PokerStars homepage
  • If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.



Prizepool Madness Freeroll

Prizepool Madness Freeroll

On March 31st, the Prizepool Madness Freeroll will take place. The current prize pool is a hefty $10,000, but with your help we will grow this. Can we count on you?

See more
See less

Smokin' Poker - The ABC of 2NL

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Smokin' Poker - The ABC of 2NL

    11 November 2012


    I'm Arty, a British guy that's been donking around at the lowest stakes for about 15 months on 3 poker networks. (I'm a bonus whore, so sue me!)

    I've played just over 100,000 hands of NLH cash, mostly on 2NL tables, with a fair bit of success (especially on rival sites to Pokerstars, as they are a fair bit softer), but I have no illusions about becoming a full-time poker pro. I'm a recreational player. I play poker for the same reason I play chess and Scrabble; a fun way to keep my brain occupied. It's nice that I can win a bit of pocket money playing a game, but I find it too stressful when the money at risk becomes "meaningful", so I'm sticking to stakes below 10NL and tourneys with buyins of less than 2 dollars. (I'm prone to anxiety/depression in normal life, so a career in poker would not be wise for me. I get too tilted by the bad beats!)

    I recently came back to Pokerstars for 3 main reasons:

    1. The software is so much better than the junk offered by rivals.

    2. I had a few hundred FPPs sitting in my account that could be used for tourney buy-ins.

    3. I wanted to transition to tournaments instead of cash, and Pokerstars simply has so many more tourneys running than other sites. (The tourney traffic on some sites is abysmal, presumably because the rake at the lowest stakes is just about unbeatable.)

    So I'm back on Stars, playing 2-3 hours a day. I've got lots to learn about tournament strategy (it's quite a different beast to cash games) but PSO seems to have some excellent free training videos. At the moment, I'm mostly playing 25c Sit n Gos (45 and 90-player), 10c MTTs and a few freerolls (including the 10 FPP and 20 FPP turbos) too. I've not been running too well, and I've not yet played enough games to have any idea which game will give me the best return on investment. The variance is pretty brutal in MTTs, I've found. I've also recognised that my nitty style doesn't work so well in turbo structures, so I'm either going to have to adapt, or just save my money for the deeper stacked tourneys with slow structures like the 55c MTT that runs at 9am and midnight (UK time).

    I guess that's all you need to know for now. I'm actually trying to spend less time blogging and posting on forums, and more time studying/playing, as I was totally addicted to the 2+2 forum and had to ban myself from it, but I'm sure you'll see my avatar popping up from time to time, either here on PSO or on the microstakes tables.

    Bracelet Winner

  • #2

    This review is about part 5 of Grayson 'Spacegravy' Physioc's series of videos for beginning Sit n Go players, which you can find here:
    It deals specifically with the final part of the tourney: The heads up battle.

    This video's great because... it directly led me to turn a 25c investment into $3.23, despite very little previous experience.
    Coming from a full ring cash game background where patiently playing a tight ABC style is profitable in the long run, I had almost no heads up experience until recently, and I'd not played many tournaments either. Grayson's series has been a great primer for me, but this episode is particularly brilliant. In 51 minutes, Spacegravy identifies the biggest mistake that beginners make in heads up games (not playing enough hands) and then offers a strategy for how to dominate the game.

    As a cash game nit, I'm used to folding hands like KJ and AT pre-flop, but I know these hands are monsters heads up. What I didn't quite realise is that all sorts of other much weaker hands that I previously considered instafolds suddenly become RAISING hands when heads up in a SnG with short stacks. Grayson says we should be raising up to 80% of all the hands on the button when heads up, and we should also be raising most of the time when our opponent limps in the SB. I was skeptical at first, but the day after watching this video, I made it to heads up in a 45-player SnG, and decided to LAG it up when the villain and I had about 25bb each. I was AMAZED at how often villain folded. Hands like 87o on the button were easy raises. Villain was just giving his chips away. When he raised, I knew he had at least an ace or a pair, so I could then fold my junk.
    When I play full ring cash, my VPIP/PFR stats on my HUD are usually around 14/10. In the SnG I played after watching this video, the large number of HU hands I played meant my stats were 74/70 when I finally won.
    Grayson plays a clip of a real game to show his strategy in action. He points out that it looks weird to raise hands like T3s, but when his opponent folds so often, it's clear that it's a profitable move. The video also shows that after raising hands like 86o, it's perfectly fine to c-bet dry flops, especially when they are ace high, as villain will rarely bluff-raise or float. He'll just give it up if he doesn't connect. Heads up against weak tight opponents, c-betting is like printing money. With certain hands (big aces and kings, medium pairs or better), you can use Grayson's push chart featured in videos from early in the series. If you've min-raised a hand like A9, A6s, or 88, and villain 3-bets, but stacks are only 10bb, it's stack off time. You can't fold after committing a fifth of your chips. Sometimes you'll be dominated, but even then you have a chance to suck out. With slightly larger stacks (relative to the blinds) limping is sometimes appropriate. It allows you to fold if villain raises to represent a monster.
    Grayson fails to win the heads up battle in his video, but his advice is absolutely golden. Anyone just starting out in SnGs (especially HU SNGs) needs to watch it immediately. Just don't get too good! I want my competition in the microstakes SnGs to remain soft!

