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Life As a Professional Poker Player

Posted by vulcans

Welcome to my first blog! I thought it would be appropriate to start off by talking about what life is like for a poker professional. The life isn’t nearly as glamorous as some would have you think, but it can be a very good living. I typically get up in the morning at a reasonable hour and grind hard at the tables for a couple of hours. If the action allows, I take a brief break to get lunch and clear my mind before returning for an afternoon session. By around 4pm, I normally have played around 1k hands, at which point I try to move on with my day and do something fun.

Treating the game in a professional manner is critical for your long term success. That means being committed to putting in 30-40 hours a week at the game. It also means that you don’t get wasted on Sunday night and spend all day Monday recovering from your hangover. If your next day is a work day then it is important to get a good nights sleep. Bed time comes early! Lol It is also going to take some work to organize your social life in a manner that allows you to work when you need to. If you know you have a social engagement at 5pm, plan to wind down your session an hour or so beforehand. That will give you some time to get ready and a cushion in case you have a very lucrative game that you don’t want to leave.

Some of you may find that it is helpful to get up and dressed like you are headed to an office for work in the morning. It is just a psychological trick, but try it sometime and you will find that it helps you take the game more seriously. Finally, I often play with a notepad at my side. Generally, I simply use this to record the success or failures of simple plays that I attempt at the table. For example, I may test to see how frequently my 3bets (with air) are working and see if they are profitable. If you stay focused and treat poker in a professional manner the results will come. Hope there are some good tips in this post for you guys!

I just posted this up on my new website www.thepokercapitalist.com. I am very excited about it and plan to be posting frequently. Stay tuned for my next post!

-ThePokerCapitalist (Vulcans)

 

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The Top 5 Signs of Bad Poker Players

Posted by BlackRain79

Top 5 Signs of Bad Poker Players

I discussed the top 5 tell tale signs of bad poker players in a recent video for DragTheBar. I thought I would bring it up here on the blog also. As I mentioned recently in my state of 2013 microstakes cash games article table selection in today's games has nothing to do with table averages anymore since fish are scarce and all the nits bring down the numbers. It is important to know how to quickly identify fish especially as you move up the limits. You could always just sit down at a random table and play a few orbits until your HUD shows you which players have the high VPIP and low PFR. Or you could identify them in a hand or two by looking for any of the following top 5 signs of bad poker players.

 

1) Limping

As most people who are at all serious about the game know by now, limping is bad. There are almost no situations where it makes any sense at all. Having the initiative in the hand is just much more +EV in nearly all spots. So if you see someone limping, especially open limping from MP, LP or the SB, there is no question that this is a weaker player. Some regs will still open limp from EP or perhaps overlimp or complete the SB with a speculative hand. I don't always note that. I am looking for chronic open limping especially from positions where it never makes any sense to do so.

 

2) Posting a Blind Out of Position

This really is a dead tell. Basically every reg in the world knows these days that you should wait until the big blind comes to you before posting your blind. Since poker is a long term game and you can think of every session as just a continuation from the last one it simply makes no sense to pay for blinds more often than you need to. Some regs may post in the CO in a full ring game especially if there are known fish at the table. I do this myself sometimes. But if you see someone posting their blind from ANY other position it is without question a bad player.

 

3) Buying in For Less than 100bb

Since Pokerstars got rid of the ability to buyin for 20bb a few years ago on its regular ring game tables and exploit the well known short stack strategy there simply is no reason to ever buyin for less than 100bb. There are some people who swear by some sort of "mid stack strategy" but in my opinion this is just leaving money on the table. There were some legitimate strategic advantages to playing with a 20bb stack such as being able to ship over regs who open or 3bet too light. This is not the case with 40bb, 60bb or any other weird stack size. These stack sizes require post flop play. And if you are going to play postflop why wouldn't you want the most ammunition on hand possible?

More specifically though as regards fish one of the easiest ways to spot them is a bizarre buyin with cents in it. Buying in for instance at an NL10 table for $6.43. It is clearly their whole bankroll and obviously no good player would ever have their whole bankroll on the table. I generally just mark anyone with a sub 100bb buyin as a fish straight away.

