$5/$10 Cash Game Strategy - Pro's Guide (2024)

$5/$10 Cash Game Strategy - Pro's Guide

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

At $5/$10 poker cash games, you can start making serious money at the felt. It’s also the limit where you can expect some serious adversity and players that actually know what they are doing.

With more money on the line and more skilled competition, making the jump to $5/$10 cash games can be daunting. 

The good news is, the fundamental winning strategy stays the same, and with the right adjustments, you’ll start crushing the $5/$10 cash games in no time. 

We’ll break it all down in this article step by step.

If you’re still struggling with beating the lower stakes, check out the $2/$5 cash games strategy guide first.

1. What to expect from $5/$10 Cash Games?

a) Less limping than lower stakes at $5/$10 Cash Games

You can expect less totally oblivious recreational players at this limit, meaning there will be a lot less limping preflop.

To limp means to just call the big blind preflop instead of open-raising. 

Limping is one of the telltale signs of recreational players, and it’s fairly common in low stakes cash games. 

At $5/$10, however, limping is less common, as players tend to play more aggressively preflop, which brings us to the second point.

b) Less multiway pots at $5/$10 Cash Games

A multiway pot is a pot with more than two players involved. Multiway pots are also common in low stakes cash games, but they get less common at $5/$10 for the same reason - more preflop aggression.

c) Meta game becomes more important at $5/$10 Cash Games

Keeping track of your opponent’s playing tendencies becomes a must when you get to $5/$10. You’ll need to start paying attention to your opponent’s betting patterns, physical tells and so on. 

You’ll also need to be aware of how the other players perceive you. Pay attention to how your session has been going so far. 

If you’ve been card dead for a while, you can try a daring bluff at the right time. 

If you’ve been on a heater and involved in a lot of pots, think twice about pulling huge bluffs and revert to the value betting mode.

2. Tight is STILL right at $5/$10 Cash Games

Let’s start with the good news first. At $5/$10 live cash games, you’re still bound to encounter a number of recreational players. 

While there may be far and fewer in between than at lower stakes, there’s still enough of them around to pad your winrate. 

The tried and true strategy when playing against the poker fish remains the same: keep it simple, only play strong hands and value bet them relentlessly.

Fish are fish at any level, so you don’t need to make too many (or any) adjustments to your game against them. 

If you can beat the fish at $1/$2 or $2/$5 cash games, you won’t have any trouble doing it at $5/$10 either.

I won’t get too deep into the topic on how to beat the recreational players here, but here’s a quick overview:

a) Only play strong starting hands in 5/10

If you only play strong starting hands, you’ll have an immediate mathematical advantage against players who play just about any two random cards. 

Only play hands that are either strong in and of themselves, or have a potential to connect with the flop in a meaningful way.

Check out my other article on EXACTLY which poker hands to play and how to play them for more information.

b) Play most hands in position at 5/10

Being the last to act in a betting round is a huge advantage in no-limit hold’em. It gives you more playing options, an informational advantage over your opponents, and gives you a final say at how the hand is going to play out.

This is something Nathan discusses in more detail in his recent video.

c) Play aggressively at 5/10

When you get a strong hand, play them aggressively to extract as much value as possible. 

Don’t slowplay unless there’s a very specific reason to do so. 

Check out this article on some spots where you should slowplay for more info.

Don’t bluff too much (or even at all) against recreational players, because they have a tendency to overcall in most situations.

To overcall means to call more frequently than would be considered optimal, i.e. to call so much that you become vulnerable to getting exploited.

In short, a straightforward ABC poker is the way to go when playing against recreational players. Keep it simple, don’t get fancy, and count your money. 

Don’t worry about being too predictable, because recreational players don’t pay attention to your playing style and don’t adjust accordingly.

With that in mind, fish hunting becomes increasingly difficult as you start moving up the stakes, so you will need to make some adjustments to your game. 

Not only are there fewer recreational players around at $5/$10, but the other regular players are acutely aware of them as well. 

