Beginner’s Guide To Online Poker

So here at hhSmithy we used to write some stuff about poker and a long time ago (2007) I wrote something for small stakes players on 2p2. The thread has 4.8/5 stars and well over 100,000 page views. Even today a lot will be relevant despite the games getting tougher. One day in the future I will revisit this series and update it, and perhaps even write some more parts.

Here is the original thread: The TwoPlusTwo Original Thread

Getting into Small Stakes Online 6-max NLHE

DisclaimerThis is something I wrote for a friend who wanted to get into poker and I’ve decided to share it with the general populous. This is designed for uNL 6max and a lot of the concepts may not apply to higher stakes games against opponents thinking on higher levels. There could be plain wrong information, in here so question everything, in turn you will gain better understandings of fundamentals and maybe even help me overlook something I’ve forgot. I am not claiming that preflop 6max is “chart based” or a few simple rules will make you a winning player but for someone starting out I think the concepts here are good starting points.  Take everything in this for face value. Some of the stuff might be fairly trivial however it never hurts to think about fundamentals. I don’t claim to be the best in the world but I know I am a proven winner at MSNL so that counts for something. I’ve worked up from $300 on $25NL so I’ve put my time in on lower stakes and no the grind it is, however it’s got to be done.

Introduction

When it comes to NLHE, this is the fundamental theory: You’re opponent has a range of hands, some are better and some are worse. Your goal is to maximize your profit from the worst hands whilst minimizing your losses from better hands and so, make the most money against their range. As the hand goes on and more betting decisions have been made, your opponents range is narrowed so at no point in the hand do you have to “find out where you are”. This is a common misconception.

Consider a hand where you have 99 oop in a 3bet pot on an 8 high board (without the lead). If you c/r the flop to find out where you are, your average opponent will fold all the range you beat (over cards, small pairs) and stack off against the opponents range of QQ-AA. The fundamental theorem has been violated by trying to “find out where you are” on the flop. Instead if you check called and check/raised the turn all in this would allow an opponent to double barrel a hand such as AK, over commit with pairs or check behind giving us free information to narrow the opponents range and profit more. This is how you should be thinking during your hands. Do not allow your opponent to make easy and perfect decisions against your hand by playing it poorly.

Also if you want to play poker for fun then enjoy it, try and improve; whatever. But if you want to move up and make serious money you need to approach it from a different angle. When you have a bad session, instead of thinking “oh crap I lost 6 buy ins from bad beats”, think “how could I have saved myself I buy in or two”, “how could I have made more money than I did on so and so hand” etc. Until you are the best player in the world and playing every hand perfectly there is always room for improvement. Take responsibility for your play, and stop using variance as a scape goat.

Stats are very important but not the end all of being a winning player. TAG stats are at minimum 15/13/3 and can range all the way up to 25/20/4 where its vpip/pfr/af. Try and aim for 16/14/4. The spread is also really important and it is vital to have your pfr close to your vpip whilst learning, so I suggest you play a mainly raise / fold strategy preflop. The better you get and the more comfortable you feel postflop, the more you can cold call preflop and this spread can get wider.

Its also very important to not play too many tables whilst you learn. This is a mistake a lot of people make and even I still do sometimes. Playing loads of tables means you need to be comfortable making 95% of decisions with little thought (autopilot) so until you are really experienced this isn’t going to be the case. First bit of advice is to play no more than 4 tables until you are a solid winner. Post flop is going to be a lot about thinking during hands and will come from reading, thinking, watching videos and mostly experience.

Learning is key to playing good poker, its a lot of work but the monetary reward later and satisfaction in being truly good at something is a reward in itself. I really hope you read this and take something out of it, I wish someone handed all of this to me on a platter when I was coming up.

Recommend Stats for HUD

I definitely recommend playing with a HUD. The stats that are a MUST are preflop raise, vpip, number of hands. Aggression frequencies / factors. Fold / raise / call continuation bet. Attempt to steal blinds and fold SB/BB to steal.

Preflop ‘Chart’

First thing to do with preflop is a general hand chart. This is a style that was successful for me. You need to keep in mind preflop that different table conditions and your image on each table can vastly shift these ranges. As you gain a clear understanding of how these factors should change your ranges then you can move away from this rigid form of play.

Raises should always be 4 x the big blind + 1 big blind for every limper.

