Cash Game Poker

by Mario Alfonsi  |  Published on May 23, 2017  |  Updated on May 23, 2017

Cash Game Poker also known as ring game poker, or live poker is any game that is played with cash, or chips that have a cash value. In a tournament, the chips don’t have a cash value, and you can’t just get up, head on over to the casino’s cashier and cash them out for real money.When you’re playing real money poker, you can do just that though. You can opt to get up from the table any time you like. If you’re at a land based casino, you’d head up to the cashier window and trade any remaining chips for cash. If you were playing online poker, the balance of chips you had on the table would be returned to your player account balance on the site.

Cash Game Poker Strategy

The strategy used to win at cash game tables is very different from that used during tournament events as well. When you’re playing a poker tournament, you need to outlast the majority of the places to finish in the cash and get paid. A tournament is a marathon, not a sprint.At a cash game, you might have guys buying in short, shoving, and then busting or rebuying, while at the same time have some other guys that buy in for the maximum buyin amount all sitting at the table. Any of these people can come and go as they please. Any of them can take more money out of their wallets and buy back in or increase his chipstack any time he’d like, as long as he’s not involved in a hand.The idea here isn’t to be the last guy remaining at the table, it’s to garner the best profit from your strong hands against weaker opponents for an overall long term positive return.We’ll go over some of the basics for new players to cash game poker.

The Power of Late Position – The Dealer Button

Your position at the table in relation to the button is of great importance in cash game poker. It will dictate which hands you should logically be choosing to play before the flop as well as how you will play those same hands after the flop has been dealt.The main advantage of position is seeing what other players do before you make your decision. When the dealer button is in front of you, you have some advantage, because you’re last to act. That means that anyone that’s going to bluff, or make a play at the pot has already done it before the action even gets to you, you can take all those moves into consideration while you decide what you should do.

Playing from an early position

Now if you’re in one of the seats directly in front of the button, then you’re big or small blind before the flop. Generally, you should play very cautiously when acting from an early position because you will likely be out of position in the hand if someone else calls or raises. This can be achieved by playing tighter in earlier positions, making sure only to play premium hands. There’s an exception to this rule though, if you’re at a table with minimum action, where a lot of people call to see a flop, and few calls raises or big bets, and you’re in sitting in the big blind, you’ve got two perfectly good shots at stealing a pot. You can make a bold raise, say 4x the big blind when the bet comes to you. Then on the flop, after gauging your opponents reaction to the flop by looking at them, and not at the cards as they’re dealt, you can fire a second bullet, and make another bold sized bet, at least the equivalent of 1/2 of the pot. If there are still players in the hand after having made those two moveshowever, it’s likely that this pot is in fact not for sale and it’s time to move on, chalk those bets up to a loss, and recover in a future hand.

Loosening Up Hand Selection in Late Position

When you’re in late position you can open up your game a lot more in cash game poker, which is the complete opposite to early position; you should play and raise a wider range of hands and bet more aggressively. At the low limit games in particular, not many players will play back at you when out of position.

Pre-Flop Play in Cash Game Poker

Be patient and try not to play too many hands before the flop. In cash game poker, the chances of making a big hand when you have something like 72o is very low, so you want to try and only play premium starting hands. Even if you do happen to hit something with your six-eight offsuit, you’re going to ruin your table reputation when you have to show it to get paid, and then you’ve lost your chance at buying those extra couple of pots per table rotation.As a general rule, it is not a good idea to play more then 20% of hands. In my experience, if you play more hands you get involved in too many tough spots on the flop and later streets. However, if you are dealt many amazing hands, by all means play them even if it means bringing the percentage for the short term. I am referring to average statistics here.Additionally, no matter how many hands you’ve been playing, if there have been a lot of hands played by the blinds with no raise on anyone’s part, take a stab at a pot or two. Winning a few of these unprotected pots will over time have a significant impact on your ROI.

Cash Game Poker – Playing the Flop

Rule #1: If you’re playing live cash game poker at a real land-based poker table, do not watch the dealer deal the flop. There is no advantage to being the first guy to see the cards that are dealt on the flop, or whether or not the dealer remembered to clean his fingernails.When you first start practicing this rule, find a different player to watch each hand, someone that’s in the hand, and watch them. Whether you still have cards or not. You’re going to see a few things here. First, you’re going to catch the most obvious of tells. There really are people that roll their eyes when they don’t get a flush draw on the flop, or an ace flop when they’re holding a pocket pair.Another thing you’re going to see is someone that is looking right back at you! This is huge. Most commonly, the next hand you play with this person they will check the flop to you, seriously, give it a try. They do this out of respect. You’ve just been identified as a serious contender, an actual rounder, and … what’s more important is that you’ve just identified another serious poker player. This person is watching the game, they’re playing the players, they’re paying attention, and no you know it.

