I have to say I am a little bit at a loss. I have been playing 1/2 NL ring games in casinos for quite some time now, and I am still struggling to make real headways. It seems that I can never raise enough to thin the field. So I always end up with several callers on the flop, which obviously makes it difficult from that point on for anything I want to try. Has anyone experienced the same problem and, if so, have you found a solution?
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You are far from alone. 1/2 casino games can be brutal - filled with tons of loose passive and loose aggressive players. Add in what is usually exorbitant rake and these games become even more challenging to turn a profit at.
I haven't played these games in a long time but I've been working with someone online who is experimenting with them. Trying to work through what seem to be inexplicable plays isn't easy. The best resource I've seen for beating these stakes live is from one of the Pros/Advisors to this site, James "SplitSuit" Sweeny. I'm happy to go over specific issues found at these stakes with you but I think you'd be really well served to go to his website and read everything 1st. Also look at the free videos he has on YouTube (ThePokerBank channel). Tons and tons of great info and won't cost you a penny to see them.
Also, there are many more resources about playing online micro stakes than live 1/2. It seems that the micro stakes games are fairly good analogs for live 1/2 casino/home games. I don't want to direct people to specific 3rd party resources because I'm not sure how this site would feel about that. I do feel ok just recommending a google search of micro-stakes NL strategy and you will find many reputable places to do your research on.
Hope this helps a little. The "schooling" phenomenon (1 flat followed by several more) in these stakes is very hard to deal with because you are playing every pot multiway. It requires you to shift your strategies from what we all think of as "standard poker", where you try to isolate to 1 or 2 opponents at most. If you can't get folds pre-flop without crazy raise sizes and creating hugely bloated pots, focus more on hand selection, position and post-flop play. If you have better hand selection by position and a post-flop skill edge in these games, you should do very well. Variance is huge and maybe isn't the most fun way to play but you can crush these games in the long run this way. It amazing that people will want to see a flop at any price but then fold to a puny bet on the flop if they haven't picked up nutted type hands (fit or fold players).
GL and please lmk if I can help in any way. I'm really quite happy to when I can and if I can't, I'm happy to try and point you to resources that can.
Great tips, thanks a lot! I've been trying to play tight aggressive with a solid hand selection and position conscious plays. But standard raises just don't work. It seems that if only one player calls, everyone else and their grandmothers will too. And then on the flop you'll see people call your bets with any top pair bad kicker. Anyway, I'll look into the resources you're mentioning and post back here if I make any headway.
You are welcome. You actually mentioned the most profitable players for us to face off against - the calling stations. In a decent game, you aren't getting 3 streets of value with JQ when you pair your J. You may get 2 but you probably are happy to get to showdown on the cheap side. With calling stations, they are going to pay your top pair off with absolutely garbage kickers because they played J3s (hey, they were suited). They may even call down 3 streets with any pocket pair, even if there are 3+ overcards on the board. They call and we love 'em for it.
Anyway, the trick to playing these people is to go for value - lots and lots of value. Size up a bit post flop when you have TP or better and fire until you meet resistance. You will lose your mind with the hands they will pay you off with. Sure, they will make weird 2 pairs sometimes and will hang on for dear life with any draw. If you are charging them enough to see cards, you are auto-profiting every time they call.
Lastly for now - do not do what I've seen many players try to do, bet these people off their hands trying to protect a pair. Why? You want them calling more than they should be, but at the price you set. Be cautious and aware of variance but every time they call against the odds, you win. Mostly you just have to not pay them off when they do hit their weird hands. So, take advantage of knowing the pot odds and charging them more than they should pay and limit how much you pay them off when they hit. They make up for a lot of their mistakes with implied odds from people who don't "listen" to their betting patterns and pay them off huge when they finally make a hand. They tend to let you know when they have your pair beat because all of a sudden they are betting back at you rather than just calling. You will almost certainly know when they make their flushes. Listen and take their only source of profits away from them.
Sry, 2 last things - c-betting and bluffing: c-betting as the initial raiser vs 1 or 2 opponents is pretty standard practice (though optimal frequencies and sizes have changed in recent years). C-betting without substantial equity into multi-way fields is a recipe for losing money. SplitSuit has some great videos addressing this. Bluffing calling stations is not going to work unless you pick really good spots and size-up. You can probably eliminate most of it from your game and be fine.
OK, really really the last thing - when you train here, the bot that gets my vote for #1 calling station is Stacy "the study" Miller. Play hands with her at the table and figure out how to get paid by her but not pay her off.