5 Advanced Cash Game Strategies That Nobody Talks About

Cash game strategy

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

Poker is an incredibly competitive game, and it seems to get progressively more so every passing year. What used to be a tried and true winning strategy in the past can only bring you mediocre results today.

After all, if everyone is doing the same thing, everyone will have the same results by default. With technical game knowledge being so widespread today, even the recreational players know they should “just play tight”.

The games are nowhere near as much of a joke they used to be back in the good old days, and just sitting down at the random table waiting for the nuts all day simply doesn’t work anymore. 

However, not everything is all doom and gloom as some forum threads would have you believe. 

Poker is indeed still beatable in 2021, but it will take some effort on your part. Then again, so will anything else in life, so why should poker be any different?

One great thing about poker is that for every strategy, there’s a counter strategy, and the game will keep evolving. 

Those that learn and keep evolving with it will be the ones to ultimately reach the top. Those that stagnate will be left behind. 

So just by reading strategy articles such as this one and keeping up with the latest trends, you’re well ahead of the majority of the player pool that still just plays for fun, and don’t even try to improve and take their game to the next level.

In this article, you will find cash games strategies that aren’t quite common knowledge yet, and by employing them successfully you’ll stay a couple of steps ahead of the competition. 

Without further ado, let’s get right into it.


1. 3-bet Bluff the Isolation Raises


Any remotely decent player knows by now that the most money in poker comes not from their superior skills, but from the inadequacies of their opponents, aka the fish. 

They also know that the best way to take the fish’s money is by playing a heads-up pot against them in position as a preflop aggressor. 

And when you know that, and you know the exact location of said fish and the decent players, you can recognize when they try to isolate the fish by raising after they limped in the pot (which is a telltale sign of a recreational player 99% of the time).

When you see such a situation, consider 3-bet bluffing and try to take down the pot preflop.

Cash game strategy

The reason this play works so well is because you are attacking extremely wide and weak ranges of both the fish and the raiser.

The recreational player’s limping range is usually as high as their overall VPIP (Voluntarily Put Money in Pot), and there’s no telling what kind of garbage hands they’ll opt to play.

The isolation raiser’s range will consist of playable cards at least, but most of them won’t stand the pressure of a 3-bet.

You should target isolation raises from late positions, as they tend to be the widest.

Decent regs will target limpers more widely when they can play in position postflop, so they will play the most hands in the cutoff and on the button.

As for what hands you should 3-bet them with, you shouldn’t just do it with any two hands any chance you get, even though you have a significant amount of fold equity. You should choose the hands that have at least some sort of playability postflop. 

Needless to say, you should 3-bet your strong value hands in any case. Some good candidates for 3-bet bluffing can be suited Aces or Kings, for example. 

Not only do they block your opponents strong value hands (pocket Aces and pocket Kings), they can also make monster flushes, which will come in handy if your 3-bet bluff gets called. And it will happen sometimes. 

But even if it does, you’ll still be in a good spot. You will either play heads-up with a fish or against a reg with a range advantage, so you can take down the pot with a simple flop c-bet.

If you get called by both or more players, however, you’ll more than likely play in a multiway bloated flop, which isn’t ideal. In that case, you should just give up if you don’t hit the flop in any way, which would be most times.

Remember, the goal is to get folds preflop, so if the villains aren’t likely to fold, you should only 3-bet them for value.


Example Hand 


Effective stack sizes: 100 BB.
You are dealt K♣9♣ on the BU.

A loose passive fish limps in UTG.
A tight and aggressive reg raises to 4x.

You: ???

You should 3-bet to 12x.

There are multiple reasons a 3-bet would be a preferable option to flat calling here. 

First of all, you can easily get folds preflop, as you’re attacking pretty wide ranges from both the fish and the regular, and we can’t win the pot outright with calling. 

If you just call, you’re more than likely  to play in a multiway pot, without the range advantage and with a dominated hand. 

What’s more, the players in the blinds can squeeze you out with a 3-bet of their own. 

Your hand is an ideal candidate for a light 3-bet here, as it has a blocker and decent playability postflop (i.e. it can make strong straights and flushes), but it could also spell trouble for you in a multiway pot, where you often won’t be sure where you stand in the hand. 

If your 3-bet gets called by both the fish and the reg, the best approach would be to play the rest of the hand “honestly”. 

If you hit the flop or get a drawing hand, continue betting for value or as a semi-bluff if they check to you, and just give up if you miss completely. 

Remember, the goal was to get folds preflop, and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t really make sense to keep trying to buy out the pot at this point.

This hand is an example of a proactive approach you should take with every hand you play. Your decision making process should consider as many variables as possible. 

