In a Texas Holdem cash game, the chips you have in front of you are valued in real dollars, when you bet a $5 chip – that’s the equivalent of a real five bucks from your pocket. This means that decisions you make cumulatively win or lose you that money. Any player can hit some nice cards and walk away with a profit in the short-term. Over the long-run, successful players are those who understand and study poker strategy – finding weaknesses in their opponents play and betting in such a way as to take advantage of these weaknesses. This article covers the fundamentals of Texas Holdem cash game strategy, outlining the building blocks that you can use to consistently beat the games.
First up you will find information on the swings inherent in poker games and how to overcome this using bankroll management and focusing on making ‘good’ decisions. Next the fundamental concepts of position and starting hand selection are discussed. After this an overview of the need-to-know poker math – followed by some ideas for areas to explore once you have learned the basics.
Poker has a large element of luck over the short-term. You can run Kings into Aces, lose those coin-flip hands and your drawing hands can miss. You could have played ‘correctly’ and still end up with a large loss.
Even the best players in the world suffer from short-term swings.
To counter this you need to make sure you only play with a small proportion of your bankroll in any one game. 1/20th (5%) is the accepted level to overcome the short-term swings. If you are able to easily reload your account then you can loosen up on this. However, if you are serious about your poker then bankroll management is an important factor.
All you can do in poker is make the best decisions possible based on the information you have available. If you do this over and over again, and manage your bankroll sensibly, then you will end up a winner.
If 2 players of equal skill and experience sat down to play, the person who played more hands when they acted last after the flop would win in the long-run. This is known as having ‘position’ and is far more important than most new players realize.
Positional strategy includes folding speculative starting hands when first to act at the table, and playing more of these hands from the button position. You should also tend to play tighter from the blinds – even though it is ‘cheaper’ to enter the pot – since you will be first to act after the flop from these playing positions.
A big leak for many beginning poker players is to play far too many hands. This can include any Ace-x hand, any 2 suited cards or even worse holdings! If your opponents are being more selective, then you would need to be a fantastic post-flop player to even come close to making up for this.
Instead you should find a tight range of starting hands and adjust this based on several factors. For early table positions and after someone already raised you should fold the weakest end or your range. When first to enter the pot and in late position you can loosen up a little bit.
It is extremely difficult to beat online poker games without knowing the basic math. Most of this is easy to learn – and even the advanced areas have special tools and calculators to help you out. There are several aspects of math to learn including pot-odds and outs, implied odds, prize pool equity models and how to assess what hands people are playing and the equity that individual hands have against those ranges.
Spending just a few hours learning the different aspects of poker math will have a huge effect on your profit – this will allow you to make more ‘good’ decisions and to spot those opponents who are making bad ones.
Once you have understood the basics of cash game strategy, you can start to branch out into the more advanced topics. First on my list is bet-sizing, and how to adjust this for specific situations and opponent types. After that you can focus on the process of reading your opponents hands – and spotting ‘leaks’ in both your own game and that of your opponents.
Remember, poker is a game of relative skill. However good you are, there will be people who can beat you. This holds true at all levels of the game, and if you take the time to find soft games with inexperienced opponents, your profits will improve significantly.