Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2006.
This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.
Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 80: How to profit from low limit “No Fold ’em ” games
Since the rise of the popularity of poker, there has been an influx of new players of all ages, races and backgrounds. Mike tells me that in the “olden days” the poker players learned from experience, trial and error. Well, today’s new players don’t all have the desire to lose money through trial and error, so many are reading every book they can and watching all the video lessons available, in order to avoid the major “learning” losses their predecessors experienced.
Most of the new beginners will start playing in lower limit games to test the waters, usually $1-$2, $2-4, or $3-6 limit hold ’em. They have a rude awakening, though, as the games don’t proceed quite as they had expected. The players in these lower limit games are different, because they fold less often and go on to see the flop more frequently than in bigger games. It is common for four to six players to be involved in the final showdown.
As beginning players who’ve read the strategy books, they find this looser play quite puzzling; and skilled players will find it rather exasperating. Many players have a tendency to whine about how impossible these games are to profit from. You’re sitting there with superior cards, no one has folded, and your greatest fear now is that you are going to get drawn out on at the river by something you least expect. It has happened too often and still you sit, holding your breath apprehensively, knowing in your heart that the river card could spell doom. If you figure in the rake, as well, there goes even more money.
Mike says that there is a “formula” for winning at low limit when a “rake” is involved. You have to consider the rake when playing hands. You will need to have a superior hand to prevail over the rake. You won’t be able to play many of the hands you’d normally play in larger time-based games.
Don’t play less conservatively just because everyone else around you is gambling. They will lose by their loose play, allowing you to profit.
If you don’t have to consider a rake, then you can play looser, but not as loose as the players around you. You should play tighter than your opponents, enabling you to have a quality advantage in your hand selection.
In these loose games, fancy play isn’t necessary or recommended. Weak players don’t realize what you’re attempting to do and won’t react as expected.
Mike says, “You will get drawn out on. Since you normally will be entering the pot with the best hand, the proportion of hands that you will be drawn out on will be much greater than your opponents. Don’t get frustrated about this. It’s where your profit comes from. Winning players are drawn out on much more often among the hands they choose to play than losing players.”
Skilled players have the ability to play hands that weaker players wouldn’t be able to attempt. This doesn’t always apply in a rake game.
If you’re trying to test sophisticated plays and experiment with strategies, lower-limit rake games won’t be the place to try them. Mike says these games are a good learning ground, but you should play cautiously.
Skillful players usually find the challenge of higher-limit poker more desirable and profitable. Unfortunately, the less skillful players sometimes decide too soon to experiment with the higher limits in the hopes of bigger and quicker profits, only to go away with their tails between their legs, humiliated and broke. They haven’t mastered the necessary skills in the learning experience to enable them to succeed in the higher limit games. They haven’t reached the skill level to play with the big dogs.
So, yes, play the small games. But play them conservatively. Mike says a lot of patience and basic skills are required to be able to gain profit from low-limit rake games. He teaches that there is an old saying that applies to loose, low-limit rake games, “Tight is right.” — DM