For example. If two guys limp and you are on the button with AK in .05-.10c game you should make it .60c.

Open raise the following hands (open raise means if no-one has raised or limped).

These positions are dependent on how far from the button you are so if its less than six handed then change accordingly.

Early Position

 

UTG (3 from button)

  • 22 +
  • AJo +
  • ATs – AKs
  • TJs, QJs, KQs
  • KQo, AKo
  • 56s – T9s (consider raising from time to time, especially if there are weaker players in the blinds)

UTG + 1 (2 from button)

  • 22 +
  • ATo +
  • A2s +
  • TJs, QJs, KQs, KJs
  • QJo, KJo,  KQo, AKo
  • 56s – T9s (consider raising from time to time, especially if there are weaker players in the blinds)

Late Position

Something interesting from a theory perspective, if you look at the small blinds fold SB to steal stat and the big blinds fold BB to steal stat, if they multiply to be > 0.7 and you assume every time they don’t fold you never win the hand then theoretically you can raise any two profitably. If you consider you make money with these hands then this 0.7 number can be lowered further.

CO (1 from button)

  • 22 +
  • A8o +
  • A2s +
  • T8s, 98s, T9s, TJs, QJs, KQs, KJs, KTs, QTs, K9s, Q9s, J9s
  • TJo, QTo, QJo, KTo, KJo,  KQo, AKo
  • 56s – T9s

Button

The majority of your money comes from the button. 30-40%  of my profits come from the button so you want to abuse it.

  • 22+
  • Any Ax o / Ax s
  • Kx suited
  • Any suited connector 54s or better
  • Any one gapper 68s or better
  • Any two gapper T7s or better
  • Any connector 89o or better
  • J8s +, J9o+
  • Q8s +, Q9o+
  • K9o +

Blinds

 

This is the area I struggle with the most and when you’re starting out I recommend playing a very tight range in the blinds.

 

Small blind when it folds to you (pretty much same as UTG+1)

  • 22 +
  • A8o +
  • A2s +
  • TJs, QJs, KQs, KJs
  • QJo, KJo,  KQo, AKo

Big Blind when it folds around and someone completes (same as CO)

 

  • 22 +
  • A9o +
  • A8s +
  • T8s, 98s, T9s, TJs, QJs, KQs, KJs, KTs, QTs, K9s, Q9s, J9s
  • TJo, QTo, QJo, KTo, KJo,  KQo, AKo

Big blind when there are a few limpers

 

  • 99+ (sometimes raise with lower pockets if the table is fishy)
  • AQo +
  • KQs +
  • AKo

 

 

Suited Connectors

 

Suited connectors are generally over-rated by a lot of players and are very tough hands to play. I wouldn’t be calling raises with suited connectors even from position because people over-estimate implied odds all the time and they can get tough to play post flop. Every now it is alright to call with 78s if the raiser is a bad player (as in he has 40+ vpip and is spewy). Also they are good to open according to my opening guide above.

They are also good to 3bet. If someone is raising a lot of hands from position then you can reraise them occasionally with suited connectors but this has a lot to do withmetagame and table image which is a little too advance for this but some food for thought.

Suited connectors are good to be calling raises with however when you are playing deep i.e 150bb + with someone but don’t get carried away.

Playing from the blinds

 

When you are starting out the blinds are going to be the trickiest spot to play from. They are for most experienced players including myself. First off don’t fall into the, itsonly ½ big blind to complete trap. Hands like 96o are garbage and should never be completed! You will have to play the rest of the hand out of position and unless you flop the absolute stone cold nuts your gonna get in a lot of trouble and be throwing money away.

Play as tight as you possibly can from the small blind but with pocket pairs you probably want to be raising when there are limpers. The big blind can be tricky but Iprefer to check my option most of the time and see a flop.

Preflop Concepts

 

Position

 

As you can see from this guide position is everything. These are very general rules for how I beat micro stakes and as you get better with these you will gain a feel for hands and situations and be able to change these ranges depending on opponents, your image on the table and how the table has been playing. I can’t stress enough though you want to play tight from all positions other than CO and Button and loosen up from those spots but still play aggressive!

