raise. Your opponents won’t often be in the mood to fold pre-flop, so this will allow you to capitalize on their weakness by making larger pre-flop raises. The key to effectively earning some extra pre-flop money is being able to tell which players can and which players can’t fold their hands. If you are facing an absolute rock who seems to only have a fold button, there is no use in over betting your strong hands. If you just saw someone call a 3 bet with ATos out of position, however, you will know that you can make some extra money.
Actual bet sizing in these games is very formula oriented. In small stakes and larger limit games, the other players are apt to pick up on your betting patterns, but micro stakes full ring players won’t bat an eye if you raise 5x this time and 4x the next. As such, you can stick to whatever system you would like without fear of your opponents breaking the code. For some very basic bet sizing, follow these guidelines…
A 4x open raise with any pocket pair or QK/AJ+
A 5x or 6x open raise with JJ+ or AQ+
A re-raise of 4x + 1bb per limper, changing this to 5x when possible
As you can see, these formulas are very simplistic with minimal variables. Needless to say, post-flop play won’t be quite as easy.
Post-flop play is never going to be all that complicated in micro stakes full ring games. Most players are going to give their hand away at one point or another, making it easy to give up when you are beat and maximize value when you are ahead.
The flop check raise is one of the most popular moves among bad micro stakes full ring players. This play is always one of two things, either a bluff or a monster hand. More likely than not, however, the player has something that they perceive as strong. Micro stakes players tend to shy away from running even the smallest of bluffs, so you can safely assume that implied strength is actual strength. Hands tend to be played with a strong amount of transparency in these games. If you are going to continue on with a hand after being check raised, you should either have a strong hand yourself or be sure that your opponent is weak.
Players in these games love to call down with their draws and make it completely obvious when they hit. The best way to play a strong hand on a draw heavy board is to bet hard. If you flop a set and feel that the other player could easily be on a straight or flush draw, you should bet near the pot on every street. This will allow you to maximize value as it is unlikely that most opponents will be able to locate the fold button with any sort of draw. If the draw hits on the river, you will know that you can give up when they make a massive overbet or suddenly show aggression that had not previously existed. Again, the most obvious hand is also the most likely. For every time that someone successfully bluffs you in one of these spots, there will be 25 times where they actually hit their hand.
Allowing the other player to do the betting is a great way to extract maximum value with minimal effort. If you flop a decent to strong hand in position, you can safely call down lead bets from the other player without needing to do anything complicated. A lot of players will either make bluffs on multiple streets or will incorrectly assume that their hands are good, despite you calling them down. An effective strategy is to call the flop, call the turn, and make a raise on the river. In these spots, your opponent will often times feel that they have too much invested to ever fold their hand. You don’t need to get tricky with deception when your opponent won’t have a clue what you are doing. Deep thinking is only beneficial if the other player can really think, and this is not something that you will run into at most micro stakes full ring tables.
Micro Stakes Set Mining
Set mining in the micro stakes is one of the oldest ways in online poker to “get rich quick.” Even the worst poker players know how to set mine, but only strong players know how to effectively set mine for long term profit. There is a very big difference between set mining and getting lucky from time to time and set mining for repeated success. A number of different factors come into play with profitable set mining, but there is nothing that is all that difficult to understand. The skills behind set mining are not at all difficult to master in the micro stakes, and the real challenges will only present themselves once you move up to small stakes or medium stakes games. In the micro stakes, set mining is one of the most basic and fundamental ways to essentially print money.
The idea behind set mining is that flopped sets are hard for opponents to spot, and as a result they are generally easy to make a lot of money from. Most advanced players in higher limit games have learned how to tell when someone is likely to be holding a set, but this is not something that your average micro stakes player will be able to pick up on with any sizable amount of success. If you know why you are playing your small pocket pairs, you are already on your way to playing them to their fullest potential. After you understand the defined goal of a random pocket pair in set mining, you need to have a complete game plan. A complete plan for set miners consists of knowing how much can be invested pre-flop, what should be done on a flop where the hand hits or misses, and how to proceed with the remaining post-flop play. In total, there are three primary elements to successful set mining.
Pre-flop is the time where you will decide whether or not your small pocket pair is worth playing for set value. The types of hands that you will most often play for sets are anything below pocket 10s. There will be situations where 88 and 99 are going to be sound favorites, but TT+ is generally considered the cut off point for pure set mining hands. You shouldn’t only be looking to flop a set with TT or JJ, as you are then sacrificing all of the inherent value that these hands will have at showdown. Many players are scared to play TT, JJ, and even QQ because they don’t know what to do if they don’t land a set, but this is nothing more than a weak skill set. Don’t sit around and call bets with TT+, make open raises and re-raises; squeeze out the existing value in these hands.
If you have a small pocket pair, your position will play a significant role. As is the case with just about every other hand in poker, late position will be a great advantage. You will be able to best tell whether your opponents are very strong, moderately strong, or somewhere in between. The pre-flop goal with set mining is to keep the pot relatively small. Once you have invested a lot of money pre-flop, you have begun to sacrifice a lot of the value in any potential set that you might hit.
Implied odds play the most pivotal role pre-flop. If you are sitting at a 50NL table with a $100 stack, you probably have more money than most, if not all of your opponents. In this situation, you should look to set mine against players who have a fair amount of money to play with. If a player raises pre-flop and they only have $25, calling their bet is fine, but calling a re-raise would be a mistake. If this same player had a $75 stack, however, calling a re-raise would be perfectly fine.
Pretend that you made an open raise to $2 with 66 at .25/.50 NLHE. If a player in late position re-raises to $8 and has a $50 stack, you will essentially be calling $6 to win $50. If you think that you will flop a set and win their stack more than 1 in 8 times, this would be a profitable call. You should also factor in the likelihood that you will win the pot without hitting a set, according to the odds that you see fit. The smaller the stack size of your opponent, the less likely that you will have proper odds to set mine. Set mining works the best when both you and your opponent have big stacks. It is OK to call initial raises and play small pots in hopes of hitting a set, but the idea behind set mining is that you will almost only get paid off when you hit your card. Don’t get playing pocket pairs confused with set mining.
Hitting the Flop
If you are fortunate enough to hit a set on the flop, you will be well positioned for a big win. The exact way that you play your hand will depend on the particular situation, of course, but you shouldn’t be trying to force anything. Using the example above where you open raised to $2 with 66 and called a raise to $8, the pot is now roughly $17. If the flop came 6A9 rainbow, you are in great shape. Your opponent could very well have some sort of ace, which would definitely allow for your set to get paid off. If, however, they had JJ-KK, you will not be making that much money. As such, you should figure out where you stand before you make an effort to extract value.
Following up on this example, you will either be able to check call, check raise or lead out. The odds are that a check will induce a bet from your opponent no matter what they have, so this will all but guarantee that some additional money enters the pot. With that in mind, a check raise would scare off any non-ace hands, and would even slow down big hands like AJ-AK. The best play in this particular spot would be to check call. A check call ensures that some value is being extracted from your hand, your opponent is not scared, and you will have later opportunities to make more. This example will be expanded upon below in the “playing after the flop” section.
Missing the Flop
Again building on the 66 hand at 50NL, let’s imagine that the flop came 5A9 rainbow. In this instance, you have nothing but a small pair. You have running straight cards as well, but not much else. Given your strength and your opponent’s pre-flop aggression, the best move is to slow down as much as possible. This should be a fold almost 100% of the time when your opponent bets the flop. If you have a strong read or have a good plan for the rest of the hand, you might consider getting tricky, but this is a very high variance play and is unnecessary in the micro stakes. Since the entire goal of set mining is to lose the least when you miss and make the most when you connect, it is best to simply give up when you brick the flop. You don’t want your opponents to know when you do have a set, so it will be that much more difficult to convince them that you do have a set when you have missed. Bluffing in these situations is absolute suicide for your bankroll, in both the short term and the long term.
Playing After the Flop
How you play the turn and river will depend on how you played up to that point, and also how the board changes as the hand progresses. Using the example above, given a flop check call, there are a ton of options for how to play the turn and river. For the sake of example, assume that the board doesn’t change anything dramatically. It is an ace high board and we have a set with no draws to be afraid of. Given these circumstances, a turn check raise followed by a river shove would be just perfect, given cooperation from our opponent. The safer route, if they have an ace, would be to lead the turn and river, but only a check raise is likely to earn the whole stack. If you feel like your opponent is good for some value, but not an entire stack, bet away. If you think that your opponent won’t be able to let go of their hand, however, check raising is the way to go. You should always look for the play that will make you the most possible money, not the most theoretical money. If your opponent is only going to give up anyway, betting out and earning a fair amount is much better than check raising and winning nothing additional at all.
Moving from Micro Stakes to Small Stakes
The micro stakes and the small stakes might seem distinctive, but the truth is that they are one of, if not the most immense jumps in online poker. Next to going from mid stakes to high stakes games, this is the biggest transition that almost any player will face. At 100NL (.50/1) is upon where the micro stakes end and the small stakes begin.
The most indisputable difference between these two limits is the number of regulars at each table. The density of regulars vs. fish starts to shrink more and more as you move up in limits. Along with this, the average skill level will rise tremendously. You are going to be facing a lot smarter and a lot more aggressive players in the small stakes arena. If you aren’t comfortable with some increased variance in your bankroll, the small stakes are not for you. The games truly do end once you step out of the micro stakes.
There is no denying that playing styles between micro stakes and small stakes games vary greatly. With that in mind, however, you should not be anticipating a complete shifty in your strategy when you move up a limit. One of the worst things that you can do is attempt to revamp your game completely, whether you are moving up or down in limits. The chances are that a winning skill set in the micro stakes will also do just fine in the small stakes. Plus, who knows, maybe you will do even better. Players know that the odds are that they will need to make some tweaks to their game before they find success at the small stakes, but you shouldn’t make changes until they are proven necessary.
The pre-flop differences between the highest micro stakes games and the lowest small stakes games are not incredibly noticeable. The one thing that you will notice, at least over time, is an increased amount of aggression. There will be very few players who limp into pots and fewer still who will make min raises. You may also notice that the opening raises and re-raises will be a bit smaller than you were accustomed to in the micro stakes. While this is not going to always hold true at 200NL (1/2), you will certainly notice it in the 2/4 and 3/6 games.
The real increase in aggression levels at the small stakes is evidenced by the increase in players who are ready and willing to 3 bet at every opportunity. Position becomes one of the biggest advantages imaginable in these games as it means that players can steal, re-steal, and re-re-steal pots over and over again. You shouldn’t be all that shocked to see some players get all of their money in the middle with very random hands from time to time. Players will attempt to make moves that fail and will have no choice but to call off the remainder of their stack. This is where the variance begins to come into play, but that is discussed in further detail below.
In addition to increased overall aggression pre-flop, you are also going to find that the general play can seem somewhat illogical. Players are going to get involved with hands that you would not ever see at the micro stakes tables. The true profitability of most all winning poker players comes from an ability to manipulate the opponent post-flop. As a result, players in the mid stakes can get away with playing weak hands as an instrument to take down pots after the flop. Be careful, though, there is much more to this than may meet the eye. A skilled small stakes player will know exactly what they are doing when they re-raise with 3h Kh. If you don’t have a specific game plan for post-flop execution, it would be a mistake to jump into pots with seemingly random hands just because you see other people doing it.
Post-flop differences fall in line with the same general differences that you will notice pre-flop. Aggression as a whole is on the rise and odd lines are almost the regular. Players in these games know when to check raise for value, check raise as a bluff, or how to make money off of middle pair. To put it into context, there are plenty of small stakes online players who are better than the lower tier “pros” that you see on shows like High Stakes Poker on TV.
Do not underestimate the ability of a small stakes player to sniff out your bluff with nothing more than bottom pair, ace high, or even king high. Players in these games are very good at hand reading. If you are showing up with nothing, there is a good chance that they will make you pay for it. On that same note, winning small stakes players will ensure that they have earned every penny possible from you when they have a made hand. These games, particularly post-flop, are not for the type of player who is even remotely inexperienced. You should have a beyond complete understanding of pre and post-flop dynamics if you want any shot at posting a win rate in the small stakes.
Variance is one of the unfortunate realities that comes along with higher limit games. As you move higher and higher up in limits, the competition becomes more and more fierce. The product of this competition is a clash in skill levels. In other words, players are so evenly matched that often times there won’t be anyone at the table who has a significant advantage. In these games, players tend to trade more money around than they actually make. The best way to reduce your variance as you move up to small stakes games is to table select very well. The players who can find the best games will have the fewest tough opponents to deal with.
Regulars, also known as regs, are another common staple of the small stakes online games. If you open up four tables of $3/$6 in the middle of a week day at any given poker site, the odds are that you will see each table is occupied with the same sets of names. The only time that you can really see who the “fish” are is at nights and on the weekends. A lot of players will try to take advantage of this by playing exclusively at night and/or on the weekends. If you are not looking to make poker a full time job, or anything close to it, playing at these times of the day and week will be the closest thing to great table selecting in the small stakes.
The reality is that the games are just so flooded with professionals and winning players that it can be quite tough to find anything that would be considered a “good” game One good line to remember, especially when you are new to small stakes games, is that “If you can’t spot the fish, you probably are the fish.”
