Can You Beat 25NL Online?

Upswing poker just released a quiz to test your ability to beat the 25NL micro-stakes cash games on Pokerstars. I thought it would be interesting to see how players here would fare against these games so here’s the link:

I just took it and scored 14/15. I’d like to have players here take the quiz and post their scores. Maybe we can open up some discussions about the ones we got right or wrong and the reasons why? Maybe even have some discussion on how people would play the same situations here? Would you play them the same or differently and why?

GL Y’all - We’re on the honor system unless you want to post your results on Twitter through the link provided at the end of the quiz. I don’t tweet so you’ll just have to decide for yourselves whether I’m bluffing about my score or not :slight_smile: FYI, the question I got wrong was because I considered the balanced approach and not the one better suited for this player pool. If we are honest in our reporting, I hope that this can evolve into a productive learning exercise.


Thanks for posting, @1Warlock! Fun quiz. I scored 9/15 - definitely have some work to do. No real consistency to how I erred - was a bit too fold-happy on a few of the questions, and overly aggressive on another.


Glad you liked it @WannabeCoder. Its not an easy quiz and some of the questions would be nearly impossible to get right if you weren’t thinking about things like rake or anti-blockers and so on. If there were any topics you wanted to discuss, please bring them up. I have a feeling your score will be better than most here, if people are honest about them.


fun quiz indeed,
i got 9/15 as well


We’re in my wheelhouse now! I play between 25 and 100NL (but not on Pokerstars). I do really well at 25, pretty well at 50 and its hit or miss at 100. I tried 200NL a few times and I’m not good enough to win there without running really hot. The jump in skill from 1 level to the next seems to be huge.

I keep saying the online cash game isn’t the same as the game being played here so I wonder how people who do well here will score on this quiz. It really takes some getting used to to play here because things are so different.


14/15. I disagree with one of the answers because I would’ve tried a different route for my play-style.

First, people in cash games play very different than in Poker Replay - it’s just how it is. Honestly, I play pretty goofy on here just for fun as compared to a real-money context - and a lot of other people do too, even in the tournaments (though I do not have the time to play MMT tournaments here ever), so it’s not surprising that some of the lessons from Replay wouldn’t translate great to real-money (even if the smaller the stakes the more closely it approximates Replay play).

But I want to criticize this quiz for a slightly different reason - this is mostly a technical poker quiz. All of the answers are correct if you think of someone that has like 20 tables open at once and just chasing a specific mean return and variance. Just play a very technically sound game and you’ll get it.

But that partially takes the fun out of poker and playing pure technical play in say a live major tournament setting would be disastrous since you’ll quickly be found out and exploited - you have to play the table in that scenario. So whether or not this quiz is useful depends on how you play. Playing 20 tables on your laptop at once - absolutely. Otherwise, not really.

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Nice job! Which question did you disagree with and why? Let’s get something out of this through discussing some of the things we disagree with. Otherwise this is just a novelty thread and that would be a shame.

I agree that the play here is different than for cash but I have to take issue with some of your complaints. This is a quiz specifically for grinding 25NL online. To say it isn’t applicable to a live tournament as a criticism is more than a bit unfair. Its also not applicable to bowling or golf :slight_smile: Its not a quiz about all forms of poker at every level. Also, complaining that it is too technical in its focus seems odd. Knowing the technically correct play vs an unknown player or players is all of our baselines. If you get a player or population specific read, then you deviate from it but that doesn’t invalidate the baseline itself.

For the reasons I’ve stated above, I’m going to disagree with you here. You may not find it useful for whatever reason but that reason is personal to you. If that’s because you are playing at a level beyond this or for another reason, you don’t find it useful. For anyone who is trying to achieve a sloid platform or who wants to know how actual hands are being played at this level, I think it can be very useful. Just how useful will depend on what people put into it and what they want to get out of it. Just taking the test and leaving it be may give you some information. Taking the test and then discussing the reasons behind certain plays or strategies can be very useful.

I have tried to foster an environment of learning and open discussion on this Forum. Yes, it is a play-chip poker site and as such is mostly for entertainment. However, there is a group of players here who enjoy the theory and are actively working on their games. I would be very happy to have another player contributing to this effort so hope you will join in. Maybe you’ll get something out of it that you didn’t expect to? If not, maybe you’ll help someone else? Either way I’d consider that a useful expenditure of time.


Well done! I’m not going to hear the end of it for a while am I? Well, you live long enough and you were bound to beat me at something. :wink:

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You might be thinking a bit more towards the GTO spectrum on some of these questions. If you want to let us know which you had trouble with, we could go through them and see how/why the suggested play differed from your own.


