The biggest problem in smaller games, though, is what Mike Caro famously called “Fancy Play Syndrome.”
When playing against basic opponents, the biggest mistake you can make is playing too “fancy” and trying to get out of line against opponents who are unlikely to fall for your tricks.
When you play low stakes live, or micro stakes online, the people you are playing against will be thinking at what is known as “Level 1.” Essentially, this means that their entire game is based around what cards they hold and what cards are on the board.
Regulars in these games might be at a Level 2, considering your cards as well, but if they were capable of high level plays they likely would have moved up in stakes. Always take note of the individual skill levels, but in general, it is best to keep it simple.
Keep It Simple
With that in mind, you should never try out new moves in a small stakes game. In most cases, the simplest move is also the best move.
There will always be times to attack the blinds of a weak player or trap a loose, aggressive player. Outside of those specific situations, it will be much more effective to play in a straightforward way.
Level 1 thinking players will often not recognize that you are representing a strong hand. Even if they do, they assume that they will make their hand and win in the end, calling however much they need to.
Without a proper understanding of pot odds, they will do this at a severe cost to their stack. That also means that your check/raise bluff on the turn likely won’t win you the pot and neither will a jam representing a made hand, even when your opponent has incredibly week holdings. They are, after all, only concerned with the cards in front of them.
Should you ever bluff?
Against low-level thinking opponents, you will not have many chances to run big bluffs. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use continuation bets and semi bluffs when the situation presents itself, however.
This will depend on the kinds of opponents in the hand. If you notice that someone folds too often after the flop, you can still push them out of the pot, even at lower stakes.
Do not, however, try to bluff players that have time and again shown you that they will call down with any small pair. Pick your spots carefully and you can still feel the rush of a good bluff. Make sure, however, that you are positive your opponent has given you a reason to think it will work.
Winning Poker At Small Stakes Takes Discipline
The truth of the matter is that you are going to be playing disciplined, boring poker at small stakes, even though you will be a winning player.
There might be a lot of waiting for good hands, though it pays off in the end. It’s easy to see the pros on television running high-level lines of play. This is not the time for you to try it!
Even if you are capable of making fancy plays, when you are playing in small games it is best to dumb down your play, bet your good hands, fold the bad ones, and stick to the basic ABC style of poker.
You can still “Put a man to the test for all his chips,” but only do it when you have the cards to do so.
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