 

4) Under-betting the Pot Postflop

This is another pretty clear tell to a weaker player. Especially when they are betting amounts such as a 1/4 of the pot or less. No good player would ever do that because it gives the other player(s) almost no incentive to fold at all and clear odds with basically any draw. Even bets of 1/3 have very little applicability in a NLHE cash game. Smaller bets certainly have merit in MTT's due to shallower stack sizes but in a cash game you should be betting at least 1/2 of the pot in almost all circumstances.

 

5) Mini-Raising Pre or Postflop

A 3bb open is pretty much the standard in online cash games everywhere now. There are some people who swear by mini-raising from LP and it has some merits. But anyone who is chronically mini-raising from other positions is almost always a weaker player.

The same goes for mini-raising postflop. There are some arguments in favor of it in certain spots but I think at the micros (especially NL2 and NL5) you should be raising for value most of the time. Mini-raising is therefore just leaving money on the table.

 

6) 1 Tabling

I know I said the "Top 5" but here is one more way that really should have been included. Credit to Willian Mates in the comments. Most poker sites give you the ability to search a player and find out what other tables (if any) that they are playing. Fish will be much more likely than regs to be playing just a few tables and often just one. It is not easy to 24 table when your VPIP is 78!

 

Final Notes

It should be noted that by tagging people immediately as fish if you notice them taking any of the above actions you will find out later that several of them are actually nits. This is because many regs at the microstakes will do some of the things above also. This is fine, just change the tag from fish to bad reg once you notice the low VPIP. Very few good regs would ever do any of the above and it is good to know who the bad regs are because we can make lots of money off of them as well.

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

www.blackrain79.com

Online Poker Players Living in Thailand

Posted by BlackRain79

Poker Players Living in Thailand

In recent years there has been a growing number of online poker players relocating to different places around the planet. Mostly because they can. One of the big benefits of playing online poker for a living is that you are location independent. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection. Black Friday accelerated this trend in a big way as thousands of American professional players faced difficulties playing in their own country. Thailand has undoubtedly been the number one destination of choice for online poker players. The thread for Thailand in the 2+2 travel forum is the most popular of all time with nearly six and a half times as many replies as the 2nd most popular thread. Since I have lived in Thailand for nearly a year and a half now and have met many people from the online poker community I figured that I could speak a little bit about what it is like to relocate here.

I want to be clear that I am in no way advising anyone to just pick up and move halfway around the world on a whim. For many people this is just something that they would never even consider doing due to a variety of different reasons such as family or work commitments. For many people also it is just simply too crazy of an idea in the first place. That is fine. This article is for the small subset of adventurous people who would consider expanding their horizons or for anyone who is curious in general.

Also just because you "move" to a different country does not mean that it is in any way permanent. Many people go back to their home countries after a certain amount of time or travel somewhere else. I certainly did not come here with any intentions beyond staying for a few months. And like most of the poker players I know here I do not have any long term plans at this point.

The profile of the standard online grinder who lives here is overwhelmingly in their 20's or early to mid 30's and almost always unattached at least before they come here. And obviously they belong to the relatively small amount of online poker players who are consistent long term winners.

However, it is important to note that their is an enormous expat population all over Thailand and online poker players make up a very small percentage of that. There are many more English teachers, small business owners, non-poker online professionals and retirees, both single and attached, kids and no kids, and in many cases north of 40 years old. So you do not have to fit the profile of the 23 year old SnG whiz kid if you choose to check out this country or any other one for that matter. If you want to make it happen, you will.

Lastly, this post is just about Thailand. There are many other great destinations all around the world for anyone looking for a change of pace. The most popular are almost always in South East Asia and South and Latin America due to the low cost of living and great weather.

In this post I am going to try and give as much information as I can on all of the day to day details of living in Thailand. If I forget anything (which I surely will) just ask me in the comments. Also, this post will be geared towards online poker players relocating here as this is a poker blog. I will try my best to answer any questions related to non-poker business here as well though.

 

Benefits for Online Poker Players Moving to Thailand

  • The ability to play online poker (Americans especially)
  • The weather
  • The low cost of living
  • The food
  • The beaches
  • The people

I will discuss some negatives about living in Thailand at the end. I don't want to paint this country as some magical wonderland. There are many great benefits to living here but it is still a developing country and has some of the problems associated with that. Also, any time you are living in a foreign country there are additional issues for you to deal with such as cultural/language differences and visa hoops to jump through.

