How to bluff at the micros (Play Money example)



We hear a lot of people complain that 2 NLHE are full of calling-stations, non-sense payers and whales. You are right, players are almost never folding at the micros. Given that the ammount invested is "too small", because most of players are not considering the blinds structure, they elect to go with the absolute value of their hands versus any type of players.
The meta-game dictates at 2 NLHE that anybody else could be a fish, otherwise it would not be playing 2 NLHE. This is wrong, of course there are good players at the micros, but even those are hard to bluff in certain scenarios, or even impossible to bluff:
Players who never fold trips in connected rivers, players who goes deep stacked with TPTK in complicated boards, players who will hero call everything in the river, no matter board, so it becomes very hard to bluff at the micros, almost a sort of an art.
It is easier to bluff a thinking player because this one comprehend the notion of ranges versus position and knows how to read opponents and board textures in order to make the most EV decisions. It is thinking what you think he/she is thinking.
Most regulars are locked inside the value of their strong hands, and get blinded by the configuration of the board and assume that "okay if I lose here, it is very close".
When they say 'close' they mean 'breakeven'. Breakeven spots are not profitable at all the micros given the over-raked structure.
Besides, 99% of players would be playing only these ranges at the micros:

TAG's generic range at 2 NLHE: 22+, A2s+, K7s+, Q8s+, J8s+, T8s+, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s, 54s, 43s, 32s, A8o+, A5o-A4o, KTo+, QTo+, JTo = 28.81% of hands.

LAG's generic range at 2 NLHE: 22+, A2s+, K2s+, Q5s+, J7s+, T7s+, 97s+, 86s+, 75s+, 64s+, 53s+, 42s+, 32s, A2o+, K7o+, Q8o+, J7o+, T8o+, 98o, 87o, 76o, 65o = 49.92%

Whale's generic range at 2 NLHE: 22+, A2s+, K2s+, Q5s+, J7s+, T7s+, 97s+, 86s+, 75s+, 64s+, 53s+, 42s+, 32s, A2o+, K7o+, Q8o+, J7o+, T8o+, 98o, 87o, 76o, 65o = 49.92%

Okay, there aren't too many LAG's players at micros, and most are simply aggro donkeys who doesn't use the aggression on their side, they are maniacs throwing chips away for their own satisfaction.
However, what most of regulars are playing, and I believe they are 60% of the pool, is simply, at maximum, 28.81% of hands, compounding the breakeven scenario at the micros, almost always:

You go all in preflop and they only show AA, KK and AK, in this specific order.
Regulars at 2 NLHE will show much more AA than KK and AK, but they are never folding these hands postflop as well when it comes lower boards, for example.
We are going to find thousands of situations where we have AA and BB called with QTs and hit two pair and we are boned, we have AKs and 4-bet against AQo and the Queen hits the turn and we lose a great deal, we are with 22 out of position hit a set and get coolered by a better set, etc. Why? Because everyone is just playing the sweet 15% range, at maximum, specially Zoom Tables?
This way of breakeven game lets many players insane with their minds: "they always hit something, why?". Because both are playing very similar and close ranges.

3-bet spots, whe are going to find this range 98% of times:

99+, ATs+, KJs+, QJs, AJo+

I dare to say that many tights and NIT's would never 3-bet ATs, AJs, KQs, KJs, QJs, and 99 and TT, they are simply calling sometimes.
It is so hard to hit a hand that many players feel themselves compelled to go when they hit a good equity or they are holding a strong made hand: as we ahave seen a thousands of hand-reviews at the micros.
How can we bluff these guys? Playing a balanced range, and not only playing 10% range at maximum, otherwise we are playing 10% against 10% and we are going to be even 50% of times, almost always: One time your AK holds, the another it doesn't hold. The problem with that is that when your AK holds and you win a 200 bb pot you have to pay the rake and when your AK cracks and you lose a 200 bb pot you have to pay the rake as well!
So you win 100 and lose 100, so you are even, = 0? Never! You are losing a lot for rake here, nobody is playing for free, this is why I advocate that breakeven spots at the micros are usually not profitable, whether they are preflop or postflop. Besides, many times when we hero call in the River and think "this is very close", we know we are coolered by a better hand but we don't want to feel ourselves idiots, by letting idiots to bluff us, so...?

