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How to Beat Cash Games

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Poker is a game of deception  and audacious bluffs. It requires the skilled practitioner to be unpredictable – to outmanoeuvre opponents, set traps and sidestep hazards. But these bluffs can often go wrong, and in a tournament this can be frustrating as one mistake can mean you are out. Thankfully there are also cash games where you can really let your creative nature loose.

There are five basic concepts that you must know and understand even before you sit down to play.

1. Bankroll management

Okay, this might not seem like a very exciting topic to kick off with but you simply can’t ignore it. Good bankroll management means two things. First, keeping your poker money – aka your ‘bankroll’ – separate from your normal day-to-day money. And second, always playing within your limits at a level that can withstand the natural swings of the game. 

Re-Raising Pre-Flop

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Re-Raising Pre-Flop (In-Position)

 Generally, the best choices of hands to use to re- raise in position are hands with which you would like more action (premium pairs, AK, etc.) and hands that are slightly too weak to call (hands you're relying on getting your opponent to fold). This strategy is more aptly described as three-betting a polarized range pre- flop, and it's the best way to play against a lot of opponents, especially ones from which we do not have much information. 

The strategy behind using hands that are slightly worse than our calling requirements in order to bluff reraise pre-flop is that they will be the strongest hands we can use without "wasting" the value of our calling hands. Three-betting often with these types of hands will eventually create an image of re-raising lightly pre-flop to induce more action when we do happen to have good enough hands to take more action. The occasional bluff helps to balance our pre-flop re-raising range because sometimes we will actually have good hands for which we want action. If we are not bluffing some of the time, we become very easy to read and easy to play against, both of which are detriments to our win rate. Our expectation with a given hand, say 44, if we call pre-flop in position, may be higher than it would be three- betting that specific hand. The idea that other hands may have more value post-flop than by re-raising pre-flop as a bluff goes for similar speculative hands like suited connectors or weaker broadway hands.

How to Play the Blinds

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Your job is not to gamble. Your job is to win money. Part of winning is keeping your risk low. Your risk playing the blinds is outrageous compared to late position. Part of winning money is not losing it. As important as the risk is even if you do end up winning the hand, the size of the pot will not be nearly as big if you were in late position because you were forced to give away information to the rest of the table.

Until you are an experienced player and know how to play from an early position, be very, very careful playing a blind. Losing your blind is much less expensive than calling all the way to the river. Specifics: Until you have played your 250,000 hands, which will be no less than 50,000 blinds, here’s how you should play your blinds:

When Bluffing Doesn’t Work

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People say all the time, “In the games I play in, bluffing doesn’t work. Everyone calls anyhow.” Well, if you’re in that kind of game, then it’s simple: Don’t bluff. There’s no value in it. And lest you think that’s a rule or something, here’s how you can come to that conclusion yourself.

First, I want you to think of your bluffs as sort of an advertising budget. Considering present equity, your advertising might or might not pay off right away. If not, that’s called a negative spend and that’s okay. You’re spending money now, thinking you’ll get something for it later.

But imagine for a moment that you sell a product called Poker-Cola, the only soft drink on Earth. You have a total monopoly on carbonated beverages, so anyone who wants to drink soda has to drink yours. Now, if you owned Poker-Cola, would you ever spend a dime on advertising? Of course not. The whole world has to buy your product regardless. No one has any choice. Why would you spend money to advertise when the supermarket aisles are lined with your product and people are clamoring for it and you have no competition? That would be the very definition of lighting a match to your money.

How to Avoid Tilting

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To be a successful player it is clearly imperative that you minimize tilt. Your winnings come from your opponents and this might be because you are an amazing player, or an amazingly disciplined player. Of course the best thing to be is both; however, if you had to choose one the correct answer would be disciplined. You won’t have to deal with the enormous variance associated with huge wins and huge losses which will make poker much less stressful.

Take a step back and look where the money you are tilting away is going. It doesn’t just disappear, it doesn’t go to help a friend, buy a product, or to a deserving charity. It goes to your opponent – the enemy, the villain of the hands you play, the person you need to beat to be successful. When you think about losses in this way it might help you avoid tilt. And when you get the urge to make a bad play because you are frustrated or bored, think about how unhappy it will make you later on. There is no need to rush important decisions – take your time and really think it through. Be methodical about playing poker.

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Betting a Big Draw

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If you have eight outs and two cards to come, it is 2-1 against you making your hand. If you have 8-7 and the flop in hold 'em is 9-6-2, you have eight outs to the nuts (any ten or any five). The basic low-limit poker strategy calls for you to call with a good draw. If you follow this strategy, then you will check and call with your 8-7. Against one opponent, this is generally the correct strategy. Your expectation is that you will get back $1 out of every $3 that goes into the pot (2-1). Thus, against one opponent when you each put in $10 on the flop your expectation is that you will get back $6.66. You are losing on the money going into the pot, but the effective odds you are getting, because of the money already in the pot, make it a profitable play. In other words, you have a good draw. If you have two opponents and you each put in $10 then you expect to get back $10 (33% of $30). Against three opponents, you each put in $10 and you expect to get back $13.33. If you have three opponents, you can bet or raise with eight outs and you are making money on the money flowing into the pot. It is not only a good draw, it is a good bet.

Practical Tips for Tournament Poker

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Checking in the dark
Phil Hellmuth popularized a move referred to as "checking in the dark." His logic is that if you check before the flop comes, your opponent will have no information on whether you hit. The only problem is that you forfeit the option to steal or take the initiative against certain opponents. On some flops, leading is almost always better than check-calling or check-raising. Giving up this option is a mistake.

While the way Phil does it isn't too terrible, amateurs take it to a new level by checking in the dark on multiple streets or pre-flop. I have seen players check in the dark throughout an entire hand. Giving up the option to bet throughout an entire hand is awful. I have seen other players check in the dark from the big blind. While this may not cost you a lot of money, you will occasionally find yourself in the big blind with A-A in a 3-BB pot instead of a 10-BB pot, costing you the opportunity to stack your opponent.

Checking in the dark is just another form of fancy play syndrome. Don't do anything too fancy, especially when it takes away your options.

Casual Cash Games at PartyPoker

 Casual Cash Games

Cash in on Casual Cash Games at PartyPoker
All poker players should be able to play with their shoulders down once in a while. On our new Casual Cash Games tables, you can. These tables are just like any other cash game – except they’re only open to players happy to play a single cash game at a time. To identify these tables- look for a smiley next to table name in the cash game lobby.

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