This Easy Cash Game Strategy Skyrocketed My Winnings

This Easy Cash Game Strategy Boosted My Winnings

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

If you are playing poker cash games, chances are you’re going to start to encounter familiar faces after a while.

While most of your poker winnings will come from recreational players, sometimes there simply won’t be any of them around.

In order to be a profitable long term winner, you need to know how to make money from regular players as well.

This will be harder than taking it from the recreational players, but it still can be done if you follow the right strategy.

This article will show you an easy cash game strategy to make money from both recreational and regular poker players alike.

Fair warning: the tactics employed here may sound machiavellian, but they are completely within the rules of the game and fair play.

We do not condone any kind of angle shooting, rude table talk, or other unsportsman-like behaviour to get an edge.

1. Intentionally Tilt Other Regular Players

If you’ve played poker for some time, you already know that the vast majority of the money you earn will come from inexperienced, recreational players, aka the fish. 

The problem is, as you start to move up the stakes, there will be less and less recreational players around, which obviously means less profits for you. 

What’s worse, other players at the table will also be acutely aware of the presence of recreational players, and they will try to take their money before everyone else.

This means that as you start climbing up the stakes, you will naturally have a slightly worse winrate due to having:

a) less recreational players around and 

b) tougher, more skilled regular players.

So you can’t rely on clueless fish alone to pad your winrate anymore. 

This means you’re going to have to find a way to beat the other regs as well.

How to beat good players

But not just any reg would do. You can’t expect to win a lot of money against a player who makes very few fundamental technical mistakes. 

You can only win over the long run against the players you have some sort of a skill edge over.

This means you have to identify and target weak regs.

A weak regular is a player who has a basic understanding of a winning poker strategy and doesn’t make huge, glaring mistakes like a recreational player, but still has leaks in their game that you can exploit.

Fish are fish at any limit, and a certain recreational player is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from another in the sense that they all make the same, predictable mistakes.

Common recreational player mistakes include:
  • Playing too many hands
  • Calling too much and not folding enough
  • Chasing all kinds of draws
  • Losing patience quickly and getting tilted easily
And so on. 

Of course, there are some differences between different kinds of recreational players, namely based on their aggression level, but that’s a different story.

The point is you can quickly spot them and exploit weaknesses in their game.

Check out Nathan’s recent video on how to quickly spot a recreational player at your table.

Regulars are a different story. The leaks in their game won’t be as glaringly obvious as with their fishy counterparts, but you can still find them if you know what to look for.

If you play poker online, you can use a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4 to keep track of your opponent’s stats.

PokerTracker 4 has a built-in heads up display (HUD for short) that shows up next to the player’s username and shows you their stats in real time.

The HUD is fully customizable, so it can show basically any stat imaginable. This means you can quickly identify the player type, as well as potential leaks in their game with as much as a glance.

Check out this article on the most useful HUD stats you should use.

Also, check out this article on the poker software the pros use to get an edge.

Back to the topic.

When looking for weak regulars to target, your best bet is to look for weak and passive regs that won’t fight back too much. 

This type of player is still fairly common to find. 

You won’t make as much money from them as you would from recreational players, but you can still beat them fairly easily if you apply the right amount of pressure.

To understand how to beat this player type, first you need to understand how they operate. 

Weak regs aren’t necessarily bad players, but they aren’t world class experts, either. 

They have probably studied the game a bit, and some of them are at least familiar with the advanced poker strategy, but they still have some leaks in their game. 

Some of them may even be strategically proficient, but have other issues beyond the technical game, like poor bankroll management, poor tilt control and so on.

The way to beat this type of players is to identify the biggest weakness in their game, and then strategically attack that particular weakness.

Pro tip: in poker, as in life in general, people crack at the point of their biggest weakness when put under enough pressure.

For example, if someone usually calls too much, they’re going to call down even more when they’re tilting.

If someone’s playing a bit too aggressively, they will become even more aggressive when they’re tilting.

Now, this may seem cruel, as this whole strategy rests upon intentionally going out of your way to ruin someone’s day. 

Fair enough, but as the great Doyle Brunson once said: 

"Poker is war, people pretend it is a game."

In other competitive sports, the teams strategize on how to take advantage of the weaknesses in the other team, while trying to eliminate, or at least reduce weaknesses in their own team. 