It can’t just be thinking this way: I like my hand somewhat, I call, or I like my hand a lot, I raise.


2. Shove the Flop With Ace-high Against Fish


If you’re playing cash games, the goal is to locate the fish as quickly as possible and take their money before the next guy. 

This is especially the case if you are looking to make poker your side hustle ($200 to $1000 per month) as BlackRain79 discusses in his latest video:


The tried and true method of waiting for a strong hand and value bet the hell out of it against them is usually the way to go, but the problem is strong hands just don’t come around as often. 

So you should be willing to expand your value betting range depending on how big the fish is. If someone is playing 80% of their hands, for example, you shouldn’t just wait for Aces to take all their money.

If you hold anything remotely playable, you should try to get involved with them as often as possible. That’s because your skill edge postflop against these players is huge, and you’re potentially missing out a ton of value if you don’t get involved. 

If you iso-raise these players, you will often play shallow SPR (stack to pot ratio) pots, because fish tend to play with less than 100 big blinds stacks in cash games. 

They’ll often buy-in for a minimum amount, and if they buy-in for a 100 big blinds, they’ll spew their chips quickly without reloading. 

So if you hit the flop with a top-pair hand or better against them with SPR of 3 or less, you will be automatically committed to the pot, meaning you should be willing to play for the rest of their stack.

If you need a reminder on SPR and how it affects your preflop strategy and starting hand selection, Blackrain79 has you covered.

What about when you miss the flop, though? Should you just give up? 

Not necessarily. 

You will miss the flop 2 out of 3 times, but so will your opponent. And if you’re up against a recreational player who plays an insane amount of hands, they’re going to miss even more frequently. 

That’s because they’ll have a bunch of unsuited and unconnected cards in their range, so they’ll rarely connect with the flop in some significant way. 

Some fish will be of the fit-or-fold variety, meaning they like to see a bunch of flops, but will give up on the flop when they don’t hit (which will be most of the time). 

So if you have an Ace-high hand against them in a shallow SPR pot, you might want to consider just shoving the rest of the stack in for maximum fold equity. 

This way you’re applying maximum pressure and force them to  relinquish their equity. 

And even if they call you, they’ll often call with all sorts of ludicrous draws, and your Ace-high hand will actually be a favourite to win against them.


Example Hand


6-max game. Effective stack size: 40 BB.
You are dealt AJ♠ in the CO.

A loose and passive fish limps in the MP.
You raise to 5x. BB folds, fish calls.

Pot: 11 BB

Flop: T63♣
Fish checks.

You: ???

You should shove all-in.

This one might be a head scratcher at first, but bear with me. 

While a standard play here would certainly be a smaller c-bet, let’s consider what you accomplish with a shove.

First of all, the board is quite dry, so it’s unlikely the villain hit it in any significant way. By shoving all-in, you get the maximum fold equity, and there’s not much left behind in the villain's stack anyway. 

On the other hand, if the villain has some sort of weird gutshot draw or a backdoor flush draw, your Ace-high is actually a favourite to win, so you’re betting more for value than as a bluff. 

What’s more, implied odds are bigger on earlier streets than they are on later streets, and considering the villain is a fish who loves chasing draws, why not get all the money in ASAP? 

And even if he calls you with some sort of Tx hand or a middle pair, not all is lost, as you still have two overcards to improve with on later streets. You might be surprised with what kinds of crazy nonsense they’re going to call you down with. 

In the worst case scenario, if you lose the pot, you lost to a fish, so you can always try to get your money back from them. 

Also, this kind of unconventional play from time to time can do wonders for your table image.

Just a disclaimer, though. Shoving all-in on the flop with an Ace-high hand isn’t something you should ever do as a default. 

This is just a specific example against a particular opponent with a shallow stack left behind, and while it might look crazy at a first glance, it has some rationale behind it. 

The point is to appear wild and erratic, while actually pondering deeply and acting deliberately in every single spot.


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3. 4-bet Light Against Aggressive Regs


In the good old days, a 4-bet meant Aces and Aces only. As the games got progressively more competitive and players realized the utility of 3-bet bluffing, a counter strategy slowly began to emerge in the form of 4-bet bluffing. 

That’s the beauty of poker. There is a way to successfully adapt to every strategy, so there’s no standing still. You have to continually improve and adapt to stay ahead of the competition. 

This is where 4-bet bluffing can work wonders, as most players still 4-bet exclusively with pocket Aces or Kings, and maybe pocket Queens, so they (correctly) assume everyone else does the same. 

