How to play poker
Poker stakes: learn about poker buy-ins and table stakes
Before you sit down to your first cash game, there are certain basics you need to know, including:
What is a buy-in in poker?
How much will it cost?
In limit games, the minimum buy-in is 10 times the big blind. So, in a $1/$2 limit game, you’ll need at least $20 to get started.
How table stakes work
Now you’ve got your chips, here’s how poker stake works once you’re at the table:
You can’t add chips to your stack during a hand
If rebuys and add-ons are on offer, you need to wait until the hand is over before topping up your stack. Unless you’re not in the hand, in which case you can help yourself any time until the start of the next hand.
Chips on the table stay on the table
While you’re in the game, you can’t take chips away. Think about it. If everyone squirrelled away chips every time they could, there wouldn’t be any left to play for.
Micro-limit tables are a good launch pad for novice players, but you can make some money too.
Micro-stake games are different to other forms of poker. The tactics that apply in deep-stacked, potential freezeout situations aren’t going to work when the stakes are small and players can top up quite easily.
Most importantly, there’s no time to second-guess. In this type of game, your best chance is to pick a course of action and stick to it. Sounds simple, but in reality there’s a kind of art to it, which is what we’ll go through here.
Small stake games are all about the flop. Assuming you picked a good hand to start with, the flop will decide whether you should go ahead or not. Once you’ve decided, you need to follow through. There’s no guesswork or worrying what everyone else is going to do. You’re playing the hand and that’s it.
If you lose the hand, don’t worry; just pick yourself up and try again. Chances are, you’ll win most of the time if you follow this strategy.
When you’re playing for small amounts, you’ll want to get as much value as you can in a short space of time. Let’s give you an example of how to do this:
After raising before the flop with A-K, there’s $8 in your stack, two opponents left and $2.50 in the pot. The flop comes K-6-2.
You decide to go ahead. But what to bet? It should be big enough bet you can go all-in if you’re called, but not so scary that the other players will fold. So a pot-sized bet would be about right. That would leave you with $5.50 and a pot of $5. If you’re called, you can put the rest in on the turn.
If you want to make micro stakes work for you, you’ve got to act with this kind of certainty every time.
Choosing the right hands
Of course, this only works if you’ve read the flop correctly in the first place (this is where lots of people come unstuck).You need to know that an A-K with a K-Q-J flop against three other players spells trouble, and that 5-4 on a 6-7-10 flop is unlikely to take the prize.
So what hands should you go with? Obviously, top hands like sets, full houses, flushes and straights go without saying. There’s also a place for top-pair hands, middle-pair hands with outs and big drawing hands (for example, a flush draw with two overcards).
Playing multiple tables
Good at multi-tasking? That’s handy, because if you really want to make money in Micro-Limit poker, you need to learn how to play multiple tables. Sounds crazy, but because micro-limit games are relatively predictable, experienced players often have several tables running at the same time.
With four $0.05/$0.10 tables you can make $5 an hour if you know what you’re doing. It’s not going to pay off the mortgage, but it’s about the same as playing $10 Sit & Go tournaments and you’ll learn more.
Playing multiple tables isn’t easy at first. We say practice with two tables at first, then keep adding as you get more confident. There’s no right number to aim for – it really depends on the person – but however many tables you end up playing, the same strategy applies.
- Be patient
- Pick the right hands and situations
- Follow through with the hands that you do play
Three final rules
- Avoid draws (almost-there hands that are only good if you get the right card). In cash games, chasing draws can mean the difference between winning and breaking even – especially when the implied value (the amount you’ll pick up if you make the hand) is actually nothing to write home about.
- Don’t bluff. Bluffing only works when people have a lot to lose. In small stakes games, people will happily take you on every time. So unless you’re sure opponent really has no imagination at all, it’s not usually a winning tactic.
- Be a caller. Just because you’re not going to bluff, doesn’t mean other people won’t try it (they probably think it’s the only way to play poker). If someone’s been playing all kinds of hands, don’t be afraid to call them on the river.