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Dan Carter - A beginners guide to NLHE cash games.

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  • Dan CarterSo you are here to learn about the beauty of cash games? Look no further!

    Cash games are fantastic, you get up whenever you feel like it, you can game select and even better there is a lot more money to be made.

    A lot of people are always failing to make the transition from tourneys to cash games, in fact I would guess that most people reading this article fall in this category. I'll be honest, the average tourney player is far worse than the average cash game player simply because cash games take a lot more effort to master.

    So where to start I hear you ask? Small stakes is the first thing I recommend. 50NL ($0.25/$0.50) is a good start since players are here are often terrible and you can't lose too much. Putting hours in at these stakes gives you a very good chance to build your bankroll, there isn't much point playing much lower unless it is all you can afford since players don't get much worse.

    Where do I start?

    First things first take part in discussions on poker forums, take notice of what views other people have in certain scenarios. If you are jumping in at the deep end and have no cash game experience then you need to learn quickly. There are plenty of coaches and tutorial sites out there to give you a boost start.

    Less of the rambling let me actually talk about cash games in depth.

    First things first, I would recommend everyone to sit with the maximum buy-in of 100BB's. A lot of strategy that is written out there is based on playing 100bb deep, the more you play 100bb deep the faster you will come across similar scenarios where you will already know the correct strategy. Starting requirements and preflop strategy are where all weak players go wrong. It is important that you always open the pot with a raise, I will not go into why in too much detail but you need to always be putting pressure on the blinds as it gives them extra opportunities to make mistakes. Open calling is different to over calling though, if there is an original limper then sometimes it is correct to over call. What is an open raise anyway? It is when there has been no action before you and you make a raise. I like to generally make a raise of 3-4x the big blinds. In lower stake games like you people will be beginning with I recommend 4 or 5x the big blind as people are a lot looser at lower stakes, you need to raise more preflop to increase the chances of getting heads-up (you have a better chance of winning the pot heads-up than you do 3 handed, obviously). Typically most winning cash game players play around 20% of their hands preflop and entering the pot with a raise in nearly all of them (I am referring to 6 handed cash games). To give a rough idea on starting requirements I would recommend most players following this guide:

    ? Open with any pair from any position. ? Avoid opening with suited connectors in early position, the implied odds are a lot less than you think and people are deluded by this fact. ? Avoid hands such as KJ A10 and Q10 from early position, they are far too difficult to play post flop out of position. ? Open with about 35% of your hands on the button, these include hands like 56suited, A2 and K9.

    Post flop play

    It is difficult to talk about post flop play in an article as there are so many possible scenarios. The biggest leak I see in most peoples games is just simply putting far too much money in the pot with a weak hand. You really do need to play ABC poker post flop to become a winning player. You don't need to deceive people by getting 100BB's into the pot with AQ on a KJ2 board just so that they will pay you off at a later time, some poker players are stupid enough to pay you off regardless of your image. The only time you should be getting involved in big pots is when you hold big hands, really it's that simple! If you find yourself at a decision for all your chips on the river and you hold a hand such as KQ on a QJ823 board then you are probably making mistakes on earlier streets. People don't value raise anywhere near as much as they should at low to mid stake games so sometimes you need to ask yourself a question, is my KQ good on this QJ8 flop after facing a check raise against a tight player? Almost definitely not!

    Table selection

    This is the most important to any cash game player, it is very under-rated and something you should definitely take notice of. When playing lower stake games such as .10/.25 then table selection isn't too important as you are almost guaranteed a few live ones. I think the .50/1 games are when you begin to see regular grinder. They just play ABC solid poker and are generally a pain, hopefully after reading this article and some work on your game you will become one of these players. If possible when I table select I like to sit to the left of the fish, the reason for this is you get to act after the weak player, getting extra oppotunities to make money from them.

    There are many ways to hone your table selection skills. If someone is a regular player (they seem tight/solid and multi-table) then note these players. Also note the very weak players.

    The other way of doing it is just boot up as many tables as you can possibly play then let your poker software pick up on which tables are weakest, poker sites offer stats for the tables such as "players per flop" and "average pot" but these are often innacurate and I try not to take note of these. If you are new to poker software then generally players playing 16-24% of hands and not calling preflop too much have a good solid strategy. Anyone playing over 25% of hands 6 handed are generally giving money away.

    Good luck at the tables!

    Dan "lucky_scrote" Carter

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