Many people struggle to break through in a big way in small stakes cash games. Perhaps they squeak by with break-even results or they even become minor winners. But most people want to win big. Indeed, for many that is the primary reason for playing the game.
The key to accomplishing that goal is to learn how to exploit the small edges most other people do not know about or do not apply often enough. In this article I am going to discuss five simple strategy tips that will help increase your profit margins in low stakes cash games.
1. Steal the Blinds
Most people think they do a good job of stealing the blinds, but many still pass up a lot of golden opportunities to do so. It is simply a fact that the button and the cutoff will be by far the most profitable seats for you at the poker table. Why on earth, then, would you not exploit the heck out of this when it is folded to you in these positions?
In my opinion, you can easily get away with stealing the blinds with 30% or even 40% of your hands in your typically passive low stakes cash games, live or online. Most opponents will simply let you take it down, only three-betting you if they happen to have a strong hand. Or even better, they will flat your steal attempt from out of position and then you can take down an even bigger pot with a simple continuation bet on the flop and/or turn.
The bottom line is that stealing the blinds is a highly effective way to increase your profit in small stakes cash games. Make sure that you are raising with anything that is even remotely playable.
Another effective strategy in passive low stakes cash games is to continuation bet the flop and then follow it up again on the turn. This is also referred to as a “double-barrel.”
The reason why this strategy is so effective is because many people at these stakes play no-limit cash games as if they were fixed-limit games. That is, they will call you on the flop but if you can follow it up on the turn with another bet, then they will assume that you are serious and let you have the pot.
This is a very effective strategy to use in particular against weak-tight opponents who won’t call you down with weak pairs or draws. Some players will even fold a small overpair if you continue to apply the pressure like this! Target these players more often by making another continuation bet on the turn.
3. Three-Bet Light
One of my favorite strategies against these same weak-tight opponents is to three-bet them light before the flop. By three-bet light I mean rereaise their open raise with a bunch of hands that aren’t quite premium — e.g., suited connectors, suited aces, and small pairs. I never do it with total junk. I always want to have some equity.
I will also do it more often when I am in position. This allows me to control the pace of the hand should they decide to call. This also allows me to get more value bets in if I manage to hit the board or to bluff if I feel like they aren’t confident about their hand.
4. Bluff the River
Once again the target here are the weak-tight opponents you see everywhere these days in small stakes cash games, especially online. Many of the players in this category do not like to go to showdown without a strong hand.
If you’re online and using a HUD, the WTSD% or “Went to Showdown” stat is crucial here. If an opponent is in the low 20s or less, then that is exactly the kind of player I want to be bluffing against more on the river.
It is important not to do it every time, though, and it is also important to make sure that your line makes some sense before firing that river bluff. By this I mean that given your previous actions in the hand, you want to find spots in which you could easily show up with several good made hands as well.
The river is often a spot where there is some big value to be made. Don’t just give up on the pot if you are against one of these nitty types who you think might fold. If you know that you cannot win at showdown, then sometimes you have very little to lose and everything to gain by making a bet.
5. Raise With Your Draws
One final way to open up your game and exploit the tendencies of weak opponents in particular is to play your draws fast. I mean significant draws such open-ended straight draws (8 outs), flush draws (9 outs), and everything better.
You already have plenty of equity with these hands, so it is a great strategy to play them like they are the nuts a little more often. One of my favorite ways to do this is simply to raise the flop and then bet any turn. This line puts a tremendous amount of pressure on opponents and really forces them to have a real hand in order to continue.
Once again, I will be targeting the weak-tight players with this play, a consideration that goes for pretty much every other strategy discussed in this article as well. There are still plenty of calling stations at the lower stakes and it is not a good idea to start bluffing up a storm against them.
The difference between the biggest winners and everybody else at any limit often boils down to how effectively the winning players exploit the smaller edges. And really what this means is taking down the smaller pots over which nobody else truly wants to fight.
Most players know how to play pocket aces before the flop or how to proceed after flopping a set. And everybody gets dealt these big hands in equal frequencies in the long run.
What the biggest winners do better than everybody else is win more than their fair share of the pots with their mediocre or even total junk hands. They do this by applying pressure in some of the key spots listed in this article.
Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams is the author of the popular micro stakes strategy books, Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes. He also blogs regularly about all things related to the micros over at www.blackrain79.com.