Whether you're playing for tens of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars, poker cash games are a lot of fun and can be very profitable. However, the games are getting tougher and tougher and a lot of players end up losing.
In this article, we'll be covering some tips and strategies to help you avoid losing in poker cash games.
5 Methods To Avoid Losing in Poker Cash Games
Here are five ways you can avoid losing when playing poker cash games:
1. Limit Your Slow Play
A lot of players, particularly beginners, overvalue the strength of slowplaying. They think that by slowplaying they're automatically going to win a huge pot whenever their opponent makes top pair. This might happen sometimes but nowhere near often enough to make slow playing your go-to play.
Instead, you should be aggressive with your strong hands preflop and on the flop. You'll win a lot more money in the long run by 3betting your AA and KK hands instead of just calling with them. By 3betting you're building a bigger pot and you have the betting lead on the flop.
The same applies when you make a strong hand postflop, you'll make a lot more money betting and being aggressive instead of slowplaying and being passive. By betting you're ensuring that you're growing the pot so you can make a bigger bet on the turn. When you slowplay you're risking that your opponent won't bet and the pot stays small as well as allowing them to realise their equity for free.
2. Be Smart With Poker Positions
Position is extremely important in poker and you will always make more money playing hands in position rather than out of position. The reason position is so important is that poker is a game of incomplete information - you don't get to see what your opponent's cards are - so you have to try and figure out what they have and play your hand accordingly. By being in position, you get to see what your opponent does before you act, and this extra information is very valuable.
Playing out of position with the betting lead becomes slightly easier as you have the opportunity to cbet and win the pot on the flop. However, playing out of position without the betting lead is incredibly tough and will lead to a lot of lost pots. This is what makes playing from the blinds so tricky and why you shouldn't go crazy calling hands from the SB or BB.
3. C-Betting With a Purpose
Cbetting is a great tool for a poker player to have in their arsenal, you can win a lot of pots just by raising preflop and cbetting on the flop. It's such a powerful tool that some players will just cbet 100% of the time they've raised preflop. Whilst this may prove effective against weak players, any skilled player will start to notice how often you cbet and will start to take advantage of you and you can quickly lose a lot of money.
When you have the opportunity to cbet, there are a few things you should consider. First, you should look at the flop texture and think if it's good for your preflop range. Secondly, you should consider how good the flop is for your opponent's preflop range. Finally, you should look at your actual hand and decide how high up it is in your range, and decide whether or not to cbet accordingly.
By thinking through all these decision points you'll become a lot better at picking the right spots to cbet and the right spots to check.
4. Find and Hunt Down the Fish
Whilst everyone dreams of crushing Phil Ivey heads up for millions of dollars, the reality is that the majority of the money you make playing poker comes from playing weaker players (i.e., fish). Weaker players make far more mistakes than regular players and are prone to randomly spewing off stacks which is very profitable for the player on the other end.
Properly table selecting to make sure you're playing in the best lines up whenever possible can have a huge impact on your win rate. Breakeven or losing players who never table select could be profitable if they played in the right lineups. There's no room for ego in poker and you'll make a lot more money playing against weaker players instead of battling the regs.
5. 3-Bet Your Strong Hands
You win the most money with your strongest hands - makes sense right? Preflop your strongest hands are AA, KK, QQ, and AK. For some players, there is a temptation to slowplay these hands in order to trick their opponent and win a big pot. However, this doesn't always work out the way these players expect.
When you don't 3bet these hands preflop, the size of the pot is considerably smaller. Therefore a lot more bets have to go in postflop to make up for the lack of bets that went in preflop. You'll find that when players put in a lot of bets and raises postflop, especially the turn and river, they often have AA or KK beat.
Therefore, you want to get as much money as you can in preflop while you still have the best hand and 3bet preflop. When you do 3bet preflop, it's much easier to get stacks in by the river as you can size your flop, turn, and river bets to get all the money in. When it's this easy to get the money in postflop, you'll find that your AA and KK hold up a lot more often.
Why Players Lose in Poker Cash Games
There are a variety of reasons why players lose when they play poker cash games - if any of these seem familiar then you may want to re-think how you approach the game.
Playing While Intoxicated or Fatigued
Poker is a game where you need to be mentally sharp the entire time you're playing. It's an incredibly complex game and requires you to think through each spot fully to make the best decision. If you're playing whilst intoxicated or tired it will have a huge impact on your cognitive performance and you'll be costing yourself money by playing.
You should treat yourself like an athlete when you go to play poker; eat well, get plenty of rest and show up to the game ready to play. You wouldn't see Cristiano Ronaldo have a beer at halftime or Lebron James play in the NBA after being awake for 48 hours - if you have the same mindset as these elite athletes you're giving yourself the best chance to perform at the top of your game.
Being Too Passive
Aggression is a key part of poker and all successful players are aggressive players. By being aggressive you give yourself two ways to win the pot - either your opponent folds and you win or you have the best hand and you win. It's hard to make money by playing passively unless you have a strong read that your opponents are maniacally aggressive.
When you play passively, not only do you rely on having the best hand at showdown to win the pot, your pots are often a lot smaller as you're relying on your opponent to bet for you. By being aggressive you can win pots more often and win bigger pots than passive players.
Not Having Good Bankroll Management
Being in control of your money is incredibly important for a poker player. You need to have a safe number of buy-ins for the stake level you're playing at and have the discipline to move down in stakes if you lose too much.
Players who do not practice good bankroll management are at a disadvantage as they're often playing for a much bigger percentage of their money whenever they sit down and this will have an impact on the way they play. Think about it, if you were playing with 20% of your net worth in front of you in a cash game, you'll probably play a lot differently than if you were playing with 0.5% of your net worth.
Having that security allows you to make whatever decision you think is correct, without having to worry about individual outcomes.
Being Predictable in Their Strategy
Cash games are sometimes described as robotic due to the majority of players having the same stack size and playing the same strategy for thousands of hands at a time. This is exacerbated when playing multiple tables online as it's easy to slip into auto-pilot and make the 'standard' decision for each situation.
If you're playing against a skilled opponent, they'll be able to spot when this is happening and will exploit your predictable strategy. Most spots in poker require you to mix strategies so if you default to a certain one, not only will you be exploited by thinking players, you won't be playing good poker!
Use an HUD tool to help you monitor your stats!
Being Scared of Bluffing
Betting when you have nothing can be a scary prospect. Knowing that if your opponent says "call" you instantly lose all that money you've worked so hard for throughout the week. It's enough for some players to avoid bluffing altogether and only bet when they have a good hand.
This creates a massive problem for those players as bluffing is an essential part of the game. If you never bluff, your opponents have no incentive to call when you bet unless they have a very strong hand themselves. This means that you lose out on value when you do bet with a strong hand, as your opponents will just fold, knowing that you never bluff.
To be great at poker you need to embrace the fact that sometimes you will bluff and lose - and that's ok.
Even though cash games are getting tougher, it's still possible to profit from them and using our tips can help you avoid losing in poker cash games.
This article was published on October 12, 2021, and last updated on October 26, 2022.