After the Flop has been dealt – Cash Poker Game Strategy

Now you’ve seen the reaction of some of the other players, the flop’s been dealt, you can see the three cards of the flop and you have pretty good idea of the strength of your hand and whether or not you will continue playing it. Many pots are won or lost on the flop so it’s best to be aggressive on this street as it will cost you significantly less. You will need to read the flop board texture and decide how it fits in with the other player(s) pocket cards as well as your own.If you were holding A-K offsuit for instance, and the flop was AK(h) you need to decide if you’re going to let your opponents draw to the hearts, or bet them out right here. There are some advantages to letting them draw, the odds are in your favor if you’re heads up, but if they catch, there are some very real disadvantages to letting them draw as well.Try to determine the strength of your hand in comparison to what other possible hands or draws that are out there. If you suspect the other player is on a draw, make sure to bet and get your opponent to chase their draw.

Cash Game Poker – The Turn and River Cards

Keep an eye on your opponents in live games, for things like double checking cards, which is often a sign of a flush draw. Or redoublechecking cards,which is often a verification of a made flush. Online, you have to use prior experience, facts, and perhaps Google to gauge your opponents.Yes I did say Google, you can’t do it on the new Bodog site, but on other sites, you can put your opponents name’s into your Google search bar and find out how they play, or at least how often they lose.Start thinking of possible senario’s. What will happen if a heart is dealt? What’s the best possible hand right now? What are the odds that someone has the nuts? What are the best possible draws right now? Is your opponent playing like someone with a draw or someone with the nuts?

Do not Marry Your Hand!

Greg Raymer once said with glee, the turn always brings more outs. No matter how strong your two pair, trips, or even a straight felt on the flop, remember, that a drawing player may outdraw you, and if you know that’s the case, there’s no benefit to paying to see his cards.Beware of the turn card, you may feel some attachment to the pot at this point because you already have chips invested in it from the previous betting rounds. Don’t let this be a leak in your game and let go of the hand if you feel that you are beat. In other words, don’t ever feel “pot–”. The only time you are EVER pot committed is when you have a major amount of chips in the pot, compared to what it would cost you to see the showdown.For instance, if you have $300 in a pot and the turn bet is $200, so more than half of the pot, and you’re pretty sure your opponent just flushed on the turn, beating your straight, and leaving you either drawing for a bigger flush, or drawing dead, you’re going to have to make a judgment is it worth more than half the pot to find out if you make that flush? If you don’t make the flush, there will be another bet on the river before you can find out if your opponent really did make his flush.You’re going to have to use whatever insight you have about the way that opponent plays to decide if you believe the flush, and whether it’s worth calling to find out.Now on the other hand, let’s say you have $300 in the pot, and another $20 in your stack. If you have nothing but King High here, you call. You just don’t lay down your cards to a $300 pot with $20 to call unless there is absolutely NO WAY you can win.So let’s assume that you have a normal sized AK suited bet of perhaps 3x the blind in preflop. The flop comes, you’re first to bet, and your opponent, who sees every flop, but never actually bets themselves, quickly grabs for her chips, bets out of turn, thudding the chips down proudly, announcing that she’s “All In”. The board shows a pair of fives and an ace. There’s a pretty good chance your opponent just hit trip fives. Even if you’re wrong here, it’s better to lose the 3x the big blind and make it up later than to risk a hundred bucks to find out you’re right.The turn is also prime time to fold if you do not have a strong hand or have missed your draw and are not getting the proper odds to call bets to see the next card.In cash games, if you do decide to proceed to the River card, you should have a strong hand or at least the proper odds to call a bet so that you may complete a drawing hand. If no one bets the turn, and no one seems especially interested in the pot, and you have a decent draw, or a small pair with a draw, it might not hurt to take a stab at the pot, as betting is ALWAYS better than calling, if you don’t have the nuts.If you make it to the last round, then you should be fairly certain that you have the best hand or have always had the best odds on the pot. Keep in mind, that by the best hand however, we don’t necessarily mean the best made hand. An open ended straight flush draw is actually the favorite when compared to most hands. Make it an open-ended straight flush draw with a pair, and most players would happily push their entire chipstack all-in on the flop.

The Showdown

If you bet and the other players call all bets, the hand goes to “The Showdown”. Whenever a hand gets to showdown, you will want to have a very strong hand. If you are going to the river and winning only half the time, you are most certainly playing far too loose for cash game poker games. In fact, if you’re playing regularly at all, you should be keeping a ledger of your wins and losses, so that you always know realistically how well you’re playing.At the showdown in a cash game, if there was action on the river, then the last person to bet or raise has to show their cards first. If you are SURE you’re beat, you can muck at any time without showing your cards. Any other player that asks to see your cards, and was still in the hand at the river can ask the dealer to show your hand however, so when you throw them to the dealer, if you don’t want anyone else to see them, get them right in the middle of the muck, so that they can’t be recovered.If you’re not POSITIVE you’ve lost though, ALWAYS table your hand face up. A tabled hand plays itself. Even if you say, “you win”. If your hand is actually better than your opponents, the dealer will push you the pot.