I was surprised to have also scored a 9/15, as I thought hearing the posts in the thread and seeing the results that I would have scored considerably lower. I think I must’ve gotten quite lucky or something, because I know yiazmat and Sam are both much more mathematically inclined and have a much better understanding of the game than I do. I decided to take this quiz mainly because I knew it would provide an explanation both for the questions I may answer correctly or incorrectly, and I wanted to see if the reasons I thought my decisions were correct were in fact correct, and hear an explanation to the ones I got wrong to see why my decisions were incorrect. I fully admit that I was what I thought sure of the correct answer only on 1 or 2, maybe 3 of them, and the rest were what I deemed to be the best possible decisions and educated guesses. Some were really tough for me, as in my head I could sometimes see reasons for and against all three options. I admit to running what I thought could be villain’s hand ranges through a calculator to aid my decisions, to see if what my brain processed as a “gut decision/timely decision” was close to making sense or was right in general. Some seemed obvious (AKA kicking myself mistakes) once I heard the answers, and others were ones I had to think hard about and read over again carefully to develop a condensed understanding (to a degree). I don’t want to say much until others take the quiz and post themselves, but I will just mention that the answer explanation regarding the first flop said there were a lot of draws, and I was a little surprised to hear them say that. I was aware there were some, obviously, but it didn’t initially appear to me to be a draw heavy flop. Interested to hear what others score and say. Thanks for posting. This should be a great thread!

ADDED: Sorry, it was the 2nd hand flop regarding draw heavy comments, not the first.


sounds good to me, i’ll explain my thought process on them as well :+1:

2: i chose calling, the suggestion is folding:
first of all, i also assumed his value range was beating mine because there was a 3bet oop from him which we have called, meaning he could have all kinds of big aces, even if he plays big pairs we are only ahead of bluffing pairs. on the other hand, we have shown him that we don’t have AK/AA/KK by just calling his 3bet. meaning he can and should double barrel almost anything here, including his bluffs. i still agree we are behind most of the time, but folding 2pair here still seems a bit too nitty and will probably be used against you if you only play the very top of your range. but the biggest reason i chose a call is that there are still a lot of good cards, sure, the K and T are good, but there aren’t many, i’m referring to the spades as well, not a a good value card, but as a good bluff card.
long story short: my thought process was that even though we are behind most of his value range, i see him barrel with almost all of his bluffs as well, and we have a few value outs, and another bunch of bluff outs.

5: i chose checking, suggestion is betting big
i chose checking here because even though we are holding tp decent kicker, we seem to be behind anything that would like to call a big bet here twice. so i chose a check for pot control so i wouldn’t go broke on a hand that’s just a pair with not even the best kicker, on top of this, check calling usually means either pot control, a draw, or a slowplay. pot control usually means they are going to call a big bet twice cuz of their marginal hand. a draw is possible but there aren’t many of them here, and the most likely one (JT) has just hit here. and clearly the slowplay we defenitely don’t wanna bet big into cuz obvious reasons.and there is alos a possibility we might even get more value out of checking as a weak hand might see this as weakness and bluff the river with it.

7: i chose 4betting, suggestion is calling
i chose 4betting because this is a very common restealing spot, we are in the button with no action, so almost everyone would raise here, which means a lot of players resteal from the blinds in this spot, meaning there are a lot of bluffs into his range. usually it’s hard to continue with a 4bet, but in this hand we have a great canidate to defend with. i fully agree that blockers with good backup equity are good aswell, but suited connectors and small pairs are having the best backup equity vs value 3bets, with the suited connectors being the better option because they have better postflop playability then small pairs. i agree calling is fine aswell cuz position, but i felt like 4betting would be better as it erases lots of bluffs giving free money. even if we get a 5bet we can easily insta fold knowing were crushed, but usually we aren’t

9: i chose calling, suggestion was folding:
i chose calling because of his very small cbet, and an utg raise can hold much missed Ax hands. however i fully agree it’s too hard to continue defending on this hand, so i did changed my mind right after i saw the right answer.

