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Top Tips for No-Limit Hold'em Poker Cash Games

How to make more money at the poker table

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In January, 2009 I attended the World Series of Poker Cash Academy in Atlantic City, a great 2-day workshop/seminar focused on improving poker players’ results are no-limit Texas Hold’em cash games. The course was led by three super poker pros: Paul Wasicka, Mark Seif, and Alex Outhred. I got a ton of great advice from the course, but these are my top takeaways that helped me and would improve any poker player’s results at no-limit Hold’em.

Tight is Right

Casino Dealer at Poker table.
RK Studio / Monashee Frantz/Photodisc/Getty Images
Unlike in a tournament, in a cash game you have nothing but time to wait for the right hand in the right spot. Blinds are always the same and you can always re-buy and reload your stack, so there’s no reason to “take a chance” on doubling up. Play less hands, and be super tight in early positions.

Don't buy in short-stacked.

You want to have enough money in front of you so your decisions don‘t become "binary" -- in other words, a choice between all-in or folding. Try to buy-in for at least 100x the big blind amount, so in a $1-2 game, that would be $200.

"Poker is a lot like National Geographic"

Mark Seif compared the game to a nature show. He stresses that you should come to the poker table hungry, like a predator looking for their next meal. Look for the weak players and take full advantage of them. You must also never feel bad about taking all the money you can off other players, that should always be your goal: to take it all.

Be proactive about getting in the best game, with the best seat.

Don’t be shy about asking for a seat change or table change. You ideally want a seat with aggressive players to your right, passive to your left, and remember money flows clockwise around the table. On the other hand DO NOT switch seats because you think your seat is “unlucky” or another is “hot” -- there is not such thing. And any player you hear doing that? That’s your next meal.

You must always pay attention

When you sit down, don't post your big blind early. Wait for your big blind to naturally come around and use the time to observe. Identify what types of players are at the table and especially pay attention to people’s betting patterns. Notice what kind of pre-flop bets will get people to fold and which won’t. Who are the aggressive players? Look for tells and listen to what people are saying. Some players will tell you exactly what they had and why they played a hand the way they did. Poker is a game of incomplete information, and the more information you have, the better you'll be able to make the correct decisions.

Master the odds

Make sure you understand how to calculate both your outs and the pot odds. It is also important to understand implied odds. This is a key skill for every winning player, and without it you cannot make correct decisions.

A side point: Always take any edge every time -- even just a 1% edge.

Don’t play worried about “Monsters under the bed”

Many players will play a hand worried about the worst possible scenario: Their flopped trips being beating by a straight that gets there on the river, the straight beaten by a flush. These things happen, but they are rarer then many players believe, who instead adopt a “you’ll hit your one out on the river” mentality that is self-defeating and highly unprofitable. Most of the time, trips win. Most of the time, your full house will not be beaten by a higher full house. Remember that.

Betting is incredibly important

Think about what are you trying to accomplish with your bet: Are you trying to narrow the field? Build the pot? Make a better hand fold? Remember also that how much you bet determines the odds you are giving your opponent. What you want is to force them to make incorrect decisions.

Take your time.

Finally, remember: There is a distinction between instinct and impulse. Think your decision through with all the information you have...and then act. Again, you're not in a tournament and you're not running down any kind of clock if you take an extra minute to make your move.

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