6 Easy Poker Cash Game Tips EVERY New Player Must Know

6 Simple Cash Game Tips for New Poker Players

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

If you want to consistently make money playing poker, cash games are probably the best format to go about it.

However, getting into cash games can be daunting for new players.

This article will cover everything you need to know about crushing cash games, even if you don’t have any previous knowledge on poker strategy.

If you know the basic rules of the game, you’re all set.

There’s a lot to cover on this one, so let’s get right into it.

Cash Games Tip #1: Play a Tight and Aggressive Strategy

If you want to start winning at cash games quickly, the best way to go about it is to learn the basics of the tried and true tight and aggressive (TAG) poker strategy.

To play tight means being very selective with the hands you choose to play preflop.

To play aggressively means betting and raising instead of checking and calling, which are passive actions.

There are three key components to playing a tight and aggressive strategy:

A) only playing strong starting hands

B) playing them aggressively

C) playing more hands in position

We’ll break down each of these components in greater detail below.

But first, let’s analyse why this strategy works so well, particularly in low stakes cash games.

This strategy works well because it capitalizes on the weaknesses of a large number of players you’re likely to encounter at low stakes cash games.

A lot of amateur poker players tend to play way too many hands in a passive manner.

In other words, they play in a loose and passive way, so the best way to beat them is to play the exact opposite style.

Another reason the TAG strategy works well is because it allows you to avoid a lot of awkward, marginal spots in which you aren’t completely sure what to do.

This way, you’re likely going to make a lot less mistakes and lose less money as a consequence.

Poker is a game of razor thin margins, and it’s not always easy to know whether your hand is ahead or behind.

By avoiding marginal spots altogether, you will make your post flop play a lot easier.

When first starting out, your best bet is to keep things as simple as possible and play a straightforward ABC poker.

As you get more comfortable, you can start experimenting by mixing up your game a bit.

This means switching to a loose and aggressive (LAG) poker style, which involves playing more hands and bluffing more.

Check out Nathan's recent video for more beginner poker tips.

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Now let’s break down the TAG strategy in more details, starting with your hand selection.

Cash Games Tip #2: Only Play Strong Starting Hands

The reason to only play strong starting hands is simple: if you play better hands on average than your opponent, you can expect to win more money on average over the long run.

By playing only with strong starting hands, you will make stronger hand combinations post flop, like stronger pairs, stronger flushes and so on.

This means you can get action with a lot of weaker hands.

When you bet or raise hoping to get called by weaker hands, this is known as a value bet (more on that below).

So what makes a strong starting hand in no-limit hold’em?

There are three key guidelines you should follow when assessing your starting hand strength:

a) high cards are stronger than low cards, because they can make stronger pairs post flop (Ace-King is stronger than Jack-Ten, for example).

b) connected cards are stronger than unconnected cards, because they can make straights. The bigger the gap between the cards, the weaker they are. (So Jack-Ten is stronger than Jack-Nine).

c) suited cards are stronger than unsuited cards, because they can make flushes post flop.

Bear in mind that you shouldn’t play certain cards just because they’re suited. 

For example, a hand like Nine-Four suited can make a flush, but it has nothing else going for it in terms of post flop playability.

Check out my other article on the 4 shockingly bad poker hands you should never play to learn more.

You should only play about the top 20% of starting hands, because they have some of these 3 components.

6 Simple Cash Game Tips for New Poker Players

This includes pocket pairs (pocket Aces through pocket Twos), suited Aces (Ace-King suited through Ace-Two suited), broadway hands (high cards that can make the strongest possible straight, like Ace-Queen or King-Jack), and suited connectors (Jack-Ten suited or Eight-Seven suited, for example).

The rest is trash and should be folded.

Now, folding 80% of the time may seem too restrictive at first, and it can even be outright boring at times.

But it’s important to note that playing poker for fun and playing poker to win are entirely different things.

If you want to have fun, you can play just about any hand that’s dealt to you. You just can’t expect to win any money that way.

Winning poker is all about discipline, so you need to withstand a bit of boredom for it.

This is a fair tradeoff in my book.

It’s also worth noting that the top 20% of hands is only a rough guideline.

