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Texas Hold'em No Limit Intermediate

Microstakes Myth 1: There is no edge at these 'Bingo Stakes'

9,151 Views on 16/1/12

Some people believe the Micro Stakes games are just one big gamble. They're wrong. Here's why your edge is greatest at the Micro-Stakes!

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We're here to de-bunk Microstakes Poker Myths! 

Your edge is much greater at the micro-stakes.

The fact that your opponents are more likely to make irrational plays is a good thing!

It certainly seems that the micro-stakes are in a world of their own, and not purely because they are "easier". Bad beat threads appear all over the place regarding micro-stakes, and despite "you need to improve your game" or "quit whining" being the stock response, the loser in this case may often continue to insist their downswing is a product of the bad play of others. Really? Isn't this a paradox? Surely you want your opponents to be as bad as possible?

Thepokerimage problem arises due to an event I will refer to as "fuzziness". It occurs when you can make less specific assumptions regarding villains range because you are unsure of how he might respond in various situations. At a slightly higher stake you may be able to make more realistic assumptions about his range, purely as a result of the less diverse range of skill-levels at that stake. (i.e a narrower range of hand-ranges.) You can't say "I have x% of fold equity on the turn because it would be a logical fold for this percentage of his range", if your opponent simply is too bad to know he should fold. (Or, more specifically, the range of hand-ranges includes a large proportion of illogical ranges compared to logical ones.) Moves on various streets typically representative of certain hand-ranges cease to exist at the meta-level when competing against these players.

It's all about adjusting to your particular opponent.

Many solid players I have spoken to are of the opinion that there is a "sweet-spot" at small stakes. Games where your opponents on the whole make logical decisions, yet are not quite proficient enough to realise how and where they are being exploited. This is likely true. You can make more advanced plays involving levels, i.e doing something because you know they know about a certain poker concept. But does that mean these games necessarily have a higher expected-value in terms of big-blinds? Or that you should immediately jump up to small stakes games?

Not at all. The problem is not that microstakes players are unreadable, but that hero is not adjusting his perception of villain's range, and by extension his strategy, accordingly.

Hand-readingis quite clearly villain specific. If you suspect a particular villain has only a very basic understanding of the game, you should not narrow his range to the point where it only includes logical hands. This of course means you will be playing against wider ranges in general, but not necessarily less profitable ranges. For example, if villain's range contains all the hands you'd logically expect to find, plus a reasonable amount of trash hands, or weak hands he should have folded, this is great for extracting value.

True, it may be slightly tougher to estimate your equity against these wider ranges, but if you can play correctly your EV will likely still be much higher than vs a regular at small-stakes who is fighting back with theoretically correct ranges.

A general rule.

As a very general rule, when playing against ranges which are wider than you might logically expect, i.e micro-stakes, your overriding strategy should be to value bet thinly and often, and to bluff sparingly. A generic strategy will only get you so far of course; there are also plenty of regulars at the microstakes against whom you can bluff with a much higher frequency. The key is to understand the different types of players, and to assimilate an appropriate villain-specific strategy; a skill that is vital for beating all stakes.

I know people who have broken even at 5nl for ages, yet suddenly started winning at 50nl. Ideally, you should be a better player to play at 50nl than 5nl, but the irony is that some people's style will beat 50nl but not micros. It is extremely important to be adaptable in your playing style, allowing you to beat any limit.

If you are capable of this, there is no reason why your edge at micros shouldn't be a lot bigger than your edge at small-stakes.



I am of British nationality and go by the online alias w34z3l. I am considered one of the top consultants in the field for technical analysis (i.e. database work) and application of game theory concepts to various card games. I make a ... Read More


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