Small stakes poker games are notorious for their loose play and generally unpredictable behavior. In any micro stakes tournament or cash game, you’re sure to see example after example of bad bluffs, oversized bets and hilariously bad calls. This all comes with the territory.

It’s not uncommon at all to read discussion forums and talk to small stakes players and see claims that small stakes games are not beatable. The most common reason given is that the play is so bad that it doesn’t resemble “real” poker. With everyone making all these wonky plays, it becomes a big crapshoot as to whether your legit hands ever hold up.

Well, let me put your mind at ease. It is entirely possible to make a killing off these bad players. You just have to know how to exploit their poor play. You also need a good dose of patience to deal with the occasional suckout.

Exploiting Bad Play

Although the general quality of opposition in small stakes games has improved over the years, micro stakes games are still rife with bad play. The secret to making money in these games is to employ a basic, tight-aggressive strategy. You fold your weak hands and you bet your strong hands. This is ABC poker at its finest.

Every time a player calls one of your raises with an inferior hand, that player is making a mistake. He is violating the fundamental rule of poker, which is to play your cards as if you could see your opponent’s hand. Every time one of your opponents violates this rule, it is money in your pocket.

Of course, it won’t always seem like that. People make bad plays all the time and are rewarded via sheer luck. That will happen occasionally. But over the long term, all those little mistakes cost those players more money than they earn when they get lucky. You just have to be there to take that money.

For example, let’s say you make a raise in early position with AA and get 4 callers. That might seem like a disaster, but it’s not. Yes, the odds are against your lonely aces when there are four other people contending for the pot. That does not mean you shouldn’t raise, though. Your aces will still win more often than any other person’s hand.

Let’s just say that you and each opponent put $1 in before the flop. The pot now has $5 in it. If all of your hands had exactly equal chances of winning, you would win 20% of the time and break even. But since you have aces, you can expect to win more than your fair share of pots in this situation. Even if you lost 70% of the time, your 30% winning record would be enough to net you a profit over the long term.

Let’s stretch this example out across a trial of 100 occurrences. If you only win 30% of the time in that situation (ignoring the other streets), you would come out with a total of $150 in winnings ($5 in the pot times 30 wins). Your losses would come out to a total of $70 ($1 contributed to the pot times 70 losses). You are actually up even though you lost 70% of the time.

This is a very simplistic example, but it shows why you don’t have to win every time. As long as you can get other people to contribute money to the pot when they are behind, you will come out with a profit over the long term.

Of course, you also have to be able to minimize losses when people do suck out on you. If you pay off your fishy opponents every time they catch something, you are playing bad poker and will lose. The lesson to take away from here is to get your money in while you’re ahead and NOT to put money in when you’re behind. ABC poker.

The same principle applies to people who are constantly chasing draws against the odds. Don’t be afraid to put money in when you’re ahead. You should welcome all those fishy calls. Sure, people will get lucky and catch those draws, but it’s a losing proposition for them over the long term.

This all ties back in to my original point. Against fishy players, you should play a tight, aggressive and straightforward game. Get your opponents to put money in when they are behind and be prepared to fold if you suspect someone has caught something.


Small stakes poker games require great patience. Your opponents will make some of the most mind-numbingly bad plays and sometimes they will get lucky. You have to learn how to do deal with frustration in poker. You should welcome and encourage those bad plays.

This happens all the time in low stakes games because fishy players are constantly making bad plays. It’s a numbers game. You’re going to see weird hands win big pots all the time. But again, it doesn’t matter over the long run. The more your opponents put in the middle when the odds are against them, the more money you make with your tight, straightforward game.

Drill this into your mind until you can stave off those feelings of frustration and tilt. Resist your urge to berate the fish and tell them how stupid they are. It may be frustrating at times, but they are actually doing you a favor.

What About the Rake?

The rake is a legitimate problem in small stakes games. It’s not much of a problem in online poker, but it does cause issues when playing at a real life casino. The rake tends to be much higher at brick-and-mortar games.

The rake is an unstoppable force that’s always there in the background cutting into your bottom line. Not only do you have to beat the other players, but you have to beat them by a big enough margin to also overcome the rake.

If your bankroll limits you to micro or small-stakes games, I urge you to start with the online games. Brick and mortar poker rooms have dealers to pay and property to maintain. They simply cannot afford to give you the low-rake action that online poker rooms offer. You’ll find it much easier to earn a profit if you start online.

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