11: i chose checking, suggestion was betting:
i chose this answer for pot control vs slowplay and to avoid a potential Qx hand. however also on this question i made my decision too quickly as i fully agree on the bet now cuz of the given reasons

12: i chose checking, suggestion was betting
i had the same reason on this one as i had before, however with the call 3 times it does reek a lot more like slowplay. sure, this seems like a bad player, it probably even is, but still, i didn’t saw much hands call here all the way like that, the explanation mentiones it destroys potential two pair hands, which is true, but they exist out 96, 94 or 64. not really a range i would put someone playing UTG on. and tehre aren’t much draws here either. as for the hands that might consider calling which were ahead of, the only thing i can think of is maybe A9 so i mostly see hands like sets here or maybe QT-QA that floated the flop,
however now that i’m thinking of it, he might have more strange hands into his range given that he’s a bad player like K9 or maybe even weaker hands like that, depends on how bad he is.
so giving it another thought now, it seems like tehre are more good then bad hands out here to get value from. funny enough writing out my previous analysis like this helps to find the better answer :grin:

this were all my thought processes going on on the hands i got wrong.

gl every1 :+1:


I definitely have some questions about how rake/antes should affect ranges and bet sizing, but that seems like a topic deep enough for its own thread.


9/15. I goofed in pre-flops and bluffs. Both I don’t play anyway.


@yiazmat - I read your responses and will comment on them after giving people a little time to take the quiz themselves. Don’t want to give away the answers. I like the way you thought about a few of them and really liked your ability to see the other side of the coin and change your mind.

@WannabeCoder - we could do a thread on this at some point. Just as a quick preview of the topic: Both rake and antes will affect play through changing pot odds. Rake diminishes those odds while antes increase them. Rake affects preflop decisions because most places have a “no flop, no drop” policy. That means that you are playing a rakeless game unless you see a flop. So, this both tightens players ranges and incentivizes people to 3-bet/4-bet and try to take the pot preflop rather than calling and seeing the flop. Better to take the pot before rake than see a flop and give 10% to the house, right? Postflop its less profitable to make any given call if 10% of that money is going to the house rather than back to you if you win.

Antes have the opposite effect as rake in that they make pots more profitable to play for. The presence of antes will loosen ranges and incentivize more people to make plays for the pot. In a typical game the antes will represent ~1BB more money in the middle. This alters preflop bet sizes because it alters the price you are giving others to take a flop with you. You may be able to steal a pot with no antes from the BTN with a 2.5x open but that same open size will give the BB a much better price to call if there is already an extra BB in the pot. Whenever you are changing the pot odds and bet sizes, changes to your ranges have to follow in order to keep the proper ratios of value to bluffs etc.

I hope this was somewhat helpful, if really condensed and generalized.




7/15. Not my best work apparently. Maybe it can be taken as a sign that Replay creates bad habits

[spoiler]For example, #1 I flat KTs in position versus a 3-bet because I am not used to factoring in rake.

#2 I also can’t fold two-pair KT versus a second barrel when I think my opponent could have AQ/AJ (top pair plus gutshot) or Kx with the K of spades.

#4 Bet too small (half pot) because I figured 3/4 gets folds from 9x and only hands that I beat that continue are QT/JT (lose to AQ/KQ/Q9), though I guess they should not be limping some of those), and JT might Check-raise.

#7 Folded, but I can see that a call is correct.

#8 I said raise, which they say is correct at low frequency. In this spot, I figure I am never good, but I have equity from the gutshot, block 99, and figure they can fold many top pairs to a big river bet (AK/AQ/AJ or worse) because we can easily have 97s/96s/76s/T8s/99/77 in our range, and they might not 3-bet all of those all the time.

#9 They really fold 88 versus a cbet? I get that there are a lot of better hands to defend, but they can cbet 1/3 pot with their entire range, and we have showdown value. Maybe if they always check-back missed Ax then it makes a little more sense to fold. Plus, the analysis says that we only continue on a turn 8, but I think we usually continue on a turn 6, possibly a 9, or a complete brick, depending on the bet size and any other info about the opponent.

#10 We raise JJ versus a 3/4 donk-lead? I said call, maybe it’s bad Replay habits of exploitatively pot-controlling or folding versus aggression. I get that they can have draws like 87s/75s, but those seem like bad hands to limp-call with from UTG. Shouldn’t 9x hands be check-calling this flop? And there is no flush draw to be worried about. Based on their lead, I would put them on a set or a slow-played monster (QQ+). If they can have 87s/75s, then they can also have 64s/96s that are now ahead of us, and even the straight draws have plenty of equity when we raise. So, I just think it is building a massively inflated pot with a vulnerable hand that is unlikely to improve. It probably folds out any pure bluffs (QT), backdoor/gutshot type bluffs (T8), or pair+draws (54) that might lead like this, while allowing them to continue when they are ahead or have a bunch of equity.

#11 Based on my response to #10 I wouldn’t want to continue firing here. I get that the Q almost never improves hands that continue here, but now I think hero betting again folds out all draws (except 87/75 of hearts) and gets called/check-raised by 2-pair or sets.

