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Micro Stakes Poker: A Guide on How to Crush It

Shane C

Jun 6, 2023

A stack of coins with playing cards on the table

Micro Stakes poker games are the lowest rung on the online poker ladder but also the most important one to conquer. This is where some of the best poker players started and it is an excellent place to start creating good habits that will carry over once you move on to higher stakes. Let’s take a look at how you can maximise your chance of success with these micro-stakes poker strategies.

Start Really Small

Many are surprised by the quality of play in $25 and $50 games online. They shouldn’t be, though, as those micro-stakes poker players have spent a lot of time studying and improving their game. This is why it’s best to start small by playing poker online.

Now, it can be tough getting used to playing for small amounts of money when the entire pot size amounts to less than the cost of a cup of coffee. It can be difficult to focus on making the best play.

But learning to focus despite having minimum impact on your bankroll is one of the most valuable lessons you can learn as a poker player. The idea is that your decision-making process should not be affected by how much money you’ll win or lose—i.e., to become less prone to make emotional decisions.

In contrast, immediately jumping into the $100 games leaves you open to many solid players—some of whom are full-time pros—who have vast amounts of playing experience reinforcing every decision that they make. And every one of those players is keen to pounce on less-experienced newcomers like you.

This advice applies even if you have the theoretical skills to win at higher stakes. The fact is there are many other things to consider when moving up, such as the speed of online poker, and trends that are unique to certain player pools and game types specifically.

The best way to acclimate yourself to these factors is to gain playing experience at lower stakes, perfect your micro-stakes poker strategy, and move up gradually. And I do mean gradually. Remember that getting to the top in poker is a journey, not a sprint.

The overall advantage to starting small with online poker is that you get to move up the limits at a comfortable pace and develop a foundational skill set that will help you achieve greater success at higher limits.

Another advantage is that you’ll be able to gauge the state of your game. Start at the lowest stake, NL2, and play for a week or two. If you are absolutely crushing that game, then move up to the next limit, NL5, and so on. Eventually, you’ll discover the limits of your game: strategies that no longer produce the desired results, leaks you probably didn’t know you had, etc.

Even our very own Team Hot started small. So, develop a world-class understanding of the fundamental principles of the game and your transition to mid, high, and nosebleed stakes will be much smoother.

Find Your Foundation

The micros are the ideal stakes to build your foundational knowledge of the game. And what this really means at the micro stakes is mastering the art of tight and aggressive play, also known as “TAG”.

Here’s the thing about the lower limits: They are normally filled with beginner-level players who don’t have a solid understanding of the game and don’t know why they make certain plays.

In fact, many of the players you will encounter at the micros make decisions based on their gut instinct, or a random “hunch”, rather than on mathematics or logic. This means that you are going to see some of the craziest plays on Earth all the time, such as players cold-calling a 3-bet out of position with a small suited connector.

You would never expect someone to have a 4 in their hand in a 3-bet pot when the flop comes K-4-4. But they can, and sometimes will at the micros!

This is why it is important, when you are first starting out to play micro-stakes poker, to keep everything as simple as possible and to be very selective about what hands you play.

What Does This Actually Mean in Practice?

Well, if you are playing in a 6-max game, it would be advisable that you play no more than the top 20% of your hands unless you’re on the button or in the blinds.

Here is a visual idea of what the top 20% of hands might look like:
Poker Hands Pre-Flop ChartBy keeping your standards high like this, you will prevent yourself from getting into too many difficult marginal situations against unpredictable players.

Furthermore, it is important to play these hands aggressively. This means that you should be entering the pot with a raise, and sometimes re-raising with the top end of these ranges.

After the flop, you should be betting for value frequently and making plenty of semi-bluffs if you catch any piece of the board.

Generally, by playing a solid TAG strategy, you will give yourself the best chance of success at the lower-limits poker cash games while keeping yourself out of awkward and potentially tilting situations.

Keep It Simple And Profit More

One of the biggest mistakes players make in these games is overthinking common situations. They even have a name for this: “fancy play syndrome” (FPS). And it means death for your win rate at the micros.

Fancy Play Syndrome (FDS)You have to remember that most of your opponents at these stakes are relatively new to the game. Some of them are just recreational players–aka “fun players”–who have little rhythm or reason for the decisions they make.