You should play even less hands in the early table positions, but you can play considerably more hands in the late table positions.

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Cash Games Tip #3: Play More Hands in Position

The second cornerstone of a successful tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy is playing most of your starting hands in position.

Playing in position means being the last player to act in a betting round.

There are multiple advantages when playing in position:

a) You have an informational advantage over your opponents. 

You can see what they do, while they have no idea what you will do.

b) You can get more value out of your strong hands. 

By being the last to act, you can dictate the price of the pot because you’re the one closing the action.

c) You can practice pot control if you have a mediocre/drawing hand. 

If you want a cheap/free card, you can simply call or check behind your opponents and try to improve on future streets.

d) You can bluff more effectively. 

Due to the informational advantage, you can apply more pressure on your opponents and get them to fold better hands.

So how does playing in position look like in practice?

You simply open-raise more hands from the late table positions (namely the cutoff and the button), and open-raise less hands when playing in early positions.

When you’re playing on the button in particular, you will ALWAYS have a positional advantage post flop.

6 Simple Cash Game Tips for New Poker Players

This means that the button will be your most profitable seat by far.

If you’re using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4, you can check these stats yourself.

Chances are, you’d be surprised by how much more money you earn on the button compared to other table positions.

When you’re playing in the blinds, however, you will always play out of position post flop.

The only exception is when you’re playing in the big blind against the small blind.

Due to the positional disadvantage, the blinds won’t be profitable seats over the long run, no matter how well you’re playing.

This is just the nature of the game; the money always flows from the players out of position to the players in position.

So when playing in the blinds, your goal is to just lose as little money as possible.

Of course, this doesn’t mean folding every hand that’s dealt to you in the blinds.

If you do that, you run the risk of your opponents exploiting you by stealing your blinds with impunity.

This means you need to defend your blinds from time to time to keep your opponents in check.

You can do this either by flat calling against blind stealing attempts, or throwing out an occasional light 3-bet.

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

By the way, check out my advanced guide to poker blind defence and light 3-betting, for much more.

Cash Games Tip #4: Don’t be Afraid to Play Your Hands Aggressively

The final component of a tight and aggressive strategy is playing your hands aggressively.

This means betting and raising instead of checking and calling.

For example:

You have A♥️K♣️ and you hit top pair on K♥️8♦️3♠️

Unless shown otherwise, you should literally just bet, bet and then bet again.

There is absolutely no need to do anything else at the lower limits.

A lot of beginner poker players make the mistake of playing their hands too passively, which makes it difficult for them to get paid off once they actually get a strong hand.

Here’s a few reasons why you should play your hands aggressively:

a) to build up the pot with your strong hands.

If you want to win big in poker, you need to win big pots. And the best way to do it is to build up the pot yourself, instead of relying on your opponents to do it for you.

This means you shouldn’t slowplay your big hands.

Slowplaying means playing your hand passively (i.e. checking and calling) in order to conceal your hand strength.

While slowplaying can be a viable strategy at times, it doesn’t work as well in low stakes cash games.

Since most players you’ll encounter at low stakes cash games tend to play pretty passively themselves, you usually won’t be able to get them to build up the pot for you.

The second reason to avoid slowplaying is the fact that most recreational players at the lower stakes tend to overcall.

To overcall means calling more often than what would be considered optimal for most winning players.

This means you should punish their overcalling tendencies by value betting heavily.

You are value betting when you can get called by a lot of weaker hands.

This is the opposite of a bluff, where you want to get stronger hands to fold.

b) you get to dictate the tempo of the hand.

If you play aggressively, you are the one in the driving seat. This means you’re playing proactively, instead of reactively.

If you play passively, you’re allowing your opponents to realize their equity for free.

Even if you have a strong hand, your opponents will almost always have a significant chunk of equity against you.

So if they want to realize their equity, you need to make sure to charge them a premium for it.

Let them know that if they want to get involved in a pot with you, it’s going to cost them.

c) you make yourself more difficult to play against.

A passive poker player is no threat to the rest of the players, and will easily get pushed around.

Playing against an aggressive player is an entirely different thing.