    Bracelet Winner


    • #3

      Hi guys and gals!

      This is my first blog since joining PSO as a hand analyzer, so I first want to give thanks to the team for the invitation. I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into when I took up the offer, but Dave (TheLangolier), John (JWK24) and Brian (TOO2COO) in particular have made me feel very welcome. The whole team is friendly and supportive, so I hope I can live up to expectations without treading on too many toes or making many mistakes.

      It's only since joining the team that I've realised quite how much PSO has to offer its members. The forum, training sessions and video archive are already helping me to improve my game, and there's loads of new content being created every week. Added to these is something I can't recommend enough: The PSO HOME GAMES. I joined the club a few months ago, but never bothered investigating the home games. In the last week, though, I played some of the March Mayhem tournaments, in both real money (minimal buy-ins) and play money formats. I'm nowhere on the league tables, but that's not my main motivation. The home games are just brilliant FUN! Everyone's friendly and laid back, and the level of play is actually pretty good (no bingo-players), so you can develop reads on players, put them on a hand/range, or try the occasional bluff. I'm also happy to discuss strategy while playing some of the hands; explaining why I'm raising almost every button when it's three-handed, or advising a short-stack on the types of hand they should consider going all in with.
      The sense of community in the HGs is great. Normally playing poker I feel quite isolated, and when I'm in a big tournament I feel like everyone is out to get me. It's "kill or be killed". In the home games, it's different. These guys are your friends, and when you say "Nice hand" or "Good luck in the Micro Millions!", you actually mean it. Well, I do, anyway.
      Most of the March Mayhem games have had small fields, and you'll see the same guys again and again, but this isn't a clique. I urge everyone to get involved. We don't bite. You could play a few games for little or no outlay, improve your strategy or test out some new tactics you've just learned from a training session, and still leave with a smile when you bust out on the bubbble. So come and say hello. I'm certain you'll find it a positive experience.

      Now a little bit about my current playing habits. I'm still grinding some cash games on another network, but I'm transitioning to tourneys (mainly 45- and 90-player SnGs) on Stars, with a plan to increase my volume (and buy-in level) when I'm bit more organised and have transferred some money into my Stars account. When I started in the 25c games, I had a pretty bad run. The results were much worse than I expected. I think it was mainly variance, but I've also tweaked my game recently (switching from cash to tourneys certainly requires some important adjustments) and the results are turning around very nicely. I'd thought for a while that I was better than 99% of the opponents I came across, and now a results-tracking site seems to agree with my assessment of my skills.

      5 star rating

      The sample size is laughably small (seriously, it's almost meaningless), so I definitely need to increase my volume, but I also need to do more post-game analysis, as complacency could send me to Bustoville in a hurry. Nevertheless, I'm feeling pretty confident about my game at the moment.

      In the future, if time allows and there's some demand for it, I plan to write a series of articles for total beginners to cash games, as that's what I have most experience in and I feel I can give something back to the PSO community. The series will be something like '2NL for Dummies', and provide a step-by-step guide to playing fundamentamentally solid cash games at the lowest level. I firmly believe anyone of average intelligence can make money in the microstakes if they build on sound foundations, and I'd get a buzz out of helping them to get started on the road to profit. So if you're interested in something of that nature, hit SUBSCRIBE above and I'll start working on it when the demand is there and I have the time.

      Till then, good luck at the tables!

      Bracelet Winner


      • #4
        Impressive (albeit skewed) results It's certainly been useful having you on board as an extra hand analyzer! Since trawling the HA forums on a regular basis I know my cash game has remarkably improved, from marginally winning 2NL to completely crushing it. I didn't find my first home game a positive experience, but I've got myself to blame for that one (fatigue, lapse of judgement, stupid bubble). Just a shame that none are on at good times for me. Would completely recommend for those of you living in Europe.


        • #5
          Hey Arty, nice blog brother and congrats on the position too Never knew about the PSO Home Game Community so I will definitely applying. I can sympathize with you when you say "Kill or be killed". I am always getting killed out there!


          • #6
            I'm looking forward to reading more Arty! I just subscribed to your blog


            • #7

              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.

              Bracelet Winner


              • #8
                Great idea and a really valuable present to the community. I admire this commitment of yours, Arty. Thanks and congrats


                • #9
                  Nice intro Arty, can't wait for part 2.
                  I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught. ~Winston Churchill

                  13 Time Bracelet Winner


                  • #10
                    Sounds good, i am looking forward to learning a couple things from you about the cashgame.


                    • #11
                      That's quite an ambitious undertaking, I admire your willingness to put this much effort into sharing your knowledge! I wonder about your statement that this would also relate to 6-max or beginning stages of tournaments. There's definitely lots of areas of overlap, but there's also a lot of difference in those games. Good luck to you in this project. I'll be following along.