 

Limping

 

Limping in 6 handed NLHE cash games is always going to be a mistake. It will also add another level of complexity to your game that is unnecessary. For instance if you limp 22-55 UTG then you will have to start limping other hands, including strong ones, and limp/raising AA and limp/raising bluffs to balance your ranges. By always raising you’re making yourself harder to play against, keeping your ranges balanced without the bigger headache, and always gaining the positive expectation of putting yourself in a position to steal the blinds. Limping also leads to people playing less than optimal hands. If its not good enough for a raise, its not good enough to play so fold.

Limpers

 

Having said that about limping, limpers are and will be a part of the games for the foreseeable future. To exploit these players mistake you need to be isolating (raising) there limps with a fairly wide range. It is also good to watch there play and get an idea if they limp/call or limp/fold a lot. A player that limp/folds a ton means you can isolate him with any ace and even hands like Q7s / 78s. Also players that limp/call and then fold lots of flops to c-bets are good candidates to isolate very wide. However, be weary of players who limp/call a lot and rarely fold to c-bets. It is generally a mistake to isolate them with weak connector type hands. By doing this you will be putting money in with the worst hand a lot of the time and not enough fold equity pre or post.

Pockets if there are limpers in front

 

You want to raise any pocket pairs as standard if they are full stacked. This is so you can:

  • Punish their limp and pick up the free money
  • You build a pot so if you hit your set its going to be easier to get their stack in.
  • Deception. If you are always limping behind with pockets its going to be obvious against thinking opponents

Reasons to just limp behind with pockets are if their stack is not a full 100bb. Generally if your raise is going to be more than 10% of their stack then don’t make the raise.However if one person who limps has a large stack and another is short, still make the raise. For instance:

In a .05c-.10c game someone open limps UTG with a $2.10 stack. It is onto you in the CO with 44, you prob don’t want to raise to 0.4c because the implied odds are cut short due to his small stack and he is going to be much more willing to just stick it in with any draw / pair on the flop which will lead you to some tough decisions and often folding the best hand.

However, in a .05c-.10c game someone open limps UTG with an $11 stack (you cover). It is onto you in the CO with 44, you do want to make it 50c to go always with any pocket.

Calling raises and re-raises with pocket pairs

 

This is a very general rule which applies to all of small stakes but won’t work in mid stakes and beyond. There’s lots of literature on this in the sticky section of 2p2.

If someone raises and you have a pocket pair, call if it is 5-10% of your stack.

Reasons for this are you will flop a set about 1 in 10 times and if you assume you will win their stack you have the implied odds. You want to look at poker ace hud stats though in making the decision. The higher the vpip the more you can call profitably pre looking to hit a set because generally this means they are poor players who will stack of lightly. If someone with a 20 vpip raises I wouldn’t want to call more than 5% of my stack off because they are good enough to not pay you off all the time. Whereas if someone with 55vpip raises I would have no problems calling 10% off with 22 because you will often win unimproved and generally they will continue with any piece of the board so its going to be very easy to play a big pot with them. Also, if you are facing a large raise or reraise you want to call off less of your stack out of position than in position.

Example 1 In a .05-.10c game you make it 0.40c from UTG+1 with 33, a solid player with 20vpip raises to $1.20 from the button, its onto you. You are $10 deep here I’d be inclined to fold because they are probably re-raising you wide enough that you would need a setup flop to stack them and this will happen too infrequently. You are also out of position.

Example 2 In a .05-.10c game you make it 0.40c from UTG+1 with 33, a solid player with 20vpip raises to $1.20 from the big blind, its onto you. You are $14 deep here I’d be inclined to call because you are in position so it will be easier to put money in, and you are also slightly deeper so you have better implied odds.

Example 3 In a .05-.10c game you make it 0.40c from UTG with 33, a very tight player with 15vpip raises to $1.00 from the button, its onto you. You are $5 deep here I’d be inclined to fold because you don’t have the proper implied odds.

Example 4 In a .05-.10c game you make it 0.40c from UTG with 33, a very tight player with 15vpip raises to $1.00 from the button, its onto you. You are $10 deep here I’d be inclined to call because even thought it is tight his range is a big pocket pair enough of the time that you can be confident the majority of the time you hit a set you will be good.

Hope you see the point of calling raises for set value. This changes drastically in mid limits because people’s 3betting ranges are much wider but I feel this can be used almost perfectly against micro / small stakes players. This is all very important as pocket pairs are where most of your money comes from when you play tight aggressive 6max.

