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Microstakes Advice and Examples

Published October 21, 2008 - RSS/XML Feed RSS

By Sean Gibson


You’ve made your first deposit and taken our advice and are playing 10nl cash game poker on your favorite poker site. Now it’s time to break yourself of bad poker habits like calling too much, having too wide a range of hands that you play, and getting you more aggressive both preflop and postflop. Have no fear – this is a progression that all novice players go through. Nobody just wakes up and becomes Phil Ivey – players you see on television and the superstar internet players became that way because they put in not just hundreds of thousands of hands but millions of hands combined from online and live play.

Let’s look at more hand examples using our handy replayer and examine bad play and why most beginning players would play this way and why they shouldn’t!
Here’s a great example of a typical hand at the 10nl level (meaning $0.05/$0.10 blinds) of play gone wrong for everyone involved. First we see the “Under the Gun” player (person after the Big Blind) minimum raise (aka ‘min-raise’) which has absolutely no point. I’ve seen players do this with huge hands or do it to simulate a live straddle … don’t be concerned with either strategy. If you raise you should raise the right way. In general, this is not strength unless you pay attention to previous hands and you see this opponent show down with KK or AA in this situation … until that happens you assume this is a marginal hand or a mid to small pocket pair.
So our hero in the hand has something pretty nice – Ace Queen offsuit in the cutoff position (defined as the person before the dealer button). Now in this situation our hero hasn’t see real strength from anyone who has acted so far and has a good hand. This is his queue to RAISE it! Remember our preflop betting theory – 4x the big blind plus a limper. In this situation someone raised to $0.20 so we’ll have to do something called 3bet. 
A 3bet is defined as a re-raise. Think of it this way … the big blind is counted as a bet (1bet). A raise to this big blind is a second bet (2bet) and if you raise this bet you are three betting (3bet). Fun!
So in this situation a decent 3bet would be three times the raise plus the blinds, so in this situation a raise to at least $0.70 is appropriate (sometimes 10x the big blind is an appropriate 3bet also). It shows strength (especially relative to the hand) and should either take it down now (just fine) or get the min-raiser to call with that marginal hand and allow you to win with a bet on the flop.
Instead our hero calls … which is pretty weak and passive and something you should look to always avoid. Our villain on the button with 54 offsuit calls the minbet, another weak-passive play but with a bad hand. Short of hitting the nut straight I’m not sure what you hope to accomplish with 54 offsuit unless you plan to bluff the hell out of the hand because of your position. Our big blind comes along for the ride and we get an interesting flop – 3 Q 6 rainbow. Our original raiser makes the right play and actually makes a continuation bet in the right spot. Unfortunately for him our hero has TPTK (Top Pair Top Kicker) and raises him to a decent amount of $1.50 (a little smallish but nothing horrible). With an open ended straight draw our button villain calls the raise. The button is getting putting $1.50 unto a $2.85 pot and since we’ve read the previous “counting outs” article we know that this villain is getting a horrible expressed odds price here (meaning this is a bad call). 
The turn is a non-descript T of spades meaning it probably air-balled both players (we say probably because during a hand we don’t know what anyone has). If it did brick off both opponents then nothing has changed for our hero – he still has the best hand and has to realize that. At the turn a bet of 50-66% of the pot is appropriate but our hero throws out a really goofy bet. What our hero did (in his thinking most likely) was ‘slow play’ his Top Pair hand which as we move further in the hand loses value! He’s unwittingly given great odds for our button villain to call and continue to chase his draw. 
The river is a deuce which fills the straight. Our hero yet again bets $0.50 as some sort of blocking bet or thin value bet (hard to say which) and this is immediately raised a little more than 3x (notice neither player bet the appropriate 50%-66% of the pot even with the raise) and our hero flat calls (probably only now realizing he’s beat) and shows his poorly played AQ gave the right turn price to be beat.
What’s to learn from this hand:
-          Don’t be afraid to 3bet (*with* position) with great hands preflop. If our hero did that he most likely would have gotten goofy hands like 54 offsuit to fold.
-          Keep your betsizing correct. Flop bets should be between 66-75% of the pot, and turn and river bets should be around 50-66%. This is very basic theory and somewhat debatable as pot-size bets (and even over-pot bets) are appropriate in spots. For now, this is to keep things nice and simple for you.
Another example to drive home the point:
Although our hero is probably getting the right odds to call here, he really should just be playing for straight or flush opportunities and not put faith in a pair of kings with a ten kicker. Unfortunately that’s what he does but his bet-sizing is good as he leads out in a six-way pot (not smart) with top pair bad kicker. The turn comes 9 and now that fills some interesting straight draws for QT and there’s still a flush draw out there. Our hero passively check-calls the turn, and again check-calls the river since the 2 is a brick and nothing changes in the hand. Our passive hero failed to think about all the likely hands that beat him – KQ, KJ, QT, J9, 33, 99, 22 … and just went along for the ride (and loss).
Don’t be the pedestrian in the hand and don’t call down when you know you are likely beat. Remember to make your bet-sizing correct and feel free to use that entire time bank to think it through.


Check Sean's blog for updates on his poker journey at:

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