In a basketball game, for example, teams will design plays where they can attack the weakest defender by creating a mismatch.

Poker is no different in that regard. 

You attack them where they are the weakest, and avoid them where they are the strongest.

So how does this translate into beating the weak regs? It’s simple. 

You attack their biggest weakness, which is usually folding too much and not fighting back often enough.

If they have a different leak, for example calling down too much, you just value bet them more heavily instead of bluffing.

But when talking about weak regs, their biggest weakness will usually giving up too easily when they don’t connect with the board and when they don’t have a strong hand (which is most of the time).

So the way to beat weak regs is simple: bluff them more often.

In the rest of the article, we’ll take a closer look at some strategies you can employ to win more than your fair share against weak regs.

Also, you can check out my other article on how to play a loose and aggressive (LAG) poker style.

2. 3-bet Their Iso-Raises

Recreational players are notorious for making large, fundamental mistakes that cost them a fortune over the long run. One of these mistakes is open-limping.

Open-limping means being the first to enter the pot with just paying the big blind instead of open-raising.

I won’t talk about why open-limping is such an egregious play, as I’ve already covered it in my article on beginner poker mistakes you should avoid, so you can check it out for more info.

As mentioned, other regulars will be acutely aware of the presence of fish in their midst, and they’ll try to get involved in pots against them as often as possible to take advantage of their mistakes.

One of the best ways to take advantage of the recreational player's mistakes is by using an isolation-raise.

Isolation raise (iso-raise for short) means open raising after another player (or players) have limped into the pot.

The objective of the iso-raise is to play a heads-up pot with the recreational player to be able to take advantage of their mistakes post flop.

Iso-raise is particularly effective when you can play the pot in position post flop.

The size of your iso-raise can vary, but the standard is usually 4 times the big blind. 

You can bump it up an additional big blind per limper.

So: 5x if there have been two limpers, 6x for 3 limpers and so on.

Of course, if the recreational player is fairly inelastic (meaning they tend to overcall regardless of the price) and you have a strong value hand, you can use the 5x or 6x iso-raise for just that one particular open-limper.

Check out my ultimate preflop bet sizing cheat sheet for a deeper dive on this topic.

Anyway, you often won’t have the opportunity to make an iso-raise, because another player will simply beat you to it.

That’s why it’s great to have a direct position on the recreational player, so you can always iso-raise them before anyone else.

If you do not have the direct position on the recreational player and another reg iso-raises them instead, you can try to take down the pot immediately with a light 3-bet.

what is a 3-bet in poker

A light 3-bet preflop is a re-raise against another player’s open raise made with the intention of getting the open-raiser to fold.

This is the opposite of a value 3-bet, where you want your opponents to call with a weaker hand than yours.

3-betting the iso-attempts is great because you can often win the pot outright preflop.

Alternatively, you can get the iso-raiser to fold and the fish to call, so you get to play a bigger heads-up pot against the fish.

Again, it’s better to 3-bet the iso-attempts in position, so you have the positional advantage post flop in case your 3-bet gets called.

A word of caution: sometimes you will get both the iso-raiser and the fish to call, meaning you’ll play a bloated pot and you’ll often play out of position. 

This is not a great spot, so you should only do this with hands that have some sort of playability postflop.

For more info on light 3-betting and other advanced poker strategies, check out Modern Small Stakes.

Easy Cash Game Strategy Example Hand #1

You are dealt A3 on the BU (button). 
A recreational player open-limps UTG (under the gun). 

A tight and aggressive (TAG) regular iso-raises to 4x in the CO (cutoff).

You: ???

You should 3-bet to 12x

The fish open-limps from the first position at the table, which is a telltale sign of a recreational player. A regular tries to isolate the fish. This is a great spot to try and take down the pot immediately.

You are playing in position, and you can exert a lot of pressure on both players. Even if one of them, or both of them call your 3-bet, you still have a decent hand with a lot of playability post flop.

If you only get called by the recreational player, you’ll be able to take advantage of any potential mistake they can make post flop. 

If you only get called by a regular, you’ll have the initiative and the range advantage, meaning you’ll often be able to take down the pot with a simple flop c-bet, even if you miss the flop.