If you try some advanced river check/raise bluff against one of these weak players because you saw a high-stakes pro do it on TV, you are setting yourself up for disaster.

The problem is that most of the time, your high-level fancy play is going to go right over their heads, and they are just going to call you down with their middle or top pair.

You also need to remember that at micro stakes, you are playing for amounts of money that don’t really matter that much to most people. This is especially true at the $10 and below games.

It is really hard to raise somebody the price of a Big Mac and make them lay a decent hand down. It’s just not scary enough for lowest-stakes players. They are going to get curious and look you up.

So, one of the best things you can do at the micros is just keep everything as stupidly and mind-numbingly simple as possible.

And yes, it can be boring when you haven’t made a hand in an hour and you just want to make something happen.

But save it for the higher-limit games, especially where the money is actually meaningful to most people. The only way to crush the cheeseburger stakes is by keeping everything as simple as possible.

Choose the Right Place at the Table

One of the most valuable poker strategies is knowing where to sit at a poker table - we call this the position. This remains true if you want to beat micro-stakes poker players. It requires identifying weak players and those who choose a more aggressive approach.

To play micro-stakes poker games successfully, you want to keep more aggressive players to your right. Thanks to that, you'll be able to use your position to bluff and make value bets more effectively, having a direct position on them.

Generally, you can encounter two types of aggressive micro-stakes poker game players - TAG (which we mentioned earlier) and LAG.

TAG means a tight and aggressive game, and this is something you want to engage with. LAG stands for loose and aggressive. Both of these types are frequently seen in micro-stakes games.

Placing yourself in a way to have more aggressive players to the right and nits to the left is hugely beneficial to you. Nits are less experienced and prefer to play tight, so it shouldn't be a big problem to let them have a direct position on you.

Remember that it's probably better to leave a table than to play poker with TAG and LAG players to your left since there's really no point in fighting for your life against more experienced players. You can always find another game with a more favourable set of players to hone your skills and have more fun while doing it.

Fast-Play Most of Your Strong Hands

Micro Stakes Poker Strategy: Fast Play Strong HandsThe overwhelming majority of micro-stakes players are way too passive. This means you won’t win a big pot by trying to trap them—you have to build the pot yourself.

So, when you pick up your overpair, top pair, or any other strong hand, you need to keep betting at the pot until you have a clear reason to slow down.

The key thing to remember about the passive, recreational players is that they hate folding and love calling. In fact, one of the greatest thrills for recreational players is to catch you in a big bluff.

They are also highly superstitious players who hold a deep belief that everyone is always trying to bluff them.

So how do you profitably counter someone who thinks like this? Answer: You bet big and frequently with all of your good hands. And you lay off on the big bluffs in all but the best of spots.

Don't Play Tight Every Time

While the TAG strategy, which I mentioned already, is a solid one for keeping your success rates high, I would like to encourage you to incorporate some LAG strategy components as well.

Playing tight and aggressively has its place and time, but learning how to master the loose-aggressive strategy is also very important. Most beginners start from the TAG approach, playing very few hands, which keeps them safer but also leaves little room for perfecting the wider range of skills -- which you want to do while playing micro stakes poker games, where you can make mistakes that won't cost you a fortune.

Again, if you're just starting out, stick to my previous advice and use the TAG strategy to your full advantage. But if you feel like you're ready for the next step, then learning how to play many pots should be your next move.

How to play using the LAG strategy? You want to play in games that see a lot of pots against weaker players that are in position. When playing games with a lot of multi-way pots, it's a good idea to try and learn how to play hands that can make the nuts. Alternatively, you want to get as much value as possible.

You'll also benefit a lot from bluffing while 3-betting. It's because 3-betting in micro stakes poker can get very predictable, and if you do it only when you have premium hands, your opponent may quickly become aware of the pattern and fold each time before you get any value from the hand.

Remember, though, that using any two random cards to form your 3-betting range is not the best idea. Instead, when you raise preflop, you want to include cards with a strong potential of flopping the strong hands of your opponents, like suited Kings or suited Aces.

Related: Combating Different Poker Playing Styles

Set A Bankroll Management Plan

Micro Stakes Poker Tip: Set A Bankroll Management PlanEven when you play the very lowest stakes, you still need a proper bankroll to be able to play tournaments and play online. Solid bankroll management strategy is essential, no matter if you're just starting out or you're a poker pro with years of experience under your belt.

