Correct Cash Game Play

Good game play can be taught and that is what we intend to do for our members.  You know the advice given below is pure gold too because it's in our interests to have you playing the best you can.

Before you continue on with this in depth strategy please read and understand the basic rules of the game.  Please refer to our  "How to Play Poker" page.

Poker is a very mathematical game, especially when playing online where there are none of the tells to be picked up.  There are various flavours of Poker including Tournaments, Sit'n'gos and of course the Ring (cash) game. The game strategy also changes depending on how many people are playing.   It is the cash games where the most amount of rake can be generated and also where the most money is won.  And if you want to get serious about your new career then you really should know how to play the game. This means that you may only play one hand in 10 to 15.  You will fold your way to success.  Even hands that apear to be superb should sometimes be folded before the flop.  Folding Ace/Queen suited before you even see the flop may seem to be illogical but you will learn when such a move is statistically correct.  Remember there is minimal pressure to play a hand in a cash game. The blinds are not increasing as they do in Tournaments.

When playing poker the winner is generally the person with the most patience.  You will be taught to wait until you have the best cards before you even consider joining into the game. Once you have them though you will raise the stakes constantly.  This style of game is referred to as tight aggressive.

You'll need to practice what you learn here not abberate from the strategy.  Practice on real money games. Play for fun games simply aren't the same. 

Please be aware that you will have losing streaks, especially in the beginning.  Even the professional players lose sometimes.  The real point is that in the long run they win many more.  Take the opportunity to learn from every mistake.  The cards are NOT stacked against you although it may feel like it sometimes.  Always ask yourself were you following the strategy described here? 

No doubt it all sounds ominous but the good news is; when you get it right you can consistently earn terrific money on a daily basis.  The other consideration is that if you are embracing the BFlush Rewards Program you will be making a substantial profit just by playing regardless of whether you win or lose. :-D

The following strategy has been developed for a 7 - 10 player No limit Hold'em ring game.  Don't play at a table where there are less than 7 players.  Your buy-in should be 100 times the big blind.   So if you want to play in a game with $0.50/$1.00 blinds you need to buyin with a $100.00.  More on this later.    Let's go...

Bankroll Management

Now, in order that the hard times don't scuttle your boat in the very beginning while you're learning to play the game, we suggest you take care to properly manage your bank roll. Basically, this means that you only use one 25th of your bankroll to buy in to a game. 

This strategy describes the best game play for when you have bought in with 100 times the big blind or more and is therefore known as the Big Stack Strategy.  If you are going to begin at the lowest level with $0.01/$0.02 blinds then you should be buying in with $2.00.  In which case you shouldn't move up to the next level $0.02/$0.04 blinds until you have $100.00 in your bankroll.  You should have $250.00 before you move up to the $0.05/$0.10 blinds game.  $500.00 before you move up to the $0.10/$0.20 and so on and so forth.

Table Position

The order in which players act, depends on how they are seated in relation to the dealer. The more players between the dealer and you during the betting round (counter clockwise), the earlier your position.  

An early position means you are acting before other players.  A late position means you will act  later in the round after a greater number of the other players. This is important - the earlier you have to act, the stronger your hand must be, since the more players there are after you, the greater the chance that one of them has stronger cards than you.

The earlier your position, the stronger your hand must be.

There are 10 positions at a 10-handed table. These positions are divided into four groups: the early, middle, late positions, and the blinds.


The three middle positions MP1, MP2 and MP3
The three players to the right of the late positions are in the middle positions. They are referred to as MP1, MP2 and MP3.

The three early positions UTG1, UTG2 and UTG3
The three players to the right of the middle positions are in the early positions. The Early positions are also kinown as being UNDER THE GUN.  They are referred to as UTG1, UTG2 and UTG3.

The two late positions
The dealer is also referred to as the button and the player immediately to the right of the dealer is known as the cutoff.

The two blind positions SB and BB
The two players who have to post the blinds are in the blind positions. The player to the left of the dealer must post the Small Blind (SB); the player to his left must post the Big Blind (BB).

 

WHAT IF THERE ARE EMPTY SEATS AT THE TABLE?

So far we assumed there were 10 players at the table, but this isn't always the case.

If there is an unoccupied seat between you and the dealer then that is one hand less that you have to worry about. Effectively your position is one seat closer to the dealer.  If there are 2 empty seats between you and the dealer then you your position is 2 seats later than normal.

Starting Hands Chart

The Starting Hands Chart shows you which hands you should play and how you should play them. Simply print it out and you will always know what to do throughout the entire game.