This means that you probably won’t be the only player at the table that’s targeting the recreational player (or players, if you are lucky enough to have more of them at your table).

So you should exercise caution when you’re looking to get involved in a hand with a fish, because other players are looking to do the same thing as well. 

This means that you should always be aware of the players left to act, i.e. the players on your left.

When you start isolation-raising the fish, make sure you don’t have a 3-bet happy reg on your left. If you do, have a gameplan ready for this contingency. 

If you intend to fold to a reg’s 3-bet, you might want to think twice about isolation-raising in the first place. 

An isolation-raise (or an iso-raise for short) is a raise made when another player (usually a fish) open-limps into the pot. 

By raising in this spot, you’re hoping to “isolate” the recreational player to play a heads-up pot against them and take advantage of their mistakes post flop.

Other regulars will be aware of your iso-raising attempts, and they make your job more difficult by light 3-betting more frequently.

To 3-bet light means to re-raise in order to get your opponent to fold, i.e. it’s the opposite of 3-betting for value, where you want your opponent to call your 3-bet.

$5/$10 Cash Game Example hand #1

9-handed table, effective stack size: 100 BB

You are dealt A6 UTG+1.

A loose and passive fish open-limps.

You: ???

You should FOLD.

While a hand like A6o can be a viable candidate for iso-raising in some cases, this is not one of those spots. You have a bunch of players left to act after you, and if any of them 3-bet you, you’d find yourself in an awkward spot. 

And even if any of them just flat calls you, you’ll probably play the rest of the hand out of position with a mediocre hand. Not a great spot.

Looking ahead in spots like these becomes a must at $5/$10 cash games. 

Always be aware of the players left to act after you, especially if they fall on the more aggressive side of the spectrum.

If you make a bet, but intend to fold to a raise, and you’re likely to encounter a raise, save your money and fold instead.

Having a clear plan in place beforehand like this can go a long way in improving your winrate.

This is discussed in much more detail in Modern Small Stakes.

2. Mix it Up With LAG Style to Keep The Regs Guessing

A tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy works like a charm against recreational players. However, at $5/$10 cash games, there’ll be fewer recreational players around, so “just playing tight” is probably not going to be enough to crush the game beyond belief. 

You’ll likely encounter quite a few regulars at these stakes (or regs for short). These players take the game a bit more seriously than their recreational counterparts. 

They play to win, not only to have fun, and they’ve probably studied a bit of advanced poker strategy to improve their skills. 

Unlike the fish who don’t pay attention to anything beyond their hole cards, the regs will observe your playing style and adjust their game accordingly.

If you only bet or raise your strong value hands and rarely (or never) bluff, other regs will pick up on it fairly easily, and they’ll simply stop giving you action, because you’ll basically play your hand face-up against them. 

They won’t give you action unless they happen to have a very strong hand themselves, and worse yet, they’ll constantly try to push you out of the pots because they know you won’t fight back most of the time.

To counteract this, it is vital to mix up your playstyle from time to time to keep them guessing. 

While you could probably get away with just playing tight at the lower stakes, it will become increasingly difficult once you get to the  $5/$10 limit. 

It’s advised to get familiar with the loose and aggressive (LAG) strategy once you get to $5/$10. 

The main difference between the LAG and TAG strategy is the number of hands you choose to play preflop. 

With LAG strategy, you simply play more hands preflop. The natural consequence of this is that you’re going to miss the board more often, and find yourself in more marginal spots postflop. 

This is why most beginners should probably refrain from playing a LAG style: because they find themselves in more spots where they are likely to make a mistake. 

More skilled players, on the other hand, prefer the LAG style because it allows their skill edge to truly manifest. In other words, they play the player, not the cards.
Since you don’t often get a strong hand in no-limit hold’em, relying on those alone is not sufficient to be a profitable long term winner, especially once you start climbing the stakes. 

That’s why it’s important to learn how to win pots even when you don't have a strong hand. Check out my other article on why you need to bluff more to win big in poker.

