How to Win at the Microstakes Games

by Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams

Ah, the micro stakes poker tables. This is where you can play online for amounts of money as low as $2. You will also find some of the softest competition on earth here.

This is indeed the place where it all started for most of us. But unfortunately for most people, they never get beyond these limits.

And this is too bad because not only does poker become a lot more fun as you move up the stakes and start playing for bigger amounts of money, but you can of course profit a lot more as well.

A consistent winning player at mid or high stakes can make a very nice side income or even enough to replace a high-paying day job. This is simply not possible at the micros.

I’m going to give you 3 simple strategies, that if used correctly, will triple your results at the micros and finally get you on the fast track to bigger and better things in this game.

1: Play a Loose and Aggressive Strategy

Most people are taught from day one in poker to play tight and cautious. Only put big money into the pot with a really strong hand they are told. Play your cards “close to the vest” and so on.

The problem with this approach though is that it is exactly what everybody else is doing these days as well.

Go ahead and load up any micro stakes game online right now, even at the very lowest stakes, and you will see a bunch of weak/tight players sitting around waiting for the nuts.

So in an environment like this you aren’t going to really get ahead by doing what everybody else is doing. If you do what they do, you will get their results, which is breakeven or small winner at best.

Tables full of nits waiting around for the nuts isn’t relegated to the nosebleed stakes these days. It’s infected the micros as well. The answer? Play a LAG style instead of the classic TAG style that’s been preached for years.

Attacking the pervasive weakness of most of today’s micro stakes players

The biggest winners at the micros these days know that a loose and aggressive (also called LAG) strategy is the best way to truly crush these games.

The reason why is because it attacks the main weakness of everybody else, playing too cautious and timid.

And the beautiful thing about poker is that we all know how hard it is to make a really strong hand. They just don’t come around very often.

For instance, you will only get dealt AA once every 220 hands and you will only flop a flush with two suited cards once every 118 hands. Heck, with a random hand 2 out of 3 times you won’t even flop anything at all!

So what this ultimately means is that there is absolutely tons of dead money out there which is up for grabs. And the person who wants to fight for it the most is going to win it.

Since everybody is going to make the same amount of good hands in the end, picking up more than your fair share of all these little pots where nobody really has anything is how you really get ahead in poker.

And that is exactly what a LAG strategy is perfect for.

No one likes the LAG micro shark chomping up chips from the timid regardless of the cards he’s holding. Unless, of course, you’re the shark.

What does “play LAG” actually mean in practice?

Steal the Blinds Frequently

If you are at a table full of tight players you can raise it up with a huge amount of hands especially if it is folded to you in late position.

Often if it is folded to me on the button and there are two tight players left to act in the blinds I will raise the top 50% of hands dealt to me.

Here is a rough visual of what the top 50% of hands looks like:

Apply Constant Pressure After the Flop

The next thing you want to do is take every opportunity you can to bet at the pot after the flop. This is especially the case when you are only against one player. And you don’t have to bet a large amount either. 50% of the pot is fine in most cases.

What this constant pressure does is force a weak/tight player to have a decent hand to continue. And we already know that most of the time they won’t have one.

Aggression and pressure is the name of the game in poker. It simply works. And it works really, really well in tight micro stakes games.

The key is to remember to give them credit and lay your hand down when they do finally decide to fight back. They aren’t messing around.

Raising the blinds almost every time against weak micro stakes players when you’re the first to enter with the top 50% of hands is a +EV play in the long-run. Every time you do it you’ve bought yourself a “free” round.

Bluff Scare Cards

The final key to a loose and aggressive strategy is to make sure that you’re bluffing a solid amount of the time. Because once again, they just can’t have it often enough to call you.

One of the best ways to start bluffing more is to use scare cards to your advantage. What is a scare card?

A scare card is any card that your opponent isn’t going to like very much. So this is often big broadway cards like an Ace or a King. But it can also be the flush or straight completer card on the turn or river.

Here is an example:

You have 55 and raise preflop

A tight player calls you from the blinds

The flop comes:


Your opponent checks and you decide to make a fairly standard continuation bet here. He calls.

The turn comes:


Your opponent checks. You should bet again on this scare card. He calls.

The river comes:


Your opponent checks. You should bet again on this scare card as well.

Just imagine how difficult it is going to be for a tight player who had a hand like top pair on the flop to call you down here. The board got incredibly scary for him. There are so many ways to lose!

By applying constant pressure like this, especially on cards that are likely to make your opponent feel uncomfortable, you can pick up a lot of easy pots with what is likely the worst hand.

If you can learn to start winning even a few more pots like this with the 2nd best hand, your results will skyrocket. This is what the top players do best. They win more pots without showdown.

Continuing to fire on “scare cards” – especially in position – on the turn and river will make your micro opponents uncomfortable and win you a lot of pots uncontested.

2. Focus on the Micro Stakes Fish

The recreational poker players, the fish, are the main reason why poker is so profitable. These are the guys who are playing way, way too many of their hands, calling down with any pair and chasing every draw.

