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The difference between playing in a small stakes game and a higher limit game is not so much the difference in the amount of money involved. What truly makes it a different game are the players that are usually involved in the game. One of the truly interesting truths about playing poker is that many of the skills that a player learns over time are pretty much wasted against an inexperienced player.
For example, smooth calling before the flop and then smooth calling again after the flop only to check raise on the turn, is a pretty powerful play. To an experienced player it is at least. But when you try that kind of a play against an inexperienced player then you better be expecting and be prepared for a call in that situation.
Know When to Fold Your Hand
Kenny Rogers used to sing “You got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them”. The issue is that experienced players do know when to fold them but the inexperienced players do not. An experienced play knows when to lay a hand down, based upon the action taking place in the hand around him. Since the inexperienced player does not you have to refrain from getting too creative in the way that you play in low limit games.
As a general rule of thumb in low limit games, “Tight is Right”. When you play in low limit game you have to tighten up your play. The dynamics of the entire game are changed when an entire table of players is calling you down on every street.
While the odds say that you may have the best of it against one player you will find that against several the probability of a successful outcome are greatly diminished.
Play Your Own Game, Not Theirs
It is easy to start following the rest of the pack and playing every speculative hand that you run in to and you will even find that if you start doing this that more and more starting hands begin to look speculative. Don’t fall in to that trap. You can not follow in poker and be successful. If you are at a very loose table, which is what you will find at almost all lower limit games, then you need to play tighter. If you find yourself at a tight table, and you won’t see this happening in low limit games very often, then you need to open up your play.
To win at poker you not only have to beat the other players but you have to beat the rake. The rake that is taken out of every hand is the one sure thing that is going off of the table. Your rate of win has to be sufficient to compensate for this. Playing the way that everyone else at the table does will not achieve a win sufficient to cover the rake, if you achieve a win at all. You must do something differently.
Don’t Hesitate to be Different
In a game where most players are playing very conservatively, then you need to be more aggressive. Conservative players place importance on the starting values of their hands. Conservative players also not only think about the cards that they are holding but they consider the possible cards that you are holding. By being a little more aggressive in a
game like this you can pick up a lot of extra pots.
When you are in a game where most of the players are playing very loose, and this is what you will normally find in lower limit games, then you need to become more conservative. Loose players in lower limit games are mostly playing for fun and they are not really worried about losing a pot. In fact instead of being afraid to lose a hand these players seem more afraid of the possibility that you will bluff them out of one. These inexperienced and loose players that you will find in lower limit games tend to only think about the cards that they hold and rarely think about the possible hand that you might have.
Best Laid Strategy?
So the best strategy that you can take in a small stakes game is to only start with a speculative drawing hand if you are in late position and you can get in cheaply. Other than that you should only play premium starting hands. Be prepared to throw you hand away if you don’t hit it on the flop. You will be involved in a lot fewer hands but you should win most of them and they should all be pretty good sized pots. Unless you have noticed a player that has shown the ability to fold to a bet, which is something that you don’t see too often in small stakes games, then you should not try to bluff at all. The odds of you getting a call in a small stakes game make it extremely unprofitable to try and bluff.