Cash game online poker is the oldest and arguably most popular format of the game. It’s poker distilled to its purest form with just cards, chips, and blinds that never change. Cash games are also one of the best ways to learn the game thanks to their simplicity and accessibility.
What is Cash Game Poker?
Cash games are the poker equivalent of pickup sports. Players can come and go as they choose with no time commitment necessary. You could play for 30 minutes or 24 hours if you wanted.
What’s the Standard Cash Game Setup?
In a standard cash game, players buy chips and are randomly positioned at a poker table. Cash games generally take place with either six or nine players to a table.
How are Cash Games Different Than Tournaments?
Cash games are basically pickup games that never end while tournaments have a distinct beginning, middle and end.
What’s the Rake?
Casinos need to be able to make money from poker in order to spread the game to poker fans.
What Makes for a Good Online Poker Cash Game Site?
A lot of factors go into the success of an online poker site's cash games. Here are the factors we consider below.
Differences Between Full Ring Games and 6max Tables
The two major types of tables in online poker are: (1) full ring games of 9-player tables and (2) 6max tables, which only have 6 players. 9-player tables have the traditional number of players, while 6max tables represent a smaller and more personal poker game.
If you're trying to decide between the two, here is a comparison between ring games and 6max tables. These are general tendencies, so results may vary.
|FACTOR||FULL RING GAMES||6MAX TABLES|
|Game Speed||60 hands per hour||85 hands per hour|
|Starting Hand Selection||Tighter: Fewer Blinds||Looser: More Blinds, More Skill Uses|
|Difficulty||Lower: Play the Situation More Not the Player||Higher: More Personal Interaction, Reading Players More Important|
|Variance||Lower: Fewer Swings in Fortune||Higher: Looser Action with Varying Hand Strengths Played|
|Profitability||Bad Players Less Exposed in Full Ring Games||A Consensus Believes 6max is More Profitable (for Good Players)|
What Are Some Good Tips for Cash Games?
There’s a nearly endless amount of resources dedicated to cash game poker strategy including books, videos and Twitch streams. Much of it is free and it’s worth devoting some time to it when you get the chance.
In the meantime here are some quick and dirty tips that may help you improve your game if you’re just getting started:
1. Play Good Hands
This seems obvious, but when you’re just starting out at poker you don’t have to be running crazy bluffs all the time. Either a pocket pair or a combination of two face cards (ace, king, queen, jack) is a good starting point. This will help you get an idea about relative hand strength.
Another way of putting this is: get ready to fold a lot more than you might expect.
2. Observe Other Players
You don’t have to worry about putting players on exact hands like they do in the movies but you should try and keep track of how your opponents are playing.
Statistically, if someone is raising all the time, then there’s a good chance they have marginal cards. Meanwhile, if someone only plays once every hundred hands, then there’s a good chance they have something decent when they finally enter a pot.
3. Try to Bet More and Call Less
This one feels unnatural to new players, but there are some benefits to betting instead of calling.
Generally, new players are unsure of how strong their hand actually is so they opt for the safer play (calling) so they can limit their losses.
The problem with calling all the time is that you can never win outright by calling. A surprising number of hands will fold when facing a raise so you could be missing out on a lot of potential profit. This is obviously situational but a good concept to keep in mind.
4. Bet If You Have a Good Hand
This one seems obvious, but many players attempt to get tricky and trap their opponents by checking. The problem is that you want to be building a pot, not keeping it small. Your pair of aces isn’t going to do you much good if you get to the river and there are only five big blinds in the pot.
Worried about players with weak hands folding too early? There’s a good chance they were going to fold anyway. Meanwhile, you really, really don’t want to miss out on getting extra value from players who have moderately strong hands (that you have beat). This strategy also protects you from allowing opponents to get lucky and hit a card on the turn or river for free.
5. Don’t Get Too Attached to Strong Hands
Sometimes the deck runs dry and you don’t get good cards for long periods of time.
In these situations, it can be very difficult to let hands like pocket jacks or pocket queens go when the flop brings an ace or a king.
Try to avoid getting attached to good hands and reassess your situation whenever possible. You can never win a hand by folding, but sometimes you can save such a large amount of money that it’s essentially the same as winning a giant pot.