Due to the huge and glaring fundamental mistakes that they make like this, they lose their money at lightning speed in the long run.

This is why if you really want to produce massive results at the micros, then it is necessary that you play against these players as often as possible.

The main problem though is that finding the fishy poker players isn’t always so easy these days. Often you will be lucky to even have one of them at your table at the micros.

This means that if you want to play in the most profitable games, then you will often have to change tables and even chase the bad players around a bit.

If you use a HUD then it is very easy to identify the fish. They will be the ones who are playing 40% or more of their hands. Often they will be raising preflop with less than 10% as well.

But even if you play live or without a HUD online, the recreational players will stick out like a sore thumb. It is important that you tag them or make a note on them right away.

With online poker offering new tables at your beck and call, there’s no reason to stay at a table where you can’t spot any obvious fish. Micro stakes games are always the busiest groups of tables online, so you’ll likely have plenty of options.

There’s no need to stick around a micro table without obvious fish

Even more important these days though is to leave the table if you don’t see somebody fitting this profile within your first couple orbits. After all, there are so many other tables to choose from at the micros that do have fish on them.

It doesn’t matter if you have the best micro stakes poker strategy in the world, you simply aren’t going to crush a table full of tight regulars. The main reason why is because they simply don’t make enough big fundamental mistakes like the fish do.

By playing so tight they actually protect themselves as well. It’s really hard to lose a lot when you have the nuts every time you play a pot!

You need to remember that by sticking around at a table full of tight regulars, you really are putting a cap on your potential winnings.

If you really want to blast your micro stakes profits into overdrive, then you need to make sure that there is always at least one recreational player at any table you choose to play at.

Avoid sticking with a micro stakes table without fish or decent-sized pot/flop metrics out of laziness. Uncheck the “auto post blinds” and check the “sit out next blind” to force yourself to leave before you have to pay for the blinds again.

3. Stop Beating Yourself

Truthfully though, the #1 reason why most people don’t achieve the success that they envisioned at the micro stakes poker tables is because they beat themselves. And by this I mean that they tilt away large portions or their profit.

One of the main reasons why poker is so profitable is because it’s such a difficult mental challenge. Literally anything can happen in the short run in poker and it can even drive strong players crazy and cause them to make big mistakes.

Poker is really just like one big giant rollercoaster.

It is a never-ending series of ups and downs. The biggest winners just have more ups than downs over the long run.

This is why tilt is your #1 enemy at the poker tables and it always will be. Once you get a decent strategy down and consistently play against the bad players like I mentioned above, it’s really only you that can beat you.

So the first thing to remember is that there are simply going to be days at the poker tables where you won’t be able to win no matter what you do.

You’ve probably experienced days like this before. Every single time you finally make a hand, they have a better one. It’s almost like the poker gods are just setting you up every hand to laugh at you.

For most people, days like this are very likely to put them on tilt. It causes them to start playing poorly and making bad decisions that they would never normally make.

It may be an abstract concept that’s too easy to ignore, but being in control of your emotional response to tilt-inducing prolonged coolers and bad beats may be one of the biggest differences between micro poker winners and losers.

Learning to accept bad beats and coolers

Here’s the thing though. If you can learn to accept the fact that these days will happen to you from time to time, and choose to walk away rather than fighting it, you will be ahead of 95% of your competition at the micros.

If you’re like me, then you have probably worked very hard to improve your game and put in a lot of hard hours at the poker tables as well. Why allow yourself to throw that all away just because of a few bad beats and coolers?

That is what everybody else does in this game. But you are better than that. You can choose to walk away today and not give away all of your hard earned profit.

Even more challenging though are the prolonged downswings. This is when the cards are killing you for days or even weeks on end.

I am not going to lie. As long as you are human, it is very difficult to endure periods like this without showing at least some signs of tilt.

Walking away is a hallmark of elite players from the micros to the high-stakes pros

However, the very best poker players know that you still need to keep employing this “walk away” strategy no matter how long it continues.

As soon as you recognize the first signs of tilt such as playing too many hands, making bad calls or just a general feeling of irritation, you can do wonders for your results by simply learning to walk away.

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Here’s the bottom line:

We play for the long run in poker and this means months, years, and even decades in some cases. Don’t allow a few short term and ultimately meaningless results to sabotage your long term success in this game.

Taking control, playing a consistent micro strategy, and playing the long-term game are essential winning concepts.

Dominating the micros is closer than you think

Creating real and lasting consistent profits at the micro stakes poker tables is something that ends up alluding most people. But it really doesn’t have to.

You can very conceivably triple your profits at these stakes and become one of the biggest winners by:

  • Employing a loose and aggressive strategy
  • Focusing on the fish
  • Learning how to quit before you tilt away your profits

These are also the lessons that are going to serve you well once you move up to the higher stakes and play against better competition for significant amounts of money.

Start taking these small steps today and not only will you improve your results at the micros, but it will prepare you to move up the limits and have real success in this game.

About the author

Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams is a poker pro and multiple-time poker author. He blogs about micro stakes poker strategy at:

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