It’s important to mention that playing a LAG style involves more variance, meaning that your results may be more “swingy” than with the TAG strategy. 

So if you’re barely breaking even at your stakes already, it’s better to improve your winrate first before adopting a LAG playing style. 

While more variance prone, a LAG style also allows you to maximize your winrate, so it’s definitely worth giving it a shot.

Check out my other article for a complete LAG playing style guide if you want to know more.

But in short, here are a few key points on transitioning from a TAG to a LAG playstyle:

$5/$10 LAG Strategy #1: Steal More Blinds

Stealing a few blinds here and there may not seem like much, but it adds up tremendously over time. 

When playing on the button especially, you can play a very wide range indeed. If you get a hand that’s even remotely playable post flop, chances are that you can open-raise it profitably on the button. 

This is especially the case when you have tight, nitty players on your left.

$5/$10 LAG Strategy #2: 3-bet Light More Frequently

A light 3-bet is a re-raise against another player’s open-raise done with the intention of getting your opponent to fold. By throwing an occasional light 3-bet, you’ll keep your opponents in check, and prevent them from stealing your blinds with impunity. 

You will also balance your 3-betting range, meaning that your opponents will constantly need to guess your hand strength.

For more info on light 3-betting, check out the ultimate 3-betting guide.

$5/$10 LAG Strategy #3: Double Barrel and Triple Barrel More

Double barreling and triple barreling means firing a c-bet on the turn and river, respectively. 

Double barreling works best when you pick up some hand equity on the turn, or when the turn is a scare card. 

A scare card is the card that improves your perceived range, while making your opponent’s calling range weaker.

Check out this article to know exactly when to double barrel the turn.

$5/$10 LAG Strategy #4: Play Draws Aggressively

By playing your drawing hands aggressively, you simply give yourself more options to win the pot. 

You can either win the pot outright by making your opponent’s fold, or take down an even bigger pot if your draw completes on future streets. 

Remember, you don’t need to hit your outs if your opponents fold.

$5/$10 LAG Strategy #5: Float More in Position

To float means to call your opponent’s bet in position with the intention of taking down the pot on future streets. 

A lot of players will make a standard c-bet on the flop, but will give up fairly easily on the turn. So when a player checks the turn, you can often take down the pot with a simple half-pot bet.

$5/$10 Cash Game Example Hand #2

Effective stack size: 100 BB

You are dealt 55 on the BU (button)

A tight and aggressive reg open-raises to $30 in the CO (cutoff).

You call. The blinds fold.

Pot: $75

Flop: T42

Villain bets $25. You call.

Pot: $125

Turn: 6

Villain checks. 

You: ???

You should bet $70.

Preflop you have a standard call with pocket Fives. Nothing much to be said here.

You don’t hit a set on the flop, but you still have some hand equity and some showdown value with your pocket pair. You’re also playing in position and you’re getting a good price on a call.

The villain doesn’t double barrel on the turn, so you can try to take the pot away in this spot. 

You’ve also picked up some hand equity, as any Three on the river will give you a straight.

Hero bets $70.

For more info on floating the flop and other advanced poker strategies, check out the Microstakes Playbook.

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3. Master the Thin Value Bet

At $5/$10 cash games, there will be fewer recreational players around, so it’s vital to know how to spot them quickly and to take as much money from them as possible, as recreational players will still be the main source of your poker income. 

You already know that the best way to beat the poker fish is to value bet your strong hands relentlessly against them. 

The problem is, these strong value hands don’t come around often in no-limit hold’em, so by the time you actually do get dealt a decent hand, someone else could have already stacked the fish by then. 

The solution to this problem is to reframe how you look at value betting in the first place. 

You are betting for value when your hand is comfortably ahead of your opponent’s calling range.

By the way, if you want to know how to read their hand every time at 5/10, check out my latest video.

Now this doesn’t mean that you need to have the stone cold nuts to make a value bet, and this is precisely the problem a lot of players face when moving up the stakes. 

