Regardless of whether you are brand new to cash games or are a seasoned pro, always keep these 12 poker cash game tips in mind when playing to maximise your winnings at the table!
12 CASH GAME POKER STRATEGY TIPS ARE:
- Table selection is key
- Follow proper bankroll management
- Know your preflop hand ranges by position
- Bluff, but don't over-bluff
- Be aggressive
- Choose the right bet sizes
- Put Your Opponent(S) On Ranges
- Play games where you have an edge
- Know your weaknesses
- Don’t play emotionally
- Avoid distractions
- Play the Player
CASH GAME 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 GAME 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.
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 GAME 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 GAME POKER TIP 4: BLUFF, BUT DON'T OVER-BLUFF
If you never bluff in poker, players will fold against you whenever facing significant aggression. 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 GAME 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.
CASH GAME POKER TIP 6: CHOOSE THE RIGHT BET SIZES
Bet sizes are undoubtedly going to have a huge impact on your poker win rate.
Based off of the bet sizes you choose, you have the ability to:
- Maximise your EV
- Minimise your losses
- Manipulate your opponent’s continuing range
- Control your ideal value to bluff ratios
Say you’re up against an opponent who will call regardless of bet size. When betting for value, you should always bet bigger to maximise your winnings.
The more frequently you may be beat, or the thinner the value bet, the smaller your bet size should be.
In theory, your betting range should include more value hands than bluffs. (The opposite is true when you’re betting with bigger sizes.)
As a result, savvy players will call wider versus small sizings. They will call narrower against larger sizings. Knowing this, you can sometimes manipulate a better opponent’s continuing range.
Keep your opponent’s range wider with small flop/turn bets. Then your opponent may fold versus your big bluff bet on the river.
CASH GAME POKER TIP 7: PUT YOUR OPPONENT(S) ON RANGES
This tip can have two meanings –
- You cannot simply play the strength of your hand without considering what your opponent might have.
- Do NOT put your opponent(s) on one specific hand during a poker game. Doing so will often cause you to jump to inaccurate conclusions about how to play your hand. You will likely then make mistakes of epic proportions thereafter.
When you think in terms of ranges, open up your vision to see the bigger picture. Subsequently, you can determine what the best play is to make against all your opponent(s) holdings. That way, you can maximize your EV.
CASH GAME POKER TIP 8: PLAY GAMES WHERE YOU HAVE AN EDGE
If you had a poker table filled entirely with players of equal skill, only the rake would win in the long run. In the short-term, some players will win, and some will lose.
But it’s essential to think of the origin of your long-term profits in poker (especially when factoring in the rake).
It comes from WEAKER players!
Suppose the casino rakes an average of 40bb/100 hands. So, if you want to profit from the game, you’re going to need at least one player in the game who loses more.
Any losses in excess to the rake aren’t going all directly to you. This money will be spread amongst all of the other winning players at the table.
So, suppose you have 5 profitable players and one player, who loses on average 50bb/100 hands. After rake, there will only be 10bb/100 left for the winning players. Each winner will only profit at a rate of 2bb/100.
You can see how crucial it is to play in a game not just with 1-2 small losing fishbutideally with a few big losing players. This setup will help pay the rake and allow you (and other winning players) to profit greatly.
CASH GAME POKER TIP 9: KNOW YOUR WEAKNESSES
It’s critical to self-reflect from time to time in poker. Analyse which parts of the game you can or should improve.
Some players make the same mistakes over and over again and wonder why they aren’t winning.
Einstein said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again and expect different results.
If you don’t know your weaknesses, you’re going to have a more difficult time getting better. Self-awareness is the key to progress.
Zero in on flaws you might have at the poker table either by self-analysis or coaching. Then you can start to correct your behaviour to become a more consistent winner.
Suppose you become aware that you’re prone to tilting. You can then set a rule to either leave or pause a game when you feel tilted. Or set a stop-loss limit to help you avoid losing even more money.
These safeguards will help minimise your losses and play more A-game poker. It will solidify how the negative impact of that weakness (tiling) is affecting your win rate.
Ultimately, knowing your weaknesses can help you to correct them and enhance your game dramatically.
CASH GAME POKER TIP 10: DON’T PLAY EMOTIONALLY
The winners in poker make their decisions with sound reason and well-thought logic. Losing players (especially those who are prone to tilt) often make quick, brash decisions. These thoughts come from a place of desperation or emotion.
Chronic poker gamblers, for example, will all too frequently call down when chasing a draw. They may not even have the right pot odds - simply with the feeble hopes of hitting - one time! They wishfully dream about winning a big pot as a result.
Injecting logic into the situation, solid players will realise if they are getting the right price to call. They will proceed to play in a profitably from there.
Say you use logic in poker and still lose. You can back up your actions with correct motivation and +EV decision-making.
Contrast this with players who play emotionally. You’ll see that their actions will all too frequently cause them to lose money. They are not thinking their decisions through, well enough.
CASH GAME POKER TIP 11: AVOID DISTRACTIONS
To play optimally, you should be paying as much attention as you can to your game(s) in progress. For live players, this tip is especially critical.
You’re usually only dealt about 25-30 hands per hour. You may only play post-flop with 4-5 of these hands every hour.
Much of the information on your opponents will come from the hands you’re not directly involved in playing.
So, it’s going to be essential to focus and give your poker game the attention it deserves.
- Turn off your phone
- Switch off the TV
- Don’t multi-task when in a game
These three tips will allow you to pick up as much information as possible on your opponent. You can then use this info to profit from them even more!
BONUS TIP 12: 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.
CASH GAME TIPS SUMMARY
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.