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Old 02-20-2012, 10:59 AM   #1
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How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

This forum has given me lots of help over the years, both with poker and life. So I'll try to give back by outlining how to crush live 1-2 and 2-5 holdem games.

I've been playing in these games since they got popular in about 2004. I played almost every day in 2004-2005, but have since gotten old and boring and only play 3-4 times a year. If you're like me, and you're on this site so you probably are, you started off in NL thinking that a standard TAG style was the way to get the money. And while you will make money playing this style, you won't crush the game. Even the idiots in these games will peg you as a tight player, and you won't get paid off enough. So you'll only make big scores by coolering people or having a total maniac/idiot sit down.

The way to crush these games is through the relentless use of position and aggression. Think about when you see people with huge stacks in these games - the 6+ buy-in stacks. Are they sitting there set-mining? No. They are playing lots of pots, and they are playing very aggressively. When you confuse opponents at this level, and they are very easy to confuse, they will make HUGE mistakes against you. This is how you start killing the game.

The Golden Rule: Play as many pots as possible in position. Bunch of limpers to you on the button with Q8s? Raise. J10 off? Raise. Any pocket pair, raise. Make the pot bigger because you're going to make way, way better decisions then your opponents and the positional advantage is huge. And sooner or later, and probably sooner, you're going to show down one of your awful hands and you will be labeled a maniac by the clowns who don't even know what position is let alone how to account for it.

Now of course you aren't really a maniac at all. In most cases, raise in late position and bet any flop, but shut down if called. Take free cards a bunch. Your opponents will be really confused by your play. They won't think "that guy raises all the time, I'm going to play back at him.' They'll think "that guy is always raising, he could have anything, I'm going to check to him." Low limit players are already way too passive, and by confusing them you make them even more so, which is great for you.

As an aside, every once in a while these guys will do something incredibly retarded because they are sick of you raising all the time. So like you'll raise KQ in late position, the flop will be QQ4, you make a continuation bet and some donk decides to check raise you all in because no way can you have the queen. See they will see you winning tons of pots without a showdown and decide to eventually do something about it, but they suck at poker and don't understand position, so they'll just end up making huge mistakes. They'll say things like "figures, the ONE TIME HE ACTUALLY HAD SOMETHING!" Just smile, shrug, and stack their chips.

Now, since these guys are awful, you want to play pots with them, especially if you are at all deep. The average low limit player is horrible at playing deep and makes no adjustments. So if a donk raises in early position and you're deep, call with your 84s in late position. When you make 2 pair or a straight he will call off his whole stack with his aces - remember, you are the maniac who can have anything. This is why you shut down on the flop in most cases when you are the aggressor: once they make it to the turn they really don't want to fold.

Now of course this means you should be value betting everything. If they make a hand, they'll let you know about it. They will play exactly how you want them to and basically never put you to a hard decision. Remember, they're scared to raise you because you could have anything! So when you're value-betting they will call with worse a bunch and only raise their monsters. Perfect for you.

Hope this is helpful to some folks, happy to answer questions if anyone has them.

Last edited by Rapini; 02-20-2012 at 01:40 PM. Reason: Moved from B&M to LLNLHE.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:16 PM   #2
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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Originally Posted by Riverman View Post
This forum has given me lots of help over the years, both with poker and life. So I'll try to give back by outlining how to crush live 1-2 and 2-5 holdem games.

I've been playing in these games since they got popular in about 2004. I played almost every day in 2004-2005, but have since gotten old and boring and only play 3-4 times a year. If you're like me, and you're on this site so you probably are, you started off in NL thinking that a standard TAG style was the way to get the money. And while you will make money playing this style, you won't crush the game. Even the idiots in these games will peg you as a tight player, and you won't get paid off enough. So you'll only make big scores by coolering people or having a total maniac/idiot sit down.

The way to crush these games is through the relentless use of position and aggression. Think about when you see people with huge stacks in these games - the 6+ buy-in stacks. Are they sitting there set-mining? No. They are playing lots of pots, and they are playing very aggressively. When you confuse opponents at this level, and they are very easy to confuse, they will make HUGE mistakes against you. This is how you start killing the game.

