Low stakes poker strategy is actually pretty darn simple – I think the vast majority of players over complicate what should be a fairly simple recipe for success. The key is to first establish a solid bunch of fundamentals, and then learn to play exploitively.
How To Win At Low Stakes Online Poker
1) Solid Opening Ranges
Your opening ranges are arguably even more important in full ring than in 6-max. The reason is because one of your opponents will almost always have a strong hand so you need to stick with a solid tight aggressive style. As most of you know I hate to give specific range suggestions because it always depends on the table etc, however, this is will give you some rough guidance.
Your opening ranges will need to be solid. If you are running PokerTracker or something like that (which you should be) it will be easy to see your statistics. They should look something like this for 6-max. Note: when I play 6-max my opening ranges are significantly wider than this. However, at first when you are trying to win it can be very hard to widen ranges appropriately – best to stick with a simple style.
2) Why to Raise Pre-flop at low stakes
This is an incredibly underutilized strategy by low stakes players. Even if you don’t have a significant equity advantage over your opponent it often makes sense to isolate. Against weak players the bigger pots you can play (especially with position) the greater amount of expected value you will be able to extract. The most common way to isolate a weak player is by 3betting them. It is uncommon, and generally not advisable to cold call 3bets – thus 3betting is an effective way to push out most of your competition and increase your chances at the weak players money. You can also isolate simply by raising. Generally an appropriate pre-flop raise size to attempt to isolate is 4BB-6BB.
Raising for value:
It is easy to 3bet the top 6% of hands for value against a weak player and you can never go wrong. However, you may want to be 3betting for value more like 10-15% depending on how the Villain reacts and if other Villains let you get away with this without 4betting light. Against a player who raises 30% of hands which is super common among weak low stakes players you could 3bet something like (88+, A10+ KJ+).
Raising as a bluff:
Bluffing in poker is always tempting but, I would advise against doing this until you become a highly sophisticated player. Frankly, it is not necessary to win at low stakes. Even at higher games it is rare to see many players effectively river raising as a bluff – with a few exceptions.
3) Why Play Aggressively Post-flop?
Raising to protect your hand:
In particular you should be aggressive early in hands with top pair and overpair type hands. In no-limit hold’em top pair and overpair hands generally hold a dominant equity position on the flop, but often lose it by the turn or river. Even sophisticated players need to be cautious about slow-playing themselves into trouble. Rule of thumb: Don’t stack off in just a raised pot with a one pair hand. In 3bet pots stacking off with top pair or overpair is generally totally acceptable, and folding would often be a horrible mistake.
Ex 1. Villain raises 3bb pre and hero 3bets to 10bb from the button with AA. The flop is QJs5s and Hero bets 15bb and gets check-raised. Assuming stacks aren’t super deep this is a super easy spot to shove all-in or just call and let your opponent put the chips in on the turn (likely best).
Ex 2. Villain raises 3bb pre and hero calls 3bb from the button with AA and then the SB and BB call as well. The flop is 98s5s the SB bets out half pot you raise to 20 BB and then the SB shoves. If this is a solid opponent you will often be beat or up against a monster draw – you should fold.
Raising the flop for value:
Many players seem to forget that they are playing No Limit Hold’em when they raise the flop – this means unlimited betting. Against weak players in particular it often makes sense to raise over the size of the pot for value. Weak players often simply look at their own hand when deciding whether or not to call rather than considering the hand strength of their opponent.
4) Learning To Fold At Low Games
Beware The Passive Player:
This is something which I think a lot of decent low and even mid-stakes players struggle with. One of the biggest things that experience has taught me is to be wary of passive players when they bet big. It may seem that you shouldn’t be folding your strong two pair hand or whatever, but I have learned over time to trust my instinct and make some big post-flop folds from time to time.
Board Texture Matters:
Some players make the mistake of thinking because it is a bad player that board texture doesn’t matter. However, that isn’t true. The reality is that the range will simply be wider against weak players and you need to consider more possibilities. This makes reading a weak player a bit challenging, but it also makes it fun. If you can read board textures and know what types of hands a weak player likes to chase it can be easy to play exploitively (like I advocate in my book) against the Villain.
Hope you enjoyed the post and be sure to check out my other posts and book!