Texas Holdem Micro Limits Strategy
Texas holdem can be divided into different categories based on the limits. Each category has a different level of competition and requires slightly different strategies in order to maximize your profitability.
The lowest level of play is called micro limits and the betting limits are measured in pennies instead of dollars for limit play and the no limit games have buy ins of $10 or less. The highest micro limit game is usually .25 / .50 limit and the lowest at many sites is .01 / .02. The lowest no limit game is often $1 or $2 total buy in with blinds as small as .01 / .02.
This page provides an introduction to micro limits, and some useful strategy and advice for playing at this level.
About the Micro Limits
As you've probably guessed, the only place you can play micro limit Texas holdem is at online poker rooms. The smallest stakes in many land based poker rooms are 5 / 10 limit and $100 buy in no limit. Even the smaller stakes games are no lower than 1 / 2 and it's been years since most rooms offered anything that low.
Many Texas holdem players get started playing the free money tables or the free roll tournaments online. This is an excellent way to learn how the software works and to get a taste of online play, but it's not the same as playing for real money.
The level of play at the free tables and in free rolls is terrible overall. You'll find a few players that seem to be decent but most of them play so bad that they'll never be able to make money at real money tables.
When you move from free play to real money play the micro limit tables are the perfect environment. You play for a few dollars, often less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, but at least something real is at stake.
The play is still poor overall but it's better than at the free tables. But more important than anything mentioned so far, you can start training your mind and emotions for play at any level involving real money.
Don't consider the low amount in pennies. Play like each penny is a dollar or 10 dollars, or even 100. You should concentrate on playing to the best of your ability no matter what level you're currently playing.
A good way to keep your focus is by forcing yourself to win enough at each level to fund your move up to the next level of play.
If you're a no limit player you might set a minimum bankroll of 20 times the buy in for each level. You deposit $40 and start playing at the $2 buy in Texas holdem no limit tables. You don't move up to the $5 buy in tables until you have a total bankroll of $100. Then you won't be able to move up to the $10 buy in tables until you have $200, etc.
Following a plan such as this helps you focus on maximizing every penny because you can't advance to higher stakes if you don't play well.
The competition at the micro levels is poor. Most of your opponents won't be paying attention to the other players and many players won't completely understand the rules, the rank of hands, or be able to read the board accurately.
A few players will be able to play well enough to play at a higher level, but stay at the micro levels because they don't have a large enough bankroll or because they just want to play for fun but can't stand the abysmal play at the free money tables.
Many players simply won't play at the free tables so by depositing $10 or $20 and playing at the micro limits they get more enjoyment than playing for free.
Though most Texas holdem players don't win at the free tables or the micro limit tables, it isn't hard to be a consistent winner. All you have to do is follow a few simple strategies and you'll be able to show a long term profit.
The same strategies work well when you move from the micro limits to the low limit tables, but as you advance in limits you have to make adjustments to your game to maintain a winning record.
Have you ever heard or read someone say ABC poker? Do you know what it means?
ABC poker means playing a simple straightforward game. When you have a good hand you bet and raise and when you're drawing to a better hand you check and call as long as you're getting the proper pot odds.
If you have the best hand on the river you bet and if you don't have the best hand you check and fold. You don't make any bluffs.
When you watch poker on television you almost always see hands with big pots and players making smart bluffs. Bluffing makes great TV, but what you don't see are all of the boring hands where players play straightforward poker.
The truth is that the best players don't bluff very often because if they bluff too much the other players start calling them more and they start losing money.
For a bluff to be successful you have to have a situation where it has a good chance to work. One of the main ingredients in a successful bluff is an opponent who's a good enough player to realize when they might have a losing hand and be able to fold a losing hand.
Making the assumption that anyone at the micro limit tables has these skills is a mistake.
The next thing you need to focus on at the micro limits is only playing your best hands. You always want to be the tightest player at the table at these limits. Your opponents will often see 40 or 50% of the flops so it may seem boring to wait for good hands, but if you concentrate on playing tight before the flop you probably can show a profit without doing anything else.
You should try to play around 20% of your hands at the most. This means when you play you'll usually start with the best hand. When you start with the best hand against poor competition all you need to do is play a simple game.
The biggest problem most decent poker players have at the micro limits is trying to get too fancy with their play or overthinking the game.
At the top levels you have to be able to outthink your opponents at times, but at the micro limits most of your opponents don't think at all.
Stick with the basics and you'll start building your bankroll in no time.
Speaking of bankroll, most low limit Texas holdem players ignore common bankroll guidelines. It's probably because they consider a few dollars no big deal, but the truth is if you can't follow proper bankroll guidelines and playing strategy at the micro limits what makes you think you can at higher limits?
