Playing winning poker at microlimits is very simple, but it can also be very frustrating because of all the bad beats. Most players who are serious about poker will beat these limits and can move up to the higher stakes. In this article we will discuss recurrent traps that new players often fall in to, with regard to raising, profitable and unprofitable hands, premium hands, setmining, position, opening ranges and bad beats.
Tight is right
At the microstakes (up to $10) we find only beginning players and every now and then a more experienced player who went broke. Beginning players are naturally players who want to see many flops, are passive (often call, seldom raise) and only focus on their own cards. Other players raise with everything and play over-aggressive. Purely by playing fewer hands than your opponents you are already playing better than they do, because, on average, you have a better hand if you do play. A tight-aggressive player like this will play roughly 15-22% of his hands.
In poker you can generally say that you win most by winning the big pots and losing the small ones. It is important to avoid annoying spots. This decision is often made on the flop when you decide whether or not to call a bet with a marginal hand. If you do call you will often have to make two additional, more expensive decisions on the turn and river. You will find more than enough situations in which you will have a far easier decision to make, so it makes no sense to get involved in many marginal situations. You will most definitely get bluffed out of a hand or fold the best hand at some point, but in the long run this decision will be the most profitable one on the microlimits.
Never open-limp, always raise (or call)
Beginning player often tend to limp preflop. This means that you get involved in an unraised pot by calling 1 big blind (BB). It seems logical to do this because if you miss the flop, it only cost you 1BB. Nevertheless, it is better to raise. You are playing very tight and will only play good hands. By raising you (often) avoid seeing a flop against 3-4 opponents. You don't want this to happen for the following reason:
• Against 3-4 opponents there will most likely always be one who flops something good.
• Both the blinds are (most likely) in the pot and could have any two cards. On a flop like you could think you're in good position with your while the blind is holding . I'd like to see you fold your top pair/top kicker in this situation…
• If you do flop something good it will be very hard to win a big pot. Your opponents only paid 1BB and will therefore fold their hands easily.
• Furthermore, in a pot of 4BB you can generally bet a maximum of 4BB, while in a pot of 20BB you could already bet up to 20BB and the turn and river are still to come. A golden rule is: 'Never go broke in an unraised pot', and you want win your opponent's entire stack.
A standard raise is always 3, 4 or 5BB (+1 per limper). On micro-limits I would always suggest to raise 5BB + 1 per limper because you have many players who call very lightly. Raising to 2BB is known as a 'minraise'. This has little effect and the blinds will often call the extra BB.
After the flop you have to bet according to the size of the pot and not according to your previous bet. A bet on the flop should always be between half the pot and pot sized. Betting less than this would also be seen as a minbet. The point of raising is getting more money into the pot, pick up the pot, or make villains pay more for their draws. There is almost always a draw out there and with a bet of 3BB in a pot of 15BB you are always giving your opponent the right odds to call, even if he only has a gutshot or bottom pair.
What hands make you money in the long run?
Top pair/top kicker
One of the hands that occurs most often is a hand in which you hit top pair and have the best kicker and you pick up the pot. Be aware, however, that if the pot ends up getting big and there is a lot of action, your top pair might not be the best hand.
You can often win big pots if you hit 2 pair and villain hits top pair, especially on microlimits.
A pocket pair of 2's might not look too spectacular before the flop, but these low pairs are still profitable hands. Not necessarily as a pair itself, but if you flop a set. The odds of flopping a set or better with a pocket pair are 1:8,5 or 11,75%. As a rule of thumb, you can use 5-10% of your stack to call or raise before the flop, but you have to make sure it is also 5-10% of villain's stack. If your stack is $3, the stack of villain 1 is $8 and villain 2 has $0.36, then you can call the following amounts:
You: 5% - 10% of $3 = $0.15 - $0.30
V1 5% - 10% of $8 = $0.40 - $0.80
V2 5% - 10% of %0.36 = $0.01 - $0.03
Against villain 1 you can call up to $0.30, because this is 10% of your stack. Against villain 2 you can't call because 10% of his stack is only $0.03 and you don't get the odds to call here. You are assuming that if you do hit your set, you will end up winning most or even all of your opponent's stacks. The more often an opponent raises preflop, the less likely it is that he has a strong hand (in other words, his range is wider). If your opponent only holds a marginal hand, he will be less willing to put a lot of his stack into the pot. As a result, it can be less profitable to setmine against these players. On the other hand, setmining against tight opponents is especially profitable.
5 – 10%?
I myself usually stick to the following: In position I call up to 10% and out of position I call up to 5%. This is because you can often still pick up the pot if you're in position and don't hit your set if the other players check towards you. Out of position this is never that easy as there are almost always overcards on the board.
More: Playing for Setvalue
Setmining on microlimits can often be even more effective because you can often buy-in for 250BB. Many players will therefore have stacks of 100BB+, which allows you to even call after a reraise. Another advantage is that players don't often fold and will pay you off with a marginal hand.
AA and KK
Many beginning players tend to slowplay their monster hands, especially pocket aces, often because they don't want everybody to fold. It is very important to also raise and even reraise these hands. With a high pair, the last thing you want is to end up in a multiway pot, and you are hoping to see a flop against 1 (maybe 2) opponents. With aces and kings you want to get all your money into the pot as fast as possible. You are an 80% favourite against any other pocket pair BEFORE the flop. Therefore, if a player raises before the flop, you should almost always reraise this player.