Open Limping in the Micro Stakes
Open limping is never good at any limit, but it is even more transparent in the micro stakes. An open limp is when a player enters the pot for nothing more than the big blind. If there is a raise ahead and a player makes a call, it is not considered an open limp. There are many arguments against open limping, and few arguments in support of open limping. The players who think that open limping is a profitable play, however, are almost certainly losing players. There are so many reasons to adapt an aggressive playing style instead of a lazy, passive, open limping playing style. No Limit games are built for unrelented aggression; by limping into a pot, you are sacrificing your ability to make plays and put pressure on your opponents.
As bad as open limping is, there are some situations where limping behind other players will make perfect sense. There is a significant difference between limping behind other callers and being the first to enter the pot with a limp, though. If you are in late position with a small pocket pair, for example, limping in will be the most viable move when there are other players already in the pot for the minimum. Raising in this spot will seldom garner folds from everyone, and it will reduce the inherent value that your hand has when it is able to flop a set. In addition to small pocket pairs, suited connector type hands are also great candidates for late position limps. This is just about where the limping range ends, though, so don’t be looking to enter a ton of pots in late position just because it would be cheap. If you start to play too many pots simply because it will cost you a relatively small amount, eventually you will be chipping away at a significant amount of your bankroll. One limp here and one limp there is a perfect recipe for a decreased or eliminated win rate.
Why Open Limping is Bad
Open limping is bad for many reasons, with some being more obvious than others. The first reason that an open limp is bad is because it makes your hand very see-through. Unless you are trying to get tricky with a big hand (which, by the way, is a bad idea in micro stakes games), the best plan of action is to make a raise with any hand that is truly worth playing. Pretend that you have JQ off suit in early position while sitting in a 50NL full ring game. This is the type of hand that a lot of weak 50NL players would look to limp in with. Instead of limping in, though, you should simply toss it into the muck. You might think that you are sacrificing a fair amount of value by mucking your hand without even seeing the flop, but this just isn’t the case. The truth is that a hand like JQ, JK, QT etc. is just not that strong in position, let alone out of position.
If you have a hand like 66, 77, 88 etc. as opposed to JQ or JK, however, you should be looking to see the flop. The best play with these hands in early position is to make an open raise to get the action started. When you raise, you will either get folds around the table, or you will get a few callers. In either situation, there is a lot of room for profitability. On the occasions where you happen to face some opposition, it will be easy to let go of your hand and move onto the next one. This is another reason that making open raises with mid range to decent hands is beneficial. Instead of limping in and being faced with a tough decision, you are putting the pressure on your opponents. Plus, when you end up getting re-raise, you will have lost a minimal amount. It is much better to raise and have a good shot at winning than it is to limp in and reduce your chances of success significantly. An open limp says, “Hey, I don’t have much, so I will enter for the minimum.” A good opponent will see this and pounce on your weakness. Don’t be weak and don’t play scared, unless you hate money, of course.
Arguments for Open Limping
There are plenty of players who will argue to the death that open limping is a smart play. More than 9 times out of 10, however, these players are not turning a legitimate profit. Some of the most common arguments for open limping include, but are not limited to:
“Open limping is a cheap way to see the flop.”
-Is open limping a cheap way to see the flop? Yes, of course it is. Now, think about how many times a small, miniscule, weak investment has paid off for you in life, let alone at the poker table. A cheap way to see the flop also means a cheap way to try and get paid off. If you aren’t willing to let your cards (and more importantly, money) do the talking, you should skip out on the hand altogether.
“If I hit I will get paid off.”
-While it is true that your hand will be deceptive, it is hardly a guarantee that you will get paid off. Say that you limp into the pot in early position with a hand like JQ off suit. If it limps around and the flop comes JQ7, how many hands do you really think are going to pay you off? It is very unlikely that someone is going to have AQ if they limped in, any random jack will be able to find a fold, and draws have a lot of equity against your two pair. In other words, your hand is deceptive, but it isn’t going to matter. Sure there will be some rare occasions where you get all of your money in the middle, but don’t expect to have your opponent(s) crushed.
“If I miss I can give up and lose the minimum.”
-Yes! That is correct, but wait a second, you did say “lose,” right? Since when is the goal of poker to lose? If you are entering a pot with the mindset that you are positioned to lose the least, you are already setting yourself up for failure. One of the many benefits to making an open raise is the assumed strength that you will be able to utilize in an attempt to push opponents off their hands. When you open limp, few players are going to give you credit for a strong holding, especially when you wind up bricking the flop. Continuation bets and general post-flop aggression are huge money makers for winning players, just as a passive open limp is a huge money waster for losing players.
Micro Stakes Light 3-Bets
Light three bets in the micro stakes are needed, but they are not absolutely critical to your success. In small stakes and medium stakes games, light three bets will play a much more pivotal role. Light three bets are used primarily to balance out ranges, something that is not at all necessary in the micro stakes. If you are completely unfamiliar with the terminology, a light three bet is a pre-flop re-raise that is made with a weak hand. In other words, if you raise with one of these hands, it is not because you want to get all of the money in pre-flop. Instead, the goal of this play is to force as many folds as possible.
Even when a three bet fails, though, it will still derive some benefits. A failed light three bet will allow you to play with a weaker image, which in turn gives you a stronger opportunity to value bet hard when you have made hands. If you don’t understand how to utilize the outcome of your light three bet, whatever it may be, you will probably be better off not making light bets at all.
The four biggest factors in a successful light three bet are position, bet sizing, hand strength, and your opponent(s). All four of these elements are relatively easy to analyze in a matter of seconds, especially after you gain a fair amount of experience. The dilemma for rookie light bettors is identifying which spots are and which spots are not ideal for a re-steal. There is no easier way to throw money down the drain than to make a big mistake with a light three bet. You are not going to be successful with every attempt that you make, of course, but you should be right a fair amount of the time. Successful three betting skills are developed in practice, not only in theory. Everyone knows that they should three or four bet with KK or AA, but only the top players can pick out a good spot for a light three bet.
Your position is the most obvious factor when contemplating a light three bet. If you are in early or middle position, the best play is to simply abandon the idea of a re-steal. There may be some very rare exceptions to this rule, but a light three bet is best executed from late position. The later your position, the fewer players that you will need to force a fold from. This is the most important reason to make your light three bets from late position, but it is hardly the only reason. You will fail many times with your light three bets, and there will be a number of situations where you find a few flat calls. In these spots you will need to be prepared for post-flop play. Playing in position post-flop will make it easier to take the pot down when you were unable to garner folds pre-flop. Instead of having to act first, you can let your opponent(s) act and then react to any moves that they make. Plus, every once in a while you will end up flopping a big hand, which also is easier to play when in position.
One of the elements of successful light three bets that is often times overlooked is bet sizing. The general rule of thumb is that a 3 bet should be large, and a 4 bet should be small. As a result, your steal attempts should be implemented with a large raise. Small raises not only invite calls, but they will give you less post-flop power. It is better to make a big three bet and get called or raised than it is to make a small one and gather a handful of calls. Sure, you are going to lose a fair amount when you wind up getting called or raised, but a big play is the only logical way to force folds. Win big or lose big, there isn’t a whole lot of middle ground with light three bets.
Hand strength seems like it might be an irrelevant factor given that light three bets are made with weak hands, but this couldn’t be further form the truth. It is infinitely better to three bet light with a hand like K3 suited that it is to make the same play with Q7os.. Though a light three bet is made with a weak hand, you should still be giving yourself a chance to flop hard with a deceptive hand. K3 suited is ideal for a light three bet because it will allow you to either flop a big flush (or draw), two pair, or three of a kind. If two threes fall on the flop, very few of your opponents will ever put you on that type of hand. In most cases, your opponents will disregard the possibility of you ever having a three. Think about it, if someone three bet you pre-flop, what kind of hands could they possibly have that would include a three? Not many, unless they had complete air. This is why your hand will be so well disguised, which in turn will allow you to maximize value on the rare occasions where you hit the flop hard. The suited hands with big kickers are perfect for light three bets. K3, Q2 suited, etc. are all great to re-steal with. Be careful where you draw the line, though, because ace rag is not nearly is deceptive or valuable. Stay away from light three bets with random aces, but make your moves with random kings and queens.
Your opponents are especially important in the micro stakes. In small stakes and medium stakes games, the majority of players will be capable of laying down a ton of hands when facing a three bet, but this just isn’t the case in the micro stakes. In micro stakes games, a lot of players will see a flop with any hand imaginable. Because of this, you need to be extremely careful who you are getting involved with. The age old rule of “never bluff a calling station” is never more applicable than when making a light three bet in the micro stakes. If you don’t have a good feel for how any given player tends to play, the best course of action is to sit back and wait for a better spot. Going into a light three bet blind is as good as lighting money on fire. If you know that there is a player ahead of you who tends to back down to aggression, however, you will be in the perfect spot for a three bet. Being able to pull the trigger is critical. Scared money will never make money.
Micro Stakes 3 Bets vs. Higher Limit Games
Most light three betting strategy will hold true from limit to limit, but the micro stakes are unique for a few different reasons. First, you will not have as many opponents who are even capable of letting go of their hands, regardless of how obvious their fold should be. This was covered in-depth above, in the “your opponents” section, so what else is there to know?
In small stakes and medium stakes games, there will be occasions where your failed light three bet can be effectively transformed into a light four or five bet. In the micro stakes, however, light four or five bets are a major mistake. The fact is that players in these games will very, very rarely make a light three bet on their own: a requirement for your success with a light four or five bet. In the end, if your light three bet does not work initially in the micro stakes, you should just give up. Seldom is giving up the best piece of advice, but it is the perfect plan in this situation.
Grinding Out a Profit in the Micro Stakes
Grinding out a profit in the micro stakes is not nearly as easy as it might seem. While beating the smallest online poker games used to be a cake walk, today it will take a lot of time and practice. Many micro stakes players are among the most consistent and biggest winners in the online poker world today. It is very hard to compete with players who have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of hands worth of experience.
Think about how many hands you get in per hour when playing one table, online or live. If you are lucky, you might get 90-100 hands in per hour when playing online, depending on whether you are playing full ring or 6-max tables. In live games, 30 hands per hour is the most you could ever hope for. Now, compare those numbers to a 12 tabling player who plays for 8 hours per day. At that rate, this player would have roughly 9,000 hands played every single day. Of course, few people have this exact work ethic, but it is not out of the realm of possibilities when it comes to the micro stakes.
What It Takes
Micro stakes poker takes a few different skills and attributes if you want to be successful. First, you will need to have an ample bankroll. While the variance is not going to be nearly as dramatic in these games as it is in small stakes or higher games, you will run into the occasional 10+ buy-in swing. For this reason, you should always be playing with roughly 30 or so buy-ins. If you are playing 25NL, the number of ideal buy-ins is not as high as it would be if you were playing 100NL. The higher limit the game, the more variance you should be prepared for.
Bankrolls are hardly the only thing needed for success in micro stakes poker. You will also need an awful lot of emotional control at the tables. Most poker strategy books and guides neglect to teach perhaps the most important skill that any player could have, a tilt-free approach to the game. No one is perfect, and everyone tilts a little bit from time to time, but it is vital that your emotions are kept in check. If you are playing six tables at a time, blowing off three buy-ins due to tilt can be a lot easier than it might seem. Players who are on tilt tend to forget everything they learned, like this very article, though, so this is something that is best accomplished through practice and implementation.
The ability to multi-table and multi-task should never be understated for micro stakes players. There just isn’t any good money to be made playing one or two tables at a time in the micro stakes games. Even the biggest winners at 100NL (the highest micro stakes limit) would be lucky to win $15/hour playing two tables of 6-max at a time. It can be a difficult transition, especially for new online players, to learn how to play four, six, or ten tables at a time. The fact of the matter is, however, that all serious micro stakes players have a solid skill set when it comes to multi-tabling. This isn’t to say that you need to play 20 tables at a time, but being able to 8 or 10 table would certainly be beneficial.
-Poker Tracking Software
HUDs and other poker tracking software are an absolute must for multi-tabling, serious micro stakes players. A HUD (heads up display) will be a tremendous benefit when you are trying to concentrate on a number of different decisions at once. Instead of forming your own reads on opponents, a HUD will allow you to have a quick summary available for anyone you face. It will be much easier to shove all in pre-flop with pocket queens if you know that the original raiser plays 90% of their hands. Now, imagine if you had no information on that same player; you would have to decide whether queens are ever ahead. Some old school players feel that software and HUDs are nothing more than cheating, but that makes no sense since most poker rooms are perfectly OK with it.
Aside from allowing you to make more precise reads at the table, poker software like PokerTracker also provides in-depth statistics on your own play. You can easily analyze all of the hands that you played in your last session, no matter how big or small. Beyond this, poker software can tell you how often you raise, what hands you win with, if you fold to re-raises too frequently, and much more. Plus, who doesn’t like to see a graph of their winnings? For an investment of $100 or less, any micro stakes player would be making a big mistake if they played without some sort of software.
Last but not least is the need for a sound work ethic. If you want to beat the micro stakes for any significant amount of money, you will need to put in a whole lot of work. People who don’t know poker tend to scoff at the idea of poker being a lot of work, but it certainly is. Today there are infinite resources available for players who want to improve their game. From books to training sites, there is something out there for players of all skill levels and all limits.
Books are the most outdated method of learning how to play winning online poker. The flaw with most books is that they are old and generally teach concepts that are quite basic. Books would have been a great way to aptly learn the game back in 2002, but the competition is way beyond that at this point in time. There are a select number of books that concentrate on winning online play and teach more modern concepts, but they are far and few between. Be sure to read a number of up to date reviews before you lean on any written book as your poker bible (especially if Hellmuth wrote it!).
