Ah, the micro stakes. The limits where you can play poker online for as little as a couple of bucks. The limits where million-dollar poker dreams are born!
So why is it that so many people fail to achieve any success at all even at these incredibly low limits? Why do they struggle to turn a profit against some of the most inexperienced and poorly-skilled players in the world?
Well, after having played millions and millions of hands at these stakes myself over the years with a lot of success, I have noticed several reasons why this is the case.
In this article I am going to list the top five reasons why people fail to consistently win at the micro stakes.
1. They Don’t Have a Plan
Most people who play at the lower limits don’t have a real plan for what they are trying to accomplish at the poker tables.
When they sit down to play, they jump in at whatever stakes they feel like on that particular day and end up bouncing all over the place with no real direction. Sometimes they will even jump across different formats, too — for instance, playing cash games one day and tournaments the next.
This is a recipe for disaster. If you want to have success in poker, then it is extremely important that you initially stick to one game type and create a real game plan for exactly when and how you will be moving up the limits.
I would highly recommend starting at the very lowest stakes, no matter how good you think you are or how experienced you are. Create clear monetary goals for when you will move up to the next stake and when you will move back down. For example…
- Move up to 2c/5c when your bankroll reaches $150
- Move up to 5c/10c when your bankroll reaches $300
- Move up to 10c/25c when your bankroll reaches $750
And so on.
Having such a plan in place will ensure that each day when you sit down to play poker you know exactly what the game plan is, what you are doing, and where you are headed.
2. They Don’t Have the Bankroll
You also need to have the proper bankroll in order to avoid going broke, even when playing micro stakes.
We have all heard the stories of someone who started with $20 and ran it up to five figures, six figures, or even more. But here’s the truth — only very rarely do these stories actually work out in reality.
The problem is that $20 is simply not an adequate bankroll for any cash game on the internet, even at the lowest limits. I suggest having at least 30 buy-ins for any stake that you are playing.
Since the buy-in at the very lowest limit online is $2, this means that you should have a starting bankroll of at least $60. Doing so will help prevent you from going broke again and again due to the natural cycles of variance (bad luck) that occur in this game.
Bottom line, if you are serious about poker, then it is time to get serious about your bankroll, too.
3. They Gamble Too Much
Another reason why people fail to achieve their goals at the micros is because they play too many hands and/or they try to win every single pot.
You have to remember that micro stakes poker is not like the million-dollar final table tournaments that they show on TV. Winning poker at the lowest limits is not played like that at all, in fact.
Turning a profit in the micro stakes games actually requires a lot of discipline and patience. And, to be honest, it is also downright boring at times as well.
You need to play fairly tight preflop and also make a lot of disciplined folds after the flop. This isn’t the place to gamble it up. Keep it simple and win more.
4. They Don’t Have the Patience
Closely related to the last point is the fact that you must learn to be extremely patient at these limits in order to succeed. In fact, many people are surprised or even shocked to learn what I consider to be the biggest secret to my success at the very lowest limits online.
What’s the big secret? I fold a lot. Yes, that’s right. I often just hit the fold button again and again and again. I just let them have it.
I don’t bother trying to win every single little pot. I would rather lose the battle and win the war. I also know that they aren’t trying to bluff me anywhere near as often as I would like to think sometimes.
You simply have to learn to play your cards at the micro stakes. You can’t bluff them, nor can you “make moves” on them. It will go right over their heads. Most of the time if they are betting big or raising you big, trust me, they have it.
In order to win big at the lower limits, you need to learn to be extremely patient. Yes, it will be boring. There is nothing flashy or exciting about beating the micro stakes. They call it a “grind” for a reason.
If becoming a consistent winning poker player at these limits is your goal, then it’s time to forget all those fancy all-in bluffs that you saw in the million-dollar tournaments on TV. That stuff simply does not work at the micros.
5. They Don’t Control Their Emotions
Lastly, the single biggest reason why most people fail to win consistently at the micro stakes is because they do not control their emotions well at the poker tables. This leads to tilt, poor decision-making and, ultimately, losses.
The thing about poker is that it doesn’t work the way that we want it to. And quite frankly, it never will. Just because you got all the money in the middle while holding the best hand, that does not mean that you will win. Poker just doesn’t work this way.
There is an ever present element of short-term luck that exists in this game. Somebody almost always has 20 or 30 percent “equity” in a given pot. This is the chance or percentage that they will end up making the best hand.
For example, say you get all the money in on the flop with and your opponent has a flush draw. The player with the draw is going to win the pot close to once every three times. This is a very substantial amount of the time, when you think about it.
That means you will lose such hands frequently, sometimes several times in a row as well. This is the kind of thing that causes many micro stakes poker players to go on tilt and start throwing away their money with terrible calls and silly bluffs.
It is extremely important, then, that you learn to view the game of poker through a broader lens and see through all of the short-term madness.
It will get crazy sometimes at the micros, believe me! These are the stakes where you will find the players who love to chase every draw and call you with any pair. These players are going to make their hand sometimes. However, if you consistently get the money in against them as a favourite, then the math will take care of them — and you — in the long run.
You must recognize that sometimes it will not be your day, week, or even month at the poker tables. Getting emotional and sabotaging your results though will only end up hurting you.
You need to learn how to quit for the day before this happens. Don’t throw away all of your hard work over a couple of stupid bad beats.
Learning how to win consistently at the lower limits is not easy. You will encounter some of the wildest players on the planet at these stakes and it will be downright maddening at times to play against them. This is why it is important to remember that poker is a long-term game and that what happens in a single day or even week simply does not matter.
This is also the reason why it is imperative that you are properly bankrolled for any game you are playing (with 30 or more buy-ins). That will help ensure that these short-term fluctuations don’t bother you as much.
You also need to make sure that you are playing a patient and disciplined game in order to beat the micros. Forget all those fancy all-in bluffs that you saw some poker pro make in a high-stakes game. They simply won’t work at these stakes.
Keep everything as simple as possible at the micros. Get your money in consistently with the best hand and keep the bluffs to an absolute minimum.
It won’t be pretty. In fact it will be downright tedious at times. And it will be frustrating now and then, too. But believe me, this is the only way to consistent profit at the micro stakes.
Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams is the author of the popular micro stakes strategy books Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes. He also blogs regularly about all things related to the micros over at www.blackrain79.com.