Why Play in Cash Games?
Now that they know what ring games are, players might wonder why they should play cash games. Here's a list of the most obvious reasons you should try this type of online poker first.
Poker Cash Games FAQ
What's a cash game in poker?
A cash game is an open-ended game in which players can buy in and leave the game at any time between hands. Cash games are popular in poker clubs around the country or in home poker games. Online cash games are one of three main ways that card players enjoy poker online. Online poker sites sometimes refer to them as ring games.
How do you play poker cash game?
In a poker tournament, a player pays an entry fee and is given a set amount of chips. In the most common poker tournaments (freezeouts), a player continues until they no longer have a chip stack. No buy-ins or add-ons are allowed.
In a poker cash game, players either use cash or spend money to buy chips. If they lose their chip stack, the player can buy more chips and continue. Also, the player can choose to leave the game at any time. Cash games are popular for players who want maximum flexibility.
Can I cash out half my chips while playing?
Not while you’re still at the table. This is colloquially referred to as “going south” or ratholing and it’s generally not permitted. This is to keep players from taking advantage of their current position at the table and being able to shove their short stack against opponents without the risk of losing their entire stack.
If a player ever feels uncomfortable about how many chips they have at a table, they should simply leave the table (with their chips, of course), take five minutes to cash out some of their chips, and then buy in for a smaller amount, at which point they will be given a new seat (potentially at an entirely new table).
The reality, however, is good players want to always have the most chips they can possibly have at a table in order to maximize their winnings.
Can I pick my seat in a cash game?
No. Players are randomly assigned seats to protect newer/weaker players from card sharks. There’s actually a strategic advantage to being on a player’s left as you’ll always have a chance to raise or re-raise them.
It’s fine if it’s a friendly home game but in general, seating should always be randomized. One easy way to do it at home is to simply draw high cards from a deck for seating positions.
Online this is all taken care of and you’ll always be instantly assigned a random seat.
Can I leave immediately after doubling up?
Technically there are no rules against sitting at a table, doubling up on the first hand, and then leaving with a huge profit. It is, however, considered extremely poor etiquette to do so.
The idea is that players should give their opponents at least a little bit of a chance to win some of their money back. There are no hard and fast rules on this subject but people tend to really dislike when players do this. It’s sometimes referred to as a “hit-and-run.”
If you’re really worried about losing your huge stack, then you could always tighten up and only play premium hands like kings and aces.
Are cash games expensive?
Not if you don’t want them to be. Cash games start at just $.01/$.02 online, which means you could make even $50 last for an extremely long time.
On the other hand, there are enormous games like $200/$400 where high-stakes pros and billionaires clash and pots are worth hundreds of thousands.
One thing to keep in mind — and this is constantly misrepresented in movies and TV — is that you can never lose more than the amount you brought to the table. In online poker, you can't lose more than your deposit. You’re never going to lose your house, horse, car, wedding ring, etc.
Why should I have a larger buy-in in cash game poker?
Having a large number of buy-ins helps players avoid going on downswings where they lose their entire bankroll. If you’re worried about going broke, then you could utilize a simple strategy that poker pros have been using for years: Bankroll management.
The idea behind bankroll management is that your bankroll (funds for playing poker) dictate what games you can play. If you’ve only got $50 online, then you can stick to $.01/$.02 where you’ve got 25 buy-ins. If you have $100, you can try $.02/$.05 where you’d still have 20 buy-ins.
Can you make a living playing poker cash games?
Yes, you can. In fact, some poker pros are best known as cash game specialists. They play high-stakes poker in private poker rooms in the biggest resorts in Las Vegas. The group of players contains other pros, along with high roller amateurs. In these games, a professional can win millions of dollars a year.
Online poker professionals exist, as well. Called sharks, sneaks, or pros, these players make a living off of other card players. These players enter a ring game full of amateurs, pretend to be a newbie or a calling station, and eventually win a bunch of money due to their advanced knowledge and skills.
Where can I play poker cash games?
You can play poker cash games in (1) online poker rooms, (2) land-based casinos' poker rooms, (3) commercial poker clubs, and (4) home poker games.