#12 As played, I can get behind a bet because hero seems to think there are hands that call the flop and turn that we beat, and the turn and river almost certainly did not improve villain’s hand, so we might as well get it in. But I still said check and got this wrong. What hands do we get value from here? We raised pre, raised flop, bet turn, and now bet river. TT is the only hand that we beat that I can see calling here. A9 is a tough hero call for villain to make. If we get called here it is almost certainly 99/66/44/Q9 or maybe QQ/KK/AA if villain is fishy enough to play them that way. We have many better hands to bet for value AA/KK/QQ/99/66/44 (though we shouldn’t be raising this flop with sets). I guess we need to balance out our bluffs (87/75/JT), but on a low, rainbow board, I just don’t think we need to have so many bluffs that we need to balance them out with value this thin. [/spoiler]

I have played ~15,000 hands of 5NL and 10NL with a winrate of 20+bb/100, but I know that 25NL is a big step up. It seems like I have a lot to learn about being aggressive and knowing when to fold, but I am interested to hear what people think about my thought process in these spots.


@JoeDirk - I’m not sure how much work you have to do on the theory. I think its more an issue of how to deviate from optimal for maximal profitability vs non-perfect opponents. Every player pool has its own quirks. Aside from the issue with not considering rake, most of what you said is sound against very strong opponents. The population playing 25NL isn’t anywhere near that level. So, while you will make money playing this way vs just about any player pool, you won’t make as much money as someone who is exploiting them more does.

As to whether Replay creates bad habits or not, I think its safe to say that the maximally profitable play here isn’t going to translate well to most other places, at least online. I’m not sure how much utility there is to developing a GTO-based style here beyond a certain point. There is probably a lot of utility in learning how to exploit certain leaks in opponents for maximum returns though.


I don’t feel very good at the moment, but I NEED to say something. My intention is not to bash myself or praise/suck up to other players, but I need people to understand. If JoeDirk gets a 7 on this, I should get a 0, better yet a -5. I don’t know what I’m doing and he does. I just want to reiterate that to anyone on the beginner/novice side of things who are learning the game and who may be interested in or take the quiz There’s a method to the madness of people’s games, and the scores don’t always necessarily promote evidence of that. Always consider the process of how people draw their conclusions…sometimes see beyond results…as I obviously got a little lucky here, in a sense. As stated, there could be particular instances to deviate from the ‘normal’ path. The more you play/study/understand the game, the more you’ll understand what sources provide good, accurate information.


I appreciate your post and your point about being reflective about taking in new information.

There is a lot of value in quizzes like this, especially when they come from good sources like upswing, because they make you think and challenge your assumptions, not necessarily because they are the “correct” lines that you must follow in your own games.

Everything in NLHE is extremely context-specific, so the information in an online resource has to be generic to a particular player type or player pool. The “optimal” line can differ greatly depending on the opponent, game type (6max/FR, casino/Replay/home/Pokerstars), and stake level. It’s part of what makes poker so interesting.

In terms of this specific quiz, I would not say they are wrong and I’m right (although I can’t get behind the raise/bet/bet line with JJ, which should only be good enough to get 2 streets of value), just that slight differences in thought process can lead to very different actual lines. I’m sure they have statistical evidence for their answers that makes them correct in context, so as a default their answers seem like a good approach when the assumptions of pokerstars 25NL hold true (eg, rake or opponent skill).

While I might not agree with some answers, it is good to challenge my thinking, just by writing it out. The difference between a fantastic winrate and a losing winrate can be leaks in many different areas, calling too much is the most common, but it can be folding too much, not betting often or large enough, or not bluffing enough. Sometimes great thought processes and very solid play can be undermined by costly leaks that are tough to identify. These questions make me think that maybe I am losing a street of value somewhere or refusing to fold when I should.

It sounds like your thought process is good, and you will be very successful here if you can identify the leaks in your game. The other posters also seem to be doing quite well.

I also want to point out in response to @1Warlock that I’m not intentionally using GTO concepts in my game or in answering these questions. My approach is to try to bet and win the maximize when there are hands to get value from, realize my showdown value when I don’t think I can get value, bluff when I don’t have showdown value and can get folds, and fold unless I have a good bluffcatcher against an aggro opponent. That’s ABC poker, right? The mini-max game. GTO involves a loss of exploitation to avoid being exploited, but inferring logical thought processes from opponents (eg, that they wouldn’t call a raise, donk-call flop, call turn, call river with a hand worse than JJ) is a less extreme way of adding balance to one’s game, even if the opponents are not actually using a logical thought process. Even with a nonsensical range, I’d expect them to have JJ beat by the river more often than have a worse hand that calls another bet.


I got 10/15. Interesting quiz. I definitely fell apart on the last question.