Important concept: Something else to consider is their raise and aggression statistic. If someone has a large raise % or is very aggressive then if it’s a tight call from implied odds perspective then you might want to dump it because they could be reraising you light with AQ/AJ type hands and you would need the perfect flop to stack them (A3x if u hold 33) whereas if they hardly raise their range is drastically cut down and contains big pockets a lot of the time so you don’t need that “perfect flop”. I would consider a large raise % to be anything >17 and a high aggression factor anything > 3.5. Bare in mind that poker ace statistics like agro factors are only useful when u have 100+ hands but vpip is generally a good indicator from 30-40 hands on.

A brief note on 3betting

 

When I played micro stakes entering a raised pot I pretty much never flat call a raise out of position ever! So if I have KQ in the blinds or AJ in the blinds and some raises I am either folding or raising. If they have a full 100bb then I will raise 3-4times their raise. Out of position I recommend when your reraise should be 4 times and in position you can get away with raising 3 times because its going to be easier to play the hand.

When you are considering entering a raised pot you should look at their preflop raise stat. The higher it is, the wider the range of hands you can reraise with is. If some1 raises 2% of flops you prob just want to call with TT and play for set value and fold KQ because their range is so strong but if someone raises 18% of hands you should be reraising KQ and TT often against them because you are ahead of their range. 3-betting “light” is a very hard style to play against and most people on microstakesthink that when some1 reraises they have AA/KK so your c-bets don’t have to be as big because they are going to get A LOT of respect.

However I don’t recommend 3-betting too light at these stakes because there is no real need and when you are starting your poker career its best to keep it simple. If you feel the hand isn’t good enough for a reraise then dump it!

 

Something very important which I forgot to mention is when someone raises look at what position they are raising from and if there are limpers in front. This can give you a lot of information on their hand but only take into this account if they seem to be a good player (because only good players widen their range in position). If you think they could have a wide range then 3-bet more liberally.

Continuation Bets

Heads up when you’ve raised preflop you want to be c-betting 60-70% of flops. This is to do with the overall concept that your opponent will only hit the flop 1 in 3 times, thus 66% of the time your opponent will have missed and be unable to continue. The fishier the opponent the less you want to c-bet completely missed hands. Board texture comes a lot into this but there are lots of great threads about this which I will try to link to some other time. I generally try to keep my continuation bets the same size, between 2/3rd and ¾ pot depending on stack sizes. The smaller their stack size the less you can bet is what I find. Anything less than 2/3rd pot most of the time gets no respect. Into multiple opponents you can get away with betting ½ pot occasionally but I don’t really recommend it.

When I’ve missed a flop or hit a flop I always like to continuation bet to disguise my hands well and build a pot (when I have something). The best way to get money in the pot when you have a strong hand is to bet it out. Especially on lower stakes games your edge comes from people playing dominated / bad hands and not being able to fold them when they hit or paying too much for their draws so value bet your hands to hell!

But for a quick example on board texture:

  • Boards like: K26 rainbow are GREAT to c-bet any hand because its really hard for the opponent to have hit this board with a lot of his hands.
  • Boards like: KJT with two diamonds are not good to be continuation betting 22 because so much of the range has hit this board you prob just spewing money away.
  • Boards like: KQ7 with two spades have hit a lot of the range but are still good to c-bet against tighter opponents because if u bet 2/3rd pot as a c-bet you need to win it a little less than 50% of the time for it to be profitable which it should be.
  • Boards like Q88 with a pair are usually good to be c-betting too.

Into multiple opponents you want to be c-betting less on boards like the KQ7 but its still good to c-bet great textured boards like K26. Also when you bet into multiple opponents you get more respect (generally). Obv by multiple opponents I mean 2ish, not the whole table!

Summary

 

Things that I have just touched on and need A LOT more depth are c-bets, 3betting, metagame, table image and all that jazz.  I suggest tight and aggressive. Don’t get out of line and avoid marginal situations. Wield position like a hammer because it really is the most important concept in NLHE. Try not to over-estimate implied odds or suited connectors as it will cost you in the long run!

Keep in mind this is all written quickly and off the top of my head. There may be mistakes in here but using a system like this and lots of experience I was able to cruise through micro stakes. Practice and thinking about this game / posting hands / asking questions is the real fun and learning process. This is just a start. Good luck.

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