 

Playing Online Poker in Thailand

Playing online poker in Thailand is relatively easy. I do need to mention first though that gambling of any sort (except on Muay Thai) is technically illegal in this country. But there have been no cases ever as far as I am know where an online poker player has been even harassed in any way. While it may be technically illegal to play online poker here the authorities do not care at all. It would not be the #1 destination in the world for migrant online poker players if there were any problems with that.

As usual though, when in a foreign country, or even in your own country, just keep it on the down low. Nobody needs to know what you do for a living besides the other online grinders who you know. As we all know the vast majority of non-poker people won't understand it anyways so it largely just a waste of time. Just say that you work on the internet. If they press further say you build websites, do affiliate marketing etc. and the conversation will usually end there.

Live poker is a different story. You will not find a casino anywhere in this country. There are plenty of underground games of course which are often organized by some of the online poker players who live here. I would avoid these though. There have been some cases of these games getting raided by the police. Macau, China (the gambling capital of the world) is a short flight from Thailand. And there are many other SE Asian nations such as Cambodia where you can find live games in casinos as well.

I have never had any issues connecting to any online poker room here. You do not need a VPN. For Americans, simply change your address on Pokerstars and at every other poker site to your new Thai residence. I would probably send the poker site an email informing them of this also. Say goodbye to Black Friday!

 

The Weather

The weather in Thailand is very different than what you are probably used to if you come from North America or Europe. It is a tropical humid climate with high temperatures year round. There is a rainy season between the months of June-September (this varies a bit depending on where you live in the country). The rain here is generally extremely heavy when it comes down. Life (which is already at a very slow pace in Thailand) sort of stops for 20 minutes or so. The rain then subsides and dries up quickly due to the heat and people go on with their day. You can expect this to happen once or twice a day in the rainy season.

The rest of the year is hot and mostly dry. From October to May you will see much less rain. Again, this varies a bit depending on where you are. Rainy season lasts longer in the southern islands. During the peak tourist months of November to February there will likely be no rain at all and the temperatures are a little bit more moderate although still fairly hot. For me, coming from the rainy and cold Pacific Northwest (Vancouver) the weather is so much better here.

 

The Food

I think everyone knows about Thai food already. It is one of the best cuisines in the world. I don't know anyone who comes here and doesn't like it. It is often very spicy though. Say "mai pet khrap" (not spicy please) when ordering if this is not your thing. Most of us eat Thai for most meals. A noodle soup, Pad Thai or rice based dish can be had for as little as one dollar in the ever present markets and street side food stalls here. You can get a bigger portion and a more skillfully prepared Thai meal in the wide range of restaurants here usually for a few dollars at most. People eat out far more often in Thailand than in western countries. In fact many are surprised to learn that most apartments here don't come with a kitchen at all, just a small fridge.

Western food will cost more. It is everywhere though and will still cost quite a bit less than in your home country. The chain fast food joints are everywhere here also, McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks etc. I don't go to these places very often but I believe the prices are somewhat similar to what they are in the West.

 

The Cost of Living

This is a huge thing for many poker players, especially those grinding the micros. One of the best things about living here is that it will cost you far less than in your home country. You can effectively double your quality of life over night. Using the power of geo-arbitrage we make money in a currency (USD or EUR) that is worth far more than the currency (Thai Baht) in the place that we live. At the time of this writing you will get about 30 Thai Baht for 1 American/Canadian/Australian dollar. You will get about 42 Baht for 1 Euro.

Where I live in the northern city of Chiang Mai a small but modern centrally located furnished studio with air con, tv, wifi, private bathroom, balcony and a pool can be had for as little as $100 a month. This is unheard of in any western city. In Vancouver you couldn't get a place in someone's backyard shed 30 minutes from the city for that amount. Of course many of us pay much more (like $300 lol) and get a much larger nicer place. Keep in mind that Chiang Mai is the cheapest major city to live in in Thailand. Prices will be about 25% higher in Bangkok and between 50-300% higher in Phuket depending on the season and proximity to the beach.

Electricity and water are very cheap and largely not even worth mentioning. Food as mentioned before is very cheap as long as you don't mind eating mostly Thai. Other costs will be a motorbike (Read scooter: Honda Click or Wave etc) if you want one. Motorbikes represent at least 50% of the vehicles on the roads here. In Chiang Mai you can get one for about 80 dollars a month. A better choice might be to just buy one for about 500 or 600 dollars if you plan on living here for awhile. Since you can affordably just live right in the city though often there is no need for one.

