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In the Trenches: Winning at Low-Limit Poker

I’ve often said it myself – When given the choice, I’d rather play at the tables with seasoned veterans, or at least with players who have a good grasp of the basic game. Low-limit, people say, is too difficult, because novice players will move all-in at the drop of a hat, or make ridiculous calls in obvious folding situations. They’re playing for pennies, not pride, and their decisions fall into the “What the hell, let’s gamble” category more often than veteran players would like.

While these things can be frustrating, they’re a part of the game. Besides, a truly skilled player should be able to win at all levels, regardless of the competition.

So, in a recent burst of scientific curiosity, I’ve been playing on the $0.01/0.02 cash tables on Poker Stars. And, to my surprise, I’ve been winning rather easily. True, there isn’t much money at stake, but there is a valuable learning opportunity here.

So, if you’re just getting your feet wet at the low-limit tables, here are some tips to speed your climb up the food chain.

Back to Basics

At a full low-limit table, you can afford to wait on a decent hand. Just because the stakes are low doesn’t provide you with an excuse to play junk cards. Your only hope at the micro tables is to play solid fundamental poker. This holds true regardless of whether you’re playing online or at a card table in your buddy’s den. Crafty plows such as the check-raise and the bluff are often lost on the opposition, simply because they haven’t been playing long enough to read your intentions. Don’t be too tricky. It can only end badly.

Don’t come in with too big of a stack.

Don’t be the guy who sits down at the digital felt with the maximum buy-in. Otherwise, your opponents will become skittish before you’re even dealt into the game. Players will fold more easily to your big stack, and you’ll lose out on a great deal of post-flop action.

Get to the flop.

While picking on people’s blinds may be an effective strategy at the high limit tables, you won’t earn much money by stealing the $.01/$.02 antes. Your biggest opportunities will come after the flop, when players have already committed to the pot.

Show your cards

Don’t be afraid to show them your hand on occasion. Not every time, but often enough that they’ll get the idea that you’re playing tight, fundamental poker. If everyone folds to you pre-flop, be especially sure to show them a good hand. Low-limit players are often more fearful of losing their money and will be hesitant to mess with someone who has been displaying the goods.

Never surrender.

Don’t leave the table simply because you’re losing. Play tight for as long as you can, and gradually work your way back up to your buy-in amount. In order to get back even, you’ll need to be playing smart poker. Some of my best sessions have begun with me losing nearly half of my chips. That hard climb back will put you in a winning state of mind.

These are just a few ways to improve your odds. There are a great number of fine points to winning at the low-limit tables, some of which you’ll have to find out for yourself.

Because, after all, if I taught you everything I know, that might affect my bankroll. And we can’t have that, can we?

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