Online resources are the best way to improve your skill set for tough micro stakes games. There are innumerable online sites with strategy guides of varying quality, but the video training sites have taken over in popularity. There are a handful of different poker training sites that offer video tutorials for aspiring players. These videos consist of a winning player recording their play and relaying it to the viewers. The players record themselves during play, explain their thought processes, and viewers soak in the information. As was the case with books, you should carefully analyze who is making the video and whether they are a reliable source of information.
Going hand in hand with poker training videos are poker coaches. Coaches are people who will watch you play over the internet (known as sweating) and offer their input and advice as you play. These coaches vary in quality and rates, but some can be had for very affordable rates. Shop around at the video training sites for your choice of coach if this seems like an attractive way to learn the game for you. It is not for everyone, and it could be costly, but many people have transitioned from losing or break even players into big winners with the help of a solid coach.
Heads Up Variance and Competition
Heads up cash games are perhaps the most double sided game in all of online poker. On one hand, good players are able to make an absolute killing in heads up play. On the other hand, however, a weak player will deplete their bankroll rather quickly if heads up cash is their game of choice. There are some players who are closer to break even rather than big winners or big losers, but this group is certainly an exception to the rule.
Heads up cash games are very vicious, especially when you move out of the micro stakes levels. Many of the best players in the world focus almost exclusively on heads up online action, and it is because they know it is where they have the biggest edge. There are many inherent qualities that a winning heads up player must both have and not have. If you aren’t cut out to play heads up, you shouldn’t try too hard to force yourself into that mindset. Heads up poker is largely a game where you either have it or you don’t, and much of that stems from the mental aspect. Skill sets, tools, and your overall strategy can be modified, but your mental approach to the game is often times difficult to adjust.
As mentioned before, the competition in heads up games is bar none. With that said, you will also be playing in some of the easiest games that you could ever hope for. The reason for this should be completely obvious. While most heads up specialists are incredibly skilled at what they do, some heads up players are nothing more than total action junkies. Needless to say, your goal as a heads up player should be to get as little action as possible with the specialists but as much action as possible with the gamblers.
In the world of heads up poker, players who sit around and wait for “fish” only are known as bum hunters. These players are called bum hunters because they are said to only play the bums in heads up games, and are too afraid or scared to play anyone with actual skill. If you sit down at a handful of heads up tables, the odds are that you will get a number of players who leave the game before you actually find someone who is willing to play. This is why many poker room lobbies have so many tables that are occupied with the same handful of players sitting at a number of different tables. Many of these bum hunters won’t end up playing more than a few hours per day at the absolute maximum. If you are able to get action from a bum hunter, you should probably take advantage of it. Players who stick to bum hunting and bum hunting alone tend to do it because they don’t feel like they have a real edge over a decent player. If a known bum hunter is quick to accept you as competition, however, you should probably start to rethink your game.
There is nothing technically wrong with bum hunting, and the reality is that most online players don’t have a real issue with it. It is hard to call bum hunting table selection, but there is no doubt that any good heads up player will carefully pick out who they are playing against. Once you start to get a bit of experience under your belt, you are going to run into the same opponents over and over again. Eventually you will figure out who you have an edge on, who beats you on a consistent basis, and who doesn’t want to play you. It is those names which you don’t recognize that will offer the greatest potential for profit. Always shop around for the best table before hopping into the action. There is no point in playing a winning regular if a massive fish is just waiting for you to challenge them at another table. Game and table selection is something that you should concentrate on each and every time that you play.
The real competition is found once you hit the upper echelon of the micro stakes and the lower limits of the small stakes. Players at 50NL and 100NL can make quite a bit of money simply through effective game selection and a somewhat basic strategy that can be applied over and over again. Once you enter the $1/$2 games and higher, though, you are going to run into some very, very tough opponents. If you don’t have a sizable sample size to prove that you are a winner in smaller games, don’t even waste your time trying to beat these players. Yes, there are the occasional whales who come by and dump their money in higher limit games, but they are much more elusive than the donators in the micro stakes.
Variance is the biggest and most defined difference between heads up and 6-max or full ring games. In a heads up battle, even the worst player in the world can take you for a number of buy-ins if they are able to go on a quick little run. Aside from this, the extreme variance in heads up poker is also the main reason that so many players tilt. One of the primary and initial points in this article was that emotional control is a major player in the success of heads up regulars. The swings, both up and down, are nothing like you will experience in any other form of poker. The benefit of this, though, is that you will profit greatly in the end from all of your positive swings.
Variance in heads up games can include regular 10 and even 20 buy-in swings. And no, these aren’t swings that happen over days or weeks, but in as little as one individual session. As a result, any serious heads up player will need to carry 100 or more buy-ins at all times. The variance is such that a few crippling sessions could be enough to wipe out an entire bankroll with relative ease.
Small micro stakes games allow for the biggest one on one edge in heads up poker. You can make pre-flop and post-flop plays that you won’t get away with in higher limit games. Players in the micro stakes tend to get beaten by things as elementary as extreme aggression. A lot of people are sitting in these games with scared money, or they might just not have a clue as to what they are doing in the first place. For a 6-max or full ring player, the idea of 4 betting with AJ or ATss is just ridiculous. In a heads up game, though, this is incredibly standard. You need to have both the bankroll and the guts to make plays that would rack the nerves of a regular casual player. When your plays don’t work, or you get a bit unlucky, tilt is going to be your number one enemy. If you decide that you think you have what it takes to beat heads up cash games, enter with caution, be patient, and always maintain a willingness to get better and improve your game.
6-Max Small Stakes NLHE Strategy
6-max small stakes games are where things start to get more serious. Where players can win with very basic strategy in the micro stakes, there are a lot more full time players and tough opponents to deal with in the small stakes. This is the single biggest jump that most online players will ever encounter when it comes to skill level differences.
Unless you have worked your way through the limits previously, you probably won’t be able to gather just how difficult this transition will be. I am doing my best to explain that these games are not easy by any means, and that if you think it will be a walk in the park, you are very mistake. If your goal is to turn a long term profit playing online poker, you need to first ensure that you can beat the micro stakes games before you ever take a shot in the small stakes. This is an absolute necessity.
Dynamics of Pre-Flop Play
Pre-flop play can only be so complicated, but the small stakes are full of players who will make all kinds of moves. Light three bets, four bets, and even the occasional light five bet will be things that you see on a regular occasion. You need to be ready, willing, and able to take risks if you want to make some money. This will mean that you have to stand up to aggression and create some aggression of your own. Sitting back and relaxing, especially pre-flop, is the quickest way to going broke. If your game plan was to apply and ABC poker strategy, you are better off not playing in these games at all. You have to try your hardest to make your hands non-transparent, while remaining profitable at the same time, and this is much more difficult than it might sound.
Mixing up your play is one highly effective method of throwing off your opponents, especially if you play with the same set of regulars on a consistent basis. With the advent of HUDs and other poker software, the chances are that almost all of your opponents have some sort of information on you. Because of this, you should know which players are familiar and which ones are not. If you are facing a completely random opponent who doesn’t seem like they really know what they are doing, getting overly tricky will be a considerable mistake. It is the regulars and winning players that you really need to look out for. Consider making some unorthodox plays in order to confuse your opponents and throw them off base. For example, limping in with KK or AA is not generally advisable, but it can be a great way to force your opponents to think twice in the future. The fact that you will be playing the same players over and over again allows for short term plays to pay off in the long run. Is limping in with aces a highly profitable play? Not really, but getting your opponent to fold to a limp raise is. The benefit in mixing up your play is that your regular opponents won’t know how to react in future situations.
For general pre-flop strategy in these games, the best plan is to carry over as much of the strategy that you used in the micro stakes as possible. It is much easier to make tweaks as needed to an already profitable strategy than it is to try and start with a new one altogether. One of the most common mistakes that players make is trying to reinvent the wheel when they start playing at a higher limit. Yes, the game is different and more difficult, but it is not a completely new game. Small stakes play is a mix of micro stakes basics and the occasional higher stakes tactics. In other words, strategy in these games can be as basic as you allow it to be.
Avoid open limping whenever possible, play pots in position, maximize value from your strong starting hands, and so on and so forth. These are the elements of winning poker in small stakes games. Now, with 6-max tables, it becomes more important that you add a dose of aggression here and there. When you are playing pots in position, don’t just play them for value. In these games, your position will allow you to make plays that would often fail in micro stakes games. You can re-steal pre-flop with a reasonable expectation of forcing folds from your opponents. Your opponents are generally going to be smarter, better players, but this also means that they can lay down hands. Use other players’ awareness to your advantage by forcing them to make tough decisions. You don’t like it when someone tries to push you around, and neither do they.
Post-flop play is very similar to pre-flop play in that there will be a lot of twists and turns. You won’t be able to make hands, bet, and have the money come rolling in. As a result of your increased pre-flop aggression, you will be in a lot more post-flop hands where you are forced to make some moves. If you 3 bet pre-flop in an attempt to steal, but get called, you will now need to navigate how to play the hand the rest of the way. These are the types of spots that will frequently present themselves.
The trouble with small stakes games is that you can put yourself in a world of hurt quite easily. Just one or two small mistakes can see two buy-ins down the drain. Small stakes games exchange higher variance for more money, but not necessarily higher win rates. What this means is that you will swing up and down, but will ultimately make more money in the end. The win rates, however, won’t be comparable to smaller limit games. In other words, if you won at 7bb/100 at 50NL, winning at 4bb/100 at 200NL is a lower win rate, but it will net you more money in the end. The tougher competition will require you to make a lot of bold post-flop plays that are both high risk and high reward.
If there is one piece of advice for 6-max players that would be most beneficial in post-flop scenarios, it is that you can’t be afraid. You have to understand that your big triple barrel could easily be a loss. Small stakes poker is a game that is much more long term and full of variance than the micro stakes. Some of the plays that you will apply in the small stakes but would seldom use in the micro stakes include…
River Check Raises (as bluffs and for value)
Light 3 and 4 Bets Pre-Flop
Check Raising the Turn as Bluff
As you can see, the transition from micro stakes to small stakes 6-max games calls for a “little more” of everything. Aside from this, your go-to plays will have more inherent risk. If you are comfortable with all of the plays listed above, and for a larger sum of money, you are ready to take a shot at the small stakes tables.
6-Max Micro Stakes Bet Sizing
Bet sizing is an important factor in how much money you make both in the short term and the long term. A player who knows how to maximize value from their hands will make much more than a player who is shooting in the dark. Bet sizing pre-flop and post-flop alike will depend on a number of dynamics.
The most important elements in bet sizing are your hand strength and your opponent. Needless to say, this is very much an oversimplification of the matter. When it comes down to it though, these are the only real important factors that will make a real difference in the end.
Step Back and Think First
Think about what you do when you raise pre-flop (or what you should be doing, anyway). You look at your cards, look at who else is in the pot, and then fold, call, or raise. At its very core, there is not a whole lot else that goes into bet sizing and decision making. Yes, there are some finer elements, but they all relate back to these two central ideas in one way or another.
Bet sizing pre-flop and bet sizing post-flop are two entirely different things. Pre-flop play, in the vast majority of games, is largely a mastered art. It wouldn’t be fair to say that anyone is perfect at pre-flop play, as that certainly isn’t true, but most games have their regulars who understand pre-flop play very well. It doesn’t take a genius to know that pocket aces should be a 4 or 5 bet shove all in. On the other hand, it takes a very skilled player to know how to maximize value from a set or top two pair. Navigating your way through any hand is not going to be easy if you hope to make any real money. If there is one area of your game where you will be able to dominate your opponents, it is definitely in bet sizing.
Anyone can call a bluff, check raise the river, or 3 bet light, but not everyone knows the proper bet sizing for any move that they make. Bet sizing is what can set you apart from the competition. If you watch some of the top high stakes pros in the world, you will see them make some plays that seem awfully weird and out of line. According to traditional poker strategy, over betting top pair makes no sense at all. When you become an expert on bet sizing, however, everything will become much clearer. Even if you wouldn’t be able to make these particular plays on your own, you should be able to understand why they were made. Understanding a thought process is much more beneficial than seeing whether or not it works.
Pre-Flop Bet Sizing
In 6-max games of any kind, the raising and action pre-flop is going to be very hyper and aggressive. You will be hard pressed to find any 6-max games where any more than one player at the table is limping into pots. This is because most players, by now, have learned that open limping into a hand is a losing strategy. With that in mind, you will need to be all that much more prepared to make the most effective bets possible. Weak players will make their hand strength transparent, but skilled players will disguise their hands while also realizing maximum value. One thing you should never do is make your hand obvious by your bet sizing alone. Yes, your hand strength and raises should be in some sort of synchronization, but it doesn’t mean that your opponents have to know exactly what you are doing.
A standard open raise in 6-max games is to 3.5x or 4.5x the big blind. In other words, an open raise at .50/1 would be to $3.50 or $4. By default, a pot sized raise will be to $3.50. There is no definitive right or wrong answer to this, but for the purpose of extracting value, 4x would be the best. As you move up in limits, you are going to notice that the opening raise sizes tend to be diminishes, if only slightly.
Now that you know how much to open the action for if you are first to act, you need to know how to compensate for limpers, other raises, and on and so forth.
