Microcosm of MicroStakes Poker

by PokerAnon ~ July 20th, 2011. Filed under: Basics of poker, Instructional posts, Micro level poker, Poker theory.


After Black Friday I pulled out most of my bankroll on PokerStars. I left myself with an bankroll there of just over $200. With that money I’ve decided to play 4-5 tables of $25nl full ring until I can grind that back up to $500 and sit at $50 tables again.

The following hand came up recently and I thought that it makes a really good source for covering a variety of aspects about playing microstakes poker. I’m going to pull out a wide range of related tangents and try to look at it from a variety of perspectives.

 

First off, $200 is not enough to be playing $25 tables. That’s only 8 buyins, and if my target is $500 to play $50 that will only be 10 buyins. The standard bankroll requirement is 20-30 buyins, so $500-$750 for $25 and $1,000 to $1,500 for $50 tables. The qualifying factors here are that

  1. I have money on other sites, so this is not all my online bankroll,
  2. I have money that I’ve cashed out because I’d rather have it in my bank rather than in the poker site’s bank. This money has not been spent on vacations or groceries and so I do still consider it to be part of my poker bankroll, and,
  3. I’ve played $25, as well as $10, $50 and $100, on PokerStars before.

Next factor; I’m on the button in this hand. My steal percentage from this position is around 45%, which means that when it’s folded to me on the button, I raise 45% of the time. That’s a bit of a surprise; I thought it to be closer to 33%. Regardless, I open raise a lot of hands from the button unopened. Reasons for this?

  1. There are only three hands left; myself and the two blinds, so the relative value of the better-than-average hands goes up and there is a smaller chance that someone holds a good hand
  2. I will have position postflop on either or both players in the blinds if they call. They should know this, and they should only play with hands that can stand to be played out of postion postflop. Because I will have position later and because I may be representing a good hand, often the blinds will just fold preflop.
  3. Postflop if they call I can continuation bet most flops and get folds frequently.
  4. Having position postflop makes it easier for me to control the size of the pot

Next factor; information about the players in the blinds.

  1. They are both less than full stacked, indicating that they are not strong players.
  2. The SB’s (Small Blind) PFR (PreFlop Raise percentage) is 2 and BB’s PFR is 12, so it’s not likely that they will re-raise me unless they have a very good hand. Neither have re-raised preflop yet, but I don’t have a lot of hands on either player.

Reasons not to play or to raise;

  1. SB is very short. If he re-raises, I can’t just call unless I’m trying to trap him with a big hand. And sometimes when players get short stacked they get spazzy. However, I don’t know whether he has drifted to short or started short, and I don’t see indications of him being hyper-aggressive.
  2. BB has a higher PFR so he’s not as passive as the SB. He also has a steal percentage of 44 which indicates that he understands the value of stealing. He hasn’t re-raised yet, but again I don’t have a lot of hands on either player.
  3. BB has a post-flop aggression frequency of 38% and an aggression rate of 1.0, meaning that he can be aggressive postflop and doesn’t call often.
  4. Both players have low fold to continuation bet frequencies of 50%.

Finally, my cards, J7

  1. They can (barely) make a straight
  2. They are suited
  3. The J is high enough that if I pair it, depending on the board and the opponent, I may be comfortable betting more than one street for value

Now here’s one of the most dangerous things about using a hand like this as an example. A less experienced player will see what I’ve just written and forget the earlier analysis and the weakness of the hand that I’m going to point out. Then they’ll try playing it and hands like it in all sorts of situations; calling raises in the blinds with it, open raising it from middle position, and other bad uses. This is not a hand that I will play in pretty much any other cash game situation (tournaments, with the bubbles and ultra-short stacks can be a different matter).

The weaknesses of this hand;

  1. The gap is too far so they will only very rarely make a straight
  2. The top card is not an Ace so I can be dominated by a better flush
  3. If I pair the Jack the seven is almost useless as a kicker since if my opponent has a Jack he almost certainly has a better kicker

The weaknesses of this hand far outweigh the strengths, but, since I am on the button and will have position and the blinds are not aggressive, it’s a hand that I will open raise. There’s a good chance that I will take the blinds, and if not, I have position and a hand that may catch something.

Note that I am not considering calling. By calling I would have no chance of taking down the pot preflop and I will have no initiative in the hand postflop. The only time I would consider just calling from the button would be if I had a big hand and the blinds were aggressive. In that situation I’m trying to trap by calling and expecting to be raised. Or, behind multiple callers who I don’t expect to fold and I hold a small pair or suited connectors. A suited J7 is not useful in any of those categories.

So my plan is to raise and fold to a reraise, then if called to continuation bet most but not all flops.

 

 

Not the best flop, but one that hits my range as the preflop raiser better than it hits his range as a preflop caller from the blinds. In other words with the Ace and King in the flop it makes more sense that the preflop raiser (me) holds an Ace or King than the caller. Plus I have a flush draw so by betting,

  1. I have a chance to take the pot down on the flop,
  2. If called, I have the third nut flush draw

Unfortunately if he holds an Ace or King or has a flush draw himself, he’s likely not folding. Let’s go back to the player information again to see what applies now.

  1. He’s short –> not likely good
  2. He doesn’t fold a lot to continuation bets
  3. His key preflop stats are 19/17 which indicate tight-aggressive so he doesn’t call preflop often
  4. His postflop aggression rate is 1.0 meaning he bets as often as he calls postflop, and his frequency is 38% which is fairly aggressive.
  5. Not a lot of hands, so this information is only an indication of how he actually plays.

