POKER TIPS & STRATEGY

Mastering Micro-Stakes Poker: How to Turn Pennies into Real Money

By David Huber
May 23, 2023

Although high profile poker games typically focus on high stakes events, playing poker for a very low monetary amount (i.e., micro-stakes) remains popular among a large number of casual enthusiasts.

Micro-stakes poker games are almost always found online, via large scale sites that have been in operation for a decade or more. In fact, it’s not uncommon for online poker rooms to offer “penny” cash games, or even tournaments that have a buy-in as low as $0.01.

These games may not technically qualify as poker freerolls per-se, but they are some of the “easiest” competition that may increase the chances for someone with a very modest bankroll (of $10-25) to double their money or even turn their original deposit into hundreds of dollars!

In this article, we’ll look at micro stakes poker, why it’s popular, and how these games often facilitate a great opportunity for casual players to learn the ropes, minimize monetary risk, and even increase their poker bankroll.

microstakes poker pennies machine

Can You Really Play Poker Online For Pennies?

In a word, Yes!

Online poker sites like PokerStars, partypoker, and other sites that have a very large player base can attract an enormous amount of players to participate in their micro stakes poker games – from all walks of the world.

Back in 2018, PokerStars achieved a feat that would have been unimaginable during the early days of the consumer internet – the site offered a tournament as part of its Common Cents series that boasted a $100,000 guarantee with a buy-in of only one penny!

Online cash games are available at big online sites for as little as $0.01/$0.02 for No Limit Texas Hold’em (normal buy-in per tables is $2.00), and you will also find a few “Limit” micro-stakes poker games for Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hold’em, and other poker variants.

In general, the bigger the online poker site’s overall player base is, the greater the chances that you can find micro-stakes games at any given hour.

Are Micro-Stakes Poker Games Great for Casual or Inexperienced Players?

In my opinion, micro-stakes poker games are a highly entertaining real money wagering option for casual players who don’t have the time (or budget) to dedicate to taking the poker strategy element of the game seriously.

Online poker websites may offer cash games or “mini-tournaments” (also referred to as Sit & Gos) that end in less than an hour – or even “Hyper Turbo” formats in which a player can weave in-and-out of an event in just a few minutes.

Casual players also frequent lottery-style mini tournaments (called Spin & Gos at PokerStars), that have a minimum buy-in of $1, end in just a few minutes, and offer players a one-in-a-million chance to turn their dollar into as much as $2,900. However, even the low limit lottery-style games may be too high for a small bankroll of between $10-$25.

On the bigger poker sites, you can usually deposit a minimum of $10-$25 to get started. It is recommended that you make an actual deposit if you’re planning on playing for real money – as it can be difficult to build up any meaningful (even at micro stakes) bankroll from freerolls alone.

Making an initial deposit may also make it easier for you to “cash out” in the case that you happen to run a few dollars all the way up to several hundred. If you’re a play-money stakes “only” player who exclusively plays freerolls, you may still need to perform a first-time deposit before being able to withdraw funds from your online poker account.

Can Micro-Stakes Poker Games Be Used for Practice?

As long as you can afford to lose a small poker bankroll between $10-$25, then absolutely! You can participate in micro stakes online poker games as a way to practice, learn the rules of poker, and hone your skills without the stress of worrying about your initial deposit quickly evaporating.

If you’re playing penny games exclusively (and not “grinding” these games full time), then it’s very reasonable for a new player to make an initial deposit of $10-$25 and still have funds left over after a month – even if the new player isn’t a “winning” player at the micro stakes yet.

Can I “Make Money” Playing Micro-Stakes Poker Games?

If you define “making money” as winning a pot, or a tournament, or a mini event, then the chances are very high that you’ll be able to temporarily “win” at some early point in your poker playing career.

However, if you define “making money” as being a “winning player” in the games you are participating in, you might want to consult more in-depth material (such as poker books, blog posts, forum activity, and social media sites) that is created by players who are actually “winning” in micro-to-low stakes games in 2023.

Personally speaking, I once “made money” as a winning player in micro and low-stakes games online – but that was way back in 2005-2007. If becoming a winning player is your main endeavor in poker, your best bet will be to consult with players who have more updated experience.

Can I Become a “Pro” Player at Micro-Stakes Poker Games?

Again, this depends on your own definition of a “professional” poker player.

In some players’ view, you’re not a “professional” until you can fully support yourself financially by playing poker – which will force players to play for bigger stakes (and have a long-term positive expectation in these games that is greater than rake fees) in order to turn pro.

However, casual players often categorize their play as “professional” as long as they’re consistently winning in the games they play. With this mindset, you could technically be a “pro” even if you’re only making a few dollars per month… as long as you’re not losing more money than you deposit.

Still, the days of when a player could turn a few dollars into millions have passed most prospective poker players by.

The stories you may hear from the early days of online poker (like turning $50 into millions, or making no deposit at all and eventually winning millions at poker) may be true, but they are pretty irrelevant in the modern era of online poker.