And this is where your opportunity lies if you’re able to execute this bluff effectively. Bear in mind that this isn’t something you should do often, but if you’re able to pull it off once per session, for example, it can do wonders to your bottom line. 

You just have to find the right spot to do it, and come to terms that it’s a high variance play. It is best employed against aggressive regulars who 3-bet light a lot themselves.

The reason you should employ this tactic is when you play against decent thinking opponents day in and day out, there really isn’t any significant skill edge between you. 

Nobody will make too many mistakes postflop, and you’ll basically trade money back and forth. So it pays to keep looking for edges in every situation, and 4-bet bluffing might just be one of them.


Example Hand:


Effective stack size: 100 BB.
You are dealt A♠4♠ in the CO.

You open raise to 3x.
A loose and aggressive reg 3-bets to 9x.

You: ???

You should 4-bet to 20x.

Calling a 3-bet out of position with a dominated hand isn’t a great look, so you should either fold or 4-bet. 

Considering the type of villain you are up against and his position, you can assume he won’t 3-bet purely for value, so it’s a great spot to 4-bet light. 

You block a lot of villain’s value range with your hand, and even if you get called, your hand is playable postflop, as it can make a straight as well as a nut flush, so you have a ton of equity to fall back on. 

If you get called, you will be automatically committed with a top pair and/or flush draws, and you can take down the pot with a simple c-bet on a lot of board textures, except on super coordinated boards that favour villain’s calling range.


4. Check-Raise the Turn When You Pick Up Some Equity


It’s hard to play profitably out of position due to the informational disadvantage and the inability to control the size of the pot.

Cash game strategy

However, it’s impossible to just play 100% of hands in position. 

You can certainly try to do so by only playing on the button, but it’s hardly an optimal long term strategy. 

You have to know how to play out of position as well, and in order not to get run over by other overly aggressive regulars who abuse the positional play themselves, it pays to implement a check-raise in your arsenal. 

This is some that BlackRain79 talks about in The Micro Stakes Playbook.

One “advantage” of playing out of position is you can go for a check-raise line, which is perceived to be a really strong play. 

So if you learn to check-raise bluff effectively, you’ll make yourself much harder to play against, and other players will have to think twice before barrelling into you with impunity.

The best opponents to check-raise the turn against would be regs who are: 

a) positionally aware 

and 

b) on the more aggressive side of the spectrum, as they will have more significant percentage of bluffs in their range and will be more likely to double barrel when you check to them twice. 

If you check-raise the turn, it will show incredible strength, and they will have to have a really strong hand to continue. 

It’s important to mention that it’s better to try to employ this play with some sort of equity, as you will get called, or even reraised from time to time, so this play works great as a semibluff. 

The reason you might want to go for a check-raise rather than a check-call with a drawing hand is because your opponent might not be too inclined to fire off another shell on the river if he sees some sort of draw completing, like a third spade on the river, for example.

If you go for a check-call on the turn, one of these situations will happen: 

1. You will either miss your draw and have to fold to a triple barrel

2. Or you will complete your draw, in which case you can either donk bet and hope for a call, or check again and hope against odds that villain will fire off on a scary board runout, which he won’t be particularly inclined to do if he sees a completed draw of some sort.


5. Intentionally Tilt the Regs


Shoutout to Blackrain79 for sharing this absolute gem. Here's his complete guide to intentionally tilting the regs.

This one is going to take a lot of nerve and is not for the fainthearted, but if you manage to pull it off successfully, it can be insanely lucrative not just during that one session, but for many sessions in the future. 

Now, I’m not going to debate whether or not it’s justifiable to absolutely go out of your way to ruin someone’s day, and just to be completely clear, I am in no way condoning any form of angle shooting or inflammatory table talk in order to get under someone’s skin.

This tactic is about using incessant aggression against a particular opponent in order to get them to make mistakes when playing against you, which is totally within the bounds of game rules, as well as fair play.

And yes, that means running some big bluffs as BlackRain79 discusses in this video:


Winning poker is all about finding edges against your opponents, and this is no different. It might feel uncomfortable at first, as you are intentionally creating conflict, but there’s conflict in every hand you play. 

This is all about upping the ante, so to speak. So how do you best go about ruining someone’s session? 

First you need to identify your target. 

The recreational players are the obvious choice, of course, but when it comes to them, you really don’t need to do anything special or go out your way to get them to spew off their chips to you. 

They are notoriously impatient as it is, so it’s mostly a matter of time before they start steaming and making all kinds of crazy mistakes. 

So the optimal target here would actually be weak and tight regs, the ones that play a reasonable number of hands preflop, but are generally weak postflop and don’t fight back if they don’t have a strong hand. 