A great general guideline for raising with limpers ahead of you is to raise 4x (or 3.5x) the big blind plus one big blind per limper. In other words, if you are in late position with AK and two players have already limped into the pot, your raise would be to $6. This $6 is made up of $4 (open raise), plus $2 ($1 for each limper). You can adjust these bets slightly depending upon your precise hand strength, position, and your opponents. For example, AA in middle position with two limpers could get away with raising to $7 to ensure that the field is more thinned out and that it is extracting maximum value. Likewise, QK could raise to $5 to keep the risk down to a minimum. Small adjustments can and should be made on an as needed basis.
Re-raises are when things start to get more dynamic, tricky, and risky. If your intent is to extract value, the best rule to follow is that a 3 bet should be large and a 4 bet should be small. Large 3 bets are your opportunity to suck in a player while forcing them to pay for it. On the other hand, a 4 bet should be small because the player is clearly already invested into the hand, so you should now be ensuring that they come along for the whole ride. In other words, a 3 bet does not want to let a player IN too cheaply, while a small 4 bet aims to keep a player from getting OUT too cheaply. Involve players and then keep them on the line.
Post-Flop Bet Sizing
An entire book could be written on post-flop bet sizing alone. There are so many different situations that it would be literally impossible to cover each and every one. With that in mind, here are some common spots and their relative, effective bet sizing.
Continuation Bet Sizing
Continuation bets do not shoot for maximum value; quite the opposite in fact. Your strategy when c-betting should be to bet the least amount possible that will force your opponent to fold. These bets should be small enough that they do not cost you a lot of money, but large enough that your opponent won’t see another card or raise you no matter what they are holding. A good number to stick to for c-bets is right around 2/3 of the pot.
Say that you raised to $4.50 pre-flop in a .50/1 game and had one caller. If the pot on the flop was $12 and you missed, a good continuation bet would be around $8. $7 could also do the job if you felt particularly weary of the board. Remember that bigger bets do not necessarily equate to a greater amount of success in c-betting. If a player was folding to $8, they were probably also folding to $7. Likewise, if they were calling $9, they were also calling $8. Remember that you want a fold now and don’t plan to make any money from your c-bet down the line, so there is no point in value betting yourself into oblivion.
Betting Made Hands
Betting made hands on the flop is completely different than c-betting the flop. With a c-bet, you know that you have nothing and are willing to give up if you face opposition. You don’t want to build a pot with a c-bet, where you should be building solid pots with your made hands. The exact value of your made hand can generally be set aside on the flop. On the turn and river you will size your bets in different ways according to your exact hand strength and opponent, but the flop should remain standard. Using the same example at the .50/1 game above, a flop bet for value should be slightly larger than your c-bet with nothing. You don’t want to force folds, but you also want to extract value from your valuable hands.
$7 or $8 was a good figure for c-betting a $12 heads up pot, but $9-$11 is best for a made hand. $11 could be pushing it in some situations, but a lot of players will not see a major difference between $10 and $11 on the flop. $9 is the bet you would use if you really wanted a call and were not afraid of draws or losing the hand. $10 or $11 bets in this spot will ensure that your opponents are paying the maximum price for their draws. If you bet $9 on the flop, you will have the opportunity to more than compensate for that missing $1 or $2 on the turn and river. Suck players in when you are extremely confident with smaller bets and punish players that can realistically catch up with larger bets.
6-Max Small Stakes: Late Position Plays
Late position plays in small stakes games are one of the most optimal ways to boost your overall win rate. In late position, you will have an inherent advantage over your opponents that can not be taken away. The position you have will make it easier to steal pots, extract value, and do just about anything else that you want to. With that having been said, however, there are some plays that are smart and some that are not. This is particularly important in 6-max small stakes games as they are known for their extreme aggression and toughness.
It is truly difficult to find much more competitive games online than small stakes 6-max games. In fact, the next step up would be a mid to high stakes heads up battle. On many sites, this is where the line ends when it comes to table selection, so you need to have the ability to squeeze out every nickel and dime possible.
A late position play and wasting money in late position are two very different things, though some players tend to mix them together. For example a re-steal with a suitable hand would make sense in late position, whereas flat calling a 3-bet does not. While position does give you a big head start, it hardly guarantees that you are going to win the pot. You still need to have the wherewithal to make plays in the proper spots. Since 6-max small stakes are such a specific niche of games, this article will be able to clearly outline which late position plays are optimal and which ones are not.
Good Late Position Plays
Sometimes the best plays are also the most obvious ones. This is largely the case when it comes to making the most optimal plays in late position. For example, you should almost always be 3-betting with your premium pairs. How you define premium is up to you and largely situational, but most people would say that anything better than a pair of tens is worthy of a 3-bet. If you flat call in these spots too frequently, you are only going to be costing yourself money. Sure, you will run into the occasional player who likes to bluff off their stack, but these are far and few between. The easiest and smartest play is to go for the “sure thing,” even though we all know that almost nothing is sure in poker.
Another good play in late position is anything that relates to deceptive aggression. In other words, re-stealing. There is much more to re-stealing than simply raising with a weak hand, however, and this is the trap that many players fall into. The truly important thing is knowing how to make proper bet sizes. If you have found yourself in small stakes games after working through the micro stakes, you should already have a firm grasp on hand selection in light 3-bets. If you don’t already have that down, take a step back and make sure to iron that out first. The real difficult element to gauge in the fine art of light 3-betting is definitely bet sizing.
Though there are no outright correct bet sizing rules that should always be applied, there are some general guidelines that will benefit you when implemented correctly. First, your 3-bet size should be relatively large. A large three bet will always be relative to your opponents (how many and their playing style). There are not many other factors that need to be considered. Your hand is largely irrelevant, and a later game plan is only required if your three bet fails. Now, let’s take a look at some example to illustrate how to maximize on your position with well executed late position steals.
Using $1/$2 NLHE 6-max as the setting, you are seated on the button with Kh 4h.
One player folds, and the next player makes a raise to $8, which is followed by one call. The action is now on you. If you have pinned both the open raiser and the caller as players who are capable of folding, you should then decide how much you are going to raise. $20 would be too small as it would invite one if not two calls. The same can be said for $25. Instead, it would be better to raise to $31. A $31 re-raise gives an incentive for both players to fold, but there is more to it than that. When your opponents fire back at you, it will be quite easily to let go of your hand. If you wind up with either one or two calls, you will be in dominant post-flop position. Barring one of the players leading out on the flop, you will have a great spot to fire $70 on the flop and take down the pot. Every decent player knows that position allows for aggressive plays and re-steals, but only strong players know how to effectively size their bets for the best possible outcome.
Bad Late Position Plays
There are bad plays in late position and then there are very bad plays in late position. It will be more difficult to really screw things up when you have such a huge edge on your opponents, but it is certainly possible. The two most common and worst plays in late position are flat calls of 3-bets and misplaced re-raises. The worst of these two is definitely the former, though the latter isn’t exactly excusable either.
Calling a 3-bet in late position is nothing short of bankroll suicide. These types of situations are when an early position player makes an open raise, another player re-raises them, and you call the re-raise. There are a number of reasons why this is bad, and it is all because you are essentially lighting money on fire. There is a small chance that the original raiser will simply call the re-raise, yes, but it is hardly worth it when considering how many times they will fold or come back over the top. If they fold, you are left playing heads up with a hand that probably wanted to see a multi-way pot. If the original raiser comes back over the top, you will be forced to fold. Neither of these outcomes are good, and they, when combined, are more likely than a call. If your hand isn’t worth re-raising with, just get out of the way. You are all but writing the other players a check when you make this sort of play.
Re-raising with bad hands is another way to light your money on fire. Everyone knows that raising with trash is a poor strategy, but are you sure you know which “good” hands are bad to re-raise with. Before I go any further, it is important to note that this is in sole reference to re-raises and does not pertain to open raises.
3-betting in late position with small and medium pocket pairs or any suited connectors is a definite mistake. These hands rely on deception and built in value to make money. When you re-raise, you are artificially increasing their value pre-flop and deflating their value post-flop. What you should be doing instead is minimizing investment pre-flop and capitalizing post-flop. Yes, flat calling open raises with these types of hands is absolutely the way to go. That way you can easily fold if you miss the flop and face a bet, can lead out if the action is checked to you, or cash in when you hit the flop. Whatever you do, don’t re-raise. In fact, if you are going to re-raise, you are better off letting go of your hand altogether.
Full Ring Small Stakes NLHE Strategy
Full ring small stakes games are some of the tightest tables in online poker. With that said, however, it does not mean that they are easy to beat. These particular limits are full of regulars and full time players. One of the primary reasons that regulars flock to these tables is because it tends to get a steady stream of “fish.” Without an ongoing supply of bad players with money to spend, the games would be completely dead. Strategy in these games does not vary all that much from limit to limit across the small stakes spectrum. One of the big differences between 6-max and full ring tables in the small stakes is that you will have a very noticeable skill difference in various limits at 6-max tables, whereas it’s harder to notice in full ring games. Of course, this isn’t to say that there isn’t an improvement in play as you move up in limits. Don’t be mislead, these games are not easy, but you shouldn’t encounter a ton of variance along the way, either.
The general strategy for any full ring game is to play pots in position and to not get out of line Over aggression is a major killer in any full ring game. Instead, the optimal strategy is to choose spots where you have good hands, are facing weak opponents, and are in ideal position. It is highly profitable to play as many pots as possible when in position, even when you aren’t holding an exceptionally strong hand.
Pre-flop strategy in full ring small stakes games is to value bet and isolate. You don’t want to be playing in many pots where you are up against a handful of opponents. Instead, you want to make larger raises and narrow down the playing field. It is infinitely harder to win against five opponents than it is to win against just one or two players. Value betting effectively allows you to earn the most from your hands while also thinning out the field.
The hands that you play post-flop are dependant on a number of variables. The main pre-flop concerns are hand strength, position, your opponents, and the action. There isn’t much else that you need to worry about until you start to play pots post-flop. Take a look at each of these factors, one by one.
Hand strength is the most obvious dynamic in any pre-flop situation, but it is always relevant to your opponents. If you have AQos, you know where you stand, but the strength of your hand is diminished if a player raises and gets re-raised. A poor player looks only at the inherent strength of their own hand, while a good player considers their strength in relation to the other players at the table. A strong opening hand in a full ring game is anything better than QK, assuming early position. If you have any pocket pair or AJ+, you should be making an open raise. If you are re-raised, it is time to slow down with anything short of AQ+ or TT+. The later your position, the more value that should be attached to each hand.
Position is even more critical in a full ring game than it is in 6-max games. There are more players in early position, middle position, and late position to contend with. You can make a raise in middle position in a 6-max game and reasonably expect folds, but this isn’t nearly as likely in a full ring game. The best position for strategy is to play more pots when in position and less pots out of position. This is extremely basic and should go without saying for any player who has cash game experience. To elaborate further, widen your range when you have position. You can safely call an open raise with JT if there was four callers ahead of you, but a single open raise would denote a fold. The weakness of your hands is going to be largely outweighed by the value of position.
Your opponents play a pre-flop role in that they will dictate whether or not you should get involved in a hand. If you make an open raise UTG with AJ and get re-raised by one of the tighest players at the table, you should definitely let it go. This is a situation where your hand is strong and has value, but loses its strength when re-raised by a tight player. Opponents playing style is particularly important in full ring games because they will be easier to identify. There aren’t a whole lot of super tight nits in short handed games, but they are a dime a dozen at full ring tables.
The action pre-flop tends to be self-descriptive. You should know that a raise and a re-raise means that you need to fold your pocket fours, even if you have great position. The general ranking of importance is that a strong hand is outweighed by a good hand in position, but a good hand in position is beaten by a very good hand from anywhere else. To put it simply, you need to make folds when it is clear that you have a lot of catching up to do and there is a steep price affixed to playing the pot. Yes, pocket fours are a great hand to set mine with, but they are worth much less when there is a 20 big blind raise and re-raise ahead of you.
A definitive post-flop strategy in these games is all but impossible to define. As a rule of thumb, you should look to work with more made hands than complete bluffs. The nature of full ring is such that anyone who gets to the flop is prone to having a very strong hand. This is completely opposite of what you will typically find in short handed games. If someone either open raises, calls your raise, or re-raises pre-flop, you can bet that they have something decent almost all of the time.
Making tough folds post-flop is not all that difficult in full ring games. The overall tightness of pre-flop play means that super aggression post-flop is usually indicative of a strong hand. Say that you opened the action pre-flop with AA and got three calls. If the flop comes 459 rainbow, you will probably think that your hand is good, and it very well might be. The key to being a good player, though, is being able to let go of your hand.
This flop seems to be quite good for your hand, but it could also be deadly. If you lead out on this flop and get called, you might want to consider whether you are beat. The turn will be a big indicator of where you stand. If, after getting flat called on the flop, you get raised on a seemingly blank turn, you can safely assume that your opponent has two pair or a set. Think about what hands you would actually beat in this spot. The answer is nothing but a bluff. Your opponent is very unlikely to have only flat called pre-flop and on the flop with an overpair to the board, and they wouldn’t be raising now.
Full ring games see a lot more monster hands post-flop than short handed games because the overall hand strength is relatively high. Value bet when you have a strong hand, but be prepared to let go when you face steady resistance. Remember, they probably aren’t bluffing.
6-Max Micro Stakes: Do’s and Don’ts
6-max games are unique in that they serve as the middle man between heads up and full ring games. For expert players, this is the ‘jackpot’ step they had to take for the six figure starting salary.
