Fast Track To Success - Lesson 8

Micro Stakes Poker (8)

  • The key to winning at micro stakes poker is to look to punish players for their mistakes
  • Hyper aggressive players can be made to pay for their aggression with better hands
  • We need to plan to look to extract the most out of our opponents' mistakes

Rules Of Thumb For Tight and Loose Passive Players

In the last session, we sought to try to calculate what the maximum percentage of the time we could bet would work out to be against the four main player types. Against both types of tight players, the tight aggressive and the tight passive ones, we can bet all we want as, if they are truly tight and don't adjust profitably, it's going to be profitable to bet out regardless of what we have. This is because they are folding enough that we are making a profit when we bet.

With loose passive players, we worked out that we can profitably bet about half the time. The number was actually higher than this, but we want to have a cushion here to give us a margin for error, as we are grouping these players in a rather large group, and if a particular player isn't loose enough we will clearly lose money by pushing too many of our marginal hands to showdown. So with the half the range being selected, we've covered ourselves here, and we can profitably bet that much against any loose passive.

The Loose Aggressive Player Type

Micro Stakes Stage #8

So the final category is the loose aggressive player. As I said, these players will be the trickiest to bet against, since they can raise our bets and cause us to abandon a lot of pots. Now the loose passive players can do this as well, but in those cases the expectation would be that they have a huge hand and in fact this will allow us to get away from our weaker ones earlier on and at a reduced price than if they just called down and we showed the hand down.

So what ends up being tricky about working out the equation for loose aggressive players is that there will be a fair bit of variation among them. Some of them will bet but not raise a lot, some will raise a fair bit, and some will raise a lot. Given that it's the raising frequency that we're concerned about here, given that we're looking to calculate our profitable betting frequency, that's going to make things a little tougher just to come up with a single number like we've done with the other player types.

Players Who Are Very Aggressive Need To Be Treated Differently

So this really depends on how often they raise, and we'll start out by looking at the scenario where we're playing against a total maniac who is willing to raise every bet we make and therefore we can get our stacks in against him or her whenever we want. So we'll be approaching any bet as playing for stacks here of course. Now all we need to be able to beat is a random hand here to make it profitable to bet, as every hand of ours will be above average against his merely average range. So on the flop this will work out to be any pair or better, any good draw, and an ace or king high.

It's unlikely that you'll run into a player this crazy very often, if at all, although I've played some sit n' go's where players have shoved over you every time you put in a standard sized bet. It's very unusual though to say the least. So let's change the example to a more realistic one, where our opponent will raise half the time when bet into. We'll assume he'll fold a quarter of the time and call down to the river a quarter of the time. Now this can get quite a bit more complicated if we want it to but we're just looking for simpler rules of thumb here.

Straightforward Hyper Aggressive Players Aren't Hard To Beat

We know that if we only bet a quarter of the time then we're good against any hand that he may want to play against us, therefore we can get our stacks in with impunity. However, we also know that we can bet with half our range when he folds and calls. So all we really need to do is to put the two together and then we'll have a nice range where we can look to bet, given that we can get away from the hand if raised if need be.

I could tell you to bet out half the time here and then fold the correct amount if raised and that actually will work out well for us, since the payoff is high enough when we win that half of the time that he does, that we can play for stacks with half of our bets and make more money when we win than when we lose. The reason is, since we're assuming he's a straightforward player, he's telegraphing his hands when he raises and therefore when he has a good hand he will make less money then when we have a good hand. This is because we're getting away from hands when we're beat less than he is when he is beat.

The Goal Here Is To Make More From Hands Than He Does

I do want to point out though that while this is a good rule of thumb at the smaller stakes, once you get better and play higher you're going to need to be more careful here, if our opponent is good enough to balance his ranges and alter his play. With that said though, we can pretty safely use the bet half the time rule against loose aggressive players that we use against loose passive ones, with the additional tactic of looking to see how often he raises and fold accordingly. So if for instance he's raising a quarter of the time, we want to only call half the time he's doing this, so that will work out to a half of a quarter or an eighth of the total times we bet.

So what we're doing is giving up our bet to him half of the time he raises, and then collecting more from him the other half when we have better cards to play back with. This is a good rule of thumb for now although as we get better we can look to play even more hands here, but for now I want to keep things real simple and ensure that the standard is set fairly conservatively so you don't find yourself getting into trouble if you're not sure enough about what you're doing. The trickiest part of all this is figuring out what hands fall into the half the time range, and until you get a better handle on that, it's better to err on the side of caution.

Aggression Is A Very Important Trait To Have

So the biggest lesson here is that it does pay to be pretty aggressive regardless of the player type you're up against. This is intended to be an eye opening experience for a lot of players learning the game, who tend to bet far too infrequently for their own good and often will just play a fit or fold game. This will have you playing far too passively and tightly. You often don't need anywhere near as good of a hand as you may think in order to make betting profitable, and often you don't even need a hand at all.

Just being able to bet profitably doesn't mean that you always want to do it, or even that it's the most profitable line you can take. This is especially true with our better hands, the ones we want to go for value with. This means that we want as much money in the pot as we can get while still having the amounts being put in consistent with our still being ahead. So what we need to pay attention to in order to determine this is the chances of our opponent putting in a certain amount while still likely behind, based upon what we have and what we know about him or her.

Managing The Pot Size Is Also Important

Keeping the pot size within profitable limits is actually a very important concept in poker, and one that deserves mentioning at this point. This also relates to our strategies for bet sizing and why we generally don't want to over-bet unless we know our opponent is extremely loose or crazy. You do see crazy players from time to time though and against these players we definitely want to try to get our chips in against them.

However, almost all of the time there will be restrictions on how big we want the pot to be eventually with a given hand short of the nuts. Even with the nuts, we need to try to figure out how we'll get the most money in, and not just how big to bet. If we bet too big and the chances of getting them to fold are high, a smaller bet will often accomplish more.

For now though, I want to talk about not betting so big that we will only get folds from weaker hands that we'd probably beat already, and will more often than not only get called by better hands. This is a topic that we could go into in a great deal of depth, but I'll leave most of that for my main strategy series, and for now just mention what you need to be on the lookout for.

If We Want A Big Pot, This Often Requires Thinking

So the first thing to pay attention to when going for value and looking to try to build bigger pots is how loose an opponent is. The looser they are, the more likely they are to call with a worse hand, and therefore the bigger we can bet and the more money we can look to get into the pot at showdown. On the other hand, the tighter they are, the more careful we need to be to make sure that we're beating the hands they aren't folding in this situation.

Fold equity does factor into this as well, and with respect to the tighter players especially, this has more to do with what we're looking to do when we don't get a fold and it's likely that the hand will be shown down. There are many times in fact where a player is tight enough that we know we're pretty much beat simply from their not folding. For instance if a player will only continue with top or second pair on the flop when bet into, and we only have third pair, we're pretty much screwed and unless we can bluff him off his hand later, we're done putting money in this pot.

So for now all I want you to do is pay attention to this concept, where if we're looking to show the hand down, we need to be ahead if that happens given the flow of the action. In the above example we'd be behind at showdown and wouldn't be in a position to go for value. In other cases, say when we have top pair top kicker against the same player, we know that we're ahead more often than not, as long as our betting patterns stay consistent with the range he'd show down given what we're doing. For instance if we shove the flop with this hand and we know that he'd only call with better, we've over-bet the pot and put ourselves in a potentially bad situation.

So now that we understand this concept, we'll move on to situations in the next lesson where betting may not be the best move.