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
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
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
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
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.
At the micro limit tables you shouldn’t bluff. You
need to understand this completely. You should NEVER bluff at
Texas holdem micro limit tables.
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
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
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
If the big blind is .02 your bankroll should be $4 to
If the big blind is .05 your bankroll should be $10 to
If the big blind is .10 your bankroll should be $20 to
If the big blind is .25 your bankroll should be $50 to
If the big blind is .50 your bankroll should be $100 to
Most players will be fine with the lower suggested bankroll
numbers for limit play, but having the higher levels won’t hurt
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
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
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
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.
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