This is the type of player that will usually play quite a straightforward ABC style, and won’t get out of line too much, or even at all. 

They will usually fold to 3-bets too often (80% or more), fold to steal attempts in the blinds, c-bet the flop purely for value (about 50% or less), and basically give up at the slightest sight of trouble. 

If you are seated on their direct left on multiple tables, and your session is going a bit slow, try this: 3-bet them preflop and barrel them postflop every chance you get. 

Don’t wait around for good hands, just go absolutely berserk. 

They usually won’t figure out what’s going on right away, they’ll just let you have it for a while. But they’ll figure out something’s up after a few orbits. 

You will know the tactic is working when they start calling you down with marginal hands. 

If you’re really committed to the act, you might get lucky and absolutely smash the board with your garbage hands, and they will call you down with their top pair, weak kicker, second pair and the like, and you take down the pot with your J4 offsuit. 

They’ll absolutely lose their marbles, and this is when the fun begins.

From this point on, they’ll assume you’re full of it 100% of the time, so it’s time to shift gears.

You will tighten up significantly, and bet and raise for value, and value only. They will never give you any credit, so when you finally wake up with Aces, value bet them relentlessly and watch them donate their stack to you. 

The beauty of this tactic is that people won’t soon forget this. If you’re playing cash games, you’re bound to play with the same people over and over again, and if you get out of line in one session only, they’ll peg you for a maniac for the rest of eternity. 

From then on, they can become your personal ATM machine. 

You won’t need to 3-bet them with 83s next session. You can just keep playing your normal game and watch them call you down trying to catch your bluffs and get even with you.


Summary


These 5 tactics are meant to make you a more difficult adversary, and go slightly beyond the “just play tight” adage. In fact, they are all foundational components to an advanced poker strategy.

First of all, identify and differentiate between the regulars and the recreational players as soon as possible. 

When you see a regular trying to isolate the fish, attack them with a 3-bet bluff. Don’t just do it just because, though. Try to do it with hands that have some sort of playability post-flop if your 3-bet gets called.

Next, when you are the one to isolate the fish preflop, consider shoving the flop when they check to you for maximum fold equity. 

Again, don’t do it just because, but make sure you at least have some sort of equity to fall back on if you get called (like with overcards or some sort of draw, at least).

When you’re up against loose and aggressive regulars who 3-bet a lot, consider attacking back with a light 4-bet, especially when you are out of position. 

The best hands to do it with are small suited Aces (A2s through A5s) because of their nut flush and straight potential, as well as their blocker power. 

If you play out of position against aggressive regulars who abuse their positional advantage, throw out an occasional check raise against their flop or turn c-bets, as they will have a significant amount of bluffs in their range. 

The best spot to do so would be the one where you have picked up some sort of equity with straight or flush draws, for example. Doing so from time to time will make them think twice about barreling into you with impunity.

And finally, if your session is going a bit slow, see if you can create a bit of drama by going out of your way to absolutely ruin someone’s day. 

Try to find a weak and timid regular on your direct right (preferably on multiple tables) and 3-bet him every chance you get. 

After he starts calling you down wide, tighten up significantly and trap him when you eventually wake up with a monster hand.

One thing all these tactics have in common is aggression. 

Winning poker is aggressive poker, and the biggest winners are those that know how and when to apply maximum pressure on their opponents, so they don’t need to rely on their hand strength alone.

After all, in a large enough sample size, everyone will get their share of good cards and bad cards, respectively. So it’s not just about the cards, otherwise everyone would have more or less the same results over the long run. 

One common bias of most poker players is they think they are playing aggressively, when that’s hardly the case in reality. 

It’s kind of like how everyone thinks their driving skills are above average, and that’s statistically impossible. It makes you wonder where all the bad drivers are, then.

The aim of this article was to hopefully illuminate certain spots where you might want to reconsider just going for the “standard play” every time.

You will often come to the conclusion that standard play was right all along, but just asking yourself what would happen if I just shove here instead, you might realize how many +EV spots you can find.

Even if it doesn’t work out every time, don’t beat yourself too much about it, and don’t worry about appearing foolish if your stone-cold bluff gets called.

Everyone else is so wrapped up in their own game, and most of them won’t even notice.

And even if they do, appearing wild and erratic is not a bad thing. What happens in one hand is totally meaningless. Poker is a long game, and it’s all one big session. You just have to keep moving forward.

And the only way to do that is to get out of line from time to time. So go out there and have fun with it. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy for crushing small stakes games, make sure you grab a copy of the free BlackRain79 poker cheat sheet.

cash game strategy