A player with the range advantage is the one that theoretically has more strong hands in their range than their opponent, due to being the preflop aggressor. Being the preflop aggressor also gives you the initiative, i.e. the option to make a c-bet on the flop.

If you get called by both players, not all is lost, as your hand has great nuts potential, meaning you can potentially take down a huge pot if you hit a strong combination like a straight or a flush.

If you want to know EXACTLY which hands to play preflop and how to play them, check out Crushing the Microstakes.

Learn the Advanced Cash Game Strategies I Use as a Professional Poker Player

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3. Steal Their Blinds Relentlessly

This is just about the easiest strategy you can implement that can improve your winrate instantly, especially against weak regulars.

Most players shy away from playing out of position, which means they don’t defend their blinds nearly as often as would be considered “optimal.” 

This is particularly true at the lower stakes, where you can often find players that regularly fold their blinds without too much of a fight.

To take advantage of that, you should get into the habit of looking for spots for blind stealing.

what is blind stealing in poker?

Blind stealing means open-raising from the late positions (the cutoff and the button) and from the small blind with the intention of getting your opponents to fold, i.e. taking down the pot preflop.

Some players may not see the point of stealing the blinds, since you’re incurring the risk only to win 1.5 big blinds (or 1 big blind if you’re stealing from the small blind).

But it’s not about the size of the reward, but the sheer frequency you can do it with that makes it worthwhile. 

If you’re playing a 6-max cash game online, for example, you can potentially steal the blinds 3 times per orbit. 

If you manage to steal the blinds only once per two orbits, that’s still 12 big blinds worth of profit per 100 hands.

Here’s the math in more detail:

100 hands means 16 full orbits.

If you steal 1.5 BB every two orbits, that’s 8 x 1.5 BB = 12 BB 

Granted, this is a hypothetical scenario. In reality, you won’t always have the opportunity to steal the blinds, as another player will open-raise before you.

Also, sometimes players will defend their blinds, 3-bet your stealing attempts and so on.

But even if you get called, you’ll still play the hand in position, meaning you’ll often be able to take down the pot post flop.

The only exception to playing in position is obviously when you open-raise from the small blind and get called by the big blind.

Also, you obviously don’t want to steal the blinds with just about any random hand that’s dealt to you. 

You should only choose hands that have some sort of playability post flop in case you get called.

Still, when you’re playing in position, particularly on the button, you can often get away with open-raising an insanely wide range.

If your hand has any sort of playability post flop, chances are you can open-raise it profitably from the button.

In fact, the best way to view it is that you should all but abuse the button. 

The button will be your most profitable table position by far. 

That’s because you will always have the positional advantage post flop when playing on the button.

If you have a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4, you can check this for yourself. You may be surprised how much more money you win from the button as opposed to other positions.

Playing a very wide range on the button becomes even more profitable if the players on your left aren’t likely to put up too much of a fight.

For example, if someone folds to steal attempts 8 out of 10 times, you can try to steal their blinds with just about any random two cards.

One caveat: you don’t want to go overboard in exploiting a leak in your opponent’s game, because they might figure out what you’re doing and adjust accordingly.

The point is exploiting it just often enough to make it profitable, but not so often to become too obvious.

If you want to know which cards you should use to steal the blinds with, enroll in Blackrain79 Elite Poker University.

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You will also learn how to quickly identify and exploit leaks in your opponent’s game, based on their player type.

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4. Float in Position

Another great strategy for “reg tilting” is to use their aggression against them. 

Most players who aren’t complete maniacs will only go so far with their aggression and bluffing attempts before they back down and forfeit the pot.

Weak regulars usually don’t bluff often enough, or even at all. They tend to play pretty straightforwardly post flop, i.e. playing aggressively means they are strong, and playing passively means they are weak.

In order to take advantage of that, you should play aggressively against them every time they show weakness.

One of the best ways to do that is to float them in position.

what is a float in poker?

To float means to call a bet with the intention of taking down the pot with a bluff on later streets.

This may seem counterintuitive at first. Why would I call a bet if betting means strength, and not weakness?

The answer: betting doesn’t necessarily mean strength, especially in certain spots.

Weak or strong, all the regular players already know they should usually fire a continuation bet (or a c-bet for short) on the flop, since c-bets are usually profitable.

A c-bet is a bet made by the previous street’s aggressor. 