                      • #12
                        Awesome blog series Arty! Looking forward to the rest of it. It always great to see fellow PSO'ers going out of their way to make this site an even more valuable place to spend some of our time.


                        • #13
                          This is a great thing you are doing.


                          • #14

                            Poker takes a few minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. But this is not to say that you can't make money as a total beginner, because when you start at the lowest stakes, you won't find many experts.
                            Each time we make a decision at the table - be it call, bet, raise, or fold - we weigh up the pros and cons of each action, in order to either maximise our gains, or minimise our losses. We want to take actions that have a positive expectation (profit), and avoid ones with a negative expectation (losses). Consciously or subconsciously, we use estimates of mathematical probabilities to make our decisions. We might make a decision to fold because “He probably has me beat”, or we might raise because “I think I have the best hand and he will probably call with worse”. Sometimes we're fairly sure we're behind, but we will call a bet because “There is a decent probability I will hit my flush, and win villain's stack”. Math can be a little scary, but you really don't need to be able to do complicated calculations at the table. Indeed, in this course, I'll be encouraging you to play a style that avoids tricky spots where your expectations are unclear.

                            Since poker is a game of incomplete information (we don't know our opponents' exact hole cards, or how they happen to feel about them) it is impossible to calculate the perfect bet-size to use each time you are faced with a decision. All we can do is see how our hole cards connect with the board, compare them with the likely holdings (the “range”) of an opponent and proceed accordingly. When we believe our relative hand-strength is stronger than villain's likely range of hand strengths, we will want to build a pot to maximise our expectation. If villain is likely to have a stronger range than us, and we don't have much chance to improve - or a cheap price to do so - we will usually get out of the pot to minimise our losses.

                            The fundamental idea for beating 2NL is as simple as this: We will bet and raise when we think we are ahead, and we will fold when we have reason to believe we are not.

                            Making money in poker in the long run isn't quite as simple as just value-betting our strong hands and folding our weaker ones, but that is the main strategy at 2NL. I'll write more on value-betting in my next article.

                            David Sklansky's Fundamental Theorem of Poker uses some complex verbiage that uses game theory to describe how we make a profit with poker, but it could perhaps be distilled down to the following sentence:
                            We make money at the poker table by making fewer – and smaller – mistakes than our opponents.
                            Everyone makes mistakes at 2NL. I'm not a automaton playing perfect poker and I don't expect my readers to be so. During a particularly good session, there might be hands where I could have squeaked out a bit more value, or situations where I should have found a fold on the turn rather than the river. I can beat the game comfortably, however, because most of my opponents make much bigger mistakes than I do and they make them more frequently.

                            At 2NL, your opponents will make many mistakes, ranging from small errors like limping pre-flop with a ragged ace, or calling 1c in the small blind with a suited connector, to BIG mistakes like calling river shoves on a wet board with just one pair.
                            The most obvious and common mistakes that 2NL players make are:

                            * Calling too often, both pre-flop and post-flop, with weak hands.
                            * Betting too small with their strong hands.
                            * Over-valuing their medium-strength hands.
                            * Chasing draws without the odds to do so.

                            If we want to make money, we will not make these mistakes.

                            An article detailing the most common leaks I see at 2NL is coming up soon. Hopefully you'll recognise a few of your mistakes and immediately stop making them.

                            But now it's time for our gameplan; a straightforward approach to beating the game.

                            * We will play only a couple of tables at once, so we can develop reads and take notes without being pressured to make quick decisions when we're involved in a hand.
                            * We will not play when we are tilted, tired, or feeling unwell, because our decision-making process will be compromised.
                            * We will play a tight range of starting hands that is stronger than that of an average 2NL villain.
                            * We will avoid playing out of position and without the initiative wherever possible, by playing very snug in early positions and the blinds, and by usually entering the pot with a raise, not a call.
                            * If we feel that we are being out-played by tough opponents, we will find a softer table, in order that we have a definite edge over at least one player.
                            * We will bet for value when we connect with the board.
                            * If we miss the flop, we shall make a continuation bet when appropriate. (An article on c-betting is coming up in a few weeks).
                            * We will rarely slowplay or get fancy with our monster hands, because we could miss value, face tricky decisions on later streets, or allow the villain to draw out cheaply.
                            * Other than c-betting, we will rarely bluff.
                            * If we face a tough decision, we will be more inclined to fold than call/raise, and after the session we will post the hand history in the PSO forum for advice.
                            * We will accept that luck plays a role in poker. We cannot control our luck, so we will focus on making correct decisions.
                            * We will take bad beats and suckouts with good grace, knowing that we will make money in the long run by making better decisions than our opponents.

                            Some of the points above are also mentioned in Roland GTX's excellent forum post HERE.

                            In the next article, I'll have more on value-betting, with a graph showing that having the best hand at showdown is crucial to beating 2NL.

                            Questions and comments are welcomed, as usual.


                            Bracelet Winner


                            • #15
                              Nice one Arty.
                              I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught. ~Winston Churchill

                              13 Time Bracelet Winner



                              X Cookies Information

                              We have placed cookies on your computer to improve your experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.