I often think that in full ring cash games that a player needs to be more aggressive these days than the table average. However this reflects where you need to be in any poker game. I think it is a big mistake to go into any poker game with a fixed strategy. This is why many players ultimately suffer in cash games. Do not get me wrong here, when you are playing multiple tables then it becomes very difficult to play a style that is dependent on reading your opponents very well.
This is where you have to keep things simple. If you keep things simple then you should be concentrating on two key areas. These are maximising fold equity and winning big pots with the emphasis on maximising fold equity. In tournament poker then there is always an urgency to accumulate chips. While you do not have that same level of urgency in cash games, in really tight games then it is true that aggressive play works. It works for several key reasons which I am about to go into. Firstly if your opponents are playing very tightly then you need to force them to place money into circulation.
You need them to do this so you can then use aggression and hopefully superior post flop skills to outplay them. You should ideally be playing opposite to the table dynamic as much as possible for maximum effect. However you do need to be aware of the hand dynamic. This means how a particular hand is playing out and your opponent’s chances of stacking off or of being seriously interested in the hand. For example if an opponent limp-raises from UTG with a 100bb stack after you raised from the button then your fold equity has dropped very sharply in the hand.
There is no need for deep analysis here because you will never know all of the information anyway. Just simply make the percentage play and fold. There will be many players that tighten up in cash games, this is normal and especially in full ring games. I am not saying that you have to become a maniac because that isn’t the case. At the end of the day then there will be enough weak players at the lower stakes to simply reward you when they make horrendous errors. By itself then this will reward careful play if you play solidly enough.
In fact at levels like NL50 then you should be making around $5-$10/hour just by playing solidly and nothing else. Recycling money against the decent regulars then becomes part and parcel of your daily life and the process then becomes one of waiting for the opportunities to come along where you strike your home runs. What can also add to your hourly rate is to receive as many rewards and sign up bonuses as you can. This will seriously pad out your earn rate and will become a pivotal part of your poker strategy.
Then on top of that will be if you can stop yourself from making big mistakes. It is the number of big mistakes that will ultimately decide your fate as a poker player. The old adage of “if you cannot fold the winning hand then you cannot win” holds true. This is because if you cannot fold a winning hand then the natural knock on effect of this is that you cannot fold anything at all and you just become a spew monkey. I always try to use a very simplistic style when I play poker for several key reasons. Firstly extra complexity and full time play do not go hand in hand.
A constant stream of tough decisions really starts to have an impact on you after a while and this is something that I try to avoid. Recently the online legend Dusty Schmidt admitted how too much multi-tabling on the edge not only had a huge negative effect on him but how he could no longer make good poker decisions. He also discussed with his neuro-consultant the real possibility of a stroke by the time he was 50 years of age.
This is seriously scary stuff and one that leads me away from wanting to play online poker full time. I also think that if you did want to go full time and you wanted any sort of longevity to your career then you need a simple strategy. When I say “simple” then in no way am I inferring something so simple that it is just a case of following a few rules. I mean something that once learnt is simple to operate. At the end of the day then very weak players will make big errors…….you just have to make sure that you are not several buy-ins in the hole when it happens.
Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and 888poker ambassador