They wait around for a monster hand for an eternity, and by the time they do get it, nobody is willing to give them any action because it’s blatantly obvious they have a monster hand.

This is something that even Phil Ivey discusses in his advanced poker training program.

And he's made over $50,000,000 playing poker!

This is where thin value betting comes into play. 

You’re thin value betting when your hand is ahead of your opponent’s calling range, but not by a huge margin, hence the “thin value.” 

In other words, you’re thin value betting when your hand has just slightly above 50% hand equity. 

On the felt, you obviously can’t know your exact hand equity, because you can only guess your opponent’s calling range. 

For this reason, thin value betting won’t always work, as sometimes you’ll only get called by the hands that have you beat. 

This is the reason a lot of players don’t bet for value unless they are 100% certain their hand is ahead. 

This is understandable, but it still results in leaving money at the table.

As mentioned, you rarely have the luxury of being dealt a monster hand, and even if you do, you might have trouble getting any action with it. 

The stronger your hand, the less likely it is for your opponent to have a strong hand as well. 

If you flop a full house or quads, for example, you can try to bet for value, but there will be very few hands in your opponent’s range that are willing to give you action.

When you’re thin value betting, on the other hand, there will be way more hands in your opponent’s range that will give you action. 

For this reason, it’s best to thin value bet against recreational players, as they usually have an insanely wide calling range.

You should obviously charge them a premium for their drawing hands, but in this context, you need to learn when to thin value on the so-called big money streets, aka the turn and the river.

 On the river especially, a lot of players often struggle to fire the third shell, because they are afraid they will only get action from hands that have them beat. 

$5/$10 Example Hand #3

Effective stack size: 100 BB

You are dealt AK in the cutoff (CO).

You open-raise to $30. A loose and passive recreational player calls from the small blind (SB).

Pot: $70

Flop: AJ3

Villain checks. You bet $50. Villain calls.

Pot: $170

Turn: 7

Villain checks. You bet $130. Villain calls.

Pot: $430

River: 2

Villain checks. 

You: ??? 

You should bet $250.

A lot of players will check behind on the turn in a spot like this. 

And it’s understandable. You usually can’t get three streets of value with a top pair hand.

But here’s the rub: You are up against a recreational player who loves to make crazy hero calls because they think everyone is always trying to bluff them. 

Against any other player type, firing a third shell on the river would mean value betting extremely thin indeed. 

But against this particular player, you can expect to get called by weaker hands, namely weaker Ax hands or even Jx hands. 

Now, some players may get apprehensive seeing the flush draw complete on the river. It’s true that the villain could have some flush draws, but that’s only a small part of their overall range. 

And even if they do have a flush, they would probably just donk bet shove it on the river instead of checking. Checking the river screams a mediocre hand. 

If they do check-raise shove the rest of their stack, you’d have no choice but to fold begrudgingly. 

Now, you may argue that value betting here is too thin for your liking, and fair enough. The example was just meant to illustrate there are a bunch of spots like these where betting for value is not your first instinct, but can work more often than you’d think. 

As you climb up the stakes, it pays to look for potential +EV spots, instead of just playing it safe all the time.

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$5/$10 Cash Game Strategy - Pro's Guide Summary

At $5/$10, you can still find a number of recreational players splashing about. 

The fundamental winning poker strategy against them remains the same: Keep it simple, value bet your strong hands relentlessly, and don’t bluff them too much (or even at all).

Fish are fish at any limit, so you don’t need to deviate from the basic tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy to beat them.

Against more observant opponents, however, you do need to mix up your game from time to time to keep them guessing.

This means implementing a loose and aggressive (LAG) strategy: playing more hands preflop and bluffing more.

One final tip to really crush the $5/$10 limit is to adopt a thin value bet into your poker arsenal. This means betting for value when your hand is only slightly ahead of your opponent’s calling range.

Thin value betting won’t work every time, but as you get to this limit, you need to look for every small edge you can find, as these can add up tremendously over time.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $1000+ per month in small stakes games, get a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

$5/$10 Cash Game Strategy - Pro's Guide