Grinding out a profit in the micro stakes is not nearly as easy as it might seem. While beating the smallest online poker games used to be a cake walk, today it will take a lot of time and practice. Many micro stakes players are among the most consistent and biggest winners in the online poker world today. It is very hard to compete with players who have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of hands worth of experience.
Think about how many hands you get in per hour when playing one table, online or live. If you are lucky, you might get 90-100 hands in per hour when playing online, depending on whether you are playing full ring or 6-max tables. In live games, 30 hands per hour is the most you could ever hope for. Now, compare those numbers to a 12 tabling player who plays for 8 hours per day. At that rate, this player would have roughly 9,000 hands played every single day. Of course, few people have this exact work ethic, but it is not out of the realm of possibilities when it comes to the micro stakes.
What It Takes
Micro stakes poker takes a few different skills and attributes if you want to be successful. First, you will need to have an ample bankroll. While the variance is not going to be nearly as dramatic in these games as it is in small stakes or higher games, you will run into the occasional 10+ buy-in swing. For this reason, you should always be playing with roughly 30 or so buy-ins. If you are playing 25NL, the number of ideal buy-ins is not as high as it would be if you were playing 100NL. The higher limit the game, the more variance you should be prepared for.
Bankrolls are hardly the only thing needed for success in micro stakes poker. You will also need an awful lot of emotional control at the tables. Most poker strategy books and guides neglect to teach perhaps the most important skill that any player could have, a tilt-free approach to the game. No one is perfect, and everyone tilts a little bit from time to time, but it is vital that your emotions are kept in check. If you are playing six tables at a time, blowing off three buy-ins due to tilt can be a lot easier than it might seem. Players who are on tilt tend to forget everything they learned, like this very article, though, so this is something that is best accomplished through practice and implementation.
The ability to multi-table and multi-task should never be understated for micro stakes players. There just isn’t any good money to be made playing one or two tables at a time in the micro stakes games. Even the biggest winners at 100NL (the highest micro stakes limit) would be lucky to win $15/hour playing two tables of 6-max at a time. It can be a difficult transition, especially for new online players, to learn how to play four, six, or ten tables at a time. The fact of the matter is, however, that all serious micro stakes players have a solid skill set when it comes to multi-tabling. This isn’t to say that you need to play 20 tables at a time, but being able to 8 or 10 table would certainly be beneficial.
-Poker Tracking Software
HUDs and other poker tracking software are an absolute must for multi-tabling, serious micro stakes players. A HUD (heads up display) will be a tremendous benefit when you are trying to concentrate on a number of different decisions at once. Instead of forming your own reads on opponents, a HUD will allow you to have a quick summary available for anyone you face. It will be much easier to shove all in pre-flop with pocket queens if you know that the original raiser plays 90% of their hands. Now, imagine if you had no information on that same player; you would have to decide whether queens are ever ahead. Some old school players feel that software and HUDs are nothing more than cheating, but that makes no sense since most poker rooms are perfectly OK with it.
Aside from allowing you to make more precise reads at the table, poker software like PokerTracker also provides in-depth statistics on your own play. You can easily analyze all of the hands that you played in your last session, no matter how big or small. Beyond this, poker software can tell you how often you raise, what hands you win with, if you fold to re-raises too frequently, and much more. Plus, who doesn’t like to see a graph of their winnings? For an investment of $100 or less, any micro stakes player would be making a big mistake if they played without some sort of software.
Last but not least is the need for a sound work ethic. If you want to beat the micro stakes for any significant amount of money, you will need to put in a whole lot of work. People who don’t know poker tend to scoff at the idea of poker being a lot of work, but it certainly is. Today there are infinite resources available for players who want to improve their game. From books to training sites, there is something out there for players of all skill levels and all limits.
Books are the most outdated method of learning how to play winning online poker. The flaw with most books is that they are old and generally teach concepts that are quite basic. Books would have been a great way to aptly learn the game back in 2002, but the competition is way beyond that at this point in time. There are a select number of books that concentrate on winning online play and teach more modern concepts, but they are far and few between. Be sure to read a number of up to date reviews before you lean on any written book as your poker bible (especially if Hellmuth wrote it!).
Online resources are the best way to improve your skill set for tough micro stakes games. There are innumerable online sites with strategy guides of varying quality, but the video training sites have taken over in popularity. There are a handful of different poker training sites that offer video tutorials for aspiring players. These videos consist of a winning player recording their play and relaying it to the viewers. The players record themselves during play, explain their thought processes, and viewers soak in the information. As was the case with books, you should carefully analyze who is making the video and whether they are a reliable source of information.
Going hand in hand with poker training videos are poker coaches. Coaches are people who will watch you play over the internet (known as sweating) and offer their input and advice as you play. These coaches vary in quality and rates, but some can be had for very affordable rates. Shop around at the video training sites for your choice of coach if this seems like an attractive way to learn the game for you. It is not for everyone, and it could be costly, but many people have transitioned from losing or break even players into big winners with the help of a solid coach.