Poker sites are far less generous with freeroll opportunities, rakeback, and deposit bonuses than they once were, so if you’re looking to actually “make a living” playing poker – you’ll need to learn how to beat harder, higher stakes games. And that’s tougher than ever before because players are working on their game and thus playing better than ever before.

Micro-Stakes Poker: What’s the Best Way to Turn a Few Dollars into a Few Hundred Dollars?

By making an initial deposit of $10-$25 at one of the more popular online poker sites that offer micro stakes games, you can start playing immediately and even create your very own “bankroll challenge.”

The first step will be finding games that are “easy” to beat long-term for relatively low-skilled players, and these games will almost always be found in the “freeroll” and/or micro-stakes lobbies of poker sites.

However, keep in mind that the larger the stakes are (even at micro stakes), the greater your chances are for actually losing the money wagered.

For example, a $0.01/$0.02 No Limit Texas Hold’em game (with a maximum buy-in of $2.00 per table) may initially appear to be well within your poker bankroll if you’ve just made a deposit of $25.

But the lower your skill is compared to your opponents, even in micro-stakes games, the greater the chances are that you will eventually lose the total of your initial deposit.

What’s more, micro stakes games may play a LOT “looser” than some of the big time online and live events you see on TV or watch on platforms like YouTube.

In a $0.01 buy-in online poker tournament with 1,000 players (which pays out to 150 contestants and offers a top prize of $1 – or 10% of the $10.00 total prize pool), you may find that more than half the players are OUT in just a few minutes.

In fact, penny games may be SO loose in nature that it pays dividends (a.k.a., “is a winning strategy”) to tighten up your preflop ranges and attempt to get all your chips in during a circumstance in which your showdown value is as close to 100% win rate as possible.

But again, the lower the stakes, the longer it may take you to “build” (or “lose”) your poker bankroll. That’s the beauty (and the drawback) to micro stakes poker strategy as far as one’s bankroll is concerned.

Spending two hours making the final table of a 1,000-player, $0.01 online poker tournament may seem like a great accomplishment for a newer or casual player, but cashing for $0.08 in 9th place may be viewed as somewhat of a “letdown” even for casual players (and despite your clear, profit-based success from that event).

If you really want to “turn pennies into hundreds of dollars” playing micro stakes poker online, spend some time reading up on poker strategy, explore the VAST amount of knowledge that player-personalities provide online for free, and don’t become underwhelmed with any success or improvement that you’re experiencing.

Try out micro-stakes “satellite” or “qualifier” events online that may give you an opportunity to “win” an entry into a larger buy-in tournament with a very small initial investment, and don’t forget to actually PARTICIPATE in those events you qualify for or that the poker site offers.

As a new customer, some poker sites may have micro-stakes considerations for players who are unfamiliar with the online game, which may also give you a chance to enter a few tournaments for free. These give new players an opportunity to perhaps win a few extra dollars while they also play “the micros.”

Are There Any Micro-Stakes Opportunities At Brick & Mortar Cardrooms?

Probably not.

There may be games in poker cities such as Los Angeles or Las Vegas in which you can physically sit down at a table and compete in a cash game for as little as $40 or $50, but the rake in those games will not be geared towards allowing players an opportunity to “time-sink.”

Live venues may also (occasionally or seasonally) offer small stakes mini tournaments for amounts lower than $50, but you may find that these events dedicate a relatively small percentage of each player’s buy-in to the total prize pool.

This means that a $50 buy-in ($25+$25) mini tournament at a live card room that attracts 10 players will only have a $250 prize pool up for grabs. If three players are paid out in this hypothetical event (1st Place: $125 – 2nd Place $75 – 3rd Place: $50), you’ll be hard-pressed to “time-sink” your way into any profit.

After all, the card room itself retains half of each player’s buy-in for a $25+$25 event in order to justify running the event at all. And even then, the card room may not deem such events “worth” the effort, as there will likely be other tables in which generated rake for the establishment is higher on a per-table and/or per-hour basis.

In short, live venues are generally NOT an optimal way for micro stakes players to find value, unless you can find a “home game” that allows players to play for pennies and doesn’t charge any fees.

Do Celebrities Play Micro-Stakes Poker Games?

In certain unique cases, a poker site may “sponsor” a celebrity player to participate in one or more micro-stakes poker events.

These games are typically seasonal in nature, meaning they are most likely to coincide with the broad promotion of a rare poker tournament or poker game that the brand is putting on.

High profile players that you see on streaming sites may also dabble in micro stakes cash games or tournaments from time to time, so you’ll get to compete against them (and maybe even chat at the same time) at micro-stakes tables in these cases.

Are There Any Resources for Micro-Stakes Poker Players Online?

Poker courses can be a great way to improve your skills, even at micro-stakes, plus there are various high quality poker training sites that specialize in teaching players how to win at multiple stake levels or game formats.

If you’re seeking out free literature, read up on our articles here at Cardplayer Lifestyle that can teach you how to play Texas Hold’em and how to master poker statistics.

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David Huber poker author
Written By.

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for close to two decades: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as “dhubermex” online, David’s poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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