Enjoy Online Poker at Low Stakes with this Detailed Guide
You don’t need to be a high roller to enjoy online poker. In fact, there are more cash games and tournaments available at the lowest stakes than big buy-in games. This guide takes you through everything you know to get the best from low limit poker sites – including a strategy overview for the different game formats.
Here is what you will find below:
In a live casino, the smallest stakes poker games are $1 / $2 – with a buy-in of $200. When you go online, you’ll find the games start a lot lower than this. Almost every online poker site will have games with 1c / 2c blinds. Your maximum buy-in for these is $2, though you do not always need a full stack. As you can imagine, play is loose and wild at these levels – making the games easy to beat.
If the penny games are too small for you, there are always options to play ‘bigger’. Cash games have buy-ins at $5, $10, $25, $50 and up from there to the high stakes. You’ll find that the standard of play dramatically improves at 10c / 25c blinds and above. This is the smallest level that multi-tabling grinders use to generate an income.
Tournaments start with buy-ins at 50c to $1. Those games often attract large fields of recreational players. To win in those games you’ll need to survive a lot of bad beats. Low limit tournaments are available anywhere between $2 and $10. Above this level you will find players who sit in a lot of games and have a decent level of strategy knowledge.
For the purposes of this guide to small buy-in tournament poker rooms, I’ll cover deposits between $10 and $50.
Getting started with online poker is easy, even with the smallest bankrolls. While there are a lot of benefits to starting small, there are also some drawbacks. Here is what to look out for:
Cash games describes the poker format where the chips in front of you have a real monetary value. If you win a $10 pot, then your bankroll increases by exactly this amount. There are 4 main formats for these games at almost every poker site:
All poker sites have a huge choice of games at these limits. They are characterized by loose, passive play, with a lot of players seeing each flop. With only small amounts of money at stake, players are reluctant to fold. If someone connects with the flop even slightly, or has a draw, you can expect them to call bets all the way to the river.
Strategy for beating these games is simple. You’ll get an immediate edge on the field simply by playing fewer hands. By folding more often, you will have a card strength advantage when you do get pots. Avoiding the ‘passive’ (limping and calling) style – and playing your good hands aggressively will win you the money. Add to this awareness of playing in position – and your edge will be magnified.
Low limit cash games are high-variance. With so many opponents calling bets with marginal holdings, there is always the risk someone will ‘catch up’. Keep in mind that this style of play will lose them money over the long-run. As long as you stick to solid ‘ABC Poker’, you will profit over time.
The smallest buy-in poker tournaments are free. Known as ‘freerolls’, these games are used as promotions or loyalty rewards. At the bigger sites, you’ll be battling with 1000’s of opponents for some real money prizes. Fields in these are a mix of people who simply don’t care (going all in every hand), and players with little idea of poker strategy. Getting to the money is tough, as you’ll have to survive spots where opponents playing any two cards hit unlikely flops!
While there is a jump in the number of players who take the game seriously once you get to tournaments with real money buy-ins, the standard is still poor. Loose, wild players in the early stages create a dilemma. Playing against them is risky, as you never know what hand they might turn up with. At the same time, if you don’t take their chips, you’ll have to fight for them in pots with better players during the later stages.
Again, simple, solid ‘ABC Poker’ will win over time. Play better hands (on average) than your opponents – and play them aggressively from position. You need to build a stack, as the profit from tournaments comes from those times you hit the final table. Playing overly tight to get into the money is not a profitable strategy over time.
There are a lot of tournament formats to choose from at the lower limits. These include rebuys, turbo games and tournaments where each player has a bounty – awarded to whichever player knocks them out. I recommend checking out satellite qualifiers. These start from just a few dollars, and have prizes of tickets to bigger buy-in tournaments.
Sit N Goes are a great way to build your small deposit into a bigger bankroll. The most popular format is a 1-table tournament. 3 players get paid, with the winner getting 50% of the prize pool. Strategy for these is different to a multi-table tournament. You’ll need to stay tight earl – and learn the math for the all-in or fold strategy when only one or two players need to be eliminated before the cash.
Lottery Sit N Goes are a fast and enjoyable variation. These games allow low-limit players to win big prizes. The key feature is random prize pools, which are decided after the game starts. The exact format varies from site to site, though 3 handed and super-fast blinds is the common theme. It is possible to win 10,000x your buy-in via these games.
It is not just Texas Hold’em that can be enjoyed for a small buy-in. Omaha poker variations are rising in popularity. These games have 4 hole-cards instead of 2. You can play ‘Pot Limit Omaha’, Omaha Hi-lo or even exotic 5 and 6 card variations. Blinds start at just 1c / 2c – making these games accessible to even the smallest bankrolls.
If you are only depositing small amounts, you will not want to pay fees (which could take up a large percentage of your bankroll). In general, the smallest amount you can deposit is between $10 and $20. This will depend on the site, and the method you choose to deposit with. I recommend you check the bonus terms before you make a payment. You might find that adding a small amount to your deposit gets you extra benefits like tournament entries or matched welcome deals.
US players can deposit with Visa or MasterCard credit cards, prepaid Visa cards, Bitcoin or money transfers (for example MoneyGram). If you are outside the US, there are many more options available. These include PayPal, Skrill, Neteller, local bank transfers and virtual visa cards.
The guide to small deposit poker sites here at GambleOnline.co has details of these options.
Every player likes to make sure that the poker room they deposit at is safe before parting with money. Fortunately, there are a lot of options out there with rooms which have been running for many years – and looking after players fairly and responsibly.
Poker rooms have a big interest in maintaining their reputation for fairness. Once this has gone, the poker playing community will soon move elsewhere. You will find reviews of the biggest and best brands here. For US players, I recommend you check out Bovada Poker or BetOnline – both sites have been running for years and are known for fast pay-outs.
International players have a huge choice. This includes many rooms which were around since the beginning of online poker and have remained scandal-free throughout. Party Poker, 888 Poker and Bet365 all have big brand respect – and welcome low-limit players to their rooms.
Enjoying online poker does not need a huge bankroll. Games start with blinds at penny-levels, and tournaments at less than $1. The low standard of play, and lack of strategy knowledge of your opponents at these levels means you should be able to beat the games. Keep in mind that the loose / passive style (and many opponents seeing each flop) can be frustrating – especially when a bad player gets lucky and hits that miracle river.
With solid, aggressive play, and a view to the long term – you could be moving up to the bigger buy-ins before you know it!