Poker Cash Game Strategy

03.03.2021by
  1. Live Poker Cash Games
  2. Poker Live Cash Game Strategy

Texas Holdem: Cash Game Strategy. While almost all of the television coverage of Texas holdem over the past 20 years has been of tournament play, millions of dollars are won and lost in cash games every day. Some players are able to play a profitable game in both tournaments and cash games, while others concentrate on one form. Cash Game Poker Strategy. Tournament Poker Strategy. Sit & Go Poker Strategy. Live poker is the most traditional form of the game. Whether you visit Atlantic City, Las Vegas, or somewhere in between, you’ll find that poker is one of the main attractions in every casino. Live poker offers a variety of dynamics that vary greatly. While not poker strategy books designed to improve your game, these do make up what one might call a poker lore and are guaranteed to make for an enjoyable read for every single poker fan out there. Another all-time classic that can help you a lot when it comes to live poker is Mike Caro’s “ Book of Poker Tells. Raise Your Edge. Raise Your Edge has not been around as long as some other poker. Gambling sites with free spins no deposit.

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Table Of Contents

Winning poker players are constantly evolving. That’s a good thing, but lots of people get lost along the way. With ‘winning strategy advice’ coming from all directions, and highlight reels of high stakes pros pulling mega bluffs and folding the second nuts on YouTube, you can be forgiven for falling into the trap of fancy play syndrome, but it’s time to get back to basics.

In this article, we take a look at how simple a tight-aggressive style is to play and how it works.

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Why Tight-Aggressive

A tight-aggressive style works because it gives you an almost immediate advantage over your opponents – you will generally be playing stronger hands than they do. That means you’ll make stronger hands post-flop too. You’ll be value betting more and bluffing less.

There’s no mystery to a tight-aggressive style. You’re looking to be more selective over your starting hands and play them aggressively. That means you should be entering pots with a raise rather than calling, and betting rather than checking.

This gives you two ways to win a pot:

  • Either at showdown with the best hand
  • Or by getting your opponents to fold.

It also means you’ll be building a pot with (hopefully) the strongest hand. You should enter pots with a standard raise of 3x and add a big blind for every limper. So, if you’re playing $0.50/$1, your opening raise should be $3 and if someone’s already limped in you should make it $4. Everyone has an opinion on opening raises but if you stick to the standard raise you won’t force out weaker players and you won’t let players enter the pot cheaply.

Position

If you want to know how important position is, just listen to Doyle Brunson who said, ‘If I could play every hand on the button I’d beat any game blind.’ Poker is a game of incomplete information – the more you have the better the decisions you can make. That’s why the button is the best position in poker. With the exception of the blinds, you’ll act last pre-flop and you’ll act after everyone on every street post-flop.

‘If I could play every hand on the button I’d beat any game blind’ -Doyle Brunson

Playing out of position makes everything much harder – unless you hit a monster hand you’ll always be second-guessing your opponents. Take a hand like suited. If you get this on the button and there have been a few callers before you, you can call with great odds to hit a big hand. This same hand is almost impossible to play in early position when you don’t know if a player will raise behind you. Even if you do see a flop you’ll have to play every street out of position. Taking a nine-handed game, position breaks down as follows:

  • Seats 1 & 2: Blinds
  • Seats 3,4 & 5: Early position
  • Seats 6 & 7: Mid position
  • Seats 8 & 9: Late position

Playing In Early Position

The aim of playing an ABC style of poker is to minimise tricky decisions. So, in early position it’s simple – it’s all about strong hands. Throw away anything weaker than suited and any pairs worse than . If you’re tempted to enter with a weaker hand, say suited, ask yourself what you’ll do if you get three-bet. Keep things simple and you won’t get in trouble.

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Playing In Middle Position

In middle position you can start to open your range up and play more hands. You’ll have information from players acting before you and you’ve only got two or three seats behind you to worry about. If someone from early position has raised then you need to think about what hands he’s opening with. If he’s opening with the range above ( suited+ and +) you need a tighter range to avoid being a dog against him. If someone from early position has just called then you can limp along with hands that play well in multi-way pots, like pairs and suited connectors.

Playing In Late Position

When you’re in late position you can play a much wider range of hands as you’ll have a significant advantage over your opponents for the rest of the hand. You can open all pairs, suited, hands like suited and suited connectors.

You’ll notice that we’re still keeping a fairly tight range of hands that we’re playing – you’re looking to enter pots with the strongest hand. Stealing the blinds is still important – not as much as in tournaments obviously – but you shouldn’t be tempted to try to steal them with any two cards. If the blinds defend then you’re going to make things hard for yourself post-flop.

Playing From The Blinds

Playing from the blinds is tough. People get tempted to defend their blinds with a wide range of hands as they’ve already got money in the pot and don’t want to lose it. Defending too wide means that you’ll end up losing even more money though.

