Dominate Poker Cash Games with a Winning Strategy: Find the Perfect Hand Balance

Last week our poker expert looked at the downside of playing too many hands. This week he looks at the problem of not playing enough hands and how that can be a disadvantage.

Sometimes playing too tight in a poker cash game hinders your ability to book a winning session. Newcomers should stick to a tight and aggressive strategy, but sometimes beginners are too cautious and play too tight. When that happens, they need to loosen up and play more hands.

In a previous article, we discussed fixing leaks in your game because you’re playing too many hands, especially in early position. In this article, we’ll focus on why you’re not playing enough hands in late position.

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Getting Action

If you’re super tight playing cash games and only peddle the nuts, it will be difficult to get paid off when you finally make a hand. Even the loosest opponents are not willing to give you action if you rarely play a hand.

There’s a poker mantra that applies here: “You gotta give some action if you want to get some action!”

Find good spots to play hands that are not within your ideal range. You can limp to change things up so you don’t fall into a specific pattern. It will throw off your opponents and they’ll be unable to recognize your style. That means occasionally limping in early position with a big hand, or trying to set mine with any pair.

Know Your Table Size

Always count the number of opponents at the poker table. Sometimes you take a seat a full table, but as the game progresses not every seat is filled. Players bust, take a break, or sit out their blinds. If you’re at a short-handed table, adjust your starting hand range and play more hands in position.

A common mistake is playing too tight at a short-handed table. Pay attention to how many players are at your table because the number of opponents drastically affects your starting hands and post-flop play. Those hands you thought were marginal suddenly increase in value if you’re playing with six or fewer players.

If you’re playing online, pay close attention if someone is sitting out for just one hand, or just their blinds, or an entire orbit or longer.

If you’re in a casino or local card room, keep tabs on anyone who steps away from the table especially smokers who will take ten minutes or longer to get their nicotine fix.

Playing More Hands from the Cutoff and Hijack

The cutoff is one seat to the right of the button. The hijack is two seats to the right of the button. These are valuable positions in a full-ring cash game.

If you think you’re playing too tight, or the action at your table is too tight, then don’t hesitate to generate action from the hijack or cutoff. You should quickly size up the players to your immediate left. Are they passive and tight? Are they maniacs and action junkies?

An opponent’s playing style will determine how aggressive you can act from the hijack and cutoff. If you have weaker players to your left, then you can play a lot looser from late position.

Button Raises

Think of the button spot as the table bully. You can make the lives of everyone at the table utterly miserable with a button raise. You’ll quickly force out the blinds, and you’ll force players in early position to reconsider their hands.

If you become a frequent button raiser, passive players in front of you will often not bother trying to limp into pots because they know you’re going to eventually raise and it will cost them additional chips to see a flop.

Raising from the button or in late position also minimizes the chances of a “big blind special” when a player in the big blind gets a chance to see a free flop and make two pair with a junk hand because you failed to thin the field with a late-position raise.

No Free Cards

If you play enough poker, you’ll hear the phrase “No free cards!” Which is what an aggressive player in late position will utter when multiple players check the flop and they’re the last player to act.

If you’re in late position, don’t lose your positional advantage by checking the flop. Maintain your aggression and bet the flop if everyone limps to you. You never want to give an opponent a chance to improve their drawing hands, especially if there’s a potential straight or flush on the board.

Even if there isn’t an obvious drawing hand on the flop, you also want to minimize the chances of a redraw on the turn. Don’t give your opponent to suck out on you with a runner-runner straight or runner-runner flush.

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