Nathan “BlackRain79” has played millions of hands of online poker and is sharing his experience by answering reader's strategy questions on PokerListings.
In the last month the questions have poured in via comments and social media. We compiled the best and sent them to Williams who lives in Thailand playing online poker professionally.
What follows are valuable insights built on BlackRain's years of online poker experience. Look below the questions for a video of the Top 5 Microstakes Poker Mistakes.
Microstakes Poker Strategy: To Limp or Not to Limp?
Q: Hero is playing .05/.10 four-handed with fairly passive players. Average-sized stacks all around.
Action folded to hero on the button who picks up pocket kings. Is this an easy limp?
Always confused by this spot and the choice between trying to build a pot or letting opponents catch up on the flop.
BlackRain79: You should always raise here pre-flop. This is especially the case when playing against passive players.
This is because you can’t build a pot without putting in the money yourself. Passive players don’t like to bet. You have to do it for them.
Furthermore, you should always raise pre-flop when entering the pot in literally any situation be it 4-handed, 9-handed or heads up. Having the betting lead is one of the fundamental keys to winning at poker because it simply gives you more ways to win the pot.
You can either take it down by forcing the other player to fold or showdown the best hand. Preflop callers only have one way to win the hand - show down the best hand.
More Microstakes Strategy Questions
Potshipper: Is it standard to open-limp with pocket aces when you are three or four-handed?
BlackRain79: No, it is very standard to raise with them. I actually suggest almost never limping at all in poker no matter the situation.
Fishbot: Would you suggest playing 6-max or Full Ring at the micro-stakes?
BlackRain79: You should just play whichever one is more fun for you. Always remember that this is just a game at the end of the day and what will keep you motivated and excited to play each time is having fun.
Lingling: Any suggestions about a very good PokerTracker?
BlackRain79: I personally use Pokertracker 4. I think it is the best product on the market right now. Hold’em Manager 2 is great as well though. You honestly cannot go wrong with either.
Jack Bauer: Why did you not move up in the limits?
BlackRain79: Well, first off I did. I have a lot of experience playing all the way up to NL200. I went back up and down throughout the years though depending on how I felt about the game at the time and where my bankroll was at.
I ultimately found myself happy a lot of the time just mass grinding the lowest stakes with almost no variance at all.
Deadman Sand: Does PokerTracker make all hand analysis redundant?
BlackRain79: No it actually helps with that because you have tons of information about the players involved to consider as well.
VD: Currently I play about 120 hours NL10 Zoom per month (moderate success – win rate: 1.5 bb / 100).
How much time should I spend on improving my game and analyzing my opponents? Or should I just go for more volume?
BlackRain79: It depends entirely on your goals in the game but that is a decently high level of volume already. I would probably spend any additional time trying to get better and move up.
bbk: What sort of winrate do you need grinding the microstakes to live well (comparatively) in Thailand?
BlackRain79: It depends what limit you play at and your level of volume. In Thailand as a single guy you can get by pretty comfortably with 1k USD a month. A lot of people do it for less than this in fact.
Wayne Flopski: Considering how nitty games are is it profitable it to bluff a lot of turns and river?
BlackRain79: Yes it is. I would actually say that this is where some of the biggest profit sources come from at the micros these days. As always though it is all dependent on the player you are up against and the situation. There are still many players who will just call you down without thinking.
Les Schwab: Is it actually worth making notes of certain weaker players in the microstakes?
BlackRain79: I don’t think it is worth the time. Especially at a card room like Pokerstars the player pool is so big that you might not even ever see them again. Also, usually your notes have no sample size. He might do the exact opposite thing next time.
BlackRain's Top 5 Microstakes Poker Mistakes
#5: Overplaying Over-Pairs Against Passive Opponents
A lot of Williams' strategy relies on understanding the players at the micro-stakes and he says that when most players at this level start raising and re-raising you on the turn or river, they've got a big hand.
That means that if you're value-betting an over-pair like pocket aces or kings, and your opponent is willing to play for stacks, chances are you should be folding.
#4: Too Much Slow-Play, Not Enough Value Betting
Williams says he sees players trying to slow-play their big hands way too much at the micro-stakes.
Instead of getting fancy and trying to trap your opponents, Williams advocates value-betting as much as possible.
“You can't win a big pot unless you build one against these players,” says Williams.
#3: Decide On the Flop If You're Playing a Big Pot
Williams says that if you find yourself calling down every street with a marginal hand and losing a big pot when you didn't even intent to play one, you're leaking money.
It's important to decide on the flop whether you're going to play a big pot, play the hand aggressively or just fold.
#2: Bad Pre-Flop Decisions, Tough Spots Later in the Hand
Williams says everything begins before the flop and bad decisions in the first stage can make the rest of the hand very difficult. Williams says you should avoid calling out of position with “trap hands” like king-jack or ace-eight that can be easily dominated.
#1: Recognizing Tilt and Being Able to Quit
According to Williams the biggest mistake he sees people making at the micro-stakes is going on tilt and losing a ton of money. Indicators that you're on tilt include playing more hands than normal and a pessimistic attitude about your chances of winning.
Learn to recognize when you're on tilt and develop the discipline to log off with your bankroll intact.