If you are like me, you hate the answer “it depends.” I think most people do. But unfortunately that is the best answer much of the time in poker. There are so many different factors and scenarios and dynamics that go into a hand that often it is difficult for an outsider to even comment without asking a bunch of questions first.
But don’t despair, there actually are some general rules for the micros that are quite reliable. And this is mostly because the players at these stakes don’t balance their ranges very well. They generally play on extremes. For instance: way too tight, way too loose, way too passive or way too aggressive. This makes them highly predictable and easy to play against.
I will also discuss a number of topics that I couldn’t find a spot for above. I wanted to keep the preflop and postflop sections as linear and to the point as possible. But poker is a very complex game, even at the smallest stakes, and there is much more to talk about.
Keep Your Decisions Simple
The first thing that I would like to talk about is something has been mentioned many times throughout this book, keeping your decisions simple. This is especially the case if you are mass-tabling. Poker does not need to be an overly difficult game. People ask me all the time how I play 24 tables at once and keep up with everything. Honestly more than anything it’s just because the vast majority of my decisions are simple and automatic.
Once you do something enough times you develop an ability to almost perform it in your sleep. Renowned poker mental game coach Jared Tendler refers to this as “unconscious competence.” Much like riding a bike or driving a car, you don’t really need to think about it. You just do it. And you should strive to make most of your poker decisions like this as well.
It’s much easier to remember something simple than something that is overly complicated. That is why I have tried to lay out an almost “if, then” approach to poker in this book. You want to keep yourself out of situations where you might get “lost” as much as possible.
Don’t try to ad lib things on the fly especially when you are playing a lot of tables at once. Cbet the boards where you should cbet, give up when they fight back most of the time etc. One of the biggest problems that I see with my students, and players at the micros in general, is that they will do something completely outside the box for no apparent reason.
Something like slowplaying in an obvious value bet spot when there is no reason to believe that they can expect a bet out of their opponent. Or playing a mediocre hand in a far too aggressive manner based on some flimsy reasoning with limited information.
When you throw the plan out the window and just do things on the fly you aren’t really thinking enough about why you are making certain decisions. The whole point of the plan was to remove this element of randomness and take profitable well thought out lines.
Doing silly stuff for no real reason is often referred to as FPS (fancy play syndrome). Don’t do it! FPS may work well for high stakes heads up games. But it doesn’t apply at all to multi-tabling microstakes full ring cash games.
Don’t Bluff at the Micros
I am sure you have heard this one before. Well it is true. Don’t bluff at the micros. But what is a bluff? Here’s my definition.
A bluff is a bet made on the turn or river when you have nothing at all.
This definition leaves out cbets. As we already saw, you should be routinely cbetting when you have nothing at all. It also excludes semi bluffing (you have something reasonable, an 8 out draw for instance). I will have more to say about semi-bluffing in a bit but suffice it to say, it has a place in certain spots at the micros as well.
What I am talking about here is betting with virtually nothing on the turn or river. This is sometimes referred to as a “stone cold bluff.” I would strongly advocate that you never do this at the micros. In fact, I would argue that you shouldn’t do this at any level of full ring poker. As we know, it’s just not necessary to build an image or balance anything at the micros. Just bet for value for the most part. Bluffing is just lighting money on fire at these stakes.
In almost every situation that I have discussed so far in this book I have talked about what to do in a vacuum. That is, my suggestions were simply general guidelines for some common spots that should give you a blueprint from which to work from.
However poker is of course a game played between people. And with money on the line, and the swings involved, people tend to get quite emotional at times. This can lead to erratic decision making.
While the above guidelines should work out well for you in the vast majority of spots, I want to talk a little bit about this idea of the “dynamic” between you and your opponent. When taken into account, from time to time you will need to throw the guidelines out the window.
A dynamic is the recent history between you and your opponent. You don’t need a psychology degree to know that if you have been pounding on someone they aren’t going to put up with it forever. And with weaker players, especially fish, their fuse is often ultra short.
If you have just won a big pot or two off of a fish without showing your hand, you should realize that your implied odds (what you stand to win) are through the roof in the next couple of hands. They will not give you any credit for anything.
They do not have the patience or foresight to consider that you may just happen to be picking up some good hands against them. So you will want to exploit this. You should value bet them a bit lighter and be less inclined to even waste a cbet if you miss.
It is a good idea to keep these kinds of things in mind while playing. I do realize that this can be hard to do while playing a lot of tables at once though. But instead of following the suggestions that I set out above every time, you should try to improvise from time to time if there is a meaningful dynamic between you and your opponent. And of course, only you will know this.