Beating the upper echelon of microstakes is actually quite a bit harder than the lower levels, though still not a challenge that can’t be overcome with a little work. One thing that you will first notice at .10/.25, often referred to as 25NL and .25/.50, known as 50NL, is the jump in aggression. This spike in aggressive play can be attributed to the amount of money now on the line. While you are not exactly playing high stakes poker, there is a legitimate amount of money to be made, especially at 50NL. Pots can often reach upwards of $200. The games at 25NL still tend to play a bit passively, but are definitely a jump from the lower limits in regards to skill.

25NL and 50NL are still not so difficult that you need to be analyzing plays beyond face value. Sure, there are going to be more and more good players as you move up in stakes, but that is only natural. The fact remains that pretty much anyone who wants to make money playing poker can beat these limits.

Now onto some basic strategy to beat 25NL and 50NL. Keep being aggressive, but begin to focus more on hand reading and thinking a step beyond your opponents. Your ability to pin your opponents down to a small range of hands will be vital. Use common sense and consider how they played their hand given the board, more times than not the most obvious hands are the ones they actually have.

Here is an example hand…

You are dealt XX (that is, your hand is irrelevant)

You raise preflop and two players call.

The flop comes 7c 8c As.

You continuation bet and get one caller.

The turn is 6c.

You bet again and are now raised. What do you do?

The answer is obvious assuming you do not have a straight or flush. Even if you had 7s7d and flopped a set, you can safely say that you are beat.

Lets think for a second. What hands will be raising you when the board puts out both straight and flush possibilities? Well, straights and flushes!

They will rarely be raising with AK, or even a two pair combination. Sometimes they may raise with AK or AQ, or maybe even bluff, but you are going for the best long term play, and that is to fold. Even if you are correct just 51% of the time you will be turning a profit.

Hand reading is really as simple as it seems at these limits, though it will get much more difficult as you move up in stakes. Hand reading is probably the best tool to improve at 25NL and 50NL. The other tool that you need to start developing (in addition to what you already know, of course) is the ability to make a fold.

In the hand we discussed we put our opponent on a hand that beats us. This will do us no good, however, if we can’t make the fold. Don’t convince yourself that you “Know he’s bluffing” or that “I’ll make my hand on the river.” By sticking around too long in situations like this you will get lucky once in a blue moon and burnt every other time. In one of Mike Matusow’s rants he was quoted as saying that “Internet players can’t fold”. Mikey may be a bit of a nut at times, but he was right with this assessment. He may play much higher stakes (well, maybe he is peddling .01/.02 now) but it is true that all good players need to learn to make good folds. The money you save today by making a solid fold will show in your profits tomorrow.