If you are transitioning from one of these two into the 6-max arena, or even if you are just completely new to the idea of short handed games, there is a lot that you will need to learn. The overall pace, dynamics, and game play of a 6-max table is something that is not instantly learned and will take a long time to get a firm grasp on.
With all of that having been said, there are certainly some do’s and don’ts that will help to speed up the process of development in the 6-max games. Whether you are preparing for short handed games at your full ring tables, or simply looking to take the dive into 6-max games, these tips will help to elevate your game.
One thing that many players quickly realize is that 6-max games tend to play very aggressively. You will be somewhat hard pressed to find a 6-max table that is full of tight and passive players. Plus, if you do happen to wander into one of those games, your money is as good as printed. The aggression factor is what scares some people off, allows others to make money, and drives yet others insane.
With aggression comes increased variance, and with increased variance comes a lot more tilt. 6-max games truly are an animal of their very own kind, so you will need to be willing and able to adapt to changes as needed.
6-Max Micro Stakes Do’s
6-max play, as a general rule of thumb, will reward an aggressive approach. Now, the line between aggressive play and reckless play is often times quite blurred.
Main Key: You need to be able to measure when you are putting pressure on your opponents vs. when you are handing them money.
This is the sort of skill that can only be learned with time, however, and it is only natural to make several mistakes early on. Every great professional in almost any field knows that they need to push the envelope to see how far they can go. Eventually you will find out what works and what is going just a bit too far. 6-max is great in that aspect because it will allow you to reach new areas of your game, but it will also illustrate what types of playing styles can leech your bankroll.
Key I: Play Aggressively
Aggressive play is very much cliché in poker, especially in any games post Chris Moneymaker winning the WSOP Main Event in 2003. Traditionally, poker had been a game where the smart players would eventually take all of the money. They didn’t need to play aggressively because that only meant that they were opening themselves up to an unnecessary amount of risk. In the games of today, however, everything has changed. If you were playing poker 10 years ago, you never would have even heard of 6-max tables. This is a perfect demonstration of just how far poker has come. 6-max is a product of the new generation of poker, which rewards well timed and persistent aggression.
The primary reason that 6-max micro stakes players shy away from aggressive play is because they fear losing. There is nothing worse than the fear of losing, because if you never lost, it means you probably aren’t winning very much either. Yes, you are going to have a bunch of hands where your pre-flop three bets and post-flop c-bets go unrewarded, but they will be far outlasted by your successful plays. If you are afraid to take some chances and put your money on the line, 6-max is definitely not the game for you.
Key II: Steal Blinds
Stealing the blinds is a basic skill set that is applicable in most any games, full ring included. In the micro stakes, though, full ring games are chock full of calling stations. This can make it difficult to take down a number of pots when you are not holding a hand with some sort of real showdown value. In 6-max games, you will have numerous opportunities to pick up a few blinds at a time through aggression alone. The important thing to remember is that your steal attempts should minimize risk by being placed selectively (against the right opponents) and with the smallest bet sizes properly. If you pick your spots effectively, stealing the blinds will become a fantastic ancillary benefit of your aggressive playing style.
Key III: Value Bet, Hard
Value betting is a skill that is particularly useful in 6-max games when you have the table image of an aggressive player. If most of your opponents feel as though you are playing more pots than would be viable in their eyes, it will give you the opportunity to squeeze extra money out of them when you have made hands. 6-max tables cater especially well to value betting because your limited pool of competition is more likely to pick up on your general playing style. Once they see a few stolen pots, they will eventually decide to take a stand against what they feel is the “table bully.” You need to be able to recognize the spots where your perceived erratic play will let you play a strong hand as if it were a complete bluff.
6-Max Micro Stakes Don’ts
1.) Open Limp
Open limping is one of the cardinal sins in poker cash games. When you are shifting to a 6-max table, the detriment of an open limp is escalated. Not only are you donating dead money to the pot, but it is that much more likely to get stolen away. In some full ring games, you will be able to get away with a limp from time to time, but this just isn’t the case in 6-max. Avoid open limping at all costs. This is one of the first disciplines that is taught to players who are looking to fix big leaks in their game. If you have a hand that isn’t worth raising with, just throw it away. If you plan on limping and calling a raise, you are better off just making the first raise yourself. Again, this plays into an aggressive playing style, the most profitable way to play 6-max tables of any kind.
2.) Play Passively
Open limping and passive play go hand in hand, but you can’t open limp post-flop. Weak, passive play will be eaten alive at any relatively strong table. Even if you only have one or two opponents who are any good, they will isolate you and punish you if they find out that you like to give up after the flop. If you brick the flop, take some shots at the pot anyway. You can always give up later, but you have to give yourself a chance to win before you accept an automatic loss. Making lazy, weak, and careless calls is another epidemic among losing 6-max players. Remember that aggression is always king. Yes, you may want to slow play from time to time, but don’t make passive play your go to strategy.
3.) Play Out of Position
Playing out of position is the worst thing that you can do in just about any poker game. Of course, sometimes you will have no choice but to play pots out of position. After all, you aren’t going to open fold your pocket aces just because you happen to be under the gun. There are some skills that will help to compensate for your positional disadvantage, though. The first thing you should do is always make sure to enter the pot with a strong raise. Don’t limp, don’t min raise, and don’t even make a small raise. Announce that you want to play the pot and do your best to thin out the field. If you are going to play a hand out of position, play it to win.
Now, the real areas to avoid are limp calling, check calling, and even bet calling out of position. Any of these plays will create some truly difficult spots both before and after the flop is dealt. You should have an exceptionally strong hand if you are going to play pots out of position, and you better have a complete game plan in mind. Without both of these, any strong player will exploit you based on position alone.
Full Ring Small Stakes Hand Selection
Hand selection will determine what you are working with after the flop is dealt. If you get involved in a lot of pots with speculative hands, expect some big wins and some big losses. If you play a lot of strong starting hands, expect to win a lot of decent sized pots. If you play a lot of weak hands, expect to go home with nothing. With all of that said, though, it is obvious that much more comes into play than the hand itself.
There are a number of different things to consider when it comes to proper hand selection. The single most important element in hand selection is your position at the table. There are some hands where you will play from any position, but others will depend entirely upon where you are seated. The other factors that come into play with hand selection include the action, the action, and the action. Yes, the action is very, very important. Sometimes you will re-raise with AQ, where other times you will fold AQ. The action ahead, behind, and including you should always be given great respect when selecting which hands to play and which hands not to play.
Hand selection is one of the very few areas of the game that many players have managed to all but master. In small stakes full ring games on the internet, you are going to run into many regulars who have a very good idea what they are doing. The best and most winning online players do not tend to stray very far from their winning ways and patterns. As such, it does not make sense to try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to pre-flop hand selection. Yes, there are situations where 3 betting light and getting fancy can be profitable, but they are not exactly going to happen every single hand. The best strategy is to have a hard outline of what you should and shouldn’t be doing. It seems like bad advice, following a routine pattern in poker, but it is an absolute necessity. Sloppiness in hand selection is a sure fire way to create a mess for yourself down the line.
Early Position Hand Selection
Early position in the full ring games consists of the under the gun player and the two players immediately after. If you are sitting in one of these positions, you need to come ready with a strong hand. By playing weak hands in early position, you are just asking for trouble. There will be no shortage of times where your open raises are re-raised, or even flatted, and wind up putting you in some truly difficult spots. Superior hand strength is the only true weapon available that can be used to compensate for this.
Do not make open raises or limp into pots in early position when you are holding any sort of suited connector. No matter what type of suited connector it is, large, small, or otherwise, just throw it away. You are going to cause a lot of headaches for yourself if you decide to play these games, especially at a full ring table. Even in 6-max games, though, suited connectors only work well in later positions.
Once suited connectors are eliminated from the equation, it leaves hands like JQ, JK, and QK, super strong hands, and then complete trash. It should be obvious that complete trash belongs in the garbage can, but JQ-QK and even AJ are worth discussing. In short handed games, these would be worthy of a raise. In a full ring table that is being played with 9 or 10 players, however, these are all but instant folds. You would need to be at an either exceptionally loose or exceptionally tight table to justify playing these types of hands out of position. Even in middle and late position JQ-QK and AJ are not exactly the nuts. Anything better than these hands, though, is definitely going to call for a raise. All pocket pairs and AQ+ should enter the pot firing. Don’t sit around and wait for something to happen, kick the action off yourself with a raise.
Middle Position Hand Selection
Hand selection in middle position is not all that different than early position hand selection. You will still want to avoid suited connectors in most every situation, and JQ-QK is still not going to play very well. The trouble with open raising JQ-QK in middle position at a full ring game is that you leave yourself wide open to 3 bets and light 3 bets. You will not feel comfortable calling a 3 bet with this type of hand, and even if you suspect that someone is 3 betting light, you are not going to be in a great position to fire back at them. All in all, these hands are better left alone.
The significant difference between middle position and early position is that you will now be in some spots where you can call open raises. If a player under the gun raises and gets one call, you should be coming along with your pocket pair and AJ+ hands. Now, if a player raises and another player re-raises ahead of you, it could mean folding everything but QQ+. This is going to depend on your particular game, but hand selection and hand value will vary greatly once you start getting involved in raised pots.
Late Position Hand Selection
Late position is where you will have the greatest amount of freedom. You can make plays with weak hands, re-raise with strong hands, or call raises with something in between. There aren’t a whole lot of hands that aren’t capable of being played when you are in late position. The biggest trouble makers in late position are easily preventable and will be easy to fold given the previous action. If you have AK and see that a player has raised and been re-raised, you will be in a situation where you either need to raise again or let go of your hand. Calling 3 bets with pending action is a very big losing play. The same goes with pocket pairs.
There is nothing wrong with calling raises with pocket pairs to set mine, but when you call a 3 bet that could transform into a 4 bet, you are tossing money down the drain. For all of the times where you call re-raises in late position and see a flop, there will be a few times where the re-raise turns into a 4 bet, and in these spots you are a big loser. Use position to set up comfortable spots that will allow you to play profitably after the flop is dealt. Remember, acting last gives you an inherent advantage over the rest of the field regardless of the cards that you hold.
Re-Raising Pre-Flop with AQ
AQ is the type of hand that can easily get you into a lot of trouble. At the same time, however, AQ is still quite valuable when played correctly. The inherent trouble spots with AQ are what tend to scare off many poker players. It looks good, it tends to play fairly well, but it can suck you into pots that you don’t belong in. The trouble with AQ is that it will often be crushed in the big pots that it plays, and only win a small amount when it is able to survive showdown. With as many negative attributes as AQ might have, there is still much more good than bad. If you can effectively navigate the treacherous waters, you will definitely be able to turn a profit with AQ.
Pre-flop is when you will either get yourself into trouble, identify and step out of the way of trouble, or set yourself on a path for later destruction. As you can tell, two out of those three options are not exactly viable. This is why playing AQ to its fullest potential pre-flop is critical to your long term success. If you mess things up before the flop is even dealt, you can’t realistically except to be making money after the flop without a whole lot of luck. Aggression is one of the biggest advantages that you will have on your side when playing AQ. The trick to aggression, though, is that it only exists if you create it. AQ can be played as passively as you would like to, and this can be good for balancing out your ranges, but aggression is the best strategy in the end.
Why You Should Re-Raise AQ
Players often wonder why they should be re-raising with AQ if it is such a volatile hand. The answer is not exactly simple, as AQ can and should be played slightly differently with each unique situation. It would be impossible and unrealistic to say that AQ is worthy of anything more than an open raise every time that you have it. In fact, there will be plenty of times where you actually fold AQ altogether, completely forgoing the opportunity to build a massive pot. Though it will not always call for a re-raise, it will be the proper play more often than not.
Take a second and think about the last time that you got stuck in a tricky spot with AQ. There is a very good chance that you were sitting on the river on a queen high or ace high board holding just one pair without a clue what to do. This is the most common situation where players get hung up when playing AQ. On one hand, you have top pair with either a strong or top kicker. On the other hand, all that you have is one pair. Besides all of this, your hand is likely to be quite transparent to your opponent, making it all the less likely that they are trying to bluff you out of the pot. When you count them up, you will see that all of the factors in the hand are stacked up against you. You are now sitting on the river with a tough decision, but it all could have been prevented if you re-raised pre-flop instead of calling the original raise.
Use this same example and pretend that you decided to re-raise with AQ in middle or late position. If there was just one player ahead of you (the opening raiser) that is left to act, it will mean that you are either going to see a flop in position with perceived strength, get a fold and win the pot right now, or face a re-raise. Two of these options are much better than the other, but even a re-raise will have its benefits.
At first glance, a re-raise is a terrible option, and it is certainly the worst on this list of three, but it is not all bad news. A re-raise would tell us that our opponent is likely to be very strong. Yes, they could be making a move with some sort of bluff, but this certainly isn’t going to be the case all that often. As a result, the resistance that we faced in the form on a re-raise will enable us to easily lay down the hand.
Notice that calling the re-raise was never even given consideration as a possible play in this spot. When you re-raise with AQ and face even further aggression, it means that you need to step out of the way. This is the two pronged fork that you are playing with. Either you maximize value when you get called, minimize risk when you force folds, or you eliminate future losses when you get re-raised. No, getting re-raised is not fun, but it will be an easy early escape from any bigger losses.
