Every micro stakes player should have one goal: make enough money to move up in stakes.
Some people would have you believe this requires some sort of super unique approach– a strategy meant for the micros and no where else –but that’s overthinking it. All it takes to break out of the micros is a solid strategy with a few adjustments.
In this article, we’ll review 4 concepts demonstrated by Doug Polk in a session recorded for The Poker Lab at 25NL on America’s Cardroom.
This is Dissecting The Lab, an article series that shows off what’s inside the Upswing Poker Lab training course.
Micro Stakes Tip 1. Open-Raise a Wide Range Pre-flop, But Consider the Rake
The rake at micro stakes is notoriously high, so much so that you need to factor it in to your pre-flop strategy.
Doug adjusts to the relatively high rake by reducing his open-raise size to a min-raise.
This poker site takes $0.01 in rake for every $0.20 put into the pot at the micro stakes. By min-raising, Doug reduces the pot size going into the flop and pays less rake as a result.
Let’s compare the difference in rake taken between min-raising and 3x-ing:
- If Doug 3x raised to 75c and the big blind called, the pot would be $1.60 with 8c rake taken
- When Doug min-raised to 50c and the big blind called, the pot is $1.10 with only 5c rake taken
This 3c difference may seem like an inconsequential amount of money, but rake adds up over time and any means of improving your win-rate is worth taking!
Keep in mind, Doug doesn’t use a min-raise strategy from the small blind as this would give his opponent too good of a price to see a flop. He prefers a 3x or fold strategy from the small blind.
There are a couple more benefits of min-raising that are particularly notable at micro stakes:
- Min-raising gives you a better price on your raise
Your pot odds to steal the blinds are best when you use a min-raise, thus you can profitably open-raise a wider range of hands. Playing more hands post-flop against inexperienced opponents is exactly what we want.
- Micro stakes players don’t 3-bet much anyway
One downside to min-raising is that it invites 3-bets because it gives your opponents a better price to do so. At micro stakes, however, you rarely have to worry about your min-raise being attacked by an aggressive 3-bettor because such players are few and far between.
If you are an inexperienced player yourself, you may want to take the opposite approach and tighten up your pre-flop ranges to avoid relatively tough post-flop spots (see: How to Make Winning Adjustments in Low Stakes Games).
Tip 2. Tighten Your Pre-Flop Calling Ranges
The increased rake and lower 3-bet frequencies mentioned above also call for narrower calling ranges, especially when out of position.
In the hand below, we see Doug open 8♦6♦ from UTG and make a disciplined fold despite getting better than 2.3-to-1 odds on a call.
Making the call here would be fine in a game with lower rake, but that extra premium pushes it over the edge here.
(Note: Want to improve your poker game, move up in stakes and make more money? Check out The Poker Lab, a poker training course that will take your game to the next level. Click here or below to learn more.)
Tip 3. Don’t Buy Into Micro Stakes Assumptions
Many players assume that balance goes out the window at micro stakes because “NO ONE EVER FOLDS IN THE MICROS!!!!111!!!shift+1!!”
That simply isn’t true. Keeping our ranges somewhat balanced(or at least considering it) is always important, even at the micros. You may see some unorthodox plays below 25NL, but that doesn’t mean you should never bluff or play passively with a strong hand.
In The Poker Lab, we categorize hands post-flop in the following way:
- Category 1 – Strong hands to bet for value
- Category 2 – Medium-strength hands with which to check/call
- Category 3 – Effective bluff hands (usually draws or overcards)
- Category 4 – Hands that are giving up
This doesn’t mean you should bet every time you have a somewhat strong hand. If you always bet with your strong hands and checked with your medium-strength ones, your opponent can exploit you by applying a lot of pressure whenever you check. To prevent this from happening, you can keep some relatively strong hands in your Category 2 check range.
In the hand below, Doug flops top pair and open-ended straight-draw– a very strong hand in a button vs big blind scenario –and chooses to check it back.
By making this play, Doug ensures that his checking range contains some hands that can call down when facing pressure on most turns and rivers.
Shifting some of your borderline Category 1 hands to Category 2 is an effective strategy to prevent yourself from getting exploited by aggressive opponents.
Bluffing with Backdoor Draws
It’s usually best to bluff on the flop with hands that have some way of improving on the next street– usually by hitting draws or overcards. On some board textures, however, you simply will not have enough bluffs in your range if you follow this logic.
In the following hand, Doug raised pre-flop and c-bet the flop with a hand that has only backdoor draw potential.
Doug open-raised from the HiJack in this hand, so let’s take a look at The Poker Lab recommended opening range from that position:
There just are not many hands that qualify as perfect Category 3 bluffs here (just 65s and a few flush draws). There are a plethora of value hands that we can have on this board though(AA, 77, 44, A7s, A4s, AK/AQ/AJ), so we need to work in some more creative bluffs.
How do we select these bluffs? Consider their backdoor draws.
Adding in some hands with backdoor potential is a good way to balance out your value/bluff betting ratio on the flop. With Q♣J♥ on an A♥-7♠-4♥ flop, we pick up equity on any heart, K or T and can continue betting when one of these cards come.
Tip 4. Follow the Pot Odds, Even in Precarious Spots
Even in precarious spots against seemingly strong ranges, it is important to objectively consider your pot odds. Micro stakes players are usually terrible at sizing their raises and will often provide you with great pot odds as a result.
Doug ends up in one these spots after 4-betting A5ss from the CO versus a 3-bet from the player in the big blind. He is met by an unexpectedly small 5-bet.
Running into a 5-bet after 4-bet bluffing is not fun, but in this spot, Doug is simply getting the right price on a call.
Doug has to call $5.50 to win $16.10, which comes out to about 25.5% equity needed. Even if we assume the big blind can only have AA or KK(a big assumption), Doug is still getting the correct odds on a call:
This is an extreme example, but it illustrates the point well- don’t forget to factor in your pot odds.
Always consider the price you are getting when faced with a bet, particularly against 3-bets and 4-bets. The result of your calculation may surprise you.
(Note: Are you ready to improve your poker skills and increase your earnings? The Poker Lab is a comprehensive training course designed to teach you the strategies behind the world’s best players’ success. Click here or below to learn more.)
Take a closer look inside The Lab and learn while you do it with these articles:
- 3 Concepts Every Aspiring Pro Needs to Know – featuring one of the hottest topics in poker: overbetting!
- If you want more micro stakes specific info, check out How to Make Winning Adjustments in Low Stakes Games
- Learn to tailor your tight-aggressive strategy for modern day games with How to Play a TAG Style That Wins in 2017
- Go back to the top of this micro stakes tips article