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Cash games

Here, we walk you through the basics of cash games, including:

Why play cash games?

While tournaments are largely about prestige, cash games are, as the name suggests, where the real money is made. Moreover, they train us to play real poker rather than just move all-in and hope for the best once the blinds are high enough.

Five reasons
to play cash games

The sustenance of poker, cash games are a great way to get some practice in.

  • Play anytime with up to 6 players
  • Play as little or as much as you like with no start or end times
  • Speed through a poor hand in an instant with fastforward
  • Play on your terms. You alone choose how much to take to the table
  • Start a game with just $0.60

Six rules for cash game success

Playing is easy with cash games. What’s more difficult is getting good enough to actually start making money. We’ve put together six Golden Rules to give our players confidence and allow them to take their game to the next level.

1. Start slowly

In no-limit Hold'em, players can lose their entire stack in a single hand, so sticking with stakes one can handle is paramount.

A good strategy is to divide the bankroll (the amount of money a player is prepared to spend on poker) by 20, in order to find out what can be risked per game. Then divide this by 50 to get the maximum buy-in to look for. For example, if the bankroll is $500, that’s $25 per game, so $0.25/$0.50 is the right level for you. Don’t buy-in at anything less than 50 times the big blind. Otherwise, you’ll be playing defensively with a short stack, which won’t make for a rich learning experience.

2. Bet if you have the goods

In cash games, big pots mean either big hands or big bluffs. A more experienced player could take you to the cleaners with anything in between. So being careful with hands like A-K (which may look good, until you make a pair and someone else hits a set) is key. Also, we advise against betting with low full houses or straights and flushes — those are easily beat.

If bluffing, choose your opponent carefully and make sure you really do play as if you have the hand you're representing.

3. Pay attention to position

When the stack sizes get big, close attention needs to be paid to what hands you can play, based on your position at the table.

If you are in an early position, it is advised to throw away hands like A-J and A-10. Take care in the blinds, as you'll be out of position throughout the hand. In middle and later positions, you can play a bit looser as you have a better chance of seeing the other players off and scooping the pot.

4. Take control

In cash games, the goal is to put pressure on other players, steal blinds when possible, and make people want to call you when you have a winning hand. The best way to do this is to raise pre-flop and bet again on the flop, putting in a total of roughly half the pot. This might seem a bit counter-intuitive initially, but the reality is that most hands miss the flop, so the player with the most momentum wins the day.

The only exception is when playing deep stacks — you will want to play it down (in order to get more money in the pot) before making your move.

5. Play five and six-seater games

There is a lot to be learned from playing more intense, short-handed games. Attitude and position are essential, and “feel” plays a huge part. A deeper bankroll is definitely required and the competition can be tough. But in return, you will learn a lot and, once you get the hang of it, you can make more money here than in full-ring games.

6. Don't be hard on yourself

Finally, keep your losses in perspective. Mistakes will happen on a learning curve, but they are just lessons that will ultimately help you become a better player, as long as you take the advice and play within your means.