AQ is a good hand to re-raise with when your play could easily be misconstrued as a light 3-bet. For example, if a middle position player open raises and the action gets to you, there should be a raise made almost every single time. Not only do you have position, but your opponent could be weak, and your move could also look like you are trying to steal the pot. These are three good reasons to re-raise any player who kicks off the action in middle or late position.
When You Shouldn’t Re-Raise AQ
Though re-raising is the optimal play in the majority of situations, there are also a number of spots where it is better to take things more cautiously. It is worth noting that there is a significant difference between playing a hand cautiously and playing a hand passively or with fear. A cautious player is aware that they could be entering a trap and will slow down in an attempt to take control of their own fate. A passive player, on the other hand, will simply call the bet and hope for the best. The difference between a cautious player and a passive player is that the cautious player is still actively involved in the hand, while the passive player is more or less simply coming along for the ride. It should go without saying that whenever you are going along for a ride in poker, you are probably losing a lot of money.
Position is crucial with AQ just as it is with just about every poker hand and situation imaginable. If there is an open raise from early position and a re-raise in middle position, making another raise with AQ would be nothing short of disastrous. Not only would it be bad to re-raise again with AQ here, it would also be a losing play to even call the bet. This is an example of a situation where it would be best to simply step aside. AQ might be beating the open raiser, but there isn’t a good shot that it is ahead of the re-raiser.
If you are up against some super tight players who are getting involved in their first pots of the night, it is doubtful that your AQ is worth an open raise. Tight opponents will be able to lay down their hands on bad boards after the flop, so there is no need to put yourself at risk by trying to push them out now. In addition, a tight player is more likely to have an actual monster hand. In these spots, even the tightest players will come back over the top. AQ is best for a re-raise against loose to moderately loose players, but it does not play well when it is facing some of your tightest competition at the table.
Small Pocket Pairs in Early Position
Playing small pocket pairs is not easy from anywhere at the table, but it can be a particular challenge when you are in early position. There are a number of different ways to play small pocket pairs in early position, and the right way will vary from game to game and limit to limit. The best way to determine what works best is simply through practice, otherwise known as trial and error. The odds are that you are not going to land on the most profitable formula in your first few rounds, but over a significant sample size, you might just find a strategy that really works.
The real value in a small pocket pair is in its potential to hit a set, full house, or even quads. If you enter the hand with a small pocket pair and work your way to showdown, the chances are that your unimproved hand will not be the winner. Having said that, giving up on a busted small pocket pair is not all that difficult to do. Part of the value in small pocket pairs is that you know you are either going to play them hard or not play them at all. There really aren’t going to be too many situations where you will have a pocket pair and not have a clear decision as to how to move forward. Yes, you could flop some sort of straight or flush draw, but this is hardly the path to riches. Play your small pocket pairs with the best case scenario in mind, but with a blank board as the most realistic outcome.
A popular strategy, especially in micro stakes games, with small pocket pairs is to simply limp in. the logic behind this play is that it will not cost a lot of money if the hand misses, and it will keep the pot small enough that a raise can be called. The flaw with this thinking, however, is that an open raise will have handful of side benefits. Open raising with any hand in early position will allow you to assert the position of dominance in the hand. Early position raises almost always mean strength, so you will have the ability to push around opponents even in the situations where you end up missing the board. The fact that you made a raise pre-flop will often be enough to convince your opponents that you actually have a strong hand. How are they supposed to tell the difference between when you have pocket fives and pocket kings? Now, if you decide to limp into the pot, you will hardly be able to convince your opponents that you actually have a strong hand. Not only does it not make sense for you to have a strong hand if you limp in, but the pot will be small enough that players will pay to see whether you are telling the truth.
In addition to all of the above negative side effects to limping in, you will also be playing your hand face up. Again, according to your particular game and limits, an open limp followed by a flat call pre-flop is a dead giveaway for a small pocket pair or even suited connectors. This will make it exceptionally difficult to extract value when you flop a set, assuming that your opponents are capable of analyzing your play to this degree. If you are playing in an easy micro stakes game, players won’t be prone to folding their big pocket pairs no matter what, so you may still be able to limp in and hope for a great flop. You have to analyze whether or not your hands will be able to identify your hand for what it is. If the other players wouldn’t fold jacks if you showed them your pocket aces, you are sitting in one of the few games where limping in with small pocket pairs can be profitable.
Many of the benefits of raising vs. limping in early position are the exact reasons why limping is bad. For example, a limp exudes weakness and makes it difficult to take away pots post-flop, whereas a raise allows for aggressive plays that push people off their hands. Raising is not something that you do in conjunction with the immediate value of your hand. Yes, a raise should have some connection to the hand that you are playing, but pocket queens and pocket fours alike are both hands that are worth raising with in early position. It is how you play your hand post-flop that will really determine whether you are able to make money.
A noteworthy clause to raising with small pocket pairs in early position is that you will need to consider the situations where your raise will be re-raised. In these spots, you have to be willing and able to let go of your hand. Most of the time, a 3 bet is going to be enough to warrant a fold with a small pocket pair out of position. The exception to this rule would be when a 3 bet is made, it is reasonably sized, a few people called, and there is no pending 4 bet. In other words, if you make an open raise to $4 in a .50/1 NLHE game with 33 and the player to your immediate left re-raises to $12, you could safely call this bet, regardless of whether or not anyone else called. Ideally you will be playing against a stack that makes set mining worthwhile. Now, if in this same situation, the player to your left raised to $20, you should only make the call if a number of other players call the bet and there are proper implied odds. One of the few benefits to limping in with small pocket pairs is that you will only need to contemplate calling an open raise, with 3 bets being an afterthought. Aggression carries added variance along with it, but raising is definitely the most lucrative way to play a small pocket pair in early position.
Post-flop can definitely be even more tricky than pre-flop when you have a small pocket pair. If you brick the flop completely, it won’t be much of a challenge to give up your hand, regardless of what happened pre-flop. You can easily cut your losses and move onto the next hand. If you happen to hit the lop hard, however, you will need to critically analyze what the best game plan is from here on out. You should gauge the strength of your opponents, the likelihood that you will be outdrawn, and how much money the other players have. If you feel your opponents are very strong, you can either lead out or plan to check raise, both of these options can work quite well. If they are weak, leading out is still the best bet. A weak player is unlikely to bet at all, and if they do, they will fold to your check raise. Plus, there is a shot that you will allow them to draw out on your. To sum it up, check raises are OK, but only against opponents with strong hands.
The turn and river are impossible to strategically plan for, as they almost always depend on what happened pre-flop and on the flop. The last two streets are where you will really need to extract value, and this should be your main contention. Slow play still has its place, but overdoing it can lead to a lot of trouble. Maximum value is the ultimate goal of any big hand. You can make money pre-flop and on the flop, but the big pots are often built on the turn and river.
Flop Check Raises
Flop check raises have multiple benefits and uses. The exact situation that you are in will determine whether your play is likely to be profitable, but more importantly, most profitable. There are plenty of spots where a check raise will be enough to take down a pot, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best way to play the hand. There is a distinct difference between getting value and getting maximum value. Being able to spot good vs. great check raise flops is what largely separates the losers from the winners.
As a general overview, there are two primary ways to use a flop check raise: as a bluff or for value. As odd as it might seem, a bluff check raise will actually be just as beneficial as a check raise for value. When someone check raises you, the tendency is to give them some credit for a hand. As a result of this, you are likely to get a fair amount of folds. This, coincidentally, is the exact reason that flop check raises for value are not usually the best course of action. If your play as a bluff is able to garner a lot of folds, why would you expect a different result when you have an actual hand? With all of this said, there are exceptions to almost every rule, and that is what this article will discuss.
Flop Check Raises as Bluffs
Everyone knows what a flop check raise as a bluff is. This play means that you have nothing but that you feel like an over representation of your hand will be enough to scare your opponents away. There are a number of reasons why a flop check raise bluff is a good play. First, a lot of amateur players think that a flop check raise is the go to move when they land a big hand. This is the reason why many people will fold to your raise. Any thinking opponent will be able to realize that your check raise is usually indicative of a truly strong hand. Now, things will get more complicated if you are a known regular playing against another regular. For this reason, bluff check raises are best utilized against someone who you have not played with a whole lot. Anyone who doesn’t recognize you or know how you play should give you credit for a hand. This isn’t always the case, but it is the easiest way to play the odds.
If you are facing an opponent who you feel is more than capable of folding their hand to your aggression, the next step is deciding whether it is logical. A flop check raise needs to follow a clear line of thought. If you are check raising after you had just limped into the pot, this is going to be much harder for your opponent to believe. If, however, you are playing a raised pot out of position, your opponent will have reason to believe that you actually are slow playing your hand. The context of the flop will play a significant role in relation to the pre-flop action.
Let’s say that you open raised pre-flop, got one call, and then check raise a flop that you completely missed. While this is hardly an advisable play (c-betting is usually better here), your opponent should definitely feel like you are trying to suck them into the pot with a slow play. This exact play is a double sided coin, though. If you are a known regular, this play won’t make much sense at all. This, again, is a spot where your reputation means everything. Raising pre-flop and then check raising the flop will have the best chance of success when you are playing a total unknown. The reason for this is because this exact play is very common among any winning micro and small stakes player (check raise bricked flops after opening the action).
The best time to check raise bluff the flop is when you are in a raised pot, but made a call vs. the raise itself. When you check the flop to your opponent, they will fire out at the flop in an attempt to take it down on the spot. This will open the door for you to take it away from them. This type of hand is perhaps the most likely time for any original raiser to be betting with nothing. Let them make their c-bet, but punish them with a surprise check raise. You might be surprised to see just how easily many players give up when their c-bets face resistance.
Flop Check Raises for Value
Flop check raises for value should not be a very regular part of your repertoire. The problem with value check raises is that they will inevitably force a ton of folds. You saw how many types of flops and hands are ideal for check raise bluffs and how easy it is to get your opponents to lay down their hands. Following this same train of thought, your plays for value are also more likely to force folds than calls or raises. You will need to pick the hands where you make value check raises very selectively.
The most optimal times to check raise the flop for value are in pots where the pre-flop action was full of raises and re-raises. When you play 3-bet pots, it means that you will have the ability to suck in opponents solely due to the amount of money they have already invested. A smart player will recognize this and be able to find folds, but most of your opponents are not this advanced. Take a look at the following example to get a feel for which types of hands are best for value check raises.
You are two on the button with JJ. The open raiser makes it $10 in your $1/$2 game, where there had already been one limper into the pot. You elect to see where you stand by making a 3-bet to $30. The limper folds (bad move to open limp!), and the button makes it $67. The original raiser calls and you do as well. Everyone was playing with $400ish stacks, which makes this a profitable situation to set mine. The flop falls J37. The out of position player checks to you, and you check as well. The player on the button now fires out $110.
This is a good hand to check raise for value for a handful of reasons…
1.) You know the button either has a big hand or is making a play. No matter which of these is true, they are all but certainly going to bet this flop.
2.) Checking allows the button to bet and the out of position player to raise or call. The more money in this hand, the better. You have the nuts and want to lock in some profits with the best hand possible.
3.) If the button does check back, there are virtually zero cards that really hurt you.
4.) If you bet out, you are most likely to get calls or folds. Even if the button player has a big hand, there is a legitimate chance they will flat call and play it safe, especially with stacks this deep.
As you can see, the good far outweighs the bad in this particular hand. As a general rule of thumb, the more action that there is pre-flop, the more likely that a flop check raise for value is going to be successful.
Playing AK Out of Position
AK is a premium hand no matter how you look at it. When you are dealt this hand out of position, however, you will need to adjust for the disadvantage you are playing with against your opponents. Even pocket kings or pocket aces can be very tricky to play when you are out of position, and AK is no different. Being able to give up is the primary skill that you will need to learn if you want to achieve ultimate success with AK out of position. Yes, as odd as it may seem, your success in winning will rely heavily on your ability to fold. How is that for some irony? Folding isn’t the only thing you are going to be doing though. Maximizing value with AK is kind of like painting a work of art. You will need to tread lightly in some areas and force the issue in others. Yes, being out of position is not easy, but it is not the end of the world.
As much of a disadvantage as position might be, it definitely has its benefits as well. These positive attributes are particularly useful with AK. When you brick the flop and are left holding ace high, your position will allow you to push your opponents out of the way. AK out of position will be tougher to play when it misses because your opponents will be less likely to believe the story you are telling. If you raise pre-flop or re-raise pre-flop, there is no reason why someone shouldn’t be giving you credit for a big hand when you bet on the flop. If you are afraid to play aggressively and take some risks, though, you are going to have an even more difficult time playing AK. With that said, you are going to have a tough time making money with any hand if you are afraid to use some aggression.
Early position is the worst time to be dealt any hand, isn’t it? Even though there are a number of players left to act behind you, the obvious play is to raise in this spot. Limping into the pot in early position here is an absolute mistake. In fact, limping in with any hand is a big mistake, but that is another story. If you really want to weed out the field in order to lower your risk with AK, you can make your raise a bit larger than normal. For example, if you would normally open to 4x, you can pump that up to 4.5x or 5x the big blind. This will accomplish your goal of trying to keep random trash out of the way. In addition, it will build a better resume for your image when you fire out on flops that you blank.
