Regardless of whether you are brand new to cash games or are a seasoned pro, always keep these 6 poker cash game tips in mind when playing to maximise your winnings at the table!
CASH POKER TIP 1: TABLE SELECTION IS KEY
The most profitable tables for you to play at are going to be those that have as many losing players as possible. Think about it! Where does your profit come from in poker over the long term? Is it from players who are better than you or worse than you? Of course, it’s from worse players, especially those who are big losers in the game (i.e., a 50bb/100 hands player is ideal, but a losing player of any level will help make a game profitable).
In cash games, you can leave a table at any time. So, if your table is full of regs or doesn’t have many juicy fish for you to prey on, stand up and find another table where you can be profitable.
As rake continues to increase in both live and online games, the biggest winners are going to stay afloat, while the smaller winners are going to turn into breakeven or losing players. Don’t get left behind! Always table select well and search to play against players who are big fish and losers in the game so that you can keep your profit margins well in the green.
CASH POKER TIP 2: FOLLOW PROPER BANKROLL MANAGEMENT
In poker, variance can be sickening. To accommodate for these swings, it’s incredibly important to follow proper bankroll management to ensure that you’ll never go broke. (This fact especially goes for No Limit Hold’em, where all the money that you have currently on the table could be in the pot, in an instant.)
If you’re a recreational player, keep 20 buy-ins at a minimum for whatever stake you play. For example, if you play $0.10/$0.25 games online with a buy-in of $25, you should have a minimum bankroll of $500 to be able to play this stake. If you’re a professional, you should have a bankroll of about 100 buy-ins of the stake you play at, plus 6 months living expenses. (i.e. To play $2/$5 professionally ($500 buy-in x 100) + ($2000 monthly expenses x 6 months) = $62,000 bankroll)
Having a full bankroll will also allow you to play your “A” game and take certain chances that you might not otherwise. For example, perhaps you might want to make a call when you think an opponent is bluffing. But, you might second-guess yourself and make a tight fold instead, if you’re afraid you could be wrong and lose your money.
Similarly, if you’re playing at stakes over your head, you might not continue up aggression (with bets and raises) in spots that you should - simply because you’re playing scared of losing too much money. Ultimately, being properly rolled for your games will be the difference between playing solid poker and scared poker.
Additionally, it must be noted that you shouldn’t go chasing your losses at higher stakes during a session. There’s no shortcut to success in poker. It’s a game of averages over the long-term, which means profitability will come from high-volume at stakes you know you can win at – not from consistently losing at low- or mid- stakes and then having a couple of good sessions at high stakes to win it all back. Play at appropriate stakes as dictated by your bankroll and move up stakes gradually.
CASH POKER TIP 3: KNOW YOUR PREFLOP HAND RANGES BY POSITION
People say that position is everything in poker. This statement is true because when you have position on your opponents, you can always see how they act before you in each post-flop betting round. This situation gives you the most information when it’s your turn to act. It also allows you to put maximum pressure on your opponents by forcing them to likely make mistakes out of position.
As a result, playing a poker hand when in position will yield you the highest profits. Therefore, the better position that you have in a poker hand, the broader range of hands you can play (by either opening yourself or flatting/3betting an opponent). The further you are away from the button, the more you must tighten up your range of hands to make up for your lack of position (because you’ll need to make stronger hands to be able to win profitably when out of position).
- Example 1: UTG (out of position) on a 6-handed table, usually you should open about 15% of hands.
- Example 2: On the button (in position), you could profitably open up anywhere between 35% and 50% of hands, depending on the tendencies of the opponents left to act in the blinds.
Numerous websites offer free preflop hand ranges by position charts that you can use to understand what hands you should play in the various positions at the table. Use these to understand the basics regarding how to play your preflop hands, and then as you become more and more comfortable with them, adjust the ranges slightly to account for the tendencies of your opponents.
CASH POKER TIP 4: BLUFF, BUT DON'T OVER-BLUFF
If you never bluff in poker, players will fold against you whenever facing significant aggression, only because they’ll know that you always have the goods when you bet or raise. Oppositely, if you bluff too frequently, players will be able to call you down with weaker value hands to exploit this tendency of yours. Therefore, bluffing in poker is crucial, but only in specific situations, and with the correct frequency.
“Balanced” ranges refer to having a corresponding number of bluff hands to go along with your value hands. For example, If you bet ½-pot on the river, your opponent will be getting 3:1 on a call. Therefore, to not be exploited, in theory, you should be bluffing here 25% of the time: If you have 30 combinations of value hands, you should be bluffing with a carefully selected 10 combos of bluff hands.
Good bluff candidates often include the weakest holdings in your range and/or those that do well in blocker/removal effects against your opponent’s range. For example, suppose the flop is J-9-3 with two hearts. The turn is a 6, and the river is a 2, not completing the flush. Hands such as T-8 and Q-T are great triple barrel bluff candidates here, specifically those not containing a heart.
We’d like our opponent to have more combinations of heart flush draws in his range so that we can make him fold more often. K-Q would also be a potential candidate if you chose to take a triple barrel line because it blocks some of the combinations of K-J and Q-J that our opponent might call us down with.
CASH POKER TIP 5: BE AGGRESSIVE
Being aggressive in poker (by betting and raising) is profitable because it can give you two ways to win:
- You can get your opponent to fold to your aggression, awarding you the current pot without a showdown.
- You can have the best hand at showdown.
If you play a passive style with checks and calls, you can only win by the second way: having the best hand.
Therefore, the most profitable poker players have a great tendency of using selective aggression. This strategy includes 3betting more (versus just flatting an open), continuation betting (c-betting) frequently, double-barrelling often on good cards. They also work in some check-raises and donk bets (instead of primarily check-calls) when out of position.
BONUS TIP: PLAY THE PLAYER
At almost all stakes (except maybe the highest stakes), players will have certain tendencies that can be exploited. Many won’t be playing game theory optimal (GTO) with balanced strategies. If possible, figure out what your opponents are doing poorly, so that you can win the most from them this way.
If one player always calls your bets with a wide range of holdings, simply don’t try and bluff him. If a passive opponent only calls with his draws, but then raises you in a hand, it might be time to find a fold with your overpairs.
If you take anything away from this list, always remember to find games that have weaker players (ideally big losers, but at the very least, players who are worse than you). This scenario is where your most significant profit margins are going to come. After you’ve found a good game, work swiftly to identify your opponents’ weaknesses as soon as possible so that you can best exploit them.
Beyond that, keep learning, studying and applying basic winning strategies, like being aggressive and always trying to have at least some bluffs in your range.
If you follow these poker cash game tips, you’ll be well on your way to crushing it on the felts.