Recently, I have been working with some micro stakes Zoom grinders on PokerStars, mostly $5nl and $10nl players.
On occasion, I have suggested that moving to a softer site or network, and players have recoiled in horror. This is what I try to explain to nano stakes and micro stakes poker players, and I feel it’s worth writing an article about.
The Downside to Playing Against Equally Skilled Players
Think for a second how the poker ecosystem works. 2-9 people sit around a table and play cards against each other. Imagine for a second that every player has a 4bb/100 win rate where each player is exactly equal in skill and luck and that they play 1,000 hands together.
They’ll break even, right?
Typically, the rake at micro stakes poker equates to anything from 8bb/100 to 15bb/100, depending on the game’s makeup and the poker site’s rake structure.
So, all of our players have broken even against each other, but the rake has taken 80bb to 150bb. Assuming the game is 6-max and assuming the lowest rake has been taken, each player has actually lost 13bb, making them a 1.3bb/100 loser in a game they assumed they were a 4bb/100 winner in.
Table Selecting Well Enhances Our Win Rate
This is why we need to find and sit at tables with losing players. I hear the argument that iron sharpens iron, but we still get plenty of practice playing against decent aggressive winning players when we table select well; we’re just ensuring that there is some dead money worth fighting other regulars over.
Using the above example, but taking one of the regulars out and adding in a -20bb/100 player in his seat. Now, the -20bb/100 player loses 200bb, which leaves 120bb after the rake to be shared between the equally skilled winning players.
This now makes each of the players a 2.4bb/100 winner at the table.
Bad Players Amplify Our Win Rate
Now, imagine this. Another regular leaves the table, and a really weak player sits in his place that loses 40bb/100. Now, over the 1000 hands, 600bb has been lost by the losing players. Take the 80bb rake out, and that leaves 520bb to be shared between our equally skilled regulars. Now, you’re a 13bb/100 winner.
These losing players exist on all sites. On some sites, more than others, though, they’re harder to get seated with due to the highly unfavorable regular: recreational player ratio. Whenever I see hand histories posted on forums or do hand history reviews/live sweats with students, I’m constantly asking, where is the weak link, the table mark?
Put Yourself in Profitable Situations
Every hand you play at a table filled with similarly skilled opponents is costing you money. It’s your duty as a winning poker player to put yourself in profitable situations as often as possible.
The next time you play, take a look around your tables. Check out the win rates of the players you’re seated with. Remember, we need one -8bb/100 player on average at each table just to cover the rake.
I’m not saying tougher player pools are unbeatable. I’m not advocating only ever playing against inferior players (although that would be lovely), but what I am saying is ask yourself if the slicker software and slightly faster cash outs worth sacrificing, possibly up to 6bb/100.
Here’s one final point to hopefully hammer it home. Imagine you’re a 3bb/100 winner on PokerStars $10nl zoom four tabling for a $3 hourly rate. Your variance is high, and you rarely have enough confidence to take a shot at the next limit up.
Now imagine you’re an 8bb/100 winner on a softer network like Party Poker, or even 888. Because the software is less slick or restricts your volume slightly, you may only be getting 700 hands per hour, but your hourly is now $4.90. That’s a 60% pay rise right there.
On top of the increased hourly, your variance is now lower, which gives you more self-belief and confidence to take a shot at the next limit.
I’m speaking from personal experience here and from the experience of seeing numerous players flourish after switching from PokerStars to a new site.
So, if you find yourself getting frustrated by poker, by high variance and low win rates, consider making a switch. You’ll have a nice new deposit bonus to work on clearing whilst you conduct the experiment, and the chances are, you’ll never look back.
As humans, we’re often afraid of change. We’re afraid to dare to believe we could turn poker into a side income or better. Don’t let those inhibitions hold you back. Go claim your share of the dead money on the smaller sites and networks.