There is a common complaint among players who want to be successful at poker but cannot climb the ladder. They claim to have difficulty beating the micro stakes and moving up because their sophisticated plays do not work on weak players. You’ll normally find such players saying, “How can I predict what a weak player will do when they don’t even know themselves or have any reasoning behind their decisions?” Or, “I want to play against people who know how to play, otherwise you can’t actually play real poker”.
The truth is, players who make these complaints normally are thinking players, which means they have the potential to improve and succeed, but they often can’t identify how best to exploit players and situations. That’s a critical skill in poker and if you can’t learn to do it at the bottom level you will be crushed as you move up the ladder. Here are our 6 reasons why you need to learn how to beat micro stakes if you want to take poker seriously.
1 – The opponents are weaker
This sounds obvious but it addresses an important fallacy. Some believe that high stakes tables will attract rich fish just as surely as pros, whereas micro stakes tables will attract multi-tabling sharks, making the micros harder to beat. This simply isn’t true. The high stakes games may sometimes revolve around one weaker player sitting down, but even then, the rest of the players will be near-perfect players who will bleed you dry. At the micros, most players at your table will be bad or average. An abundance of weak spots at the table is far more profitable than one weak spot and five geniuses.
2 – Good game selection becomes easier
Even if we were to make the completely untrue assumption that there were the same number of good and bad players at all stakes, micro stakes would still offer better game selection options due to there being far more tables to choose from. You can look through dozens of tables to find a soft one at micro stakes, whereas at high stakes you might be faced with just a handful, almost always populated by excellent players in almost every seat.
Good game selection is almost as important as playing good poker. While you may have an egotistical urge to take on the best, you need to put that aside and think of your poker playing like a business. Just because you think your shop sells great burgers, that is not a good reason to open a burger shop next to McDonald’s to see if you can sell more than they do. Maximising profit is more important than trying to prove a point.
3 – Playing big games against top players is not essential for improving your game
If you are a player who is brave enough to mix it up with the best in the business and you’re not afraid to lose money while you learn from playing against these players then we can commend your courage, but there are less expensive ways to learn quickly.
It is an expensive misconception that you need to play against the best to become one of the best. You should keep working to increase your edge over weak opponents, finding countless ways to gain an advantage. Videos and coaching can provide all the skill development you need from those at the highest level, and besides, if you are playing multiple tables against strong players, how closely are you really examining those hands?
If you can’t beat the weaker players, trust us – you won’t beat the stronger ones. Also, if you want to learn from the best you can watch them play without being the one sat across from them. There are also books, videos, forums and training courses to help you along.
4 – Online micro stakes are the easiest way to gain experience
If you are someone who likes to do their learning live, you should rethink your learning strategy. You can play as many as 500 hands per hour online, which is more than ten times the rate of hands you will play live, which means you will learn ten times faster online. You can also look back at all your hands and review them with accurate details rather than simply from memory. The more mistakes you see per hour, the better you will get at profiting from them. This is where playing micros gives you an advantage.
You should always keep working to increase your edge over weak opponents and find countless ways to gain an advantage. Money is certainly more important than fame in poker, and when the day finally comes when you do take on the best, you will be better equipped if you have paid your dues and spent years learning at the lower levels.
You will also come to see that all fish are unique in terms of the mistakes they make and the opportunities they present you. Learning how to best identify and strike at the weaknesses of players is an important skill you will soon learn in these games. If you try to learn these things at higher stakes you will find that it’s rare for you to have a weak player isolated in a pot and you need to know how to perfectly exploit their weaknesses before these situations come up. Your winrate will suffer if you do not learn this skill.
5 – Micro stakes are a good way to focus on developing your game rather than money
We all know there is an element of luck in poker and it is very tempting to think that just because you’ve put some work in you can gamble a little by moving up in stakes. You may know you’re not quite ready, but you might run good and double your bankroll in no time, all while learning from strong players, right? Wrong.
Variance is not something you should rely on to get you anywhere in poker. It ebbs and flows like the tides and it’s not predictable so don’t waste your time worrying about it. Make good decision and the money will follow. The best way to learn how to improve your decisions while forgetting about the money is at micro stakes. Once you’ve built the bankroll to move up, that’s when you should move up. You’ll not only be financially ready at that point, but you’ll have proven you are ready as a player too.
6 – Playing higher from the start is an indicator of bad bankroll management
If you deposit $100 into an account and decide to sit at a table with all of it, you are a gambler with little self-control, and you are unlikely to make a success of poker until you change your approach. Micro stakes may not bring the big money you dream of, but accomplishing dreams takes years of work and determination. You won’t get there by taking short-cuts. Learn your craft, develop a steady profit over a significant length of time, then use those profits to support you as you move up to the next level. This is, and has always been the right way to be successful at poker.
The cautionary counterpoint: Rake payments
There is a downside to playing at micro stakes for long periods of time, and that is rake. You will pay higher rake at lower stakes and many pots will not reach the rake cap at all at micro stakes. You will also find it harder to earn VIP rewards which will balance out the impact of rake.
This is a negative point to consider, but in the end, you are always better off paying a slightly higher percentage of rake than you would be if you were taking shots at higher stakes against better players and losing stacks of money.
Article by Craig Bradshaw