Winning at poker is tough, but distinguishing between players, game types, and varying limits can add a new dimension to your play. If you have watched some of the high-limit poker games on TV you might think it all comes down to aggression. And, most upper-limit players actually employ a great deal of well-timed aggression to wear down their opponents. However, there is much more to the game than meets the eye.
TV poker, especially tournaments, can not show the many hours of play the best players are absorbing before they make their outrageous bets and maneuvers. You won't see the buildup and the subtlety of the plays being manufactured. In truth, many high-stakes cash players plot new moves and strategies for days and even weeks before having the perfect opportunity to spring a trap against their opponents.The Small Stakes Game
Whether you are playing crazy pineapple or the world's favorite poker game, Texas Hold'em, small stakes games demand that you most often do one thing: show down the best hand. Once you grasp that concept you will be well on your way to increasing your nightly winnings. And, that idea applies to both limit games, and no-limit games.
While no-limit games allow you to skate around a bit, using some intuition and some intimidation to manipulate your opponents, you can't be too fancy. Split limit and limit games offer even less chance to show how smart you are with amazing moves.
In fact, methodical players usually win small stakes limit games. They don't show much flair and they don't bluff very often, they just seem to stack up the chips.That's So Boring!
Unfortunately, many poker players want to show how smart they are. They want to make great moves and show amazing, gutsy bluffs that highlight their ability and dazzle their friends. Unfortunately that doesn't work well for low stakes. And fortunately, you can beat these players on a regular basis just by steadily playing good hands.
In Texas Hold'em, the only way to consistently win in low-limit games is to be selective about your starting hands. The main reason for this is that you won't be able to get anybody out. If you are playing a game with limits of 25-cents to a dollar and everybody buys in for $20 to start, you can't represent aces all the time and push the other players around because they are unlikely to be intimidated by the size of your bets.
If they have a decent hand they are probably going to call you, at least to see the flop. Once the flop hits they are also likely to catch a little something that convinces them to go to the river and even call the last bet. You have to show down the best hand most of the time to win.Position
If you think the importance of position is paramount to winning in low-stakes games you are wrong. In upper limit games position can be everything, but in small stakes games you can get away with playing weaker hands up-front (right after the blinds) because the pots are likely to offer you higher odds as more players will be in each hand. So, forget about position for the time being and concentrate on your first two cards.Starting Hands
Players in low-limit games are more likely to be enticed by starting hands that contain an ace. Once you realize this you can exploit it. They just love to play any ace and when you have a better ace hand (such as AK or AQ) and an ace hits the board you can get in plenty of raises they are likely to call to the bitter end. Yes, they will occasionally hit their lousy kicker and make two pair, but the many times they don't will easily make up for it.
The same thing goes for straight and flush flops where a player may be trying to catch a third card on the turn or river to make their hand. If you flop top pair, that's the time to get in a bet or even a raise. The odds are about 2-1 that you will win against a straight or flush draw. Make them pay to draw to it! And, if you happen to have Ace-x suited to make the best flush or are yourself drawing to the best straight, make the players who are drawing to second-best pay for their mistakes.
What that all means is you don't want to be the one drawing to second-best hands. If you are in love with ace-anything hands, force yourself to play only ace-suited hands and aces with a face card. Play pairs and be ready to toss them if over-cards hit the flop and there are any bets (you were really trying to hit trips with those little pairs!), and get in some pre-flop raises with your ace-face and face card pairs.
Your pre-flop bet isn't likely to win you the pot immediately, but it might narrow the field a bit and help you win a bigger pot after the flop. When you have a hand like kings, queens, jacks and tens, you really want to get down to heads-up or three handed. Make the ace-x players pay to play!
As for other hands, toss'em early and save your money. Don't worry about the other players thinking you only play good hands. That's a winning way, especially in low limit games. When they think that, your occasional call with suited connectors like 6-7 will pay even more if you flop a straight or a nice draw. Play those hands sparingly and against many callers and you'll reap those benefits too!