When we talk about micro-stake poker, we can compare it to a great ocean. Some people, sometimes with a stroke of good variance, are able to swim effectively and move on to deeper waters. Others, simply can't do it and either drift aimlessly or indeed even sink.
In this article we want to give you a little guide to be a winner in this immense pool called micro-stakes. If you follow these simple yet effective steps, your possibilities to win, and eventually move forward, will increase considerably.
Step 1: Bankroll Management
If you ever read a poker forum or asked advice from an expert player, surely you've seen or heard something about Bankroll Management. Bankroll Management means to manage your money in poker. And when we talk about "money in poker", we mean the money you can dedicate exclusively to poker (that money is called your poker "Bankroll"). Bankroll Management should generally mean having at least 100 buy-ins for your chosen game however it can be different from player to player. For example, some people can use an aggressive Bankroll Management strategy, because they are less inclined to tilt, and so losing part of that Bankroll won't cause them too much pain, and they can play easily with 30 buy-ins. Other people have much more difficulties in handling losses, so a "tight" Bankroll Management strategy is recommended for them (50 to 100 buy-ins is a good starting point at micro-stakes).
If you are unsure what type of game, and more importantly what limits (the buy-in cost of your chosen game) you should be playing, then you should seek some advice from more experienced players. A good way to do this is to post a question in a poker forum asking for advice. A solid Bankroll Management is the best way to avoid going broke, and it's one of the most important concepts if you want to play poker seriously.
Step 2: Use Your Position
As you probably already know, your position in any given poker hand is one of the biggest advantages you can have, as well as having a great starting hand of course! Taking advantage of your knowledge of position means you can play a wider range of starting hands when you play from later position. As a contrast it's usually best to play a tighter range from when you are in early position. Here are some reasons why playing in position can benefit your win rate:
- There are less opponents left to act. That is, you already know what (at least) half table did, and can act consequently.
- You will probably be the last one to act during the post-flop. Thus, you have the advantage to know what your opponents did before you take action.
- You can steal a lot of blind. Of course, this will be opponent-dependent. If you have at least one tight player, you can open almost any two cards and expect profit from your stealing.
Let's answer this question as an example:
"Why is K6o going to be profitable in position against a loose passive opponent, but will not be when out of position?"
If you have position against a loose but passive opponent then you have the advantage of seeing his actions first. If he checks the flop this will most likely mean that he has not a strong made hand. You could bet here and take the pot down there and then or you have the extra choice of just checking back to see the Turn without having to invest any more money in the pot. This way it is more likely that you will get to the showdown cheaply and against your opponents' loose range and it's possible your K6o might be good enough to win.
Step 3: Value Bet
A value-bet is a bet where you expect to be called mostly by worse hands. The value bet is probably the strongest weapon in your arsenal. Micro-stakes are populated by lots of loose-passive players who are willing to see the showdown with a middle pair or even worse. When you have a big hand (2pair +), the decision is easy, and you just want to follow the path of bet/bet/shove to take all of your opponents chips.
Of course, the decision won't always be so easy, because sometimes it may be you that is holding the weak hand. In this case proceed cautiously and remember that sometimes your opponent may just have the better hand. If they make an unusual action, like a check-raise for example, think about why they made that move and don't under-estimate their actions. That doesn't mean that you should avoid betting when you find yourself in a situation like this, it just means you have to be more cautious. How? Thin value-betting!
You thin value-bet when your opponent has a range of hands which either is beaten by or beats you. To make your bet EV+, of course, you need to decide if that the hands you beat are more plentiful than the one you're beaten by. This is where good hand-reading skills come into play.
Step 4: HUD and Notes
The fact that the micro-stakes field is so large and often you are sitting at a table against new players can lead you to believe that a Heads Up Display (HUD) is not so important. Of course it's not necessary, but having one can help you improve your game in so many ways.
A HUD is a really great tool, especially if you multi-table. At the lower limits you don't need a particularly complex HUD. It would be enough to have one that displays the basics information (like pre-flop, c-bet, 3bet, blinds and steal stats). Approved HUD's, such as Hold'Em Manager and Poker Tracker, also give you the possibility to study your game after you play which is a habit to adapt.
In addition to the HUD, you can even take notes on the players, which helps you in a way the HUD can't. Taking good notes can be very important for your game, because it allows you to understand better your opponent's actions. For example, if you see a player always min-raising monster hands pre-flop, write it down and play your hand accordingly the next time you see it happen.
Step 5: Concentrate on the Basics
In other words, keep in mind the information you have already learned and focus on it. The basics are all you need to get through micro-stakes. You don't need to study complex concepts like a raise all-in bluff on the river, because it is a situation that will happen so rarely that won't affect at all your win rate. If you reinforce the basics enough, you will be able to be a winner at micro-stakes, and you will have a good starting point to move on to the higher levels.