If you open-raise preflop and you get called, you have the opportunity to make a c-bet on the flop. If you c-bet the flop and get called, you can make a c-bet on the turn and so on.

This means that a lot of players will just fire a c-bet on the flop as a default, whether they have a strong hand or not. 

If questioned why they made a c-bet in a certain spot, they may just answer: because it’s standard.

As a consequence, if their c-bet gets called, they often won’t continue the aggression on the turn unless they have a strong hand. 

This is called being “turn honest”, and it’s quite a common leak among many players.

If you’re using PokerTracker 4, you can spot this by viewing the discrepancy between a player’s flop c-betting and turn c-betting percentage.

Anything above 20% difference may indicate that a player is turn honest.

For example, if a player has a flop c-bet (CBF) percentage of 60, and a turn c-bet (CBT) percentage of 38, that player is more than likely playing very straightforwardly on the turn.

Important note: in order for these stats to be reliable, you need a significant sample size. In order for both CBF and CBT stats to be reliable, you need a sample size of 1000 hands at the very least.

Also important: the more often a player c-bets the flop, the more often they’ll have the opportunity to c-bet the turn and vice versa. 

If a player very rarely c-bets the flop to begin with, they’ll have way less opportunities to c-bet the turn, so you’d need an even bigger sample size to draw any conclusions about their turn honesty.

Anyway, back to the topic of floating.

A lot of players will fire a standard c-bet on the flop, but will often give up on the turn if they don’t have a strong hand (which is most of the time, since most hands miss most flops).

In order to take advantage of that, you simply call them when you’re playing in position with a wide range, then fire a bet on the turn when they check to you.

If a player checks on the turn when they have the opportunity to make a c-bet, they more than likely don’t have a strong hand.

Of course, some players may get tricky and trap you by checking the turn to conceal their hand strength, but in this context, we’re talking about players who tend to play very straightforwardly, and very rarely go for deceptive lines like these.

Easy Cash Game Strategy Example Hand #2 

You are dealt 76 in the CO (cutoff). A tight and aggressive regular open-raises to 3x from MP (middle position). You call.

Pot: 7.5 BB 

Flop: K52

Villain bets 3.5 BB 

You: ???

You should call.

Preflop you have a pretty standard call with a suited connector. Not much to be said here.

You don’t get the best flop in the world, but that’s no reason to give up the hand altogether right away.

The board is bone dry, meaning the villain could have missed it easily, and is just firing a standard c-bet. 

If you call and they check on the turn, you can take down the pot with a simple half-pot bet.

Your hand strength (or lack thereof) basically doesn’t matter in that particular spot. If the villain fires a second shell and you don’t pick up any equity on the turn, you can just fold.

But often enough, villain will basically be forfeiting the hand by checking to you.

Also, you have at least some sort of hand equity to fall back on, which makes your call more +EV. You have a backdoor flush and straight draw, meaning a lot of turn cards can improve your hand equity.

A backdoor draw means you need both a turn and a river card to complete your draw.

Any 8 or a 4 will give you a straight draw, and any diamond will give you a flush draw.

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

This Easy Cash Game Strategy Boosted My Winnings - Summary

As you start climbing up the stakes, it’s important to learn how to beat regular players as well as the recreational players. 

This also means studying advanced poker strategy in order to stay competitive at the higher limits. 

Going toe-to-toe with skilled, observant players is a losing battle, because they simply won’t make too many (or any) mistakes you can take advantage of.

Instead, you should identify and target other players that have noticeable leaks in their game, i.e. the weak regulars.

These players will usually play fairly straightforwardly, as well as passively, meaning you can often push them out of the pot with a well-timed aggression.

If you apply just the right amount of pressure, you can even tilt them and totally throw them off their game, so they’ll be more likely to make mistakes when playing against you.

For example, calling you down too widely, bluffing you at the wrong time, or even avoiding getting involved in the pot with you in the first place.

Here are some of the tactics you can employ to target weak regulars:

1. Steal their blinds relentlessly.

2. 3-bet their isolation attempts

3. Float them in position with a wide range.

By using these tactics, you’ll see a dramatic increase in your winrate in no time. 

The best part is, you won’t need to rely on recreational players alone to win anymore, so you’ll become a formidable opponent on every table you choose to play.

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

This Easy Cash Game Strategy Skyrocketed My Winnings