Since my last blog post was about playing in the $10k WSOP main event, I thought today we’d take a look at the other end of the spectrum. Is there anything you can learn from 25 cent poker? The answer may surprise you.

Low stakes “fast fold” online poker is very popular internationally. The game that was pioneered as ‘Rush Poker’ on Full Tilt back in the day is Zoom on PokerStars, FastForward on PartyPoker etc. You get placed in a hand, in a random position and with a random set of opponents from the overall pool of players. You can fold immediately and see the next hand again in a random position with a new set of random opponents. It’s lightning fast and the format is extremely well suited for mobile devices.

What is striking about these games is that even at blinds as low as 25 cent / 50 cent the majority of players are extremely competent (even if not notably creative). In particular, their pre-flop fundimentals are very strong. There is almost no limping. Players are generally very tight but when they open it’s almost always for a raise. Bets are well sized by most players with appropriate adjustments made by position. The players defend their blinds with re-raises at reasonable frequencies. And for the most part the player pool has a good basic understanding of how hand ranges vary from one situation to the next.

Compare that to your local live game where pots are routinely over $1000. Most of the players in those live games have pre-flop fundamentals considerably worse than what you’d observe online in games where the pots are usually under $10. In fact, if this were not true of live games most pros would have quit poker long ago.

At first this may come as a surprise until you realize that live games are playing 40ish hands per hour while playing fast fold poker it is quite possible to see more than a thousand hands an hour if you are playing just 4 active tables (mentally exhausting but definitely doable). Also, the international reach means the games are accessible in places where a living wage might be substantially lower than what we are used to and alternative opportunities comparatively scarce. Those conditions could certainly motivate someone to grind 25 cent poker and having strong fundamentals allows them to beat the game (even if for a very small amount). Then the sheer volume allows them to turn this small edge into a living wage.

Even at these low stakes the games are full of competent professionals. The average live player would be well advised to learn a thing or two from these grinders especially as it pertains to pre-flop fundamentals.

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