The real tricky aspect of playing AK out of position is when you are facing a re-raise. If a player re-raises anyone’s open raise from early position, you should assume that they are working with a pretty strong hand. As a general rule of thumb, any early position raise should be given more credit than middle or late position raises. Now, since you are the player who was making the raise, you should realize that there is a good shot that your hand is beaten. While you probably have outs, there is always a chance that you are completely dominated by KK or AA, or even tied with AK. In all three of those situations, you are going to be at a absolutely massive disadvantage. The only real way that you will win these hands is on a complete bluff, and this is not a bluff that will have a high success rate. As a result, you should flat call 3 bets only on very rare occasions.
A flat call out of position of a raise is the perfect way to hand money to your opponents. When you miss the flop, you are stuck, when you hit a king or an ace, you might make a little, and you might even be crushed anyway. Your opponent’s position will give them a significant edge over you in almost every pot, barring those rare times where you crush the flop. Ace king is the type of hand that needs to string along opponents. If you are not the one applying pressure, you are not going to be able to sucker someone in with one pair, which is the bread and butter of AK profitability. Out of position and think you might be beat by a re-raise? Throw it away and move on.
Middle and Late Position
Middle and late position is when you are most likely to get AK all in pre-flop. If you think that you are facing a re-raise from a player who is capable of re-stealing or re-raising with a worse hand than you, it only makes sense to fight back with another raise. Balancing out the times where you are ahead with AK and the times where you are behind is all but impossible. You will need to play the odds in some spots and accept that your shove all in may very well be snap called by KK or AA, leaving you hanging by a thread. By that same token, however, you will get a lot of quick calls with TT-QQ.
Now, where is the profitability with AK if the best calls you are going to get come from hands that you are flipping a coin with? If you are shoving all in with AK pre-flop, you should be making the last big raise more often than you are calling off your stack. As a result of this strategy, you will find that you are forcing a fair amount of folds. Say that you open to $11 at a $1/$2 game and get re-raised to $44. If you shove all in for $200, you will get fold a large percentage of the time. The times that you are snap called will be compensated for with those times where you net a $50 profit without ever seeing the flop. When AK is all in pre-flop, it will win some pots by getting lucky, win a select few by having the best of it, and frequently take down pots before the flop is even dealt. The last of these three options is what you should be aiming for.
Pre-flop play is only the first step with AK, albeit the biggest one when it comes to your chances of success. If you get it all in pre-flop, there is nothing left to do. Often times, though, you are going to see a flop with a call or two. In these cases, you need to be prepared for when you land a hand and also for when you completely miss. You are at a positional disadvantage, but your position will also make it easier to play your hand effectively.
If you hit the flop, it will almost always mean that you need to lead out. Open raising, then checking when an ace or king hits is just letting value slip right from your hands. Say that the flop is Axx. In this case, your bet will get calls from any random ace and a lot of other pairs. By checking, you are sacrificing value. Beyond this, a check is also going to let hands you currently have beat earn an opportunity to draw for free. Sure, you will get a lot of folds when you lead out on flops that you hit, but you are still going to win the pot.
A missed flop is not as bad as it might seem. If you brick, the obvious play is to make a continuation bet. If your opponent calls or re-raises you, it will be easy to let go of ace high. If you get called, you can either fire another barrel on the turn or check it down. Whatever you do, don’t just check when you miss. You will be hard pressed to find any flop that doesn’t warrant at least one c-bet when you open raise with AK out of position.
Playing Sets Out of Position
Sets are great hands, but like any hand in poker, they are exceptionally difficult to play out of position. You should not have any issues making money with sets no matter where you are positioned at the table, but playing pots in position is always the easiest route. Playing your sets out of position can certainly be done effectively. There is a defined difference between playing sets for profit out of position and playing sets for maximum profit. Some players think that so long as they win the hand, they must have played their set just fine. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are a number of different situations that you will run across with sets, but each one depends on a handful of different variables.
The primary elements involved with how you should play your sets out of position include pre-flop action, your relative strength given the board, your opponents, and stack sizes. There are some other relative dynamics that will come into play, such as your history with a particular player or two, but these are factors that need to be analyzed on a case by case basis. Once you can quickly break down these four essential elements with your sets out of position, you will have an easier time maximizing your value.
The pre-flop action is relevant in any post-flop situation, not just when you flop a set. Pre-flop play is the foundation for everything else that happens in a hand; it is your main set of context clues that can be used for extended decision making. Assume that you open raise with any random pocket pair. If your open raise was met by a handful of flat calls, you shouldn’t be putting your opponents on particularly strong hands. If, on the other hand, you were 3 bet, the 3 bet was called by another player, and then you called, you should be putting the other players on stronger starting hands. These are the types of things that do not take an expert to figure out. The truly tricky spots are in smaller pots where no one has made a play to assert their position in the hand, such as the open raise followed by calls situation above. While making big investments with small pocket pairs is not the best play, aggression from other players allows you to get a better feel for where you stand.
Relative strength is absolutely critical with sets, regardless of how big the set is or your position. A major leak for many players is not being able to identify the spots where a set was once good, but is now beaten. As strong of a hand as a set might be, it is hardly invincible. You can be easily beaten by straights, flushes, full houses, and even better sets. There are a number of landmines that you will need to look out for whenever you have a set, regardless of how harmless the board might look. One of the worst things you can do is lull yourself into a false sense of security. If you flop a full house or the nut flush, fine, don’t worry about being beaten too much, but a set is seldom going to be the nuts after the last card falls.
The boards to beware of with sets will be obvious to the majority of poker players with any significant amount of experience. You shouldn’t ever feel comfortable when you are holding a hand like 88 on a board of 8h 9h Th. Not only is there a decent shot that your hand is already beat, but there is an even greater shot that it will be dead in the water by the river. The reason that players get attached to their flopped sets is because it does not happen all that often. When you are finally able to land a set, it feels like the pot is already in your hands, but this is a critical mistake in approach that will inevitably cost you a lot of long term money. For the most part, the flop is not going to pose a major threat to your hand, but there will be a lot of hands where you can either be behind or you will need to dodge a lot of cards.
There is little value in playing scared poker, but there is a lot of value in being cautious. Position is important with relative strength because you will need to alter your opponent’s play to cater to your best interests. If the board is draw heavy on the flop, leading out could be a much better option than going for a check raise. A check raise attempt might lead to a simple check back and a bad card falling on the turn, something that you definitely do not want to see with a set. Analyze your particular situation, determine which hands will pay you off, and figure out how to get the money in the middle.
It should go without saying that your opponents will play a vital role when determining the best way to play a flopped set out of position. Loose, aggressive opponents are more likely to ignite the action on their own, while you will need to bet out into passive players.
Knowing how your opponents tend to play is an easy way to capitalize on your hand’s value, sometimes without even needing to do anything on your own at all. There are really only three different types of people you are going to be facing in any given situation: tight, aggressive, or somewhere in between. The game plan against each of these opponents should be straightforward. Bet hard into the people who like to call down, battle with the people who like to make plays, and mix it up with anyone in between. The playing styles of other players in the hand are the biggest indicators of which plays will be the most profitable.
Stack sizes are particularly important pre-flop when you are looking to hit a set. In post-flop situations too, though, they will play a role in how you decide to go about playing your hand. If you are heads up in a pot, out of position, with a set against a short stack, check raising will be a great move. This would be the best play because you will allow the player to bet or bluff off their entire stack on their own. If you lead out in this situation, the player will have an easy decision to fold when they miss the flop. Checking into a short stack out of position allows for the other players to make a mistake and donate their stack to you. Look at it this way, a short stack is likely to get all of their money in on the flop, and checking to them is the easiest way to induce action.
Playing against a big stack out of position with a set is entirely different than playing against a short stack. Big stack players give you an opportunity to either lead out, check raise or check call. Deciding which particular move is best will largely depend on the board and your strategy for the remainder of the hand. If you think your opponent is drawing, leading out makes the most sense. If you think they are strong, a lead bet followed by a turn check raise would be great. If you are not sure where you are at, leading out for two streets may very well be the best play. Nothing is set in stone, but big stacks will almost always allow for additional maneuverability out of position.
3-Bet Folds: Always Bad?
Three betting is a necessity in most any game to one degree or another, but 3-bet folding can cost you a lot of money. There are certain situations where it will drain your bankroll and other spots where it is the only reasonable play. As is the case with most any play in poker, there are a number of variables that you will need to take into consideration. It is first important to realize that much of the post-flop decision making is going to be largely determined by how you played the hand pre-flop. If you are going nuts with big plays pre-flop, you better be willing to commit post-flop as well. What many players fail to realize is that pre-flop play really is the framework for tough post-flop decisions.
Stack sizes are almost always the primary factor when deciding whether or not you are in a position where 3-bet folding is viable. If you are playing with a deeper stack, there is a better chance that there will be room to let go of your hand. When you are working with a shorter stack, however, it will be harder to find a 3-bet fold that makes financial sense. Aside from stack sizes, position and your opponents will also factor into your final decision. Deciding your next move after facing a 4-bet should not be all that difficult, especially after you know what to look for.
There are almost infinite different ways that you could be set up against a 4-bet. The best spot to be in is late position against just one opponent. This is as simple as it gets and gives you a significant advantage against your opponents. The worst scenario is a 3-bet in the blinds that ends up facing an eventual 4-bet. Needless to say, your decision should be much easier in late position than it is when you are in the blinds.
The biggest mistake that you can make with 3-bets is making one at all. If this doesn’t make sense, just think about it for a second. If you are in the small blind or big blind with TT or JJ, you may very well be stuck and not know what to do. A lot of players think that 3-betting here makes sense because it will allow them to “see where they are.” While this may be true, it is also a complete waste of money. If you re-raise with JJ in the SB and force folds, you know that you were ahead. If you re-raise and get 4-bet, you put yourself in a terrible spot. Now you need to decide whether to call, fold, or shove. It would make a lot more sense to simply see a flop and play the hand from there. This isn’t the most comfortable hand to play out of position, there is no arguing that, but it is much better than either wasting money or losing value.
You should always know exactly what you are going to do if you get 4-bet whenever you make a 3-bet. It seems that this should go without saying, but a lot of players truly do play their hands with no real game plan in place. I would be willing to bet that if you considered what you are going to do if you get re-raised, you will have a much better time overall and will be in a lot less tough spots. If you know what your next move is, you can scale your immediate play accordingly. For example, if you have decided that you are going to fold to a 4-bet, you can make your 3-bet a bit smaller so as to save yourself a little bit of money. If you keep your bet the normal size and actually want a 4-bet, there is nothing else that you can do but sit back and hope for the best. Scale your bets so that your later plans are factored into the end game equation. Saving a couple bucks here and there is a great way to boost your win rate in the long run.
When You Should (Can) Fold
The situations where folding a 3-bet hand is viable are much less frequent than those where you shouldn’t fold. Assuming normal stack sizes, most 3-bets are going to require 10-30% of your total chips, and it is usually closer to the higher end of that figure. Say that you are in a $1/$2 NLHE game. If an early position player makes an open raise to $10, this would mean that your 3-bet would need to be to around $35, depending on the intent. In this case, you are risking roughly 17.5% of a standard buy-in. If there were other players in the pot, you may need to raise to even more. Now, if you were playing with a $500 stack, this is when things start to get interesting and dynamics are shifted.
Using the same example as above, a $35 raise would mean that you have already risked a fair amount of your stack in relation to 100 big blinds ($200). Now, if you alter that stack to $500, you are risking much less than 10% of your total stack. Losing 10% of your stack is something that you can live with, but 17.5% starts to move into a range where even hands that are beaten need to come along for the ride. Deep stacks will mean everything and will easily allow you to let go of your hand.
When You Shouldn’t Fold
Short stacks are set-up for all in situations, and this is when you need to commit yourself to the hand. Let’s skew the example above to find a spot where you should not be folding. Pretend that your cards are totally unknown. Maybe you were betting for value or maybe you were 3-betting light (which would be bad here!), it doesn’t make a difference.
You are sitting at $1/$2 with $110. A player opens to $10, and you re-raise to $35 after one other player called the open raise. At this point, the open raiser shoves all in. Note that their stack size is completely irrelevant, only yours is important. Now, you have the option of calling $75 to win approximately $125 ($235 including your stack). If you won even 1:3 times, you would be generating a profit. This means that a 33% underdog is sitting in decent shape given the investment and relative pot size. As you can see, you would be hard pressed to find many hands that would find a realistic fold in this particular hand. If you are going to raise an amount that represents a significant portion of your stack, in this case about 35%, you can’t let go of your hand after you are re-raised. Will this cause a lot of variance? Yes, but you have to take the variance as it comes and make the proper plays, even if you know that you are probably crushed.
All that you need to analyze is whether your money that is already invested is too much to give up now. Using the example above, you can add 17% to your equity and re-analyze whether you should be in the hand. Yes, you may be involved in a pot where you are crushed, but a 35% underdog now has what is essentially 52% equity. Of course, this is a very artificial number, but this is the way that you need to look at it.
Playing JJ and QQ
Pocket jacks and pocket queens bring a mixture of fear and joy to almost any player. They are definitely strong hands, but they are hardly invincible, either before or after the flop is dealt. The key to generating a profit with these tricky hands is being able to play them effectively pre-flop. While post-flop play is undoubtedly important as well, pre-flop is where some of the biggest mistakes are made. JJ and QQ play very similarly to KK and AA post-flop, but they are completely different than those two hands when it comes to pre-flop situations. As intimidating as these hands might be, the truth is that nothing is as complicated as it might seem.