The Golden Rule: Play as many pots as possible in position. Bunch of limpers to you on the button with Q8s? Raise. J10 off? Raise. Any pocket pair, raise. Make the pot bigger because you're going to make way, way better decisions then your opponents and the positional advantage is huge. And sooner or later, and probably sooner, you're going to show down one of your awful hands and you will be labeled a maniac by the clowns who don't even know what position is let alone how to account for it.

Now of course you aren't really a maniac at all. In most cases, raise in late position and bet any flop, but shut down if called. Take free cards a bunch. Your opponents will be really confused by your play. They won't think "that guy raises all the time, I'm going to play back at him.' They'll think "that guy is always raising, he could have anything, I'm going to check to him." Low limit players are already way too passive, and by confusing them you make them even more so, which is great for you.

As an aside, every once in a while these guys will do something incredibly retarded because they are sick of you raising all the time. So like you'll raise KQ in late position, the flop will be QQ4, you make a continuation bet and some donk decides to check raise you all in because no way can you have the queen. See they will see you winning tons of pots without a showdown and decide to eventually do something about it, but they suck at poker and don't understand position, so they'll just end up making huge mistakes. They'll say things like "figures, the ONE TIME HE ACTUALLY HAD SOMETHING!" Just smile, shrug, and stack their chips.

Now, since these guys are awful, you want to play pots with them, especially if you are at all deep. The average low limit player is horrible at playing deep and makes no adjustments. So if a donk raises in early position and you're deep, call with your 84s in late position. When you make 2 pair or a straight he will call off his whole stack with his aces - remember, you are the maniac who can have anything. This is why you shut down on the flop in most cases when you are the aggressor: once they make it to the turn they really don't want to fold.

Now of course this means you should be value betting everything. If they make a hand, they'll let you know about it. They will play exactly how you want them to and basically never put you to a hard decision. Remember, they're scared to raise you because you could have anything! So when you're value-betting they will call with worse a bunch and only raise their monsters. Perfect for you.

Hope this is helpful to some folks, happy to answer questions if anyone has them.
.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:39 PM   #3
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

Excellent post.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:43 PM   #4
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

I've been trying to do this, but I have recently realized (though online play) that I still blend in the fishy "ZOMG I HAVE ACES/KINGS/WHATEVER" and don't fold when I should. Need to work on that part.
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:14 PM   #5
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

Great post, thanks.
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:43 PM   #6
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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The Golden Rule: Play as many pots as possible in position.
I'd like to see more theory on this. By default, are you playing any trashy sooted cards/1-2 gappers OTB vs multiple limpers?

I'm skeptical that this is profitable over the long haul for obvious reasons.
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:53 PM   #7
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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When you confuse opponents at this level, and they are very easy to confuse, they will make HUGE mistakes against you. This is how you start killing the game.

.
exactly this.
problem is that some ppl have a hard time getting creative enough to confuse the easily-confused, or to find cheap ways to come off as a maniac.

in the deuceplays podcast episodes with Citizen James he talks about a lot of this stuff.
one of my faves is when the flop comes QQ4, and he has JJ, he value bets the s@$yt out of it.
Cuz they think hes a maniac, they just think "he doesnt have a Q", but it doesnt occur to them that hes capable of value betting the s$@yt out of a value hand worse than a Q. then they lose a big pot w/ 77, when they wouldnt have lost it to any other player at the table, because CJ is doing the work, and making the small investments in being a 'maniac'.
they think "he's either bluffing or he has aces, and he doesnt have aces, so..."
I find it also funny that these so called 'maniacs', if they are competant, are way way tighter on the later streets, and esp the river than the unimaginative 'conservative' players who are prone to playing sheriff.

Last edited by stampler; 02-20-2012 at 02:09 PM.
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:58 PM   #8
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

Good post. However, don't think it's fully applicable to 100bb capped games where the average stack is like 70bbs. Like the 2-5 Max 500 games on the east coast. If you are > 150bbs deep and so are most opponents, then what you wrote is a lot more applicable.

Also, a few other points before your well-intentioned post creates 20+ 2p2ers spewing their rolls away:

- your approach to any poker table should be dynamic and a function of the player tendencies you are trying to exploit. Applied to a table worth of stations playing 65bbs deep your approach would be awful and TAG would be optimal by far. At a table of weak-tight/ABC TAG players 200bbs deep your approach would be optimal and TAG would be marginal.

