How to beat $1/$2 NL Holdem tables

February 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Poker School

While most poker news usually go on about high stakes games between established professionals on Full Tilt or PokerStars, the majority of online poker action takes place at much lower limits. I’m not talking about the micro limits most beginners play at once they outgrow the play money tables. I’m talking about low limit games which offer players the possibility to make some serious money indeed. I’m talking about $1/$2 NL Holdem.

The minimum buy-in for such a table is usually $40, the maximum buy-in is $200. That means you’ll actually be able to make some pretty good money as players need to come to the table with more than a couple of bucks and some cents on the side.
$1/$2 NL Holdem cash tables are some of the most popular in every poker room. This means that while some of the players you’ll meet here will be skilled, the majority of them will be fish. Whether you personally like to play against fish or not is your problem, I can tell you one thing though: complaints about how difficult it is to play against bad players because all they ever do is call and they never seem to pick up tells you want them to, doesn’t make any sense at all. I know that here’s schooling at these tables, and I know that sometimes it can be frustrating to be outdrawn by the same clueless newbie for the third consecutive time, but believe me: you want to play against such players much rather than against skilled professionals.

This is where the money is, these players make mistakes all the time (they call too many of your preflop raises, they take their losing hands too far, they play way too many starting hands etc), and that’s exactly what you’ll make your money off of.

Holdem is a high short term variance game: the luck factor has a huge impact in the short haul. In the long-run however, skill will always win out over luck and you will make money if you keep your mistakes to a minimum.
Beating $1/$2 NL Holdem tables should be a simple enough task. All you have to do is play good old “healthy” poker, that is be tight about your starting hands, play extremely tight past the flop and value bet the monsters you get all the way.

This may sound overly simplistic but trust me: the players you’ll go up against at these low stakes NL tables won’t give a damn about the fact that you folded your last 20 hands, nor will they ever acknowledge the table image you so painstakingly build. There’s absolutely no need for you to venture into such complicated strategic shenanigans. Sticking to rock-solid tight-aggressive play will be enough to make you money.
Play starting hands like high pocket pairs (10,10 – A,A) because these are already made hands, low pocket pairs (like 2,2 – 9,9) because these are excellent implied odds hands and if they happen to hit a set on the flop they’ll take down a huge pot for you.

A,K, K,Q, Q,J are also relatively good starting hands because they carry the potential for a top pair good kicker, which too is likely to earn you money from calling stations. The kicker becomes extremely important at these NL tables and many a hands will be decided by the kicker you have for your top pair.

Make sure you do not get drawn into playing all sorts of starting hands like K,5 by the other players. If they want to play such hands, let them do it: every time they make such a move they generate value for you.

Playing suited connectors and even suited one-gappers is also a good idea, mainly because these hands carry excellent implied odds as well.

Remember, cash games place no pressure on you whatsoever. Don’t feel awkward if you have to wait around for that good hand to come. This is not a tournament and the blinds will not escalate. Be patient and disciplined and you shall prevail.


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