Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Secret is: Value. And Position. And...


I recently made the decision to cash out a big chunk of my poker bankroll to help pay for a new vehicle I purchased this week. I still have enough left in the offline 'roll to pay for a WSOP trip this summer, but my left pocket money is considerably lighter than it was last week. My online 'roll is also a tad on the meager side, again primarily because I've cashed out regularly every other month (which is because I fear Uncle Sam confiscating another chunk of my money like they did back on Black Friday... grrrr.)

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying I'm being forced to practice good BRM as I rebuild the 'roll, which means I'm back down playing at the baby stakes again. Primarily $25NL and below. Now, the players at these micro-stakes aren't bad (hell, basically everyone is better online these days), but they're nowhere near as savvy or tough as the sharks found swimming at the $100NLand $200NL tables. In other words, a slight change in tactics is required to maximize my long-term expected value down here in the micros.

What does this mean? In simple terms, it means I have to play a somewhat more mundane, straightforward style of poker to win. Playing tonight, I was reminded that there are some basics to beating these games. Here are four of the keys to crushing the micro games:
  1. Value Betting is Better than Bluffing. At the micro-stakes, bluffing should be just a small part of your game. Heck, aside from blind stealing and c-betting on dry flops, bluffing should nearly be non-existent in your game. It just ain't worth it. Value is where it's at, folks. Wait for good hands and then pound the opposition with 2/3-3/4 pot-sized bets. Make 'em call and chase... and boy will they.
  2. Position. While perhaps not as vitally important at the micro-stakes as it is at the higher stakes games, position should still be a key part of your game. I'm playing mostly 6max tables these days, and this means that in the first two seats to the left of the blinds (UTG and UTG+1) I'm basically only playing ATs+, AJo+, KQ+, and 77+. Yes, I'm tossing just about everything else. In the last two seats, however, I'm playing damn near anything that looks pretty.
  3. Isolation. Part and parcel of playing position is the tactic of iso-raising open limpers and min-raisers. Want to crush da fish? Get heads up with a guppy in position and take their money.  I played for about 60 minutes tonight, and I honestly lost count of the number of times I iso'd on the button against incredibly weak villains. I can, however, count all the money I took off them.
  4. Mind the Gap. Got ATs and there's an open raiser UTG? Throw that bad boy away. Got 33 in the BB and you're facing a LP steal? Toss it-- it just isn't worth it. Don't believe me? Google Sklansky's Gap Concept before you open your mouth to argue. 
Poker will forever remain a high variance endeavor, regardless of stakes you play, but you can make a pretty significant dent toward flattening the roller coaster--and therefore make a solid and steady profit--by playing simple ABC poker at the micros. It may not be as exciting as the rush of bluffing a good player off a better hand at $200NL, but making a solid thirty bucks an hour playing with the babies is also pretty fun. Plus my bankroll likes it. You never know when you may need to cash out and buy something big in life.

All-in for now...
-Bug

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