There are three primary dynamics that should be given consideration when playing pocket jacks or pocket queens. You already know your hand strength. These hands beat everything in the deck except for pocket kings and pocket aces, so the odds are that you have a solid lead when the hand begins. You should be aggressive when playing JJ and QQ, but you should remain careful as recklessness runs rampant with these two particular hands. They seem like monsters, and they are certainly valuable hands, but they are not going to win every time.
JJ is only one notch below QQ on the scale of hand rankings, but sometimes it seems like they are a world apart. Some people play pocket jacks as if their only value can be derived from hitting a set or catching a bluff. While it is true that it is difficult to dodge the entire board when you have a lone pair of jacks, there will be plenty of times where they wind up taking down the pot. One thing you need to realize about pocket jacks is that they are a profitable hand, just not a wildly profitable hand. In other words, where you could win an entire stack pre-flop with kings or aces, this just isn’t the case with pocket jacks. Even as you progress onto the flop, jacks will continuously run into trouble. If you can pick your spots effectively, you will be much better off.
Defining when to be passive and when to be aggressive with pocket jacks is not exactly easy. In fact, you should actually be practicing a fair amount of both at the same time, however odd that may sound. Jacks are the type of hand that you want to play hard and fast up until you start to feel some resistance. They are a good hand until someone at the table indicates otherwise. Even then, pocket jacks will be a strong contender to win at showdown, but not quite as much of a favorite as if they were to go through the hand without resistance. Gauging and adjusting the relative value of pocket jacks is crucial.
Position is important with every single hand of poker that you play, and pocket jacks are certainly no exception to this rule. It is much easier to play this hand in late position, but you should be pressing the action no matter where you are seated. In any position, jacks are worthy of an open raise. If there are a few limpers or folds ahead of you, a raise is the only logical way to start building a legitimate pot. After you are dealing with a raise ahead or re-raise behind, however, you will need to re-think your game plan.
The decision whether to re-raise with pocket jacks is often debated. A re-raise in early or middle position is less likely to gain calls from inferior hands, but it will do the best job of telling you where you are at. On the other hand, a late position re-raise is going to gain more calls from weaker hands but will be less effective in telling you where you stand. Your exact play is going to come down to whether you feel like you need to know where you stand and/or if you will be able to garner calls from weaker hands. If neither is applicable, you shouldn’t re-raise.
Calling a re-raise or even re-raising again is much more tricky than even re-raising in the first place. If you call a re-raise, you are going to have a tough time playing the remainder of the hand unless you are able to land a set. At a certain point you are only going to be playing the hand for set mining value. The best time to flat call a re-raise with pocket jacks pre-flop is when you feel like your opponent might be bluffing or if you could put them on a range of TT and AQ+. In these spots, you can safely call, but you will still need to tread very lightly post-flop. Stick with your reads, but don’t be afraid to make adjustments.
Bet sizing with pocket jacks is important and is most relative to your re-raises. When re-raising with pocket jacks, you should make your bets fairly large. This will accomplish two different things: maximum value from your hand and an easier outlet for a fold if you are re-raised yet again. When a player has AJ, AQ or a pair worse than jacks, you want a call. At the same time, however, you don’t want them drawing to a set at a good price. As such, you should be squeezing every penny that you can post-flop. The other added benefit of a large raise is that you can get away from the hand if you happen to face a lot of resistance. If is much easier and logical to fold to a re-raise after you made a large bet than after you made a small one. You will know that your opponent is serious and that they do not plan on going anywhere.
QQ is a borderline super premium pocket hand. You will sometimes feel tempted to shove all of the money in pre-flop, while other times you will want to simply lay it down. Queens are very susceptible to being beaten, despite the fact that they crush almost every hand in the deck. Aside from KK and AA which will leave QQ drawing super thing, AK will also be tossing a coin with pocket queens. Unless you are comfortable with a lot of variance, getting queens all in pre-flop will set you on a shaky ride. There isn’t a lot of doubt that moving all in pre-flop with queens is profitable in many online games, it’s simply that you will need to suck out a fair amount, force a number of folds, and occasionally be way ahead when the money goes in the middle.
Position is important with QQ and will largely help to determine just how strong your hand is against your opponent’s average range. QQ in late position will be infinitely more valuable than QQ in early position. This is even more true when it comes to pre-flop play. While you might be able to get away from QQ on an AKx flop, letting go of it pre-flop is not going to be easy.
It goes without saying that pocket queens denote an open raise and re-raise no matter where you are seated. Unlike pocket jacks, there aren’t going to be many situations where a simple flat call is logical. You need to raise and re-raise pre-flop. Now, there will also be more situations where you can flat a 3-bet pre-flop, something that also can’t be said for pocket jacks.
If you open raise in early or middle position with pocket queens and get re-raised, you will need to decide whether you want to raise again or flat call. The trouble with flat calling is that you will be in some very tough spots post-flop. Likewise, the trouble with shoving is that you will need to be sure that you have your opponent beat. Many times a shove in these spots will force folds from weaker hands and garner calls from KK, AA and sometimes AK. In the end, position with QQ is not as important as the action and your opponents. You know that QQ beats everything but KK and AA. Now you need to decide if you have enough equity to shove all in pre-flop or if you should play it safely. No matter what, pocket queens will take you for a ride more often than not, whether it ends up being en route to a win or a loss.
Bet sizing for pocket queens is much in line with that of pocket jacks. Your re-raises should be very large in order to ensure maximum value from any weaker hands that are considering calling. These raises will not necessarily serve the purpose of allowing room for a fold, though this is one of the sidebets. If you are making sizable 3-bets with pocket queens in a 100 big blind game, though, there aren’t going to be a lot of situations where folding could ever be justified. If you have 25% of your stack in the middle, you will leave yourself no choice but to call. A large 3-bet will suck in your opponents, but sometimes you will be value betting yourself. Once you put a big chunk of your stack in the pot pre-flop, there is no turning back, whether you are holding pocket queens or 2 7 off suit.
Re-steals are a great way to both make money and balance your range pre-flop. Even when your re-steal attempts fail, you are still going to derive a significant benefit if you know what you are doing. With that said, however, your goal should still be to find as much success as possible. If you can take down just a handful of pots per session with re-steals, you will be boosting your win rate by a fair margin. Re-steals do not have to be high risk if you do not want them to be. There is no shortage of opportunities to take shots at pots where you will have a great chance of success with a minimal amount of money at risk. Once you are able to identify these spots, the only thing left to do is execute.
Your position, opponents, and your hand are the three main variables at play when trying to determine whether or not you are in a good spot for a re-steal. If you are out of position, forget about it. If you are playing against very loose players who never fold, just move on. If you have a hand that plays badly in a 3 bet situation, don’t even bother. These are just a few examples of how you can safely and effectively narrow down which spots are and which spots are not profitable when it comes to re-stealing. Of course, there is more involved than this, and the dynamics reach quite a bit deeper. Overall, though, there is nothing that is all that complicated about making money with your re-steals. It will definitely take a bit of trial and error before you get your plays down pat, but it will come as second nature once you truly know what you are doing.
Position is everything when it comes to stealing a pot pre-flop, and it is even more important when you are attempting a re-steal. Your opponents are going to feel extreme pressure if they are re-raised and will be forced to play the pot out of position after the flop. As a result, they will often times simply give up their hand and you will take down the pot with little resistance. Alternatively, the player who you are raising could come back over the top, making it easy for you to let go of your hand. The third possible outcome of re-stealing in position is that your opponent calls, and you then get to play the hand in position. This will give you the opportunity to take down the pot with some creative post-flop strategy, or even get lucky and extract value. No matter which of these three scenarios ends up taking place, there is an infinite amount of added value in any re-steal when you have position.
Position will allow you to most accurately gauge how your opponents are likely to react to any play that you make. When you are out of position, you have no clue whether someone is going to call a raise, re-raise, or fold their hand. In this case, however, you can gauge just how many people are apt to making a fold. If a player makes an open raise, gets a few callers, and then you re-raise, the only true area of certain doubt is whether the original raiser folds. If the opening raiser does let go of their hand, your chances of winning the pot have gone through the roof. This is an example of a situation where a re-steal is profitable…
1.) When a player opens the action, gets multiple callers, and you have the opportunity to re-steal, take advantage of it. The only caveat to this particular play is if you are facing a set of players who are particularly loose and will call any raise. The more players that flat call an open raise, the more dead money that is in the pot. When making this play, be sure that your raise sizes are large enough to get everyone off their hand. Raise to 4x-6x the open raise amount, ensuring that you either get re-pushed out of the pot, or that you take it down.
Your opponents should always be taken into consideration no matter what sort of play you are making. Whether you are calling someone else’s raise or attempting a re-steal, your opponents’ tendencies should always be factored in. With that in mind, for the purpose of re-steals, you will be facing two different types of players: people who can fold and people who can’t fold. It should go without saying that you should only be 3-betting against those players who have demonstrated the ability to fold their hands when they face pressure from out of position. Re-stealing against a calling station is as good as giving money away.
In addition to spotting players who you think can make a fold, you should also determining which players are capable of making steal attempts of their own. If you know that a particular player is strong enough that they would steal a pot to pick up the dead money, it increases the chances that your re-steal will work.
2.) Always ensure that a big re-steal is made against players who have previously shown that they have the ability to fold. Never get involved in re-steal pots with a player who has no fold button, especially when you have little to show for your re-raise.
3.) Isolate and punish the players at your table who know when to make steals. This could mean that the player is stealing dead money, the blinds, or both. If you have position on a player and feel like there is a good chance that they are making a move, don’t be afraid to fight back with a 3-bet. Odds are that they will back down to the pressure and you will take down the pot.
As inconsequential as it might seem when you are re-stealing, your hand is actually very important. The actual makeup of your hand is vital because it will determine whether you have some post-flop prospects. Beyond this, you do not want to re-steal with a hand where you are sucking out actual value.
4.) The best type of hand to re-steal with is something that is both deceptive and valuable. In other words, big suited cards with random kickers will offer a lot of value. Imagine if you re-raised with K7 suited. If you get 4-bet, you should certainly fold in most every situation, but if you get called, there could be something big for you on the flop. With this type of hand, two 7s or a flush draw on the flop would not be likely to hit you in the eyes of your opponent. This hand also tends to miss flops quite badly, so you will have no trouble moving on when you brick the board.
5.) The worst type of hands to re-steal with are suited connectors and small pocket pairs. Unless you are turning your hand into a complete and total bluff, which you shouldn’t be, you are going to wipe out all of the value that your hand has. For example, a suited connector is able to make money through small investments that hit the flop hard. When you re-steal with this hand, you are eliminating the entire aspect of small investments. The same can be said for small pocket pairs. Play these hands for post-flop value, not as a re-steal.
Top Poker Sites
This poker website has the most traffic of any room to accept the US (previously known as Bovada). It is also the safest site online.
They accept poker players from all 50 USA states. All credit cards can be used for depositing, and withdrawing is easy.
BetOnline has great poker software and they accept all 50 US states – the only poker site to do so other than SB Poker.
Is Playing Poker on the Internet Legal?
Depending on where you live, online poker is legal in most countries even now in the United States, kindof. Countries will usually determine a game of poker legal or illegal by the basis as to whether they consider the game skill or luck. Many studies have proven that poker is skill, therefore large countries such as the United States, United Kindom and most of Europe have legalized online poker. The United States is currently licensing and developing their own poker sites while the offshore ones are still accepting bets from US customers.
Depositing and Withdrawing Poker Money
There is no stepping up to a cage, giving the cashier lady a few hundred bucks, getting your chips and going to the poker table. Actually it’s easier. Poker sites have a large array of options to instantly deposit in about 5 minutes and you’re playing.
Suggestion on Depositing:
This is what I suggest. First try your credit card. They have about a 70-80% chance of being transacted successful by the credit card company (their rules don’t like gamblers because potential fraud) but some poker sites are good at getting credit cards to be accepted. The betting sites that take visa credit also are the main poker sites we suggest so I recommend reading that guide if you have problems. So, if your credit card gets rejected you may have to jump through some hoops such as sending a check, heading up to western union or sometimes the websites will have “ewallets”. Very few accept Mastercard or Amex, but they are out there if you play at a sportsbook with poker offerings.
Ok, so you’ve played a few hands, won some money and now want to cashout your money back to your bank account. This is most easily done via a check and expedited by a Fedex or UPS courier. Depending on the amount or how soon you need the money you may want to choose regular mail because the poker site will sometimes hit you with a fee for using an overnight or 2-3 day fast withdraw. Most sites will give you 1 free withdraw a month. If you’re trying to withdraw a large amount, email the customer service and tell them you want the money wired. Typically you can only do this with amounts of $20,000 or more.
I don’t understand where I can play
We understand your confusion. Right now you can only play online poker at sites whom base their company in countries outside of the United States. Players from non-US territories pretty much unanimously do so at PokerStars.com. Only three states (NJ,NV and DE) allow you to play at sites licensed by the state to do so. Players from Nevada and Delaware can play together, but players from Nevada must play with players within the state. Things will only get more confusing as more and more U.S. states are legalized. At this point in time offshore sites offer just as good banking methods, are plenty safe if you play the proper ones (listed above), and because they accept all countries and states there is much more tables running and looser action.
Is Poker Safe?
I wouldn’t have this page up if it weren’t. It is only safe if you play at the proper gambling sites. Those marked in google and show up when you do searches ARE NOT all reputable. Constant monitoring and voting needs to be conducted to make sure our visitors get paid when doing so at any site we recommend.