It's hard to miss fact that last two winners of World Series of Poker were not professional poker players and that Chris Moneymaker (2003) and Greg Raymer (2004) are online players. It's no wonder that online poker is exploding. With so many new online players it's feeding frenzy for skilled player, or even player with a modest amount of skills.
So for all new to limit Texas Hold 'Em players who would like to improve their chance of winning at micro limit tables, I've put together some very basic tips which should help you to win consistently. These tips will work for most online tables with limits of $0.50/$1.00 and lower, which are excellent limits for honing your skills.
It's important to realize that strategies vary for different limits, due to amount of money involved and general skill of players at table. Micro limit poker has interesting dynamics and culture due to fact that amount wagered at any time is not a lot of money. Many of significant cultural differences between micro limit and higher limit tables can be broken down into these key observations. (Throughout this article I will use common shorthand to represent cards. AK means an ace and a king. T8 means a ten and an 8. QJs means queen jack suited, while QJo means queen jack off suited. Kx means a king and a card of no significance to hand. A common term used will be connectors, which means cards connected in rank, such as 76 or T9.)
Typically 50% or more of players at a table will pay to see flop. This is due, in part, to very low limits causing many players to always call big blind since it doesn't cost too much; it's low risk. The other reason is that these micro limit tables have many more players of lower skill levels. They often call with lousy starting cards when they should fold. Raising preflop does little to chase out players. Players who have not contributed to pot yet may still call. Players who had already called will not typically fold after they've been raised. Very few players will fold an Ax (ace and a low card) or a hand with a face card. After deal there are 20 hole cards. Probability says that there is approximately 1.5 of each card rank. There will be 1.5 Aces, 1.5 Kings, 1.5 Queens, etc. Unskilled players will hold any two suited cards in hopes of a flush, even something as bad as 72. Unskilled players will call to river with a weak pair no matter what.
Now that observations are out of way, I can get on with strategy of how to win playing at these micro limit tables.
Preflop The objective here is to go into flop with a strong position or fold. Unless you are getting a streak of good cards, you should be folding preflop 60-70% of time.
1. Fold all but strong hands preflop. Strong hands are any pair, AK, AQ, AJ, AT, Axs, KQ, plus high suited connectors. The more players who see flop, lower your odds are of winning. So if you are going to put money into pot, put it in when you have a strong hand.
2. Don't protect your blind. If you are in small blind or big blind and you don't have a strong hand don't call a raise. Too many players in blinds will call a raise because they've already invested blind. But since most players like to limp in (call big blind) preflop, a raise is a good indication player is sitting on a strong hand, like AK or a pocket pair.
3. If you have a very strong hand preflop, raise. First of all, if you do happen to chase out a player or two with raise then odds of your strong hand winning have improved. Second, a strong hand has a good chance of winning pot, so you want to get as large a pot as possible. Third, you show strength, which can help you to chase out players later on.
Postflop So now you've made it to flop with a strong hand. Does flop help you or hurt you? Arguably there is not much in between because with five or more players seeing flop there's bound to be someone that benefits from flop, and if someone else benefits and you don't, then flop hurt you.
4. Know what a draw drawing hand is. For example, a flush draw or a straight draw means that you need one card to complete flush or straight. Many unskilled players make mistake that needing two cards to complete your hand is a drawing hand. This is called a runner-runner draw, and is not a drawing hand. If that's all you got then you should fold, otherwise you can typically call when you have a drawing hand. For example, you have KQo and flop is JT5. You are sitting on an open ended straight draw where an A or 9 will give you a straight. You can bet out or call with this hand, but be very careful about calling raises. The reason has to do with odds of making your hand and amount in pot, which is called pot odds. There are many fine poker books that explain details of pot odds. (Pot odds are a very import part of winning a poker, and I suggest that while you are cleaning up at micro limit tables that you read a good poker book in preparation for moving up to higher limits. At end of this article I list a few of better ones.)
5. Know what a check-raise is. A check-raise is when a player has a good hand, e.g. a set (three of a kind) after flop and he checks hoping that someone will bet out so that he can raise to get more money in pot. Micro limit players overplay check-raise. Most of time a player who check-raises in micro limit has a great hand and they want to exploit it, but this is a tip to you that perhaps you should fold. You should check-raise when appropriate, but mix up your play or else you will be seen as predictable and will have trouble driving pot up.
6. Know what slow play is. Slow play is when a player has a likely wining hand but calls or check-calls, trying to keep as many players in, hoping they make what they believe is a winning hand. Many times a player will slow play on flop and turn, but then spring trap on river where many players will not fold after coming this far. For example, you have AKo and flop is QJT. You have made nuts -- best possible hand so far. You could slow play this by checking or calling hoping to keep players in. If you raise then better players will probably put you on a straight and may fold. What you are hoping is that one or two other players have paired or maybe someone has 9 for an open ended straight draw. If table checks around on flop then consider betting out on turn, otherwise you can continue slow play on turn and then on river spring trap. Some players will think your made you hand on river card and maybe they think they have you beat. On other side of coin, now that you know about slow playing, try to identify if someone else is slow playing and avoid trap. Look out for scary boards. If board has three, and especially four, connectors pot most likely will be won by a straight. Three or four cards of same suit might indicate a flush is going to win pot.