How to Avoid Spewing Money to Regs

spewing moneyMicro stakes poker can be extremely lucrative if you know how to play the game profitably, put in the hours, and ride out the bad runs to make it so. One of the main problems for beginners who are looking to practice and improve their bankroll is that they become instant targets for pros and regulars aiming to exploit weaker players. This is an unavoidable fact of poker. Edges are gained and livings are earned by making better decisions than other people. New players often find that they continually lose money to regs. This needn’t be the case.

Just as regs are looking to exploit newer and less experienced players, you should also be looking to do the same. It is not your business to go picking a fight with the online greats—players who have been ruling the micro stakes roost for years are not going to bow down to your bluff attempts just because you have the guts to try.

The first rule to stop spewing money to regs is to avoid them altogether. Don’t let pride stand in the way. Your win-rate and profits will come only from finding exploitable opponents, so you should be deliberately seeking a favorable fish-nit-reg ratio. Table selection is everything!

To avoid regs, you will need to know how to identify them. Your “heads up display,” or HUD, is your best friend here. It will quickly let you identify the best and worse players at the table. Players with very high percentage hand-ranges who are playing ridiculous amounts like 40% are usually spewing. Players with balanced stats who are active with basic poker moves, and who rarely open limp, are more likely to be refined regulars.

Aside from your HUD stats, you can also search for the number of tables a person is playing. If the player has only one table going, they are usually recreational, if they have 12-30+ they are nearly always a reg. Some players will block this search to stop you from gaining the information you need to identify them. These players can be searched for using poker ranking sites.

You should always be monitoring the state of play at the table. If a player seems to be intelligently and strategically tearing holes in the table, they might be worthy of your caution. However, you identify them, you should mark regs with a set color so that they can be easily spotted again. Over time, you will build up a portfolio of the players who regularly play at your stakes and you can seek out the tables that tend to have the best ratios.

Avoiding regs is easy if you play cash games. Once identified, simply leave the table and find some weaker opponents. There may also be occasions that you find yourself in a fairly soft cash table with just one or two regs. In this circumstance, it might be worth sticking it out to play the fish, but you should be prepared to leave if the regs start to ramp it up and dominate.

If you play tournaments, you may not always be able to avoid stronger players, as you can’t just get up and leave a table. You can still experiment and find tourneys and single multi-table SNGs that are generally weak. For example, if you play PokerStars, you may notice that the mid-stakes 18-man SNGs are saturated, but that the lower levels offer more donkeys for the taking.

If you are forced to play the regs, you must know how to limit the damage.

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To avoid spewing your money (and your edge) to regs, it helps to understand more about how they think. Not all regs are the same. In fact, each is different. Every professional poker player and every regular to grace the tables is a human being with their own knowledge, experience, and weaknesses. They are not to be feared, but to be respected as being extremely capable of making insightful plays that can cost you your bankroll. Dangerous regs are more aware of your stats, of your image, and of their own image, and will use all this information to make +EV decisions that grant them their living. They will mark weaker players as being highly exploitable, bully those who are too tight, and value plays those who tend to bluff too often. Yes, they take poker pretty seriously, so you better give them their dues.

The good news is you can use all this to your advantage if you know how. A reg tends to think deeply about hands and patterns, and has a more complex thought process that can make for some interesting spots. But the trick is not to force these plays; simply continue to play solid poker against the lesser players, and monitor the reg with more intensity to learn more about how they might exploit you, and equally how they might be exploited.

Though the real key is to individually monitor each reg, I can offer some advice that will help beginners to avoid major mistakes as well as capitalize on opportunities that arise.

The first piece of advice is not to start an ego competition. This is the absolute worst approach to dealing with a reg. You cannot shut them down by making completely erratic plays in the hope that they somehow will mark you as dangerous and leave you alone. You won’t gain control this way, and you won’t “outplay” them. Put your ego aside and DO NOT start over bluffing your air. Burn your 7-3, please.

Another key skill is to use your position wisely. Every professional knows the power of position at the poker table, and even the greatest players would have trouble against amateurs if they were forced to play out of position every hand. Avoid getting into any tough post-flop situations out of position by tightening your ranges, and loosen up in position.

Be aware that a reg will play back at you more than other players. If they sense that you are stealing their blinds, or raising too often, or trying to dominate with more hands than can feasibly be strong, they will make a stand. You must be prepared for this. If you are really new to the game, it is better to play more aggressively against the weaker players and leave the regulars with less room to play back and to out-skill you in post-flop.

At the same time, tightening up too much will make you easy pickings, especially if the reg is on your right and can play for your blinds. To counter this, you may have to make the occasional playback to show them that you won’t be their table target. Remember, if the reg is owning the table pre-flop, they usually aren’t looking to call off an all-in. But be wise, and pick your moment.

There are other moves that you can use against better players that are less appropriate for weaker ones. Regs are thinking players and should be treated as such. Just because a player is experienced, doesn’t mean they can negate hand strength, so peel off sensible value plays against regs. Play strong positional poker. If regs tend to c-moves and even follow up on the turn (which many do), you can take check-call and check-raise lines more often. If you must play aggressively or attempt bluffs to shut down strong opponents, do so with strong drawing hands so that you have a chance to hit your outs. A pre-flop reshove with 9-10s is better than a blind shove with 3,6o. Likewise, a shove with 9-7s on an 6,8,A suited flop makes for a better bluff than shoving air. Even if your opponent has A’s you still have a good chance of scooping the pot and shutting down the reg.

All in all, the advice here can be summarized quite neatly: avoid playing regs, if possible, instead opting for tables with weaker opponents who you can gain an edge over. If you do encounter them, avoid making outlandish plays or becoming too tight out of fear. If you do feel you understand an individual’s strategy, begin to make well-thought-out plays against them where appropriate.

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