Poker players often follow a well-trodden path when becoming profitable. They commonly play out a sequence of getting to know the rules of Texas Hold’em, making a series of errors, then cutting out those mistakes and climbing the levels, with a few steps backwards at points to iron out those faults that blight our low-stakes learning. But micro mistakes can cost real cash, so why not make sure that you’re not making any basic blunders that blight your poker game as early as possible? Let’s help you play solidly at the earliest possible stage.
1.) Play Your Position
Understanding the importance of the position you begin each hand in is absolutely paramount in becoming a profitable poker player. When starting out in the greatest card game on Earth, you’ll often lose most of your money by being dragged into pots when in an early position such as small or big blind, where you can overvalue your hole cards purely because you automatically have chips invested in the pot before the action begins. Likewise, should you get into the action from the cut-off or the dealer button, then these positions will regularly make you more money because you have position on your tablemates in the hand. The button, in particular, is a great place to take advantage of the pressure you know the blinds will be under by stealing them as often as you can. Raising aggressively in position is something you need to add into your game if you aren’t doing it already.
2.) Don’t Play Too Many Hands
Taking part in a hand of poker is exciting, and it’s easy to get carried away and start putting your chips into pots way too regularly. An optimal VPIP (chips that are voluntarily put into the pot) percentage, when applied to hands at a full ring table, is between 18-22%. On your table online, there’ll be a screen you can pull up that tells you how often you’re taking part in hands. It’s worth waiting until there are enough hands in there to create a true reflection of the session, but once you have that hand history, make sure that you keep an eye on how often you’re calling or raising. A typical mistake micro-stakes players make is getting involved too often. If you’re playing 6-max then up your percentage accordingly. If you’ve got nine opponents in a massive live field, maybe drop it a little lower.
3.) Don’t Hide
Although we’ll advise you not to play too many hands and keep your VPIP at an optimal level, the opposite of being too aggressive is being too passive. Start to fold 90% of your hands and your opponents will notice and start to take advantage of you just like you should be of any shot-shy players at the felt. There are a lot of low-stakes players who start waiting for the nuts to take part in a hand and it can cost them ever putting themselves in a position to win a tournament. Don’t be that player! If you find that you’re having your blinds stolen on a regular basis, get three-betting, and don’t be daunted by other players doing likewise – no limit Hold’em is a great game to teach you the value of any two cards, and while you’ll always want to consistently play better hands, and avoid being too loose, the opposite is not an ideal position and in an age where poker is a very attacking game, you put yourself equally at risk, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Start playing suited aces, connectors or one-gappers and see how the game plays from a new perspective. Keeping your own game mixed up confuses your opponents.
4.) Don’t Trap Too Much With Premium Hands
While being dealt AA, KK or AK looks and feels great, making the most value with those big, juicy-looking premium hands is often billed as something that is difficult to do against either single or multiple opponents. However, while you might see players in the $1 million One Drop getting crafty with the rockets and levelling each other, it’s rare that you’re choosing the best play by doing the same thing in a $1 rebuy. Most of your enemies at micro-level are either beginners or players who are unable to make the step up through the levels that you yourself are looking to do. These players will often be far happier to call off your shove with the pre-flop nuts than you think, and you should watch what happens when players trap with the nuts or shove with them a few times to see this borne out. If it feels dumb to have to make the simplest move in poker with such a huge hand, let it. Enjoy the profit and take down tournaments and cash out rich from cash games.
5.) Take Control
Pushing players around at any level in poker relies on two things – initiative and guts. Contrary to popular myth, being a table bully is not about who has been blessed with the largest testosterone-fuelled body parts. Pressuring your opponent with position, knowledge about them or simply raising players off pots with calculated bet sizes when you believe neither you or your opponent has hit anything is going to pay off consistently in the long-term. There’s also the outside chance that by controlling play, you’ll put an opponent on tilt. Which brings us nicely to…
At micro-level, players can tilt even the most disciplined of players more than often. The bare truth about players at this level is that often they won’t know what they’re doing, as they are still learning the game. We’ve all been there, and naivety is just part of learning how to eradicate those early mistakes at poker. However, if you let bad beats, poor calls, lucky opponents, $1 buy-in players who chase draws right to the river get to you and affect your play, then you are the only one making a huge mistake in the game.
If you find yourself ‘on tilt’, making bad choices in hands, it is time to stop. There is no excuse for playing poker when you’re not at your best. The more you get used to controlling your tilt, the more seldom it will appear. Anger is, by its very nature, a diminishing emotion. It is impossible to stay angry for long just as it is very difficult to remain on tilt for the entire time you’re playing after a harsh hand. However, what you’ll lose in any period you are on tilt can seriously affect your profitability, enjoyment and progression in the game. Master your own emotions at the poker table and it will be much, much easier to deal with how others reveal theirs.
7.) Execute Perfect Bankroll Management (BRM)
Playing poker and having perfect bankroll management sound like two wildly different bedfellows. One sounds fun, the other a drag. But the synchronicity between the two should be in complete harmony if you want to make a success of your poker play, whether you are a recreational or aspiring professional. Even at a micro-level, maybe even especially at this level, it is key that you don’t risk more than you should on buy-ins. We’d loosely advise never playing for more than around 2% of your buy-in on a tournament, so if you typically play a $2 tournament, keep $100 in your bankroll. Not only does this protect you from losing the lot in one fell swoop, it teaches you control of your buy-ins and protects you from the dreaded ‘variance’.
Good luck at the tables, and search the partypoker lobby for ‘Low’ and ‘Micro’ buy-ins today – we look forward to hearing your success stories!