If you’ve never played cash games before and want to get involved it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start. There are a whole host of different poker games to choose from, a wide range of stakes and other factors such as how many whether you want to play heads-up or with more opponents. It can be overwhelming – which is why PokerStars School is here to help you get started.
Which poker game should I play?
Let’s assume you have experience playing tournament poker, a faster variant like Spin & Go’s or even home games with friends. Your experience in these should dictate which cash game variant you choose first. If you’ve mainly played Texas Hold’em in the past (like the majority of PokerStars players) then jump in one of these games, but if you’re a pot-limit Omaha fan or even a mixed games aficionado the good news is that these are all options you can find on PokerStars.
Typically, Hold’em games will be a bit tougher than the other options purely because there is so much more education and strategy easily available for players to at least get to a competent level. So if you enter the cash game world with experience of PLO or something more obscure like 2-7 Triple Draw then you’ll have an instant advantage. This isn’t to say Hold’em is unbeatable though – there will still be plenty of softer games you can jump in straight away, especially at the lower levels.
What stakes should I play?
Every poker player will have personal attitudes to risk but it’s important to use some degree of bankroll management at all times. For those who haven’t heard the term bankroll management it effectively means that you play stakes that will enable you to keep in action even if you go on a losing streak. Essentially, it’s a safety net that should be flexible according to your finances.
In real life, if you have a low paying job it’s not going to be sensible to go out and spend £10,000 on a custom-made suit. The same is true in poker. If you have a small bankroll (the amount of money put aside to play poker) of, say £100, then you should never stick that entire bankroll in play at any one time. Instead of playing a cash game with a £100 buy in, a much better approach is to break that down by buying in for £5 or £10, giving you multiple opportunities to win and a Plan B if you lose.
Remember that bankroll management can and should be flexible too. If you find you’re regularly beating the games and your bankroll is growing you should take a shot at playing higher stakes. And if you happen to find yourself on a bad run you can always drop down to preserve that cushion.
There’s no one-size-fits-all bankroll management strategy but if you think of 20 buy ins for any one stake level as the minimum you should have that should stand you in good stead.
Other things to think about
Once you’ve chosen your poker variant you have to decide if you want to play heads-up, 6-handed or full ring. There are pros and cons to each and choosing one depends on your playing style and skill.
Heads-up is a unique game where you are in the blinds every single hand, forcing a ton of action. You can’t afford to be tight or passive here as you’ll get run over by your opponent. Heads-up favours players who are comfortable playing a wide range of hands, are able to play aggressively and who don’t mind a lot of variance. As such, heads-up probably suits experienced cash gamers more than it does rookies – if you want to give it a go drop down in stakes first.
6-max and full ring have much more in common than heads-up, but there are still subtle differences. Full ring definitely suits players play a tighter style and are blessed with more patience. You should definitely still be aggressive but you can afford to wait for stronger hands before playing, mainly because the blinds won’t eat away at your stack as often. You will have to loosen up to prosper at 6-max, adding more 3-bets to your game and making sure you steal the blinds frequently. With less players at the table the average strength of starting hands will be lower too, so bear this in mind when deciding to enter the pot or not. Something like Q-T off suit in a full ring game might be an easy fold, but when playing 6-max it’s a hand that merits raising with.
Finally, in a cash game you will be given the option of choosing how much you want to buy in for – this is usually a minimum of 20 big blinds and a maximum of 100 big blinds. Assuming that you are using good bankroll management try to ensure that you always buy in for 100 big blinds. This will allow you to play with deeper stacks, giving you more opportunity to pull off bluffs and also to win the maximum when you hit a big hand. It’s also great experience for learning how to read hands – a crucial skill that will come in handy whether you’re playing cash games or tournaments.