If you’ve already encountered really aggressive poker players, you already know how frustrating they can be.

If you play aggressively, your opponents will have to think twice before they decide to play back against you.

They will know that playing back at you can be costly, so they’ll think twice before stealing your blinds or 3-betting you.

So how do you play more aggressively?

The first rule is to always enter the pot with an open-raise when you have the chance.

This means you shouldn’t open-limp.

Open-limping means just paying the big blind instead of open-raising.

I won’t go into details as to why you shouldn’t open-limp, as I’ve covered it extensively in my previous articles.

For example, check out my article on the 6 terrible amateur poker mistakes for a much deeper dive on this.

If you can’t open-raise, you should consider 3-betting, and if that’s not an option, you can consider flat calling preflop.

But the idea is that you should play most of the hands as a preflop aggressor.

Check out my ultimate preflop cheat sheet for much more on how to crush them as the preflop raiser.

By being the preflop aggressor, you have the opportunity to continue the aggression post flop in the form of a continuation bet.

As the name suggests, a continuation bet (or a c-bet for short) is a bet made by the previous street’s aggressor.

C-bets are usually profitable, so you should be inclined to make a c-bet on most flops, unless there’s a very specific reason not to.

Cash Games Tip #5: Always Buy in for a Maximum Table Amount

When playing poker cash games, you have the option of choosing your buyin amount when you sit down to play.

You should always buy in for the maximum table amount.

A lot of beginner poker players make the mistake of buying in for a table minimum, because they want to lose as little money as possible.

But this equates to planning to fail. When you play poker, you should always be comfortable with losing your entire stack at any given moment.

Poker has a short term luck element involved, meaning you can lose even if you play perfectly.

If you want to be a long term winner, you need to make peace with losing from time to time.

When playing poker, losing some money is inevitable, so it doesn’t make sense trying to avoid it.

Even though you can potentially lose less money when buying in for a table minimum, you also limit your upside potential.

For example, let’s say you buy in for 40 big blinds and get dealt pocket Aces, the strongest starting hand in no-limit hold’em.

A player open-raises, you 3-bet, and the open-raiser shoves all-in. 

You snap call and your pocket rockets hold up.

6 Simple Cash Game Tips for New Poker Players

Congratulations, you just won 40 big blinds.

But had you bought in for the table maximum of 100 big blinds, you would have won 100 big blinds instead (minus the rake, of course).

For this reason, skilled poker players always want to have as many chips in front of them as possible.

Beginner poker players, on the other hand, aren’t confident in their playing abilities, so they opt for smaller buyins to limit their downside.

But here’s the problem with this approach. If you buy in for the table minimum, you’re telegraphing to the whole table that you aren’t confident with your game, and you’re automatically putting a target on your back.

To be fair, not all short-stackers are recreational players. 

There are some short stack strategies that can work well, but either way you cut it, you’re placing a ceiling on your potential winnings when you play with a short stack.

So if you’re not comfortable with losing your whole stack (or a couple of them, for that matter) it’s usually a good sign you should drop down in stakes until you get to the point where you’re comfortable with buying in for a full amount.

The more chips you have, the more money you can potentially make.

If you play cash games, it’s not uncommon to encounter opponents with very deep stacks, like 200 or even 300 big blinds in front of them.

Deepstack poker is arguably the most complex game format, because you have much more manoeuvrability post flop, and this is where you can fully manifest your skill edge.

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Cash Games Tip #6: Use Table and Seat Selection to Your Advantage

If you play online poker cash games, you have the option to pick and choose the tables you want to play.

You should take advantage of this option, and choose the tables that have a lot of recreational players around.

Recreational poker players (aka the fish) play the game primarily for fun, and usually don’t make any effort into improving their game.

In fact, a lot of them don’t even see the point in doing so, because they believe poker is all about luck in the first place.

This is why they will make a number of fundamental mistakes, like playing too many hands, playing too passively, chasing every draw and so on.

Most of the money you’ll earn in your poker career will come from these recreational players, so it’s crucial to have at least one of them at your table at any given time.

More is obviously better.

Some online poker sites display certain table information, so you can easily spot the tables with plenty of recreational players at a glance.