If you manage to get a lot of money into the pot before the flop it will make it very difficult for villain to fold after the flop as he has already invested a great part of his stack. If, for example, villain is holding pocket jacks and the flop shows , it will be relatively easy for him to fold, so make sure he puts as much money as possible into the pot preflop.
Losing a preflop all-in with aces or kings is a cooler, that's just part of the game. You should play your kings just like you play your aces.
More: Pokcet Aces
Flush draws in multiway pots
A nice nut-flush draw (Ace-high flush draw) can lose you a lot of money if you're sitting heads-up, as you will often not get the right odds to call. If you need to pay $0.10 into a pot of $0.12 then you often pay too much against 1 villain. In a multiway pot you can easily call if two other villains already called in front of you. Against 1 villain you would be paying $0.10 for a pot of $0.22, while against 3 villains you pay $0.10 for a pot of $0.52. Make sure not to pay too much money for your flush draws just to see if it hits on the river. Always check how many outs you have to hit your draws. A nut-flush draw is also more valuable than, for example, a 9-high flush draw, because you sometimes also have overcards to count towards your outs.
What hands do you lose with?
Top pair/ weak kicker
With a hand like you will often get into trouble when you flop an ace but no flush draw. You do have top pair, but on microlimits, almost every ace gets played, and every ace out there beats your kicker. If you get a lot of action then the chance is high that you are way behind in the hand, and if you don't get action that you win little. This can also be said for hands like and even . You often have reversed inside odds, which means you lose more but win less.
If you have to call a bet on the flop and the turn from one villain and all you have is 2nd pair, then chances are you're beat. What hands beat you? Always ask yourself this when calling with a marginal hand. Also remember that after the flop, there still is a turn and a river on which you might have to call additional bets. Avoid marginal calls as much as possible. There are enough other spots in which you have more chances of winning. Making good laydowns is an essential skill.
Gutshots & open ended straight draws
In heads-up situations you seldom get the right odds to call, as you often only have 4 or 8 outs. In a multiway pot you could get the right odds. Always bear in mind the following things:
• If there are still villains left to act behind you, the chance is big that they will either fold or raise. In both cases you might not be getting the right odds anymore
• Draw to the nuts; If the board is paired or has 2 cards of the same suit, then you shouldn't be drawing to a straight because that is often not the nuts. If the board has 2 cards of the same suit, then you don't have 4 or 8 outs but 3 or 6 because 2 of your 8 cards are of that suit. If you then hit and get a lot of action, you are most likely beat, or you win a small pot.
More: Playing Draws
Position is almost as important as your cards. In one position you might raise a hand that you would fold in another position. The best position is on the button, as you get to make the last decision postflop and know how the players in front of you acted. On the button you can also often steal the blinds. The small blind is the worst position postflop because you are always first to act. Here are the names of the different positions, listed from worst to best position:
3. UTG (under the gun)
4. UTG + 1 (also known as Hijack)
5. CO (Cut Off)
The better your position, the larger your opening range (you play more hands in better positions).
Here you find a list of all the hands that you can play on microlimits in my opinion. Of course you can deviate from these hands every now and then depending on your table. This range is relatively tight and you will be playing about 16% of your hands.
UTG: 22+, AQ+, 22+ (this does not include AJ, KQ and JQ)
UTG + 1: 22+, AJ+, QK+
CO: 22+, AT+, JQ+
Button: 22+, AT+, TJ+, 45s+
Depending on the players in the blinds you can try and steal the blinds with almost any two cards. Not with complete rags like 27o-J3o, but a hand like Q5s is fine. Stealing blinds is less important on microlimits as many players often call and the pots get relatively big, which reduces the profit from stealing blinds. Always pay great attention to the players in the blinds.
You can pretty much stick to the same range to call raises if you have position, but always focus on the player who raised. If this is a very tight player you should probably fold hands like AT-AJ, TJ-JQ and 45s-89s. I 3-bet (raise) with JJ+, AK and AQs+, but make sure not to minraise. If villain bets 4BB, you have to make it at least 10BB, but I would rather stick to something like 12-15BB. Your 3-bet should be slightly bigger if villain has position on you, as he has the advantage of position and should pay for it.
SB and BB
It is very tempting to see many flops when in the small or big blind as you have already invested money into the pot. This is a big leak. You have the worst position and your range should be tighter. You should also see blinds as the fee for getting a round of cards. You only pay for this during these two hands, but each hand actually costs you (1BB + 1SB)/6. On 2NL this would be 3ct/6= 0.5ct per hand.
If, for example, 2 players in early position raised to 4BB and you are in the SB with , then you can just fold that hand. If the button keeps on stealing your blinds, then you would like to make a stand. You can best do this with hands that flop well, such as AQ or TT. The best thing you can do here is reraise villain because he obviously opens with a wide range of hands and is likely to fold here. Low pocket pairs are not the best hands to do this with. This is because you will have to keep on playing out of position if you don't hit, which can be very frustrating.
On the microlimits you suffer the most bad beats, and that is a good sign. You get a bad beat if an opponent calls you although his chance of still winning is minimal. Bad players make a lot of suck outs, as good player tend to not put themselves in a situation where they are that far behind. They usually have a good hand and won't make the call unless they get the right odds for it. 9 out of 10 times you will win the hand after your opponent mucked his cards, and you don't really have a clue what he was holding. Often he would have been chasing a gutshot or called 2 pot bets with a flush draw.
The one time he does hit his flush you flip out and curse the fish. Don't do that! Just reload and let him do it again. He had a 1/5 chance of winning, so the next 4 times you will win the hand. Poker is a long-run game. Every decision you make has to be +EV (expected value), then you will play profitable poker in the long run.