Does he call preflop from the blind with a hand that has a flush draw? The most likely type of player to play any suited cards are the loose-paassive types that like to see flops and chase their flushes, so I think a flush by this player is not too likely. Against stronger competition the fact that the Ace of the flush is on the board and can’t be in his hand makes a flush draw less likely, but that’s not necessarily the case at $25nl. Does he call preflop with a hand that has an Ace or King? Possibly. I’ve seen players at this level who seem to have TAG stats like 19/17 but play AK/AQ/KQ weakly when someone else has raised, even in a situation like this when I’m on the button and I steal often. Again it’s more likely that a loose player will have called with any Ace or possibly a King than a TAG.

He didn’t bet out, so I decide to bet. If called, I’m probably done with the hand unless I hit the flush.

 

 

So I bet the flop and he calls. A Jack comes, giving me a pair and he checks again.

Now that I have a pair some players might automatically bet. But why? If he has an Ace or King, he’s probably still going to call and by betting I’m going to lose a bigger pot. Unless he’s calling with a flush draw (which we said is not that likely) or an underpair like TT/99 that didn’t believe that I have an Ace or King then we’re building a pot which we’re likely to lose and he’s not that likely to fold to a bet here. Basically I have a bluff catcher if he is chasing a straight or flush and it misses, so I check behind.

Another mode of thinking here is that I’ve gained outs to beat an Ace if that’s what he holds (another Jack or a seven will help me) and I still have the flush outs so I should bet again to keep building the pot for the times that I fill on the river, plus I likely have some fold equity if I bet the turn if he holds a King and decides to give up. I think that I’m more likely to do this against a player that I have more respect for, someone that I know is a good player and will be reluctant to pay me off if I get frisky on the river. Because he started the hand short stacked I assume that he’s not a good player until I have evidence otherwise.

 

 

Now I’ve made the 3rd nut flush and he’s bet into me. It’s possible that he has the flush, but it’s also possible that he as TT/99 that thinks that I’m full of air and will fold if he bets, or, that he has an Ace and wants to get some value from me if I have a King. There aren’t many hands that beat me and there are a lot of Ace hands that don’t expect me to have a flush that will call a raise out of curiosity or hoping that I have a worse Ace hand. A straight is unlikely holding on my part as I should have bet that on the turn and possibly unlikely for him given that he would have check/called the flop with a gutshot. Possible, but less likely that some kind of Ace or King.

It’s also quite possible that he’s mostly bluffing with an underpair or something that saw me continuation bet the flop and then check the turn. He has some postflop aggression and by checking the turn I’ve opened up his range to bet the river. In other words because I bet the flop and checked the turn and he’s somewhat aggressive, he will bet the river with a wider range of hands. Most of the time he will fold those bluffs to a raise though, so by raising the river I get value mostly from Aces as I expect a lot of his King hands or underpairs to fold to the raise. But if I don’t raise, I don’t gain anything, and I don’t expect him to raise back.

So I raise, hoping to make it a size that an Ace or some two pair with the Ace or King will call. I’ve made the best hand that I could hope for. I’m only losing to a two card King or Queen spade flush and he’s not loose so I don’t expect him to hold K2/K3/K4/Q2/Q3/Q4 ect. kinds of hands. KQ/KT or maybe QT of spades are the only flushes left that beat that could be in his range since the Ace is on the board and I hold the Jack. Most of the time the flush doesn’t get there for me on the river so I need to squeeze as much value out of it when it does as I can.

 

 

A8 suited was at the bottom of the range that I expected a player with his stats to be calling from the blinds with, but now his flop call and even the river bet/call makes sense.

 

So that’s a microcosm of microstakes poker in one hand. Did I really think all of that at each step, all the while playing three other tables of poker? Not really. A lot of aspects are habitual reactions to given situations and others, like the awareness the the blinds are short and neither loose nor hyper-aggressive, are things that I check early in the hand and then retain the ramifications of that throughout the hand with very little mental effort or attention. Or at least, I try to do so.

What about my opponent’s play? Based on his stats and his mostly reasonable play I think he’s likely better than many players at this level, but good players will stay with a maximum stack so that they always have the opportunity to win as much as possible when they have the chance. I don’t like his preflop call with A8 suited from the blinds against a player who steals often from the button. It’s an awkward hand in this situation as it’s not a great hand to 3 bet from the blinds with in general, but against a stealer he should probabaly 3 bet it because he has an Ace blocker. If he doesn’t recognize that I steal often, meaning that my range is very wide when I raise, then I think he should just fold preflop. He gets himself into a bunch more difficult situations trying to play this hand when he will be out of position postflop, having to check/call the flop and then having to be first to act on the turn and river. Sure he could flop a flush or flush draw, but the times that he flops an Ace he doesn’t have a strong kicker and can’t get value against someone like me with a wide range when he’s going to be out of position postflop. If I had raised from the cut off and he called from the button that would be a better situation as then he could manage the pot, but even then Aces with a weak suited kicker are going to be dominated by AK/AQ/AJ/AT/A9 anytime that an Ace flops. Just fold it preflop and you save yourself more money than you will win in the long run.

Postflop I think the check/call on the flop is fine, the check on the turn is fine but I probably don’t bet/call the river. I’d prefer him to let me check my garbage behind or to bluff the river. Admittedly two pair is a fairly good hand on this board but it only gets a call from a hand that it beats if I have an Ace or at least a King, which again he has to understand that because I steal often, most of my hands in this situation don’t have an Ace or King, so he’s going to get a fold from most hands that he beats, a raise from most hands (flush, set) that he’s losing to, and a call only from the few times that I hold an Ace here or a few odd hands that have worse two pairs. Again, it’s an awkward situation though, one that could have been avoided by folding preflop.

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