Start considering every hand at the poker table as the most important hand you've ever played and you'll start playing a better game.
The proper bankroll depends a great deal on your skill level. If you're a losing player it doesn't matter how big your bankroll is, you'll never have enough.
But if you're a winning player you'll still face down turns and runs of poor short term variance so you have to have enough funds to keep playing until you start winning again.
For no limit play most players need to have 20 to 30 times the buy in for their current level. This means if you're playing $5 buy in games you should have between $100 and $150.
This may seem extremely high for the micro limits, but remember you need to act like you're playing at the top limits, so you need to do so in every part of your game.
At the $10 buy in level you should have between $200 and $300.
Limit play recommendations are based on a number of big blinds. You can find recommendations as low as 200 big blinds and as high as 500 big blinds.
Here's a list of ranges for micro limit play based on these suggestions.
- If the big blind is .02 your bankroll should be $4 to $10
- If the big blind is .05 your bankroll should be $10 to $25
- If the big blind is .10 your bankroll should be $20 to $50
- If the big blind is .25 your bankroll should be $50 to $125
- If the big blind is .50 your bankroll should be $100 to $250
Most players will be fine with the lower suggested bankroll numbers for limit play, but having the higher levels won't hurt you.
An argument can be made that involves the psychology of how the size of your bankroll changes the way you play. The larger your bankroll, the lower the ratio a downswing causes in relation to your overall bankroll.
Here's an example:
If your overall bankroll is $100 and you're playing at the .50 big blind levels, if you lose $20 it represents 20% of your total starting bankroll. But if you start with a bankroll of $250 it's only 8% of your starting bankroll.
At the micro limits it might not seem like much, but what if you were playing at a limit where the bankroll recommendations are $100,000 to $250,000?
Limit and No Limit
At the micro limits there isn't much difference between limit and no limit play. Once you get the hand of playing solid ABC poker you can win more quickly at the no limit tables, but good limit players can win fairly quickly at the micro limits also.
Many players are fascinated with no limit play because most of the televised games and tournaments are no limit, but limit play is the best place to learn how to play.
Limit Texas holdem is more straightforward than no limit, so it's easier to learn the basics of strong play and more forgiving when you make a mistake.
When you make a mistake by calling on the river instead of folding in a limit game it costs a single big bet. But when you make the same mistake in a no limit game it can cost your entire stack.
Another reason to consider making limit Texas holdem your game instead of no limit is because the best players gravitate to the no limit tables. This gives you the opportunity to be the best player at the limit table.
Would you rather be the best player at the limit table or the fourth best at the no limit table?
The Losers Fallacy
Have you ever heard a player complain that they can't win at the micro limits because the players aren't good enough?
How does this statement make sense?
Don't you want to play against the worst competition possible? And wouldn't playing against poor competition be profitable in the long run?
When you usually hear someone make a foolish statement like this they've just had a bluff called by someone or an opponent got lucky and hit a hand when they should've folded before the flop.
The player who's complaining makes a pre flop raise with a strong hand like ace queen and is called by a player with ace three. An ace hits on the flop and the player with ace three keeps calling and hits a three on the river to win a big pot.
The complaint is that a better player would've folded such a poor hand instead of chasing all the way to the river.
Of course this is exactly the situation you want to be in. Most of the time the poor player will not hit the three, so in the long run you'll make a great deal of money from players like this.
It can be aggravating in the short term, but don't make the mistake of thinking you'd be better off playing against better competition. It simply isn't true.
A player has been calling chasing an open end straight draw and misses but the board ends with three of the same suit making a flush possible. The way her opponent was betting it's fairly clear she doesn't have the flush. So the first player makes a large raise on the river representing the flush and her opponent calls. The opponent turns over a middle pair beating the bluff and takes down a big pot.
The complainer thinks any good player would've folded to a big raise with a middle pair, but the truth is a good player would know enough about her opponents to know that some of them won't fold on the river if they have anything.
If you've ever found yourself complaining about the bad decisions your opponents make you need to take a step back and think about what you're complaining about. You want your opponents to play poorly. It helps you win more in the long run. It can be painful in the short run but as long as you keep playing well you'll show more profit in the long run.
While many players make the mistake of jumping from the free money tables to the low or medium limits, playing at the micro limit tables is a great way to get your feet wet while keeping your risk low.
Figure out the best way to stay focused on improving your game instead of thinking about how small the stakes are. You aren't playing for pennies. You're playing to win no matter how low the stakes.