Micro stakes poker isn’t meant to give one a full-time living. These stakes, which generally range from $0.01/$0.02 to $0.25/$0.50, are supposed to be for recreational players.
Somehow, Nathan “BlackRain79” has found a way to make a living at limits that are normally reserved for weekend warriors. And he’s more than happy to share exactly how he’s excelled in the micro stakes.
That said, I’ll discuss Williams’ story and his advice for how players can maximize their profits at the lowest limits.
Who Is BlackRain79? How Did He Become Famous?
Nathan Williams plays online poker and is a coach. Against all odds, he’s become well-known for playing micro stakes.
BlackRain79 first gained notoriety around 2009, when his PokerTableRatings chart went viral. Here’s what observers saw back then:
- $0.02/$0.05 stakes — $13,000 in winnings
- $0.25/$0.50 — $250 in winnings
- $0.50/$1 — $40 in winnings
- $2/$4 — $3,000 in losses
- $3/$6 — $53 in winnings
You can see that Williams hadn’t done anything exceptional at most of the stakes. In fact, he was a huge loser in $2/$4 cash games up until 2009.
But his $0.02/$0.05 graph was a complete anomaly. Soon, he became a hot topic of discussion across various poker forums.
Today, BlackRain79 no longer logs the same volume. However, the 40-year-old still plays a fair amount of poker.
His biggest pursuit these days, though, is his coaching profession. Williams has a website, writes ebooks, and runs a YouTube channel, which are all aimed at helping players improve their win rate.
Why Did Williams Choose the Micro Stakes for a Poker Career?
According to an interview with Vox, Williams didn’t originally set out to crush low-limit games. He fell into it by chance.
The Vancouver native discovered poker when he was working odd jobs after graduating from college. He became mildly successful in the mid-2000s by employing a tight-aggressive style.
BlackRain79 tried different stakes, but began focusing most of his time on the micros. He appreciated the weak opponents at these limits and began to slowly churn out profits.
Why Has Williams Been so Successful in the Micro Limits?
The biggest difference that BlackRain79 notices from the low to high stakes is the competition. Micro limits are full of “pure amateurs” who don’t care as much about the money involved.
“The money involved is not significant for an American,” said Williams. “It’s a lot of people where it’s just their hobby, and nobody is taking it seriously or [is] that good.
“When you go up to higher stakes you encounter more professionals. They’ve got notes on you, they’re studying your game, they’re using tracking software. They’re playing to win. It’s a much, much different environment.”
He added that low-limit players are more likely to call a $0.25 bet, for example, because it’s not that much money.
“People equate money with what it is in real life,” he explained. “You raise someone 50 cents, that’s not even a cup of coffee. You raise someone $100, that could be a grocery bill or something.”
What’s the Biggest Mistake That Micro Stakes Players Make?
BlackRain79 has spent a great deal of time in the lowest limits. That said, he has a good opinion on the biggest mistake that even good players make in the micros.
“Honestly, it’s probably just tilt control,” he said. “I’ve seen so many good players who can be incredible, but when they start getting a lot of bad beats — which happens a lot at lower stakes, because you’ve got bad players chasing every draw.
“They kind of lose their mind a bit and start going on wild bluffs and throwing away money. It’s the mental game.”
Williams noted that he himself isn’t completely immune to tilt. However, his “quitting strategies” have improved over the years.
“I knew when to stop playing, rather than being Captain Comeback, and trying to chase it all back.”
How Williams Logged Such an Insane Hand Volume
Some online poker players are beat after playing a couple of thousand hands in a day. Williams managed to exceed this amount by five times on many occasions.
He’d often play between 5,000 and 10,000 hands per day during his height. His key to this incredible volume is a disciplined approach that doesn’t involve too much thought.
“I played a very systematic approach,” explained Williams. “I know exactly what I’m doing with every hand. It’s a very tight, aggressive game, there’s not a lot of creativity to it.
“I’m playing against people who are going to make massive mistakes, so I don’t need to think too deeply about it. It’s a straightforward process.”
Will BlackRain79 Be Moving up the Stakes Anytime Soon?
Many players like to transition up the limits as quickly as possible when they dominate certain stakes. Not Williams, though, who’s been quite content to continue winning at the micro stakes.
Williams mentioned that he was initially playing to pay the bills. He said, “I would play tournaments on the side to keep the fun level up sometimes, but once you turn pro you approach it like a job, so I wasn’t in it to make big plays.”
Should You Follow in Williams’ Footsteps and Become a Micro Stakes Pro?
The idea of logging thousands of low-stakes hands doesn’t sound very exciting. But then again, Williams has made a living through poker doing so.
Probably not. Even Williams himself admits that micro stakes aren’t very lucrative and can be a tough way to make a living.
“Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t recommend what I did to very many people. It was kind of stupid to be honest,” he said while laughing.
“It’s weird because it’s turned into a business of me teaching the game. But I don’t think it was a good idea. I was probably making around $15 an hour during my peak on the lower stakes. I did play the higher stakes, where I’d average more.”
BlackRain79 has since moved from Canada to Thailand, where the cost of living is much cheaper. He notes that $15 an hour is sufficient living in Thailand. Williams also appreciates the freedom that poker has given him.
These days, he doesn’t spend countless hours grinding out tiny profits. He’s instead transitioned into a poker coach and entrepreneur.
“The business side is the majority at this point. Poker is a smaller part of my income,” said Williams. “It’s a full-time business with YouTube, my blog, all the books. I do some freelance work as well, I write for Poker News.”
However, this isn’t to say that BlackRain79 doesn’t practice what he preaches nowadays. He still plays “a decent amount each month to stay on top” and is constantly talking strategy and reviewing hands with students.
Before Williams’ career, few would’ve thought that making a living with micro stakes poker was even possible. However, he’s proven that it can be done with enough diligence.
The problem, though, is that it takes an incredible amount of effort to make the same as with a normal job. BlackRain79 himself only earns around $15 an hour in the lowest limits.
He also took a lot of heat from his family during the journey. Nevertheless, micro stakes poker still seems to be one viable way to become a poker pro, even if it’s only part time.
Another factor is relocation. Williams now lives in Thailand, which is about 100% cheaper than Vancouver. Even if you don’t make this dramatic of a move, you could at least move from a more expensive state or province to a cheaper one.
Playing micro stakes poker requires more than just skill as a full-time pursuit. It also takes additional sacrifices to ensure that you can live the full-time poker life without scraping pennies together.