Hi guys and gals! Today I'm starting a series of articles for total beginners. Hopefully you'll find them interesting and/or useful.

The ABC of 2NL Building Blocks

My aim with the following series of articles is to provide a relatively low-variance strategy for profitable play at the lowest stakes. This strategy is designed for full ring 2NL games (1c/2c blinds) with a 100bb buy-in, but will also be relevant for 6-max players, and also the first few levels of tournaments (before stacks are relatively short in relation to the blinds).

Who this guide is aimed at:

* Complete novices, who know the hand rankings (e.g. flush beats a straight) and may have played some friendly home games, or tried out play money tables, but want to venture into real money cash games.
 * Current 2NL players that know the basics, but are either losing money, or barely breaking even.
* 2NL players that are beating the rake, but struggle against good regs, and may have many exploitable leaks that cause them to lose money at 5NL+.

How am I qualified to give advice?

I don't claim to be the greatest player in the world. I'm not a 20-tabling grinder, or even one of the biggest nanostakes winners. I'll freely admit that I'm not completely crushing the game. I'm merely a profitable recreational player that's learned a few tricks, and now wants to share them with the next generation. To be frank, I'm probably a better “coach” than a player, because I'm better at explaining concepts in words, than actually putting them into practice on the poker table.
I've played about 140,000 hands of 2NL (inc. Zoom and 6max) with a decent winrate, so I certainly have something in my favour: experience of just how 2NL plays today. I've become adept at spotting the common mistakes that are made at this level, and I've certainly made them myself. I'll help you to identify and fix such leaks, but also give you advice on how to exploit the mistakes made by your opponents. With this guide, you should be able to earn as you learn.

I can't guarantee you'll make money and swiftly move up the levels if you follow this guide, but I believe that anyone of average intelligence could study this series of articles and end up with a graph a bit like this one:

98k hands of FR 2NL graph

This graph covers just about every hand I've ever played on regular (non-zoom) full ring 2NL tables, which is a total of 98,043 hands. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed there are two lines plotted on the graph. I'll explain what the lines mean below, but first I want to note the three main phases of my poker evolution.
1. First 20k hands: Clueless newbie with some rungood, but also the typical variance (up- and down-swings) of a loose player that chases every draw without good odds and sometimes gets lucky.
2. 20k-40k: Joined a forum and adopted a nitty mid-stacking style to at least mitigate the losses. I used a buy-in of 60bb for a while, but it didn't produce a great winrate. Around 30,000 hands into my “career”, I invested in a HUD and found out just how loose/passive I'd been playing. As I studied more and learned to utilize stats to make reads, I grew in confidence and started having fewer losing sessions, so went from flat-lining to steady profits.
3. 40k+: With a $50 profit, I was fairly sure I could beat the game in the long run, but I needed to study hard. My winrate started soaring at around the 45k mark, partly because I went on a sick heater, but also because I was improving my hand-reading, and gradually increasing my buy-in up to the full 100bb to win bigger pots. It hasn't all been plain sailing since then, however. Despite my poker knowledge constantly growing, I've experienced some looooong break-even spells and a brutal down-swing (partly bad beats, partly tilt-spew) that made me quit for a month, as poker had simply stopped being fun. Towards the end of this graph, I rediscovered PSO, remembered I was pretty good at this game, and started winning again.

Why are there two lines on the graph?

My net profit over this 98,000 hand sample is shown by the green line. It's approximately $176. The orange line represents what my net winnings would be if I won my “fair share” of equity in pots when there was an all in push and a call. It's an indicator of how lucky I've been in races. As you can see, I've run well below EV for my 98k hands of FR 2NL. If I'd been “averagely lucky”, I'd have an extra $60 (30 whole buy-ins!) in my bankroll. Most of that money went to random luckboxes that sucked out!
There's nothing I can do about my luck in called all in situations. It's just variance and I try to remain focused on making good decisions, even when losing to a string of bad beats. Most players have an EV$ line that's much closer to their Net$ line, but so far I've been one of poker's unluckier players. Maybe there's someone reading this who has won 30 buy-ins more than expected over a similar sample size. You owe me, bro!
Using the green line and orange line totals, we can calculate that my net winrate was 9bb/100 (big blinds per 100 hands), and my “EV adjusted” winrate (which is probably a truer reflection of my skills, since it represents how much I'd win if I'd had “average luck”) was 12bb/100.

If you follow the strategy I outline in future instalments of this guide, while also getting involved in hand analysis forums, I'm fairly sure you can win at a rate of at least 5bb/100. Indeed, you may even crush that figure.

In future articles, I'll give advice on:

* The fundamental gameplan.
* Pre-flop strategy, with a focus on careful hand selection and position.
* Categorizing opponents and putting them on ranges.
* Continuation betting.
* Set-mining.
* Betting and raising for maximum value.
* Common leaks: How to fix your own and exploit others'.
* Tools (including HUDs/trackers) for improving your skills, both on and off the table.
* Range manipulation (aka Why you shouldn't always 3-bet w/ AK or QQ).
* A whole load of other stuff I still need to organise.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please post them, but note that I'm more likely to see and answer them in my blog thread on the forum HERE.