- your post assumes a big postflop edge. Everyone is above average, right? The unfortunate truth is that very few players on this forum possess the edge and the tilt-control needed to make the style you described optimal for them

- this is a high variance style. You need a bigger roll. You also need to have excellent mental game as variance (both ways) is one of the leading causes of various strains of tilt.


If you pass all of the above, LAG away. But buyer beware....
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:05 PM   #9
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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I'd like to see more theory on this. By default, are you playing any trashy sooted cards/1-2 gappers OTB vs multiple limpers?

I'm skeptical that this is profitable over the long haul for obvious reasons.
depends on stack sizes.
if you are deep enough, its an error to fold almost anything vs. a bad player in position.
J3, and Q6 hands can obv be dumped, but anything that can make a quirky hidden hand is gold. (24, 36, ect...)
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:09 PM   #10
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

Would you still recommend this looser style of play in capped NL games? For instance in a game where you can only buy-in for 50BB is this style still a profitable one?

Or are you saying adopt this strategy once the game gets deeper?
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:11 PM   #11
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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Would you still recommend this looser style of play in capped NL games? For instance in a game where you can only buy-in for 50BB is this style still a profitable one?

Or are you saying adopt this strategy once the game gets deeper?
In a 50bb game this is the fastest way to go broke.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:14 PM   #12
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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In a 50bb game this is the fastest way to go broke.
That is what i was thinking, but when the game gets deep it sounds like an interesting strategy
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:17 PM   #13
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

This is basically how I play, but I don't call raises with 84s or 32s cause they have ****ty reverse implied odds (very tough to get away from 84 on 765 flop but you get stacked by 98).

If I'm playing a really ****ty hand like 84s I've usually made a 3-bet in position. Or I'm stealing on the button or something.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:26 PM   #14
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

*What others are saying*

Basically, many poker rooms are like 25-100 BB buyins and stacks are 60-300 and OP rules don't apply as much as stacks get shorter. w/ shorter stacks, being a nit is the best approach.

I wish more poker rooms would just run uncapped or deeper stacked LLSNL games where these rules would be completely on the money.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:37 PM   #15
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

As someone who's run very very bad for a while...

...Thank you.

Yes this is absolutely the optimal style of play at this level deep-stacked (vs the weak opponents). They have no idea what's going on, simply think, this donk will call with anything.

Brings to mind when I was playing short handed. I am a well known "maniac" in the cardroom, raise from UTG with QJ (we're 4 handed).

Only caller is BB.

Flop is Q Q 4

He checks, I C-bet, he shoves for like 3x pot over the top. I call and he has A-4o lol. But he didn't know what else to do.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:37 PM   #16
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

If there are more than 2 players with short stacks, this style usually won't work (and I will usually not even sit down). If, however, there are 2 or more big stacks that seem to not know what they're doing, I'll play regardless of the other stacks. Yes I will probably double up a short stack or two, but the deep stacks won't realize what you're doing and you'll have a good chance at eventually felting them.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:39 PM   #17
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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Originally Posted by Setsy View Post
Also, a few other points before your well-intentioned post creates 20+ 2p2ers spewing their rolls away:

- your post assumes a big postflop edge. Everyone is above average, right? The unfortunate truth is that very few players on this forum possess the edge and the tilt-control needed to make the style you described optimal for them
Thank you for this, Setsy. As a player who is inexperienced relative to most of you who have posted in this thread, I appreciate the power of the tools described by the OP -- but I also have a healthy skepticism about how much of an edge I have post-flop.

I'll tuck this conversation away in memory, and when I find myself deep-stacked at a table and playing comfortably, I'll bring it out and see what I can apply.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:43 PM   #18
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

Great post.

As others have said, requires a good deal of postflop ability, deep stacks, and knowing how to handle cooler situations though.

Should stick to just ABC until those criteria are met.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:45 PM   #19
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

Yeah you do have to be good post flop, which takes some experience. But remember, you should almost always be in position, which makes it much, much easier to play well. And you're very rarely running big bluffs.

