After some recent discussion with a newer player who is struggling to find his way in the .10c 360-man games on PokerStars, I thought an article about how to approach these games might be well received. Having done a few live training reviews for PokerStarsSchool members in this exact format, I can say with confidence these games can be beat with only a moderate amount of skills. The “level of play” I saw in those reviews was akin to what one might expect in a play money game… a large portion of the field playing with no skill or logic, likely a combination of the stakes not being meaningful to them and there being many pure recreational players just looking to gamble and have fun. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, and it makes for easy money for the skilled players. But most skilled players won’t be playing this low a stake level.
So we are left with a fair mix of droolers, new players, and new aspiring students of the game trying to start building a bankroll from modest means. The more-than-questionable play of the field at large tends to frustrate the new students of the game however. One of the first things you learn as a beginner is about starting hands, playing tight aggressive, etc., and in this type of format you find most players aren’t adhering to any of these principles, and yet they seemingly get lucky with their trash hands and trash play. Rest assured, while bad players do get lucky sometimes on individual hands or in an individual tournament, these are not winning players, they are long term losers with no hope of turning a profit making many mistakes. So with all that said, what is a sound approach to attacking these games?
Before I get into that, I should clarify that I’m talking about any mtt player pool that is incredibly soft. 10c 360’s just happen to fall into that category with consistency, but these tips should apply to all games of a super soft nature. It may be a home game, charitable event, or bar league. It may be a $40 daily at a local casino. Or a micro MTT online. I’m going to break this down into “stages”, which will make sense as I describe below. There’s no specific line in the sand where the mtt moves from one stage to the next… you will have to estimate based on the play you see when you’ve transitioned.
At the start of the event, your player pool is filled with weak fish and raw, unskilled players. The most common mistake these players make is calling too much… they call when they should fold, and they call when they should raise.
- Play a disciplined preflop game. This doesn’t mean wait for KK+… although the crazy tight players will no doubt be profitable in these stages, you can do better. Take flops liberally in late position when it’s cheap to do so (a small % of your stack), don’t put a lot of money in pre without a big hand however.
- Increase bet sizings when value betting. When we are betting expecting to be called by worse, and they WILL be calling with many poor hands, increase the sizing from whatever you might do in a normal environment. Case in point, the newer player mentioned at the beginning opened a premium pair to 4x over a limper. He was following the basic guideline of 3x + 1x for every limper. This is not a cookbook recipe or rigid rule set however, merely a starting point from which you can adjust up or down if the reasons make sense. In this field, they will call liberally with inadequate hand values, go ahead and charge them a premium for their spewing. I would have raised to 6x minimum in his spot.
- Decrease bluff bet sizings to zero. Yes, that’s just a cute way of saying don’t bluff now. As always, this is not a rigid rule, but if you never actually bluffed at all in this stage you won’t be too far off. It’s silly to try and bluff players who call down with 4th pair. It makes much more sense to widen the range of hands with which you value bet, and increase the value bet sizing’s, to exploit their nonsense play.
- Don’t slow play monsters. Flopped the nut flush did you? Very nice! Now bet your hand. These players tend to call too much as their favorite mistake; don’t let betting rounds dissipate with little or no chips going in the middle. Give them opportunities to make their favorite mistake early and often when you hold the goods.
This part occurs somewhere close to and into the money, but before the final table/big pay jumps hit. The remaining pool of players will now have changed drastically from the start of the event, and your play should adapt, as well.
- Look for opportunities to bluff. What’s left now is a player grouping comprised largely of tight/conservative players who’s big hands held up, and a few loose fish who got lucky in the right spots and didn’t bust yet. Because the skill level of the tighter players at these stakes will rarely be good (they’re just tight fish), they make prime bluff targets. They will often have medium to short stacks, and be holding on desperately waiting for a premium hand or to hit a flop well. Once you identify who these players are, don’t be afraid to apply some pressure to them.
- Keep value betting hard against the loose fish who have luckboxed to this stage with a stack.
This is the final couple tables up until the end.
- Steal blinds/antes relentlessly from the tight fish. Those nits got here by patience and luck, catching some good hands and having them hold up. They are unlikely to change their ways now. They will fold too frequently and not defend wide enough. Look for opportunities to exploit that.
- Learn push/fold ranges. Inevitably you’ll be in mostly short stack situations, either yourself or opponents. Understanding good push/fold ranges will help you close the deal more often than your opponents. This is the one area of focus that you’ll need work on learning as it will serve you in all sng and mtt formats and at all stakes. But especially now, in the end game of a micro mtt… having basic knowledge about this or even a push/fold chart to refer to, will set you ahead of the rest.
- Learn ICM. How your ranges should change when there are significant pay jumps is not an easy or quick study. Start thinking about it anyway… you won’t need a high level of understanding around ICM to give yourself an edge over the competition, who likely know nothing about it.
If these last two points sound like they are not a quick implementation at the tables, that’s because they aren’t… it will take some time, study, practice, etc to get comfortable within these concepts. But even in the early stages of that process, you’ll already be ahead of your fishy friends in these games. And the tougher stuff doesn’t come into play in these loose fish-fests until the end game anyway. If you’re struggling with super soft field mtt’s, try this approach for a while. Your results just may end up thanking you in the long run.
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