Download our free Starting Hands Chart PDF now
You will need Adobe Reader(free download).

The chart contains four categories of information:

  • Your starting hand
  • The actions of your opponents before you
  • Your position
  • How you should play your starting hand considering your current position and the actions of your opponents before you.


Suited cards s: An s behind the hand, as in A9s, stands for suited and means that both of the cards you are holding are of the same suit (hearts, diamonds, spades or clubs). Which suit it is doesn't play any role in Texas hold'em.

  • A9s stands for ace nine of the same suit
  • A4s stands for ace four of the same suit
  • QJs stands for queen jack of the same suit
  • QTs stands for queen ten of the same suit

Offsuit cards o: An o behind the hand, as in KQo, stands for offsuit and means that the two cards are of two different suits, for example if you are holding a club and a heart.

  • KJo stands for king jack of different suits
  • QTo stands for queen ten of different suits
  • JTo stands for jack ten of different suits

THE SECOND COLUMN: WHAT ACTION TOOK PLACE BEFORE YOU?

The second column shows you the possible answers to this question. You obviously play differently when someone raised before you, since this is a sign that your opponent has a strong hand.

 

COLUMNS 3-6: WHAT TO DO DEPENDING ON YOUR POSITION

Your position tells you in what column to look next. If you are in early position, look at the third column, if you are in the Small Blind or Big Blind, look at the last column.

WHAT DOES 'CALL 20' MEAN?

When you play a small pair like 55 you are speculating on hitting three-of-a-kind on the flop. This only happens approx. 12% of the time, but when it does, you will have a very strong hand that can bring in a fair amount of money. This is why it's profitable to call a raise when holding a small pair, as long as your opponent has enough money to pay you off when you do hit.

With a small pair, you should only call a raise, when your opponent has at least 20x the raise amount in his stack. By the way, this applies to you as well. You must also have 20x the raise amount. You can only win as much money as you have in your stack, so if your opponent has 20x the raise amount but you don't, it really doesn't help you. That is what the term 'Call 20' means.

How much should you raise?

IF THERE WAS NO RAISE BEFORE YOU

If no one raised before you, you simply raise 4 big blinds + 1 big blind for every player that entered the hand before you.

Your raise =
  • 4x big blind
  • plus 1 big blind for every player that entered the hand before you.

Assume you just got your starting capital and are playing NL2 (0.01/0.02). The big blind is $0.02.

When you raise, you raise at least 4 * $0.02 = $0.08.

If someone joined the pot before you, you add an additional $0.02 to this amount for a total of $0.10. If two players entered the hand before you, you add two additional big blinds to this amount and raise to a total of $0.12.

IF THERE WAS EXACTLY ONE RAISE BEFORE YOU

If an opponent raised before you, you re-raise to 3x the size of the original raise. For every player that calls this raise before you, you increase the size of your re-raise by the size of the original raise.

Your re-raise =
  • 3x the size of the original raise
  • plus 1x the size of the original raise for each player that called.

Assume you are playing NL2 (0.01/0.02). A player before you raises to $0.08. You have two aces and want to re-raise to get money in the pot. Your raise should be 3 * $0.08 = $0.24.

If another player called this raise before you, you add an additional $0.08 to this amount, for a total of $0.32.

If two players before you called the raise, you re-raise to $0.40.

IF THERE WAS MORE THAN ONE RAISE BEFORE YOU

If there was more than one raise before you, one thing is clear: You're not getting involved if you don't have a monster hand. You only play AA and KK, two aces and two kings. When you do have a monster, your line of play is simple in this scenario: you go all-in.

If there was more than one raise before you, you only play AA and KK and you go all-in.

Two queens (QQ) or ace king (AK) should be folded, just like every other hand that isn't AA or KK.

What if someone raises after you?

YOU HAVE A PAIR OF ACES OR A PAIR OF KINGS

If you have a pair of aces or kings, you should just keep on raising. The best thing you can do is try and go all-in before the flop and put all your money in the middle. Some beginners have trouble doing this, but keep in mind that you are well ahead against every other pair by approx. 80%. You can hardly find a more profitable opportunity to go all-in.

Fold all other hands, including AK and AQ, hard as it may be for you to do so. You can, however, make an exception to this rule when you have a pocket pair.

YOU HAVE A POCKET PAIR

There is, as we just said, one exception. When you have a pocket pair smaller than AA or KK, you can make an exception and call a raise, as long as both you and your opponent have stacks at least 20x the amount you're about to call.