Here’s how you can find tables with plenty of poker fish:

a) check the percentage of players involved in the hand.

The bigger the average number of players involved in the hand, the fishier the table.

This one’s a no-brainer. As mentioned, the most common beginner poker mistake is playing too many hands. So when you see a table with a bunch of multiway pots, it’s a pretty good sign they are recreational players.

A multiway pot is a pot with more than two players involved. A heads-up pot is a pot with only two players involved.

b) check the average number of hands played in an hour.

The less hands played in an hour, the fishier the table. That’s because recreational players tend to play pretty passively (meaning checking and calling a lot), so it takes longer to finish playing a single hand.

Conversely, a table with many hands played is likely the one with more aggressive players, where there’s a lot of betting and raising involved.

c) check the average pot size.

Similar to the previous point, you want to find tables with small average pot sizes. That’s because players at these tables are likely to play passively, meaning they rarely bet or raise.

When you find a table with small average pot sizes, it’s likely there’s a lot of limping going on at that table.

Limping means just paying the big blind preflop instead of open-raising, and it’s usually a telltale sign of recreational poker players.

Now, let’s talk about seat selection.

When you find a table with plenty of fish splashing about, you want to choose a seat that’s on the direct left of the recreational player(s).

This way, you will have a direct position on them most of the time, meaning you get to act immediately after them.

If they open-limp (i.e. pay the big blind when they are the first to enter the pot), you can try to isolate them with the so-called isolation-raise (or iso-raise for short).

As the name suggests, the goal of the iso-raise is to play a heads-up pot (preferably in position) against a recreational player.

This way, you can take advantage of the many mistakes they’re bound to make post flop, and take their stack before everybody else.

If there are no obvious recreational players at your table, don’t hesitate to change tables and find a more profitable one.

The only way to make money consistently in poker is to play against players who play worse than you.

There’s no point in playing against players of equal or greater skill level. If you do that, you will be a breakeven player at best.

There is nothing wrong with playing against better opponents if you want to hone your skills and improve your game, of course.

But if that approach causes you to constantly lose money, you won’t get anything but frustration out of the experience.

That’s why it’s crucial to find the right balance, and play in games that you have a reasonable chance of beating, but can still provide sufficient challenge.

If you are tired of being a losing or a breakeven player, make sure to check out my recent video.

6 Simple Cash Game Tips for New Poker Players - Summary

You don’t need to know a lot of advanced poker strategy to start winning at poker cash games. 

All you need to do is learn the basics of a tried and true tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy and stick with it.

To sum up, here are 6 simple cash game tips every new poker players should know:

1. Play a tight and aggressive (TAG) poker strategy

TAG strategy works well in low stakes cash games because it exploits the weaknesses of the majority of players you’re likely to encounter. It’s a simple and effective way to start winning quickly, and it provides a solid foundation to learning more advanced concepts.

2. Only play strong starting hands

You should only play hands that have a reasonable chance of connecting with the flop in some meaningful way.

This includes pocket pairs, suited Aces, suited connectors, and broadway hands. The rest is trash and should be thrown away.

3. Play in position

Being the last player to act in a betting round is a huge advantage. Playing in position gives you more information, and allows you to value bet and bluff more effectively.

4. Don’t be afraid to play aggressively

If you only take one thing from this article, let it be this: winning poker is aggressive poker.

By playing aggressively, you get to dictate the tempo of the hand, and build up the pot with your strong value hands. You also make yourself more difficult to play against, because your opponents will have to think twice before getting involved in a pot with you.

5. Always buy in for a full amount

Good poker players always want to have as many chips in front of them as possible. Getting familiar with a deepstack strategy is one of the best ways to skyrocket your cash game winnings.

 If you’re not comfortable playing with a full stack, it’s a good sign you should probably drop down in stakes.

6. Table select and seat select

If you’re playing cash games online, you have the option of picking the tables to play on. You should always pick tables with at least one recreational player, preferably more.

You should also try to pick the seat that’s on the direct left of the recreational player(s). This way, you can isolate them with isolation raises and take advantage of the many mistakes they’re bound to make.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

6 Simple Cash Game Tips for New Poker Players