Micro Stakes Misconceptions
I wrote this a few days ago and wanted to post it here to see what you folks thought:
Something came up today that, when I thought of it, struck me as both obvious and not so obvious at the same time. Poker is a game of mystery and we all struggle to figure out every nuance of the game which is why we're here. So, while some folks may find what I'm going to say to be obvious, others may not and I'd also ask you to consider how many times these truths have been overlooked by you, despite their being so obvious.
1) It is impossible to bluff in the micros.
1A) That's not true. Players at any level still have brains that are capable of putting together a story. The fact of the matter is, however, that it is very difficult to bluff; more difficult than higher stakes a lot of the time. Of course, if you're terrible at telling a story, you're going to be terrible at bluffing anywhere. Bluffing at micro stakes requires an airtight story and a knowledge of the crowd that you're telling it to.
This is where the game is MORE DIFFICULT in the micros. The easy part is waiting for someone to blow off their whole stack with ace-high. The hard part is maintaining a presence that is both significant and not overbearing, so that players are comfortable folding to you. I often see players post graphs with a non-showdown line that is in the negatives, saying that it's pretty typical to have a negative nonSD in the micros because you can't bluff. I would suggest that you work on this part of your game, because the lowest level of players are calling you out regularly and/or bullying you. Non-SD winnings make up 25% of my profits this month at 4NL (and have, at times, been my entire profit for the month).
This, of course, is not to suggest that bluffing is the only way to have positive non-SD winnings. By being a calling station and/or making a bunch of hero calls will also lead to a better "red line", but will generally lead to lower overall winnings and a much lower showdown winning. The point is that it's possible to have a positive non-SD due to taking down pots by betting players off of marginal holdings, just as you would at any other level while remaining positive overall.
2) Players do not know what they are doing/have no strategy.
2A) Of course they do. Have you ever gone into any sort of competition or game without some kind of plan? I understand that a lot of players are playing poker to kill time and we love them very much, but even they have a general idea of poker strategy
to pull from. People who have never, ever played before have a strategy when they sit down for their first game and you know you've seen them try to pull it off! Don't forget that EVERYBODY thinks they can sit down and play poker STRATEGICALLY, which is why we can catch so many bluffs and recognize so many slow plays, even from first-timers.
A lot of players seem to holler back and forth at each other about how dumb the other player is. This is always to say that someone isn't thinking, has no idea how to play, doesn't have any strategic idea, etc. However, what this person is overlooking is the fact that this person was playing that hand in the manner that they played it because they believed that it would win for some reason. Just because someone played K4off against you doesn't mean that they didn't have an idea. When they beat you with 2-pair, they got what they were looking for and played it. It's your duty to yourself to compose yourself and get into their minds. By thinking that they haven't got a clue, you're discounting their ability to think and giving them a further advantage by not even trying to figure them out.
3) Players frequently overbet as bluffs, winning little and losing a lot.
3A) I've seen this. I've seen players turn over 58off after betting 5 times the pot to take it down. Far more frequently, however, I've seen poor pot control leading to oversized bets from players who are likely sitting there praying for a call so that they can make all that money. Players in the micros are more often betting the amount that they want to win and are willing to risk based on their own cards than they are betting the amount that's going to make you fold or call based on your cards.
Micro players are oftentimes very bad at ranging their opponents and a lot of times don't bother to put their opponents on a range. There are times that I've caught myself forgetting to range my opponent, too. Because of that, the overbets that you often see in the micros are generally made with what the player believes to be the best hand and they usually believe that you're playing along with worse and you're not going to fold. I've called these overbets before, but anytime I called with anything less than the nuts, it turned out poorly. Micro players are generally the most believable players I've ever encountered.