9 Critical Reasons Why You’re Still Struggling to Beat Small Stakes Poker Games

beating online poker

People come to me all the time who are struggling to consistently beat the low stakes poker games, either online or live. They string together a few winning sessions but then they inevitably hit a brick wall and end up losing most of it (or all of it), right back. 

If this sounds like you, and you are sick of the never ending cycle of “win some, lose some,” then I wrote this article specifically for you.

Here are the top 9 critical reasons why you’re still struggling to consistently beat small stakes poker games:

1. Playing Too Many Bad Hands

One of the biggest reasons why poker beginners in particular fail to beat the lower limit games is because they play too many bad hands.

If you play in 6 person poker games, then you should be aiming to play roughly the top 20% of all hands that are dealt to you.

And if you play in 9 person poker games, then you should only be playing the top 15% of all hands dealt to you.

This means that you should only be playing strong aces like AK, AQ, AJ, all your pocket pairs like 44, 88 or QQ and some broadways like KQ, KJ, QJ.

If you are in late position (button or cutoff), then you can also add a couple suited connectors like J♥T♥ and some small suited aces like A♣5♣. Everything else gets folded preflop!

Now I know this might sound “boring” to some people but this is unfortunately a huge part of winning poker. Because frequently playing trashy hands simply leads to bad results.

One of the number one reasons why some people lose at poker is because they play bad hands like 96 or K5.

Good players however have the foresight and the discipline to throw away these hands instead and wait for something better.

Because they know that when you have higher standards in starting hand selection this gives you a huge mathematical edge, which in turn allows you to win the pot at showdown more often.

2. Playing Out Of Position Too Much

Another big reason why many people struggle to beat the lower limit games is because they play out of position too often. What do I mean by this?

I mean they play too many hands from the seats directly to the left of the big blind, which is often referred to as “early position.”

The reason why you want to limit the amount of hands that you play from these seats in particular is because you will often have to act first on the flop, turn and river.

This is an absolutely massive statistically proven disadvantage in poker that you cannot overcome over the long term, no matter how good you are.

Try to focus on playing as many hands as you can from the most profitable seats at the poker table, which are the button and the cut-off.

In these seats, you will get to act last on the flop, turn and river and this will help you tremendously to outplay them and win a lot more pots.

3. Tilting Too Much

I have personally coached over 100 small stakes poker players which has taught me a lot about what holds them back.

And I can say without hesitation that the number one reason why my students at blackrain79.com struggle to win is because they tilt too much.

I have seen this consistently across the board no matter what stakes they play or how experienced they are. Tilting, which by definition is frustration due to short term poor results, leads to poor decision making and ultimately losing at poker over the long run.

This is why it is so vitally important that you are able to recognize the tilt building within you in the moment at the poker table, and then take aggressive action to minimize its damage.

In most cases, especially for poker beginners, this will mean simply shutting off the computer (or leaving the casino), and quitting playing poker for the day.

Do not allow yourself to play poker when you are frustrated and in a bad mental place. This is the #1 reason why people fail to win consistently even in small stakes poker games.

4. Not Assigning Correct Ranges

One of the biggest keys to your success in small stakes poker games is putting people on a correct range of hands.

Wait, what is a range in poker you might be asking?

A range in poker is the entire spectrum of hands that a specific player might have in a particular situation depending on the action in the hand and any relevant history between the two of you.

So for example, when a tight and passive player (Nit), re-raises you before the flop, they will usually have a very strong hand like:

AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK or AQ

And they will mix in the odd bluff as well with a suited connector for example. In other words though, they have a very strong range.

So in a situation like this, you would not want to call them with a hand like A♦9♦ for example, especially when you are out position, because you will be at a large range disadvantage versus them.

It is important to put people on correct ranges at the lower limits in particular, based on the actions they take in the hand.

This will allow you to understand how strong their range is, and therefore what the best course of action to take in the hand is.

5. Not Paying Attention to Player Types

Beating the micro stakes poker games is all about knowing what player type you are up against.

