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Old 02-20-2012, 09:59 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 12:40 PM. Reason: Moved from B&M to LLNLHE.
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Old 02-20-2012, 11:16 AM   #2
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

Quote:
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, 11:39 AM   #3
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

Excellent post.
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Old 02-20-2012, 11:43 AM   #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, 12:14 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, 12:43 PM   #6
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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Originally Posted by Riverman View Post
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, 12:53 PM   #7
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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Originally Posted by Riverman View Post

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 01:09 PM.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:58 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, 01:05 PM   #9
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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Originally Posted by timmay28 View Post
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, 01:09 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, 01:11 PM   #11
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Re: How To Crush Small-Stakes Live NL

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Originally Posted by Turntup74 View Post
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, 01:14 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, 01:17 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, 01:26 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, 01:37 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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