Chapter 21: Online Poker Strategy for Each Limits
In online poker there are a wide variety of limits, much more so than your local casino. Since the poker sites don’t have to provide dealers, you can find online games with stakes as low as pennies and dimes. You can also find small increments in limits all the way up to $5/$10, such as $1/$2, then $2/$4, then $3/$6, with dozens of these games running at a time. You can’t find that in Vegas.
Nearly every site has a maximum buy-in at a table for 100 times the big blind. For example, at $2/$4, your maximum buy-in will be $400. You should always buy-in for this amount. It’s best to have as much money as possible at the table since you are or soon will be the best player at the table.
These stakes range from the absolute bare minimum, usually $.01/$.02 to $.10/$.25. If you’re a beginner, it’s a great place to start to gain some experience while not putting too much money at risk. In fact, if you’re an absolute beginner to online poker, I recommend putting $100 online, grabbing my preflop chart and sitting at a couple $.01/$.02 games. It helps to gain experience like this while reading this book.
What to expect:
Quality of play: It’s going to be very bad. You’ll be up against gamblers, beginners and people who are so bad at poker they know to stick to the lowest limits. Since the play is so bad, a lot of hand reading will go out the window and it will be more about playing tight, solid and aggressive poker and betting your good hands.
Value betting: Value bet everything at these limits. They aren’t folding middle pair most of the time so you just need to get value by betting, betting, and betting some more.
Don’t bluff. Seriously, beyond a flop continuation bet, it’s not worth it.
This includes $.25/$.50 and $.50/$1. These are great bankroll and skill building limits. You’ll face some players who have an idea of what they’re doing, but will still be surrounded by an entourage of idiots.
What to expect:
Quality of play: There will be players with more experience at this limit. You’ll begin to play against more TAGs. These players are tight and don’t give up a lot of money, but at this limit they are usually pretty straightforward, uncreative and easy to play against. You’ll still have your plethora of fish, donkeys and idiots.
Using stats: You should be using Poker Tracker and PokerAce Hud if you’ve made it to these limits. They will start to help you a ton as you play against opponents of very different skill levels. There will be some players you should value bet to death and that you should never bluff, and then there will be the tight players who fold everything except for the nuts and are good candidates to bluff but not to value bet lightly. Having stats (and reading Part III of this book) will help you figure out who is who.
The limits $1/$2, $2/$4 and $3/$6 encompass medium stakes. If you’re make it to these limits and are beating them consistently, congratulations. You’re making good enough money to make low-to-mid six figures a year from the comfort of your own home.
Of course, that attracts a lot of good players and these limits will be teeming with online professionals. Many of these players use software such as Poker Tracker and PokerAce Hud and the players have at least a decent grasp of the concepts presented in this book.
It should be noted that I still see plenty of people making a good living at these limits who I consider to be lackluster poker players. How do they do it? They play tight and aggressive, and bet their good hands when they have them. No matter what limit you’re at, having that as the base of your play will make most of your money.
What to expect:
Professionals at every table. You’ll see them; they’re playing eight tables and play for hours on end every day. They’re doing the same thing you’re doing by making really good money on their computer. Since they are everywhere, you’ll have to work on outplaying these players and not being outplayed yourself.
Fewer fish, more aggressive fish. The bad players will be a little harder to come by, especially as you increase in limit. If you’re at a table of five solid, tough players, there’s no shame in leaving the table and trying to find at least one bad player. Also, the fish tend to be more aggressive as you increase in limits. They still play way too many hands, but they will challenge you with bets and raises a lot more than their passive, lower limit brethren. You’re going to have to start calling them down more lightly and putting your stack in with some marginal hands.
The limits from $5/$10 to $25/$50 encompass the realm of high stakes. These are where many of the tough professionals online go to play and where some seriously sick money can be made. Be warned, these games are very tough and you’ll have to master the concepts in these books and gain hundreds of thousands of hands of experience if you ever want to be able to hang at $10/$20 and $25/$50. Oh, and you’ll have to be able to stomach losing $20,000 in a day.
The $5/$10 limit still has a lot of games running and has enough fish to make money playing tight, solid and aggressive, but it won’t be easy.
What to expect:
Tough regulars. These are the guys who crushed medium stakes and are now playing 4 to 16 tables of high stakes to make even more money. They will raise, reraise and check-raise you until your head spins. They will keep you off-balance so you never have a good grasp on what they have. You’ll really have to be on the top of your game to play a table filled with these guys, but it’s achievable.
Playing Tricky. You’ll have to start putting moves into your game to hang at these limits. You can’t play a hand the same way every time or you’ll get abused by players who are excellent hand readers and know what you have. Deception is the name of the game.
Redefinition of a fish. From the micro-stakes to medium stakes, often I look for fish by their preflop numbers. They won’t raise nearly enough and they’ll call way too many hands. At these limits, fish with bad preflop stats are rare. You’ll have to look for those who are poor postflop players and numbers won’t tell you that. A bad postflop player at these limits tends to bluff too much and tends to think other players are bluffing him a lot more than they really are. Sometimes a fish at these limits is actually a TAG who can be easily bullied.
Table and Site Selection. When I play a limit like $5/$10 or $10/$20, I load up multiple sites to choose tables from. It’s fun to challenge yourself and outplay the best, but the majority of your money still comes from people who don’t know what they’re doing. The most consistent way I table select is to either sit down at any Cake Poker table (they’ll usually be at least one fish) or to find a Full Tilt or Poker Stars table with people I don’t recognize.
Ultra high stakes
You ready to win and lose the equivalent sums of BMWs and Benzs every hand? Then you’re ready for $50/$100 to $300/$600 NLHE. These games run frequently online and are a blast to watch. They are filled with live pros you’d recognize from TV and the cream of the crop from the online professionals who left medium and high stakes in the dust. There’s the occasional big tournament winner sitting down with all their winnings, but they don’t last long.
What to expect:
Big money. Outrageous sums are being tossed around on hands like middle pair and flush draws. You can win over $500,000 in one day playing these stakes… or you can lose $500,000.
Heads up and 3-handed play. It’s tough to get 6 people to sit at table at the same time willing to lose $40,000, so most of the action at these stakes is 3-handed or heads up. This leads to some outrageous aggression, with people putting in $40,000 with bottom pair to pick off a complete bluff from their opponent.
Deep thinking. The thought process going on in these hands is so deep and complex it’s beyond the realm of this book. It involves the concepts taught here, but at such a high level that to be able to win at these limits is almost a God-given talent.
Railbirds. People love to watch and follow this big action. It is fascinating to see someone lose in 30 minutes the amount of a nice 3-bedroom house in Las Vegas.