Prices for clothes are very cheap here in the markets and reasonable at the malls. But since you don't need much more than flip flops, shorts and t-shirts here year round you won't need a huge clothing collection anyways.

Expect to pay about the same price for electronics as you would in your home country. So don't come here thinking you are going to get a great deal on a new laptop, tablet or phone. If you need a new phone I would probably buy it in Thailand though just to avoid all those issues with unlocking when you get here. Mobile data and calling plans are very cheap. Use Skype when you want to phone home. I have 400 minutes a month to any mobile or landline in Canada for 5 dollars a month. Of course Skype to Skype calls are always free.

www.numbeo.com is a great site for comparing the costs of living in cities anywhere in the world. Plug in where you live and compare it to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket.

 

The Beaches

There are lots of them here and many of them are stunning. You can just live at the beach here if you want as well. You will pay a premium though because often they are located on islands where they need to ship goods in. Also, the property values are a lot higher of course. But there are many places in this country in non-touristy beach locales where you can live for very little. I spent a month in a beach town in an 11th floor fully modern condo with a beach view for $233 a month a couple of months ago. It is a spot dominated by Thais and not foreign tourists so the prices are much lower. Places like this (no I will not say where, I have to keep some secrets!) can be found if you look around a bit and stay clear of the popular backpacker/tourist spots.

Many of us choose to live in a major city like Bangkok or Chiang Mai though for the modern amenities. We can just go on frequent vacations anyways. Domestic flights are very cheap and of course it takes no time at all to arrive in a world class beach resort in places such as Phuket, Koh Samui or Krabi.

 

The People and the Language

Thailand is often nicknamed LOS "The land of smiles." This is a country which is 95% Buddhist. The pace of life for most Thais is far slower than what you are probably used to. Family is huge to them. Having "sanook" (fun) at whatever they do in life is a top priority. They are quite a bit happier and more hospitable than people in most western countries. The smile is not fake. They are often genuinely happy to see you and talk to you (there are exceptions in the heavy tourist areas). This is a breath of fresh air for me.

The Thai language is very different than any of the Western languages and difficult to learn. The good thing is that you don't actually have to learn it to live here. Most Thais, at least in the big cities, speak a reasonable amount of English. At least enough so that you can order your food, apartment etc. in English and have no problem. Also since there are so many expats here from places like England, America, Canada and Australia you could literally just surround yourself with people who are native English speakers all the time anyways.

However, you will probably want to learn the language if you plan on staying here for a long time. It will enrich your experience so much more if you can have conversations with Thais that go beyond "Hi, how are you?" They will generally be happy to help you out with words that you don't know and will be honored that you are even trying to learn.

 

Visas

For people from any Western country, if you arrive in Thailand on a plane you will be able to stay here for 30 days. If you arrive by land, 15 days. So your best bet if you plan on staying here for awhile is to get a visa. I would suggest getting a tourist visa (get a double entry if you can) from the Thai embassy in your home country before coming here. Each entry will effectively give you 3 months here. You can go to any neighboring country such as Laos, Malaysia or Cambodia to get a new visa when it is finished.

The visa process is a bit confusing and annoying at times but this is just part of living in a foreign country. Just jump through the hoops every couple of months and do what you have to do. You should generally budget about 50 dollars a month for visa fees, flights or buses to a neighboring country etc.

An option that many long term grinders here use is to get a 1 year education visa. You pay up front for the year at a cost of roughly 50 dollars a month still. The benefit is that you only have to report to the local immigration office once every 3 months and no visits to other countries either. AND, you have also paid for Thai language classes for a year. You don't actually have to go if you don't want to. But it is a good way to learn the language and meet friends also.

 

Hospital Care and Insurance

This is a big area of concern for many people. There is a whole range of medical care here from small shady clinics to top notch hospitals with western educated doctors that would rival anything in your home country. The prices, like with nearly everything else, are also far cheaper. Many people (especially Americans) come here specifically to get big treatments done at a fraction of the cost of back home. That said, it is still a good idea to get some sort of insurance if you plan on living here. A couple of stitches or a checkup won't cost you anything but if you break your leg or something which requires some inpatient care it will still add up.

Insurance is cheap and can be found very easily through a quick google search. Be aware though that most insurance plans DO NOT cover motorbike accidents. By far the biggest reason that foreigners will require medical treatment here is due to a motorbike accident. If you choose to drive one please use your common sense and never drive drunk. Also, the driving culture is far different here (other side of the road if you are from America or Canada) and it will seem like complete chaos to you at first.