Why is that? The answer is simple -- poker is a mental game, which leaves a lot of opportunities to get carried away and bear unnecessary risks. Knowing just how much money you're allowed to spend in a game from the very beginning helps players better manage their emotions and not overspend (a very valuable skill to learn early on). If you want to win big, you need to learn how to manage your money.

It's recommended to have enough cash for at least 30 buy-ins for a cash game and 100 buy-ins for tournaments. Set your bankroll before you sit at the table and then stick to it throughout the game.

Although it might seem insignificant to chase losses when playing micro-stakes poker games, it's important that you stick to your initial game plan. This is how you learn good habits. Managing your emotions and impulses in low-stakes poker will prove to be incredibly valuable when you move on to higher-stakes games.

Related: A Guide to Poker Bankroll Management Strategy

Final Thoughts on the Micro Stakes Poker

Don’t be so serious. The last and most important way to start crushing the micros is to remember why you started playing poker in the first place: to have fun!

Many often tend to get way too serious at the poker tables especially when things aren’t going their way. It is important to remember that at the end of the day, this is just a game. The whole point is to enjoy yourself.

Micro-stakes games, in particular, are pure madness. As mentioned earlier, this is where you are going to find some of the craziest players on Earth.

You are going to face countless and never-ending amounts of bad beats at these stakes. But these crazy players play so badly that your win rate can be insanely high at these stakes. In fact, at the very lowest limits, variance can almost be removed from the game.

One of the best things that you can do for your game is to learn to start simply laughing it off more often and quit obsessing over your day-to-day results. If you choose to get frustrated or angry over every ridiculous river card that they hit, then you are simply going to be miserable most of the time and probably tilt and play bad too. This, in turn, will make you less likely to want to grind hard and improve your game, which is absolutely crucial to your success.

The vast world of micro stakes poker tournaments is where you are going to develop the fundamental poker skills and work ethic necessary to take you to the very pinnacle of this game. And the bottom line is that if you consistently use a solid strategy against bad poker players, the chips are all coming your way in the end anyways.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are micro stakes in poker?

Cash games with buy-in that is lower or equals $25 would be regarded as micro stakes poker games. Micro stakes can vary. In some games, it will be $0.01/$0.02, while in others $0.10/$.25. We can also define small-stakes games, which often vary between $0.25 and $1.

Q: Can you make money playing micro stakes?

You can make some cash while playing micro stakes poker games, but it's likely not the way to get rich, not in a short span of time for sure. Skilled players can make up to $5000 a month, but most people fall somewhere below that line.

In many cases, micro-stakes poker is a great space for new players to learn the ropes, so if you're at the beginning of your journey, you shouldn't be focusing on making lots of cash. Take this opportunity to get valuable experience, learn your strengths and weaknesses, and what is your game style. Micro-stakes games are a fantastic playground, so use this opportunity to simply have fun!

Q: Are micro stakes beatable?

Yes, they are. However, it takes some time and skill to get really good at micro-stakes poker tables. Generally speaking, you should avoid slow playing and choose a more aggressive strategy.

Don't get discouraged when you're making mistakes and your success rates are not super high from the beginning. You're still learning, and that's to be expected. One thing you can do to increase your chances of winning poker micro-stakes games is to study your stats.

See if you're playing enough hands, and analyse your behaviour in the game. If you're unsure how to interpret the data you're seeing, do your research. You can find experienced players that teach others the basics of micro stakes poker, or find more resources on the Natural8 blog.

Q: What is a good win rate at micro stakes?

A good win rate at micro stakes poker games is somewhere around 1-4bb/100. Anything above that is considered exceptional.

Q: What is a good VPIP for micro stakes?

A good VPIP for micro stakes poker is between 15% and 20% when you play tight. If you want to use a LAG strategy, your VPIP should not be lower than 25% for a 6-max or 18% for the full ring.

Q: Is micro-stakes poker only for beginners?

Micro-stakes poker is a perfect game for those who've never played poker before. It's a soft introduction to the world of poker, where risks are small, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn the ins and outs of this game. Considering the very small stakes, though, micro-stakes poker may not present much of a challenge for more experienced players.