How do we bluff?

Cheaply, in the flop or in the turn, follows the didactic example at Play Money, where players have no reason at all to let any equity go, since it is free money okay?
So let's check this situation and adapt as if it was played at 2 NLHE:

MP is deep stacked an opens 4.25x, give or take and Hero is deep stacked in the CO with AhJd and decides to call here. A 3-bet could be very expensive and if I start to overplay my ATo and AJo preflop I would enter in dangerous/breakeven/losing spots.
If I 3-bet here and MP 4-bets, once it decided to polarize its preflop range, it would be a mess for me and I would be forced to muck my AJo, almost 98% of times.
When I call from CO, my perceived range would contain a lot of suited connectors, pocket pairs, suited broadways, suited kings and aces, and some broadways. MP's perceived range will also contain some pocket pairs 77+ mostly and suited strong broadways. Even Steven.

Flop: 2h7c8h

MP elects to c-bet to 1/2 pot and Hero calls here: what is my perceived range when I call here?
Well, as values I would have 87s, 22, 77 and 88: this hands could and would be raising more this c-bet from MP for protection because many turns are going to end action for two pair and set types, besides MP can have flush draws and AA, KK, QQ, JJ, that wouldn't fold to a Raise C-Bet here. Besides, when I call this flop, my range becomes capped again, because it was already capped preflop and now it is capped in the flop, the Two Pair types, Sets, and possible traps with JJ+ should be raising here a fair chunk of times for protection because of the SD+FD menace. When I don't raise this flop, I am capping my range to straight draws and flush draws mostly and sometimes some strong pocket pairs.
Another part of our perceived range are pocket pairs as 99, TT, JJ, sometimes QQ, almost never KK and AA because we called preflop, and the straight draws and flush draws. No point in raising our flush draws here because MP still has AA, KK, QQ, etc.

Turn: 6h, where completes a flush and a straight and MP comes for 1/2 pot again, and now I don't like calling this at 2 NLHE trying 'to float' the river. Of course if it comes another hearts in the river we are nuts, most of times, but we are hardly are going to be paid by worst flushes or made hands such as pocket pairs and sets in a situation like this, when it comes a 4th Hearts in the River.
SO, given all these factors, and the factor that MP still can have some bluffs in its perceived range as well (or MP is turning its values into bluffs here in the turn by c-betting again), Hero CO elects to raise to a size a little bit higher than the value of the pot:
Now, the only hands that I could be doing this are the nutted flushes with Ah, and Kh in a small frequency, and the bluffs exactly with the combos of Ah.
At the micros, we should try to bluff like this, when we are deep stacked, Villain has a capped range like ours, our flush draws are calling the c-bet flop and doing the same here and if MP decides to 3-bet turn we fold, or if MP calls turn and donks river, we are also folding. Of course our flushes could be calling turn too, but when we do it our range becomes even more obvious: when we raise our flushes here we still have some bluffs, which allows us to do it, for value.

River: Comes a Kd and MP elects to check. Here we have no option but to shove our hand, since AJo will almost never be ahead of anything that could be in MP's perceived range, such as AA, KK, AK, T9s, 88, etc. No Showdown Value with AJ, no options.
Villain complains that the last hand of the day is always hard and folds!!!
Yes, it folds, at Play Money, so we must find a way for players to fold at 2 NLHE.
If we call the turn to float river, it could be valid too, but at the rivers our bluffs are too expensive and we are drawing to anything more.

Before I forget:


Carlos 'Aballinamion' Barbosa
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interesting, but in my opnion many players in play money don't even think about ranges and perceived range, they just play their hand.
thanks for the effort (time) to write this text, is good because someone can learn about poker/cash game in topics like this.


you don't need such complex thinking to beat 2NL.
Just play good opening ranges & ABC poker without diving deep into villain ranges, balance & bluffs.
Can easily make it to 25NL this way
also game selection is important & there is no point in playing play money. Also a hud would be helpful


Good Luck pulling this off often enough to make it seem profitable in play money or micro's. As a rule players simply don't think at that level when playing play money or micro stakes.

Best of Luck and I would suggest to focus on advancing and progressing forward to levels that allow you to take advantage of other players tendencies, like the ability to fold.
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