I recommend learning how to drive in a quiet location first and not a big city. Always wear a helmet as well even though many Thais and even foreigners do not bother with them. And like I said before, just live in the city and you won't even need a bike. Bangkok has an outstanding skytrain and subway system and who would ever want to drive in the crazy traffic there anyways? It is very easy to get around Chiang Mai with the local taxis for very cheap ($1 to cross the city). Phuket is a little bit more of a adventure and the taxi prices are much higher. I should mention that you could just get a car or truck but they are a lot more expensive than a bike and I don't know anyone who bothers with that.

 

Meeting People

As I mentioned before there is a very large expat population here already. And also the number of tourists from Western countries is extremely high as well. So meeting people who speak your language (or are even from your own country) is not difficult at all. The major poker communities are in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. There are Skype groups for all three of them. Get yourself invited to one of them and you can easily become friends with and meet up with all the grinders there. There are tons of regular sports events, meetups and the like in all three communities.

Many grinders here choose to live in big mansions "poker houses" with 4 or 5 of them and live the baller life. Make friends online and offline with the poker community and you should be able to get into one of these houses or set one up yourself no problem. Many people choose to live on their own though as well especially if they have a Thai girlfriend.

 

Negatives of Living in Thailand

  • The visa leash
  • Language
  • Internet
  • Ability to degen hard
  • Political atmosphere/Police corruption

I have touched on a few of these issues a little bit already but I will say a bit more. With regards to visas and the hoops that you have to jump through yes it is annoying but it is just part of being a foreigner. As of this writing it is extremely difficult to impossible to ever become a citizen in this country. You can get a retirement visa if you are over the age of 50 but that does not apply to the vast majority of people reading this blog. Relying on tourist visas means trips to a foreign country and the local immigration office once every few months. An education or business visa makes things quite a bit easier though.

The language is very different and very hard for most Westerners to pick up. It is a tonal language and the same word can have 5 different meanings depending on how you pronounce it. There are sounds which are not used in the English language and the sentence structure can be very weird at times. In the rural areas of Thailand there will be very little English spoken. As long as you stick to the main big cities though you will be fine. However, most foreigners living here tend to have very few Thai friends besides their girlfriend due to language issues. Many expats have made the commitment though and learned it. It is not impossible.

With the internet do not expect the blazing speeds that you are used to on a broadband connection in America, Canada or Europe. However, Thailand is not a third world country and you can certainly get decent broadband connections in nearly any city. Definitely enough to play poker on. Many grinders choose to have a backup connection though just in case. Wifi connections can of course be a little more unstable. But most people coming here to grind will want to set up a plan with a local ISP and get a dedicated connection anyways.

I do need to mention this. As most people know the partying/girls scene here is very crazy. If you don't keep your life in order it can be very easy to get consumed with that. There are tons of old expats here wasting away especially in towns like Pattaya, the most degen place on the planet. Most of the younger guys, which includes almost all online poker players, keep it in check though. It is fine to go a bit crazy when you first get here, most people do. And you should travel around anyways to see where you want to live. But after that have a plan to settle into normal life. Get a place, a grinding routine, a gym membership etc. and keep the nightlife at a minimum.

Thailand is a relatively stable but young democracy. There is still a lot of corruption across all levels of society though. The bribery system is very common here especially in dealings with the police. However as long as you keep yourself out of trouble, as you probably already do in your home country, none of this stuff should affect you on any level.

Just a couple final notes. The king of Thailand is the longest serving monarch in the world. He is like a living god to most Thais. Don't say anything disrespectful. Don't even think about doing drugs here. The penalties are extremely harsh throughout all of South East Asia.

 

Final Thoughts

Relocating abroad is definitely not for everybody. But for me and many of the other grinders and expats here it was a great decision. Living in Thailand is very much like a dream at times. It doesn't even seem real. There is stuff that I didn't even mention, since this article is already long enough, such as $5 an hour Thai massage and the incredible Buddhist architecture all over the country. I think the pros far outweigh any cons. And seeing how the "other side" lives will also broaden your perspective immensely. This doesn't mean that I am here permanently though and I still love my home country of Canada. I can travel back whenever I want.

