It's tougher than you'd think...
You need to walk before you can run, and in poker you need to beat 2nl zoom before you consider playing any other form of poker. Why? Because 2nl zoom is a tough but beatable stake. Me and my friends used to call 2nl Zoom “The Gym”, you wouldn’t enter a strongman competition without sufficient training first. 2nl is the same- you’re playing to hone and sharpen your arsenal of poker skills.
You will pick up some great skills that are vital for you when you play any higher poker stakes. 2nl Zoom also questions your mental state, it will be a dull grind. If you can make it through the monotony and the low income generated, you will feel an increased level of confidence and ability to master your own psyche. This sets you up for success at the higher stakes.
Furthermore, if you can beat 2nl zoom you can play profitable poker against any random opponent that you come up against in live poker. I would also argue, that the skill gap between a losing and winning player is much higher and more difficult to conquer compared to a winning player trying to move up the stakes. Once you master the ability to play profitable poker, the skill gap between 2nl and 5nl is much smaller and feels much more achievable. Beating 2nl will kickstart your poker career.
To put forward my arguments today I'll be focusing on what I believe are the 3 biggest reasons for grinding through the stake. Mental Game, GTO Skills, and Confidence. Let's start by looking into the benefits playing 2nl will have on your mental game.
You Play with Big Blinds, not Cash
2nl Zoom is an incredible tool for helping you to keep on top of your mental game. When you play poker, you shouldn’t be focused on the cash value of the chips you play with. One of the biggest mistakes that new players make is playing a high stake online without understanding that they are playing to make big blinds, not cash. This often results in them getting overly attached to the cash value of the big blinds (BB), causing them to make negative expected value (EV) decisions for fear of losing big money. On the flip side, when you get a student to play 2nl, they think that the $2 is meaningless, causing them to make -EV decisions because they neglect to think about the BB value of their decision.
To play profitable poker you can’t become attached to the cash value of the chips in play. If you want to beat 2nl poker you need to learn that and keep that in the forefront of your mind while you grind your way to victory. This is also tough, because it takes a significant time investment to statistically beat the stake.
By subjecting yourself to this low stakes poker you will force yourself to become a much more rational and less emotive individual. You stop attaching so much weight behind every hand and start seeing poker as a long form game where results in one hand mean very little so long as you got the strategy right. This keeps you objective and disciplined, you start to make fewer mistakes related to emotional attachment to cash and start making more rational decisions.
Maintaining Focus, Discipline, and Tilt Management
Now that you are playing sensible poker, with well thought out decisions and strategy, you need to maintain it. You must stay focused all the time when you are playing at the table or else you will never beat the stake. This metal fortitude that you develop at 2nl will pay off in dividends when you start playing 50 or 100nl. You are going to be sacrificing hundreds of hours to play enough hands to statistically say that you have beaten the stake. This will force you to learn how to stay focused for long periods of time. Lack of focus leads to -EV decisions, a couple of these per session and you can easily stay a losing player. If you beat 2nl you will have learnt to maintain focus.
Another huge thing that poker will teach you, is that one moments lapse in judgment can cost you an hours worth of work. You are trying to be a profitable player, therefore you have to reduce the quantity of mistakes you make. You have to remain disciplined to be a profitable poker player. No gambling, no guess work- just rational actions to achieve a positive outcome. If you can't stay disciplined at 2nl, you can't do it at 100nl.
Alongside the improved concentration and discipline, 2nl forces you to learn things about yourself. There will be points, especially early in your playing career, where you go on tilt and cost yourself a day’s worth of profit. By learning about how you are personally affected by bad-beats and the big swings that come with playing online poker, you can start developing strategies to control this part of your mental game. This pays off in dividends when you sense that you are becoming tilted at a live $2/$5 game or higher. You can use the strategies for tilt management that you develop at the smallest stake possible to save you thousands at the higher stakes, live or online.
GTO Skill Development
To beat 2nl you obviously need to be more skilful than the 2nl player pool. Because you will be facing random opponents and will often not have any good reads or data on them, you are forced to play a GTO strategy. You need to play GTO when you come up against a random opponent and it serves as a great foundation for exploitative poker. This development of GTO skills will make you a better player overall and a much tougher opponent to play against. If you play live poker or want to play a higher stake online, building a GTO foundation in your game is something that will make you a more profitable player.
Playing profitably at 2nl means that you must:
Stop leaking cash from the BB
Get maximum value from your nutted hands
Lose the least when calling in 3bet and 4bet pots
Develop a great and solid preflop strategy
If you want to look at my recommendations for the best things to study in poker you can do so here. All these skills are necessary to play profitable poker and they all can be learnt, almost risk-free, when playing 2nl.
One thing that makes players better is the experience they have in the game. When you play zoom poker, you play a large quantity of hands per hour. Playing 2 tables of zoom poker is roughly 500 hands per hour. This is significant, as the experience you get in around an hour of two-tabling zoom is equivalent to an entire day’s live grind. You can play more poker in a few months than some of your live opponents will have played in their lifetimes. The sheer volume of zoom poker is another reason that you will develop your skills faster and more efficiently compared to your competition.
The final and arguably most important effect that playing 2nl will have on your game is in increase in confidence. Once you have a profitable poker tracker graph with significantly significant data on it, you feel that you can achieve anything that you put your mind to. All the hard work that you will have put into studying and improving has paid off, and your positive win rate is a nice certificate for your efforts. This extra boost in confidence is a great driver into the next milestone for poker development, 5nl zoom.
You should be trying to beat 2nl zoom poker. 2nl zoom poker is the first hurdle in any professional players career and a great tool to help you become a better poker player. The discipline, volume, and skills that you learn and experience grinding 2nl zoom is something that you can’t acquire from anywhere else. Because I understand the importance of beating 2nl and because you can learn to beat 2nl relatively quickly with just basic poker knowledge, I’ll be uploading videos to the PokerCoaching.Online YouTube channel, detailing how to beat this stake.