As a follow-up to my recent article about poker tournament success, this week we discuss 10 essential things you should consider when playing cash games.
10. Manage your money
Bankroll management is probably as well-known as the Texas Hold’em hand rankings or positions in poker, but very few players follow the right guidelines. To have success, you just have to know your limits.
Obviously, it is very game-dependent, and I cannot give you just one magic number that you can use in any game. But there are a few principles that you should follow. First, do not be afraid to move down in stakes when you need to, to prevent yourself from playing on the line and risking too much. Otherwise, you will put yourself in many stressful situations, and that is not where people make the right decisions.
Moreover, you should separate your bankroll from everyday life and, if you have a chance, keep your withdrawals to a minimum. It will help you move up in stakes much faster, and that is how you improve and make money in the long run.
9. Control your time
There are many different games that you can join all the time. You should take advantage of this flexibility and plan your sessions in advance. This will help you keep up with your goals and prevent you from joining random games.
Depending on your time zone and where you live, you can easily identify when the best time to play is and then build your entire schedule around that.
8. Select your games
An undeniable benefit of cash games is that you can join or leave whenever you want, so surely you should take advantage of that as well. You can do it with a click of a button online, and even if you are playing in the casino, you can start crushing live games much more often if you table select the right way.
Therefore, you should not be afraid to change the table if you don’t spot any weak players at yours. Remember, you are playing to make money, and if you can make twice as much at another table where someone drunk is spewing money around, you should take that game every single time.
7. Control the number of tables
Even though it is not a problem in live games, playing too many tables online is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
Playing too many tables prevents you from noticing valuable information or even thinking the hands through. Many of my students say that after a session, they can identify their main mistakes and see how they should have played the hands. However, playing too many tables at once and concentrating on many things prevents you from seeing players’ mistakes in time, and that’s where all the money is.
I rarely see players who are able to play online at more than six tables while still making good decisions. For most players, I highly recommend sticking with four or fewer.
6. Learn to keep your concentration
Cash games can be monotonous because you have to make the same decisions repeatedly, so focus is your best friend.
Starting your games only in a good mood and quitting when you start making bad decisions because of tilt or other reasons are no-brainers, but you still have to work to identify these spots. Taking a few minutes to prepare before your games can help you keep your concentration much longer.
Every time before starting a session, make sure to take care of your basic needs. Grab something to eat and have a bottle of water by your side. Moreover, you should prepare your brain by reviewing strategy or analyzing a few hands, just to warm up before jumping into real action.
5. Use position
Position is essential in every poker format, but even more so in cash games. Unlike in tournaments, where you play much shorter stacks and position is not as important at later stages, in cash games, you will have around 100 big blinds most of the time, so it is something you have to take into consideration all the time.
Luckily, by following a reflow ranges cheat sheet, it is not hard to learn which hands to open from different positions. But positional play is much more than that. Therefore, you should use these ranges when analyzing your opponent’s postflop game to identify his likely holdings. That is a good start for a winning strategy.
4. Know your preflop ranges
Preflop ranges are more than just the hands you choose to open. You should learn the entire strategy for any given spot. It is crucial to know which hands to three-bet against every position, when to just flat call, how to defend blinds, and even how to change these ranges versus different sizing.
However, an essential part of poker is adjusting against different players, and this is where most players fail. To achieve optimal results, you should use completely different preflop strategies against regulars and recreational players. Thus, spending some time to identify tendencies of your opponents and learning how to take advantage of them will pay huge dividends.
3. Learn to read ranges
Cash games require a lot more postflop play than tournaments, so you need to keep improving your game so you don’t fall behind. Obviously, there are many advanced poker training options for that, but you should start with simple things and learn how to put your opponent on a range in the first place.
Many players start thinking about ranges just when they are on the river. However, it is impossible to make a reasonable estimate of your opponents’ range without considering actions on previous streets. Therefore, when deciding on the river, always consider your opponents’ position and action preflop and which hands he would be playing this way. After that, you have to identify flop and turn action and his likely holdings, taking this particular line. Only then will you be able to accurately put him on a range of cards by the river and make better decisions than you are right now.
2. Identify regulars and recreational players
These days, most regulars play fairly well, while recreational players still commit many mistakes. Therefore, you should play entirely different strategies against these groups to maximize your results.
Obviously, to do that, you need to identify weak players, and that should be your first job when you sit down at the table, which bring us to . . .
1. Exploit weak players
Learning and playing game theory optimal strategy is an excellent starting point, but it is not how you make most of your money in poker. Your goal is to identify weak players at the table and take advantage of their mistakes.
It is a relatively easy concept, but many struggle with this strategy until they realize its full potential. I have spoken with hundreds of players over the years, and many of them are not able to let go of the idea of balancing ranges and applying this practice, even against weaker players.
If you are playing against a calling station who is not folding much, you should not balance your range with bluffs. Instead, value bet more hands, and you will end up printing money. Contrary to this, if they are folding too much, bluff all your air hands and check strong ones to give them the opportunity to bluff. It is as easy as that.
If you spot a mistake in your opponent’s play, forget about balancing and concentrate on exploiting it as hard as you can.