For example:

• Tight and Passive (Nit)
• Tight and Aggressive (TAG)
• Loose and Aggressive (LAG)
• Loose and Passive (Fish)

You need to always be aware of what player type you are up against at the poker table and there are tons of good poker software tools available these days that can help you tremendously with that.

But you can also just use your good old fashioned observation skills as well. Ask yourself if they have been playing too many hands lately, if they are going to showdown too much and so on.

This will help you build a mental profile of each player at your table and then make optimal decisions versus them.

6. Playing in Bad Games

Most small stakes poker games these days are still pretty easy to beat. But sometimes you can find yourself in a game full of TAGs and LAGs and other good players.

It is a serious mistake to continue playing in a game like this because your profits in poker will always be directly tied to the players you are playing against.

Or in other words, if you consistently play against people who are significantly worse than you are at poker, then you will win big over the long run.

On the other hand though, if you consistently play against players who are at the same level as you, or beyond your skill level, then you will break-even or even become a small loser over the long run.

Game selection is extremely important if you want to consistently win in poker. Make sure that your tables have plenty of recreational poker players (Fish) on them.

7. Playing Stakes That Are Too High

Another big reason why many people fail to consistently beat small stakes poker games online in particular, is because they play at stakes that are too high for their skill level.

It is important to know that most poker games online are much tougher than their live counterparts in a casino.

For example, a $200 buy-in cash game or tournament online typically requires a much higher skill level to beat than a $200 buy-in cash game or tournament in the casino.

So many live poker players in particular are fooled into thinking that they will easily beat the same stakes online as they play live. And they often find out the hard way, that it is much tougher than they thought online.

It is very important to start at the lowest stakes especially if you are new to online poker. Now believe me, I know how painful it can be to play for only $2 or $5 when you are used to playing poker for a lot more money.

But there is a large skill difference between live poker games and online poker games. Don’t make the same mistake that so many others make of immediately jumping into games that are potentially well above your current skill level.

8. Don’t Have the Right Bankroll

Another huge reason why many people fail to beat low stakes poker games is because they do not have the correct bankroll.

And what happens is that they inevitably hit a routine downswing (bad run of cards at the poker tables), and because their bankroll is so tiny, they end up going broke.

This is why I recommend having at least 30 buyins if you play cash games and 100 buyins if you play tournaments.

Now I know this might sound a bit excessive, but believe me, it is very possible for even very good winning poker players to go on a 10 or 20 buy-in downswings these days in small stakes games.

If 10 or 20 buyins is your entire bankroll, then it is game over for you. Don’t make this same basic mistake that so many others make. Make sure you are properly bankrolled.

9. Not Studying Your Game Away From the Tables

The final reason why many people fail to win even in low stakes poker games is because they don’t spend any time studying and improving away from the tables.

If you want to consistently win big at poker these days then it is not enough to just sit down at the poker table and expect to crush everyone anymore.

The best players in today’s games are instead putting in the work away from the poker tables as well. As a 10+ year pro myself, this is where I have made some of my biggest breakthrough, and it is how I manage to stay on top.

So what does studying your poker game away from the table even mean though?

It means reviewing your own hands and fixing your leaks in poker tracking program, studying poker books, studying poker charts, enrolling in a good poker training program, watching poker strategy videos and so on.

This is all part of the process of becoming a winning poker player and making sure that you are always up to date on the latest poker theory and cutting edge strategies.

If you take the game of poker seriously, then you need to be consistently improving your poker skills away from the tables these days as well.

Final Thoughts

Winning consistently at poker these days is no walk in the park anymore, even in low stakes games. You need to take it seriously if you want to earn regular profits.

It is important to make sure that you are playing a solid tight and aggressive poker strategy, as well as paying attention to your position at the poker table at all times.

You also need to focus on maintaining good tilt control at the poker tables, assigning ranges correctly, and understanding player types.

Lastly, it is extremely important that you are playing in good games full of recreational players, play at the right stakes for your skill level and bankroll, and that you are putting in the time away from the tables to improve your game.

Nathan Williams