This leads me to a fairly big "con" of living abroad though that I did not mention because it applies to any foreign country and not just Thailand; missing your family and friends. Obviously this is something that everyone who relocates abroad must deal with and it IS difficult. Although the power of technology these days (Skype especially) does make it a little bit easier. Thailand is a long, long way from home though if you are from North America or Europe.

I will lastly say this. All of the reasons that people list for why they cannot try living abroad for awhile usually aren't anywhere near as difficult to overcome as they think. You only live once and you have far more to gain than you have to lose. The hardest part really is just getting on the plane.

As mentioned, if anyone has any questions about Thailand please feel free to leave them below. I will do my best to answer them. 

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

www.blackrain79.com

The State of Micro Stakes Online Poker in 2013

Posted by BlackRain79

The State of Micro Stakes Online Poker in 2013

Online poker is continually evolving. And the micro stakes are no different. I get asked a lot these days about the state of the games in 2013 and especially if my winrates in the past are even possible anymore. The answer is yes and no. Blindly opening 24 random tables of NL2 and expecting to auto-pilot to a 30bb/100 winrate is not possible anymore. Likewise, you cannot mass table NL25 and expect to maintain 10bb/100 these days. You would need to be one of the absolute best players to even achieve half of these winrates in today's games with that amount of tables and no regard as to who was playing on them.

On the other side of the coin, these winrates are still possible in today's games if you are committed to cutting down on the amount of tables drastically so that you can make much higher quality opponent specific decisions. And also by vigorously table and seat selecting which I will get into more a bit later. Of course achieving these winrates still requires an exceptional understanding of the game and excellent emotional control. I am talking about what is possible in this article because that is how the question is always phrased to me. People want to know what the absolute best players can achieve.

I would be remiss not mention a little bit about the state of the micros for American players in 2013 before I continue. While site selection and thus table selection is quite a bit more restricted than for people from many other countries things are not all bad. I still continue to play on several sites from time to time that are open to Americans. If the games were so bad at these sites then I wouldn't play on them (I am Canadian). I haven't found there to be much of a difference at all in skill level across the board at these sites when compared to the bigger online poker rooms. The only difference is that there are less tables to choose from. Everybody hopes the situation will resolve itself sooner than later and American players can once again play on any site that they choose to. But many options still remain for American poker players in 2013.

Reducing the Amount of Tables

This is something that will be different for everybody. Some people can competently play many more tables than others. But what is true for everyone is that the less tables you play the more time that you will have. The more time that you have, the more opportunity you have to make higher quality decisions. And especially decisions tailored specifically to the opponent that you are facing. I 24 tabled the micros for years and basically just took standard lines against everyone. I would change things up a little bit between regs and fish. But generally speaking I was just auto-piloting with no regard to issues such as balancing my range versus thinking opponents, diving deeper into their HUD stats or taking account of any relevant history..

Once I started making videos where I wasn't allowed to play more than 4 tables at once and started experimenting with 4-6 tables in my regular play as well I noticed that my winrates were the same or even higher than before in today's supposedly ultra tough games.

LAG Play Wrecks the Micros in 2013

By reducing the amount of tables I immediately started playing way more hands. My full ring game went from a 14/11/3 with a 4% 3bet to a 21/18/3 with a 6% 3bet. My 6max game went from a 20/17/3 with a 5% 3bet to a 30/27/3 with a 7% 3bet. I immediately started discovering so many more profitable spots to just take pots that the 24 tabling HUDbots didn't want to battle me for.

I remember a player (I won't name him) that I started out playing with many, many years ago. We actually met on the play money tables! We both moved over to real money at around the same time, became good friends and talked about the game a fair bit. While I was still working my way up through the micros I remember him absolutely destroying the small and midstakes games (NL100-NL600) at winrates that have probably never been equaled to this day. He preferred 6max and played way more hands than anyone other reg, something like a 40/35/3. Nobody knew how to combat it. He simply ran the games over as the regs, who were incredibly passive at the time, would not fight back without the nuts.

This is the way that the micros play today. Especially NL2-NL10. Most regs are multi-tabling nits and will not put big money in the pot without the nuts. In game conditions like this you don't even need fish to maintain a high winrate. Just keep abusing the regs way more than they are used to and they will either lay down to you (often the case) or go on tilt and hand a couple stacks to you. By playing far less tables I have been able to do just this in 2013 games especially at the lowest stakes.