One common sort of tricky situation is when you raise late position, whiff the flop, c-bet, get called, take the free card, and river a pair. These situations can be kind of hard, and depending on tons of stuff you'll fold, call, or occasionally raise if bet into, or bet for value or as a bluff if checked to. It's pretty feel dependent. But you don't need to be that good at this to win a bunch of money playing LAG.

Yes you will be playing LAG, but only in position. If you're not in position, just play TAG.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:48 PM   #20
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

I think this guide just tells you to be a position pounding spewtard.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:52 PM   #21
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

you can find a lot of the 'styles according to stack sizes' in the Harrington cash books.

also, he points out the truth that LAG nad TAG are way closer in realty than ppl tend to think.

i used to raise 45 UTG every time (5 years ago), and think this was LAG, but its not.
its way beyond that. its just spewwing.
LAG just means that you are opening Q9/QTs type hands IP when you can still be ahead of their limp calling range sometimes.
being LAG doesnt have to mean that youre giving up on SDV altogether.
you still want to play hands that play well, and that can win occasionally unimproved vs. a passive showdown monkey. (when they are calling w/ trash like J7).

you not only have to play post flop well, you have to be willing and able to shift gears away from opening like this when the line up doesnt suit it. (they are rocks limping big hands).
LAGs that LAG every single day out of habit, and regardless of game conditions, and without adjusting arent really LAGs, they are just spewtards trying to be LAGs.

a LAG is really a TAG who can open a few more hands than a TAG, thats all.
its not as mysterious as is seems,

Last edited by stampler; 02-20-2012 at 02:57 PM.
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Old 02-20-2012, 03:02 PM   #22
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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I think this guide just tells you to be a position pounding spewtard.
position pounding 'spewtards' who know what they are doing make the most money.
(they also encounter the most variance = *profit*)
in the right line up, being reckless is hugely profitable, if you have it under control. (this is the trick.)
in the wrong line up, its suicide, no matter how good you are. (if youre good, youll recognize this fact, and adjust)

if youre not up for it yet, fine, dont do it.
if it doesnt suit your personality, fine, dont do it.
you can be a nit and win. no problem.

by learning about good LAG play you
1] prepare yourself for the future, when youre more confident in your post flop play.
but for now, prolly more importantly you

2] learn what good LAGs are up to, and can therefore figure out how to better counter act their strategy, and exploit it.

i see threads here all the time in which OP has a problem with a LAG, and doesnt know what to do, and lo and behold, has no idea why a LAG does the things he/she does.

another trap is when someone sees a LAG open 64s, flop a str8 and stack someone, and they falsely believe that this is what the LAG was trying to accomplish by raising trash; no, he just runs good sometimes. (another occasional by-product of lagging it, not the goal.)
they think "i wanna do that" and end up getting into heaps of trouble trying to imitate something that they totally dont understand, which is a recipe for disaster.
so, if this is the case, yes, you are just being a position pounding spewtard without a cause.

Last edited by stampler; 02-20-2012 at 03:16 PM.
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Old 02-20-2012, 03:07 PM   #23
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

Honestly the guy who thinks I am a spewtard is my dream. He'll sit there smugly thinking that when he finally gets that big hand he'll bust my donk ass. But he won't. I'll just fold. And god forbid I cooler him, which really doesn't require that much luck since more often than not his hand will be face up.
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Old 02-20-2012, 03:24 PM   #24
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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Honestly the guy who thinks I am a spewtard is my dream. He'll sit there smugly thinking that when he finally gets that big hand he'll bust my donk ass. But he won't. I'll just fold. And god forbid I cooler him, which really doesn't require that much luck since more often than not his hand will be face up.
Amen
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Old 02-20-2012, 03:27 PM   #25
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

This is probably somewhat villain dependant, but do you think that this laggier style allows you to go for thinner value on turns and rivers (b/c villains will be bluff catching you with a wider range), or are you more likely to take pot control lines b/c you know the table thinks you're spewy and wants to give you rope to hang yourself?

I've been getting owned a lot recently in hands where, for example, I'll pick up KQ on the button, raise a few limpers, hit top pair on a dry board, have a guy check call me for two streets, river goes check check and dude shows AQ or KK that he "didn't want to raise until he saw the flop. I mean AQ is just a drawing hand, or an A could flop and crack my kings.". Any advice on how to avoid value cutting yourself in these situations, or are these situations just variance?
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