Making the correct decisions and adhering to the proper ranges preflop helps you set the tone for all three streets of a poker hand. While making the right preflop decisions is critical, if you blow it on the flop it can be incredibly costly for you, especially if the hand makes it all the way to showdown. Any player can follow preflop charts, but many poker players, especially at the micro stakes, struggle to carry over sound fundamentals on the flop and beyond. In this latest piece of my How To Beat Online Micro Stakes Poker Tournaments series, I will cover how to properly exploit the online micro stakes poker tournament population on the flop.
Just like in the previous article of this series, put yourself in each spot I cover and consider what decisions you would make.
Micro Stakes Tournament Flop Strategy: Low Suited Connectors
It folds around to the button, who min-raises with 17 big blinds effective. Action is on you in the big blind and you are holding 3♣-2♣ with 35 big blinds effective.
Even though it may be a leak in online tournaments, I know a lot of my students make this call on a regular basis, so it’s a spot worth discussing!
When playing against short stacks heads-up, a good strategy is to call wide and get it in when you hit a big pair. Even though a paired three doesn’t really count as a “big pair”, it is okay to call wide and see what the flop provides.
Hitting the low flush draw on the flop, you check to your opponent, who executes a small continuation bet.
An important thing to remember about micro stakes players is that they raise with an extremely wide range when it folds around to them on the button. They will usually continuation bet regardless of what the board brings, but if the flop is hit-or-miss you can exploitatively check-raise them when you have the necessary equity.
On this 10♣-5♣-5♦ flop, it is unlikely your opponent hit anything. If you execute a check-raise, they may make a stubborn call with a hand like K-J offsuit. When they miss the turn, you can shove on them as you have the necessary equity even when your flush draw misses.
When you eventually move up, this play will likely not work as your opponents will be far more balanced with their flop decisions, but at the micro stakes this is a great exploit that can induce folds from short stacks.
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Micro Stakes Tournament Flop Strategy: Exploitative Folds
Following an UTG raise all-in for a tenth of a big blind, it folds to the cutoff who limps into the pot (they have been limping quite a bit). You look down at 5♣-5♦ in the small blind and execute a 2,000 raise. The cutoff makes the call.
Following your check out of position on the K♦-7♣-6♣ flop, the limper fires out a 2,200 bet.
Players who limp, especially at the micro stakes, are passive in nature. Passive players rarely bluff, even though you have some runner-runner potential this an easy fold as your opponent likely has you beat. Being able to recognize when your opponents are strong will not only benefit your chip stack, but it will also help your online poker bankroll.
Micro Stakes Tournament Flop Strategy: Multi-Way Pot
A loose aggressive player in early position min-raises as it folds around to you on the button with 30 big blinds effective. You call holding 10♥-9♥, and both the short stack in the small blind and the big blind call as well.
The flop comes 8♠-6♣-3♥, following a check from the small blind the big blind bets 2,700. Although it may be tempting to call with two overcards, a gutshot, and a runner-runner flush draw, note the short stack that has yet to act.
Micro stakes players love getting it all-in even when they barely connect with the board. Even with a hand like J-7 suited, the short stack may decide to put all of their virtual chips into the middle. If the big blind decides to call, or worse re-raise, you have put yourself in a terrible predicament.
In this hand, you are better off folding and conserving your chip stack.
Micro Stakes Tournament Flop Strategy: Responding To Pot-Sized Bets
Following a min-raise from under-the-gun (UTG), it folds around to you on the big blind and you call holding A♣-7♥.
The flop is J♠-7♠-6♠, you check and your opponent executes a pot-sized bet.
It is important to consider that not only did your opponent raise UTG, but they did so with almost half of the table having stack sizes small enough to three-bet all-in. Not only that, but on the monotone board they are willing to fire out a pot-sized bet.
When micro stakes players play like this, they make your flop decisions much easier. It is unlikely your opponent flopped a flush, but it is likely they have a strong overpair and want to scare away any potential draws or are purely betting big out of frustration.
Holding second pair and lacking the ace of spades, you have an easy fold.
Micro Stakes Tournament Flop Strategy: Facing Donk Bets
Folded to in the lojack, you min-raise holding A♣-10♦ and are called by only the small blind.
The flop comes K♣-9♣-3♣, and your opponent donk leads with a 750 bet.
Although the “donk lead” has become an implementable play in modern poker strategy, at the micro stakes players that donk lead are not doing so intuitively. On the flop, most players would check and let the preflop raiser fire. Rarely do micro stakes players donk lead with premium hands. When micro stakes players do lead out, they do so to “see where they are at” and potentially execute a low-risk bluff.
If we know the majority of the online micro stakes population does not donk lead with a premium hand, with A♣-10♦ on the K♣-9♣-3♣ flop, you are in a great spot to raise as a bluff. Even if you are behind and get called, one club gives you the nut flush, so don’t be afraid to charge your opponents when they donk lead.
Micro Stakes Tournament Flop Strategy: Considering Your Bet Sizes
First to act UTG, you look down at 10♥-10♣ and raise. Only the big blind calls.
The flop comes Q♠-T♠-4♥ and you hit a set. A great spot to bet, but for how much? While you do want to continuation bet small with the majority of your range as the preflop raiser, with this hand you should bet large.
When they flop premium hands, micro stakes players put a heavy emphasis on not scaring away their opponents. They want to get full value on all three streets, if they bet too big on the flop, they may miss out on getting all of their chips in by the river!
Even though you do want your opponent to call you all the way down when you have it, keep in mind the usual calling range of the online micro stakes population. Note: the online micro stakes population has a wide calling range on the flop. They will call with any pair, so bet big. Since the population is capable of calling a wide assortment of hands (like pairs), bet large with premium hands that dominate them.
While you will induce some folds making large these bets with premium hands, when you do get called you help add chips to a pot that will likely be coming your way.
Micro Stakes Tournament Flop Strategy: Take High Value Gambles
It folds around to you in the cutoff and you min-raise with Q♥-J♣. The big stack in the small blind three-bets 2,200, following a fold from the big blind you call.
The flop comes T♦-9♠-7♠ and the big stack leads out for 3,100.
While it may be tempting to just get it all in with your straight draw, you should raise 10,000. With two overcards and an open-ended straight draw, you are willing to play for all of your chips and want to do everything you can to induce your opponent to call or go all-in themselves.
A small raise with either induce a fold, draw a call, or inspire your opponent to go all-in, three outcomes you benefit from in some way. As opposed to just moving all-in, you can take a calculated risk while still potentially protecting your tournament life.
It is said that the flop is the most critical street within a hand of Texas Hold’Em. While the river may seem like the street to focus your poker study, you will see a lot for flops over the course of your poker career than rivers. Build off of the online micro stakes exploits I have highlighted in this article, and be sure to catch the next article of my online micro stakes series.