However, you should look at the cost of entering the pot and use your common sense – defend when it’s cheap and you’re getting the right price. You can defend with more hands in the big blind than the small blind.

When To Deviate From ABC Strategy

Back in the good old days an ABC strategy was all you needed to get by. The games might be tougher today but a solid ABC strategy is still good enough to win at lower stakes. Generally speaking, live games are weaker so an ABC strategy has even more chance of success.

An ABC strategy is also extremely useful to adopt if you’re sat with players you have no information on. It will enable you to build information up without taking risks.

The big problem is that it’s predictable and easy to exploit. If you’re sat with decent players, or you’re sat at the same table for a long time, it won’t take your opponents long to work out how you’re playing. If this happens you can balance your play by adding bluff raises with weaker hands and raising from early position with small pairs and suited connectors. This will get you into less trouble than raising with hands like suited, which could be horribly dominated. If you flop big with a suited connector you’re likely to have the best hand.

Also, you can add information you’ve got on other players to your game. If you know that the players to your left are playing too tight you can open up your range in middle position. If you know they’re hyper-aggressive then you should stop limping and trying to get into pots cheaply.

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Measuring Success in Cash Games

Before we discuss the strategy in cash games, it’s important to define what success means. Success in cash games is measured in what’s called a win rate. Your win rate is the difference in skill between you and your opponents, minus the rake. Win rates can be negative if your opponents are better than you or the rake is too high (this most commonly happens in private home games where the usurious rake renders the game unbeatable).

Win rates online are measured in big blinds per 100 hands whereas win rates live are measured in big blinds per hour.

Here’s a simple example. John is a regular at the $5/$10 No Limit Hold’em cash game at the Bellagio. Because he keeps good records (something we strongly recommend all players do—you can use the app, ‘Poker Income’ or ‘RunGood’ to easily track your records), John knows that he has won $2,000 in the last month/50 hours of play—including tips and rake.

Online poker cash game strategy

To calculate his hourly rate is simple: $2,000/50 = $40 per hour. (Therefore his bb/hour is 4).

To measure his win rate (in big blinds per 100 hands or BB/100), we first have to know how many hands he plays per hour on average. While the true number of hands dealt may vary slightly from casino-to-casino (depending on the speed of the game and number of players seated at the table), I’ve calculated that on average John can expect to play 27 hands per hour:

John has therefore played 50 x 27 = 1,350 hands.

John has won $2,000/10 or 200 big blinds.

John’s win rate is 200/(1,350/100) or roughly 15bb/100.

John should be proud; that’s an incredible win rate: although statistically insignificant, since 1,350 hands is not a large enough sample size. (For more on how to calculate win rates and variance, in both tournaments and cash games, see my definitive guide to bankroll management).

The truth is that 90% of poker players will have a negative-win-rate; therefore, any positive-win-rate should be considered an accomplishment. Assuming that you have a positive-win-rate, you can begin to compare your win rate against other players with positive-win-rates.

Breaking down the 10% category of positive-win-rate players even further, we can calculate various levels of win rates for live poker. Keep in mind that these are just estimations and possible win rates, and that games vary incredibly from casino-to-casino and player-to-player.

Online win rates will be reduced dramatically. Anything above break-even online is considered
great, whereas typical win rates at mid stakes games are 2bb/100 (or 0.5bb/hour), a testament to how competitive the games have become.

For live poker, I’m basing my estimations on some diligent records I kept over the years playing live poker in Macau and talking to other winning players, clients and readers whose games I respect. In my own experience, I regularly won 15BB/hour in Macau for the several years at stakes as high as $10,000/$20,000 HKD, No Limit Hold’em (roughly $1,250/$2500 USD)

– Amateur: Losing win rate.
– Good Player: Anything above breaking even, or > 1BB/hour
– Very Good: > 3BB/hour
– Great /Pro: > 5BB/ hour
– Excellent: > 10BB/hour*
– World Class: > 15BB/hour

Live Poker Cash Games

*If you are regularly winning at 10BB/hour, I would advise moving up to the next limit to test out the competition and sharpen your skills.

To get a statistically significant sample size, you must play thousands of hands to determine that your win rate is not the result of luck or variance, rather a true skill advantage.

For more information about variance in cash game poker check out this video:

Poker Live Cash Game Strategy

Playing in games with a lower rake is one way you can immediately improve your win rate in cash games. Casinos such as the Commerce in Los Angeles and the Bellagio, Aria or Wynn in Las Vegas offer safe, secure cash games with competitive rake. (They even give players rakeback in the form of food comps).

Online poker usually has the lowest rake, but since the level of competition is higher, it usually means that your overall win rate is still lower online than it is live. Most people will profit more in live poker games because the influx of recreational players makes the game much softer.

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