7 Tips For Playing With Small Stakes

1. Be in it for the long haul

If you are playing in the large-field, small stakes tournaments you should know that you might be in for a long session. You could be playing through the night, so make sure you settle yourself and consider work and family commitments.

2. Expect the unexpected and maintain your bankroll accordingly

Small stakes tournaments can attract 1000s of players, so there is going to be a good deal of variance and ‘unorthodoxy’ regarding style and ability. You are likely to be up against a load of lesser skilled recreational players and, although this is good in the long run, they can be unpredictable. To mitigate this uncertainty you need to make sure that you are working with a good bankroll to buy-in ratio (x 200 +) to ensure that you don’t get short.

3. Don’t worry about ‘being read.’

In the big-field games, you don’t have to be quite so concerned about your style of play as you would be playing against fewer more skilled players. It is unlikely that you will play the same player twice, so people are not going to get the chance to clock your patterns of play. Going out of your way to balance your style, by varying your bets and actions to avoid ‘being read,’ is not worth the effort in these scenarios.

4. Follow the KISS principle

Keep It Simple and Straightforward, otherwise known as Keep It Simple Stupid, is a good principle to play by in small stakes tournaments. Generally speaking, you don’t need to waste your energy on elaborate bluffs. Your opponents in this arena care are much more about what cards they have in their hands than they do about what you’re holding. The additional bonus of this is that they often don’t pay attention to the mistakes of others, especially if they are out of hand, and even if they do, they may not know how to exploit them.

5. Bet your strong hands to the max

With all the above in mind, make sure that you get the most out of your made hands. In the low stakes games, you can afford to bet to the max and your average recreational player will be happy to call your bets, so take advantage of this when you have a strong hand.

6. Watch out for the mistakes of your opponents and exploit them

Because many recreational players will have a poor understanding of basic poker strategy, you should learn to recognise these players and their mistakes and how to use them to your advantage.

You’ll know if your opponents are too passive if they limp in or call with easily dominated hands in early position and they don’t get enough value from strong hands, thereby letting you off the hook cheaply. They may tend not to bluff very often so you can take their raises at face value.

You’ll also notice an unpredictable range of hands from them and struggle to find any logic in the hands that they play after the flop, regardless of position.

7. Recognise when you are on tilt and learn how to deal with it

The term itself comes from the ‘Tilt’ sign that lit up on old pinball tables when players tried to shove or raise the machine itself to keep the ball in play. Tilt meant that the game was over and you would need more money to continue play.
In poker, it refers to the frustrated or angry emotional state of a player, due to losing or big pot or multiple hands or the ‘chat’ of another player. A player on tilt plays emotionally rather than rationally, and we all know that this can be devastating for your bankroll. And in the small stakes, large-field environment, where play can be frustratingly unpredictable, you have to stay calm.

It is not about making mistakes when you don’t know any better, and it is about letting your emotions rule your decisions. When you know you are doing this when you are conscious that you are making bad decisions but you keep doing it anyway, stop playing.