Just like when you follow the Call 20 rule from the Starting Hands Chart, you are speculating on hitting three-of-a-kind on the flop. If you do hit, chances are good that you'll be able to win your opponent's entire stack.

YOUR OPPONENT ONLY MIN-RAISES

You will find players who only min-raise fairly often in the lower limits. Whatever they may think they are doing, it certainly doesn't make much sense.

If you have already entered the hand and one opponent raises after you by the smallest amount allowed, a so-called min-raise, you should always call, unless, of course, you have AA or KK, in which case you re-raise.

Examples

EXAMPLE 1- NO RAISES BEFORE YOU
Limit NL 2 $0.01/$0.02 (big blind = $0.02)
Your hand
Position UTG3 (early position)
Situation You have two players in front of you. Both call and pay the $0.02 big blind. Now it's your turn to make a decision.


You definitely want to raise with this hand. AK is, quite simply, a good hand. But how much should you raise to?

The rule says: Raise 4 big blinds + 1 big blind for each player that has entered the hand.

In this example 2 players have already called. You raise to a total of 6 big blinds. And since the big blind in this limit is $0.02, you raise to a total of 6 * $0.02 = $0.12.

EXAMPLE 2 - CALL 20
Limit NL 2 $0.01/$0.02 (big blind = $0.02)
Your hand
Position MP3 (middle position)
Situation Everyone folds except for the player directly before you, who raises to $0.08. He then has $1.90 left in his stack.


Since you have a pocket pair and an opponent raised before you, you play according to the Call 20 rule. This rule says you can call a raise when you have a pocket pair and you and your opponent both have at least 20* the size of the raise left in your stacks.

Your opponent's raise was $0.08. 20 * $0.08 = $1.60. This is the amount both, you, and your opponent must have in your stacks for you to be able to call his raise with your pocket pair. Your opponent has $1.90 remaining, and you always have a full buy-in ($2), since you are a good player. In this example you can call the raise and see if you hit three-of-a-kind on the flop.

EXAMPLE 3 - A RAISE AFTER YOU
Limit NL 2 $0.01/$0.02 (big blind = $0.02)
Your hand
Position MP2 (middle position)
Situation Everyone before you folds. You obviously raise with AK; $0.08 is the right amount in this example. But then you encounter resistance, as an opponent after you raises, to $0.24. What should you do?


If your first thought is 'fold,' you have already learned quite a bit. Your hand may look nice, but you have to fold AK if there's a large raise after you.

EXAMPLE 4 - A MIN-RAISE AFTER YOU
Limit NL 2 $0.01/$0.02 (big blind = $0.02)
Your hand
Position BU (Button, late position)
Situation You are on the Button, meaning you are the dealer. Everyone before you folds. The Starting Hands Chart says to raise. You raise to $0.08, but the player in the Big Blind doesn't want to play along and raises to $0.16.


In this example you are confronted with a min-raise. Normally you would just fold A8s when someone raises after you, but the rules say you should always call when an opponent min-raises after you.

Take a look at the flop. You have position on your opponent, and your hand isn't all that bad. Just don't play for a big pot if all you hit is a pair of aces or eights.

EXAMPLE 5 - TWO RAISES BEFORE YOU
Limit NL 2 $0.01/$0.02 (big blind = $0.02)
Your hand
Position BU (Button, late position)
Situation A player in early position raises to $0.08. Then a player in middle position re-raises to $0.24. Now it's your turn to act.


This is a very nice situation to be in. Of course, a pair of aces would be even better, but even with a pair of kings you don't have to think twice before going all-in. Instead of trying to figure out how high your raise should be, you simply go all-in and bet all your money.

If you had an ace and a king (AK) or two queens (QQ) you would have to fold. These hands are rarely good when two opponents raise before you.

Conclusion

Once you've understood how to use the Starting Hands Chart, you will be on the safe side in the first betting round. Choosing the right starting hands is half the work in poker and a lot of players burn their money at exactly this point. They play too many weak hands or don't know when they should stay out of the line of fire with cards that they think are pretty good, but are obviously too weak in the given situation.

You can avoid uncomfortable situations on the flop when you carefully select your starting hands as recommended by the Starting Hands Chart. You will find opponents who are all too happy to call, especially in the lower limits. There is no reason for you to try to create marginal situations. Your motto is "winning by folding."

In the next article of this series you will learn what kind of hands you can hit on the flop or on later streets. You will also learn the best way to play your hand.