A great poker player once said, “Mastering the skill of playing good poker is easy. Mastering the luck, that’s the hard part.” This sentiment rings true in low buy-in, no-limit hold’em cash games. In many cases, at least half the players will see the flop, even in a raised pot. If the flop comes two-suited, you can count on at least one die-hard chaser sticking around all the way to the river. If an ace flops, you can be sure that one of your opponents called the pre-flop raise with an ace-rag suited, so you’ll ant to be careful with your high pocket pairs.
How can you “master the luck” against such players? One key can be that, instead of thinking about all the things that they could be (names like “fish”, “donkey”, “luckbox” and other less flattering terms come to mind), remember all of the things that typical low-level players are not.
They are not educated. This is not to say that these players are illiterate or unintelligent. However, they don’t often possess the extensive poker education required to play at higher stakes. They often don’t understand such basic concepts as kickers, outs, pot odds or implied odds. They may consider middle pocket pairs strong opening hands, not knowing that they only have an eight-to-one shot to make three of a kind. They may believe that a flop of queen-jack-ten with three suits makes their eight-nine suited is a winning hand, not understanding that the big raiser to their left may be holding ace-king for the nut straight.
They are not taking the game seriously. Many online players at lower stakes don’t have aspirations of joining the ranks of the traveling tournament pros or playing in huge Vegas cash games. Many of them will play any two cards, call any bet and hope the flop hits them with a miracle hand. In this way, they’re treating poker like a slot machine, put your money in, pull the handle and pray for the jackpot.
They are not paying attention. Other than a glance at their own cards and a quick evaluation on the board, players at this level generally do not consider their opponents’ tendencies, habits or betting patterns when making their decisions. The higher-level thinking that most top-level players use to put their opponent on a hand is all but useless in games below $1/$2. All of your brilliant bluffs, traps and slow plays will go to waste against players who are solely playing their own cards.
They are not afraid. This may be the most dangerous factor of all. How can you bluff someone who isn’t afraid to call? What can you do against a player who pushes all-in preflop almost every had, as if daring you to gamble with them? Can you intimidate a player who’ll call your all-in reraise with jack-deuce suited?
The answer to combating these players as is simple as SOS: Start Off Strong. Play only strong hands and get as much money in the pot as possible with them. While you may suffer bad beats more often, you’ll win more hands and get paid off more often with these hands against these casual players than you will against more educated and aware opponents. If you can deal with the high variance (even higher than is usually inherent in no-limit cash games), these games can be a source of much less frustration and much more potential profit.
Try low buy-in, NLH cash games at
Ladbrokes Poker ($1000 free)
Cake Poker ($500 free)
Absolute Poker ($500 free)
UltimateBet ($1100 free)
Full Tilt Poker ($600 free)
For each site use the sign-up code or promotion code "MAXIMUMBONUS" to be sure of getting the maximum bonus.