This article will teach you the correct strategy for micro Texas Hold’em stakes. If you are new to poker and don’t have any experience at all, please read our poker rules and vocabulary of poker terms articles before this article.
On all poker sites, small stakes Texas Hold’em cash games are the most popular. Stakes range from $0.02/0.05 to $0.10/0.25 and there are enough number of tables to choose from. The players in these micro stakes levels are a mixture of recreational players (who are playing for fun without an intention to develop their game at all) and players who have formulated some kind of basic strategy.
The truth is though, players who are really working on their game and have the motivation to learn poker move up from these stakes pretty fast. Therefore, the micro stakes player pool becomes a mixture of very bad players and regulars who are winning with some very basic knowledge about the strategy. You shouldn’t worry about the level of other players that much if you are willing to learn how to play.
It’s important to recognize which players are loose (recreational) and just playing for fun and which ones are actually trying to beat the games. Poker today has matured to a level where players are getting skilled and more sophisticated about their strategy. However, in these small stakes, most of the players are still playing without a proper strategy and without a motivation to develop their game. So what does this mean? It’s a great spot for you to make some pocket change and start your cash game career.
The whole strategy in a nutshell at this level is going to be about getting value. That means you shouldn’t be raising raggy hands and try to outplay your opponents by bluffing. Solid poker and disciplined starting hand selection is the key to win at these stakes. Another point to keep in mind is that you should differ from GTO (Game theory optimal) strategy created by poker solvers.
Why you should ignore GTO at micros? The answer is quite simple: At these stakes, you win the most basically by bluffing less and exploiting the looseness of opponents by betting big for value, in both pre-flop and post-flop situations. Most micro stakes players won’t recognize this and will still call your large-sized bets with weak holdings.
Let’s look at the strategy step-by-step
How to play pre-flop in micro stakes
So, how should you exploit a micro-stakes game? Let’s look at an example. The normal, widely approved opening-raise size in 6max NL is usually 2 BB (Big Blind) – 2.5 BB. However, at these stakes, players don’t care that much if you raise 4 BB – 5 BB instead. They will still call with their raggy hands and chase flops to hit something.
So, you should wait for premium hands and punish your opponents by using bigger bet sizes. This way, there will be more money in the pot and the stacks are easier to get all-in post-flop. A good rule of thumb about opening-raise size would be 4 – 5 BB + 1 BB more for each limper. And yes, there will be lots of players who will just passively limp their hands with a wide range. If you see players who are not folding to any raise preflop, you can go a bit more extreme and raise, let’s say 15 BB straight away. It’s not a lot of money anyway and they won’t care. People tend to think about money rather than big blinds.
Hand Selection in micro stakes
So, what are the starting hands you should raise with? As mentioned earlier, using bigger raise sizes will make the pot bigger preflop and leave SPR (Stack-to-pot Ratio) shorter. Meaning there will be less money behind if you just min-raised or used smaller preflop raise-sizing. In Hold’em, making an overpair or a top pair with a good kicker is usually a very good hand. When the stacks are a bit shallower after using bigger raise sizes preflop, these hands are going to play even better and are good hands to stack-off. So, when it comes to hand selection, you should favor hands that can make big pairs often.
Playing Premium hands
Big pocket pairs, JJ+ are premium hands that are worth stacking-off to almost any action preflop. Hands like AK, AQ, AJ, KQs, KJs QJs will hit strong top pair often and should be played aggressively. If you miss the flop, it’s worth continuation betting, but barrels at turn or river should be fired rarely. As stated earlier, people don’t like to fold at these stakes.
Small pocket pairs & suited connectors
Small pairs are tricky hands to play. If you hit a set, you want the money in almost always, but a set hits only about 1/8 of the flops. A good strategy with small pairs 22-66 at these stakes is to keep the pot smaller preflop and try to hit a set. If they don’t hit, it’s pretty cheap to get out of the way. If there are limpers ahead, it’s a good idea to limp small pairs after them. When the action comes to us unopened, it’s a good idea to raise but I wouldn’t go nuts with huge raises (unlike premium hands).
Also, stack sizes are important when playing small pocket pairs. The opponents should have at least 50 BB stacks to make it profitable to call a raise. If a tight player opens from UTG with 30 BB stack, it’s a good idea to fold 22-66 right away from hijack or cut-off.
Smaller suited connectors like 65s-T9s are quite similar to pocket pairs with their playability. They are playable hands that can hit some strong draws but many times flops are just missed completely. Don’t invest too much preflop with these hands.
In many tables, you can actually get away with a strategy where you raise premium hands bigger preflop and more problematic hands smaller. This may sound unbalanced but many times opponents won’t notice this, and you can improve your win rate by using more than one opening bet size. Be careful though with this strategy and choose your opponents wisely. Against an experienced player, this kind of raising pattern is a very bad idea. Poker is all about knowing your opponents and making decisions that will be optimal just at that moment.
Keep in mind that at higher stakes using different raise sizes will reveal your hand strength pretty easily to others. So don’t get too attached to exploitable sizings when moving stakes and playing with experienced players.
Middle pocket Pairs
77-TT are problematic hands to play. Unopened, they are worth raising from any position but things get tricky post flop quite often. If you flop an overpair, it’s a good idea to bet big and protect your hand. In a high-card board, you need to fold your hand quite often.
There are lots of hands that are playable in some cases but not always. From early position, it’s a good idea to play only premium hands, but when it comes closer to the button, you can widen your opening range. Hands like ATo-A5o, A9s-A2s, KQo, KJo, KTo, K9s-K6s, QJo-Q8o, QTs-Q6s JTo, J9o, JTs-J7s, T9o, T9s-T6s are playable depending on the position, previous action and stack sizes. If you are a new player and unsure about tricky situations, it’s a good idea to play tight and concentrate on playing premium hands aggressively. However, when you are getting more confident about post-flop decisions, you can start adding more hands into your opening range.
Other (Trashy Hands)
Hands like T5o or J2s that aren’t mentioned in any of the categories are going to be folded in all of the positions. As you can see, most of the starting hands fall into this category and aren’t good enough to be played at all. If you think it’s boring to fold a majority of hands and notice yourself raising with bad hands, it’s a good idea to add more tables. When multi-tabling, you usually get dealt a playable hand at least in some table. Poker, in general, is not about bluffing, it’s about discipline and waiting for good hands and slowly grinding money from your opponents who play worse hands in the long run.
3-Betting in micro stakes
In micro stakes, it’s a good idea to 3-bet for value. You’ve probably heard of 3-betting some smaller ace-suits and suited connectors along with premium hands in order to balance 3-bet range. In micro stakes, you can pretty much forget all of that and only 3bet strong premium hands like JJ+, AQo+.
When it comes to 3Bet sizing, just like open-raise sizings, you can make it bigger than the standard size since the opponents are likely to call anyway. Don’t worry about “scaring people off” with too big a bet. Sometimes all opponents will fold their hands and you won’t get value every single time. It’s time to move on to the next hand and not worry too much.
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