Cash games

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

Why play cash games?

If tournaments are about prestige, then cash games are where the real money is made. They also train you 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 bread and butter of poker – a great way to get some practice in.

  • Play any time with any number of players (well, up to 6)
  • Play as little or as much as you like with no start or end times
  • With fastforward , you can speed through a poor hand in an instant
  • Play on your terms. You choose how much to take to the table
  • Start a game with just $0.60

Six rules for cash game success

With cash games, playing is easy. The hard part is getting good enough to actually start making money. To help you out, we’ve put together six golden rules to give you confidence and take your game to the next level.

1. Start slowly

In no-limit Hold'em, you can lose your entire stack in a single hand, so stick with stakes you can handle.

One trick is to divide your bankroll (the amount of money you’re prepared to spend on poker) by 20 to find out what you can risk per game. Then divide this by 50 to get the maximum buy-in you should be looking for. For example, if you have $500 in your bankroll, that’s $25 per game, so $0.25/$0.50 is the level for you. Don’t buy-in at anything less than 50 times the big blind, or you’ll be playing defensively with a short stack (not exactly a rich learning experience).

2. Only (usually) bet if you’ve got the goods

In cash games, big pots tend to mean big hands or big bluffs. Anything in between and a more experienced player could take you to the cleaners. So be careful with hands like A-K (which look good, until you make a pair and someone else hits a set). And think twice about betting with low full houses or straights and flushes, which someone could easily beat.

If you’re going to bluff, 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

Once the stack sizes get big, you need to pay close attention to what hands you can play, based on your position at the table.

Throw away hands like A-J and A-10 if you're in early position. 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’ve got more chance of seeing the other players off and scooping the pot.

4. Take control

In cash games, your job is to put pressure on other players, steal blinds when you can and make people want to call you when you have a winning hand. The best way to do this is to get in the habit of raising pre-flop and betting again on the flop (putting in a total of about half the pot). In the beginning, this seems a bit counter-intuitive, but realistically most hands miss the flop and the player with the most momentum wins the day.

The only exception is when you’re playing deep stacks and you might want to play it down (to get more money in the pot) before making your move.

5. Play five and six-seater games

You can learn a lot from playing more intense, short-handed games. Here, attitude and position are essential, and feel has a huge part to play. There’s no doubt you’ll need a deeper bankroll for this kind of game and the competition can be tough. But you’ll also learn a lot – and once you’ve got a knack for it you can make more money here than in full-ring games.

6. Don't be too hard on yourself

Finally, remember to keep your losses in perspective. You’re on a learning curve where mistakes happen. As long as you play within your means, these are just lessons that will help you become a better player in the long run.