If you want to play like everybody else then expect everybody else's results. Poker is all about adjustments and a table full of passive regs is by no means a bad table if you know how to exploit it properly. You need to open up your game in order to do this.

Table Selection and Seat Selection

While playing against bad regs can be profitable there is no substitute for playing with really bad players. As I mentioned last time, whales, as they are often referred to, lose money at a far faster rate than anyone else. They are the main engine that drives the poker economy since if they lose money faster than anyone else it follows that they will need to deposit money more frequently than everyone else as well.

Using the table VPIP averages that many sites display as a guide for table selection is not something that I do at all anymore in 2013 games. The micros have tightened up considerably in the last 3 or 4 years and especially at the lowest stakes there are an absurd amount of what I like to call "super nits." These are guys with a VPIP of like 9 at a full ring table and 12 or 13 at a 6max table. All they know how to do is play absurdly tight.

What these guys do though, and nits in general, is bring down the table averages so much that you don't even realize that the 40 VPIP whale is sitting right there! So I much prefer to simply sit at tables with people who are unknowns to me and wait an orbit or two for the stats to come in. If I see a whale (it only takes 10-20 hands to get a relatively reliable reading on someone's VPIP) then I tag them immediately and stay. If I see that it is all tight players then I leave.

The Jesus Seat

The "Jesus Seat" is a term that popped up a few years ago especially among high stakes players to refer to the dream situation where you have the huge fish on your direct right. If you manage to find yourself in this situation, even by sheer luck, you should not leave that table until the fish does for any reason.

What many people fail to understand with game selection or table selection is that finding the whale is only half the battle. Your EV (expected value) versus that player jumps considerably when he is on your right. You can get involved in so many more hands against him with the benefit of position and literally just isolate him every single time. You can get all those extra bets in on the end and not waste bets when he chooses to finally fight back.

When the fish has position on you you have to play way tighter, you will get floated way more, annoyed way more. The power of position is something that people still fail to fully realize even in today's games. Give one player direct position on another player of his exact same skill level and he will destroy him in the long term. Just because the fish is much less skilled than you are doesn't change this basic law of poker. You are likely +EV versus him no matter what seat he is in. But your EV changes in a big way depending on your position vis a vis him.

Start Your Own Tables

I know I have mentioned this many times in the past but it is worth talking about again. I start tables all the time now when I play especially at the begininng of a session when I have the most time. Almost all the good players that I know who crush the micros these days do the same thing. The reason is very simple. Fish do not like to wait to play poker. They don't use waiting lists, regs do. They want to start splashing their chips around right now and so they choose tables that have lots of empty seats on them. This is one of the easiest ways to just make fish appear out of nowhere in today's games.

And don't worry about playing heads up for a bit. I think a lot of people are scared to start tables because they are ring players and don't want to play any heads up. I am a ring player too! I don't particularly think of myself as any good at heads up either. But the reality is that usually the table will fill up very fast. And even if you do end up with a heads up match just play a couple hands and quit if you want to. In many cases it will just be a random reg who wants to play you for whatever reason and you can actually use this as an opportunity to work on your heads up game a bit (if you so choose). Remember most other regs are really bad at heads up also.

A Couple Final Thoughts

I hope this article gives you guys a little bit of insight into the approach that I take with micro stakes cash games in 2013. People have been complaining about the games getting tougher especially on forums for a long time now. Like at least 5 years. Yet there are tons of people who still make a solid living or side income playing this game. So the bad players must be somewhere right? The games can't be that impossibly hard to beat can they?

It does take more effort to win at online poker in 2013. That is the plain truth. And some of the insane winrates of days gone by are not possible anymore especially if you want to mass multi-table. But rakeback programs have improved and there is still good money to be made if you really want it.

In order to win in today's games you need to be consistently updating your skills (studying on your own and using instructional materials, books, training sites, coaching etc). This is not unlike how it works in many areas of the business world. You also need to practice working on your emotional control. Understanding and accepting variance as part of the game.

And lastly, as discussed in this article, you need to be paying attention to who your opponents are and where they are seated at the table more than ever. You need to adapt to who they are as well. Even if you bumhunt all day long you are still going to have to play some hands versus regs. It is on you to figure out how to outplay them. Luckily at the micros this still isn't too difficult of a task these days.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below. All the best at the tables!

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

www.blackrain79.com