There are two dramatically different formats for No-Limit Hold’em poker: Cash games and tournaments. Cash games are generally easier to organize – you’ll find them more frequently in casinos and home games. Tournaments have more variance, so many long-time poker pros prefer the more stable environment of cash games.
Online cash game poker is popular, where you can log in, play as long as you want, and log off at your leisure. Playing online ring games is much different than live cash games, so we’ve provided a guide to poker cash games strategy both for offline and online play.
What is Cash Game Poker?
Cash games, sometimes known as ring games, constitute any poker game where real money is on the line, and players can re-buy or leave the game at any time they choose.
The Benefits of Online Poker Cash Games
Cash games have certain advantages over multi table tournaments (MTTs). Here are some of the main benefits to play in an online cash game.
Cash Game Strategy Tips
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at specific cash game tips. Here’s a look at some of the key ways you can improve your cash game play.
Cash Game Tip #1: Try to Categorize Opponents
Most poker pros use a couple of shortcuts to narrow down how their opponents play and what kind of cards they might be holding. One of the easiest ways to categorize players is by the standard “tight”, “loose” and “aggressive” styles.
Cash Game Tip #2: Play the Player
Tournaments have a large number of players. As soon as you're getting a good read, you’ll be moved to another table. Cash games offer more control. If you don’t like the table you can always just quit the game and look for a better one.
Cash Game Tip #3: Take a Long-Term Approach
The difference between winning or losing a cash game is subtle. Quite often you’ll simply break even. That’s a stark contrast to tournaments where it’s very clear who the biggest Sportsbook is and it’s possible to win 100X to 500X your initial buy-in. Cash games let you build your knowledge slowly, then use it to your advantage.
Cash Game Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Rebuy
Even the best poker players in the world lose a buy-in or two when they get aces cracked by kings or some other horrendous bad beat.
Cash Game Tip #5: Don’t Go Broke
Be economical. If you combine cash game strategy with a solid bankroll strategy, it’s almost impossible to grow broke in poker. A solid bankroll strategy means you walk away from the table at certain times. Go back to the lab, learn more, and come back stronger.
Live Cash Game Strategy
Players often wonder what a playable hand is in live games. Here's a rough sketch of the playable hands, speculative hands, and everything else.
Playable Hands vs Speculative Hands
Live Cash Game Tips
Playing online cash games is much different than playing live cash games. The reason is simple -- it draws different sorts of players. While mid-to-high stakes online cash games tend to draw more skilled players, local live games often have a few recreational players. When playing in live cash games, adjust your strategy accordingly.
Keep honing your poker strategy by reading some of the helpful articles below.
Poker Strategy 101
How to Play Poker
Cash Game Strategy FAQ
How can I be a good cash game player?
Read cash game strategy books and articles, then gain experience with the tactics by playing ring games online and in live settings. Start with lower blind levels until you consistently win, then move up to the next level. If you want something more specific, play tight/aggressive poker until you get comfortable with varying play.
Mastering poker is like mastering art -- you master the basics first and then develop your own style. Thus, avoid getting into pots with medium-strength hands first. Play only strong hands, learn how to bet with premium hands, and then move on to more advanced tactics.
How do you beat low stakes cash games?
If you want to make a little bit of money, follow old school poker strategies. Low stakes cash games have a lot of fish, so you'll succeed if you have patience and use sound strategy. Play tight, be patient, don't bluff, and win small pots.
If you want to crush low stakes cash games, then you'll need to use sound strategies AND exploit your opponents. Size-up your opponents' weaknesses, then exploit those weaknesses as the game progresses. Strong preflop strategies include betting 2.5x or 3x the big blind. Play tight and aggressively. That's lower than many of your opponents, but they're still in low stakes games, so don't take advice from them.
From there, we could branch out in several directions. When you're in the pot, play aggressively. If people raise in front of you, then re-raise. Use overbets to your advantage in postflop play, and stop slow playing big hands. Typically, you'll push people out of the pot. In postflop play, cut your losses when you know you're beat. Don't pay people for the sake of your ego.
What is a good cash game ROI?
A range of results are considered good. Frankly, any positive winrate in live poker is a good result. In online cash games, a 0-10bb/100 hands is a good result. 10+ is exceptional. In live cash games, 0-30bb/100 hands is a good result -- 30+ is considered exceptional.
Should you limp in cash games?
Many cash game experts advice that you shouldn't limp into pots in cash games. Most experts suggest players should play tight, but play aggressively when they do bet. That being said, sometimes limping is okay in the right circumstances. For instance, if most of the play at the table is passive, then limping in the right scenarios lets you see flops without paying a premium. If you see flops with low risk and great implied odds, it's not always a bad thing.