Poker is an extremely competitive game, and it seems to become more so with each passing year. What was once an old reliable winning strategy can now only produce mediocre results.
After all, if everyone does the same thing, everyone will get the same outcomes. With so much technical game information available nowadays, even casual gamers understand that they should “just play tight.”
The games are no longer nearly as amusing as they once were, and simply sitting at a random table and waiting for the nuts all day is no longer an option, especially at high stakes poker games.
However, not everything is as bad as some forum threads make it out to be.
In 2022, poker is still beatable, but it will take some work on your behalf. But again, so does everything else in life, and why should poker be any different?
One of the best aspects about poker is that for every strategy, there is a counter-strategy, and the game will continue to evolve.
Those who continue to study and evolve with it will eventually rise to the top. Those that remain stagnant will be left behind.
So simply by reading strategy articles like this one and being up to date on the current trends, you’ll be way ahead of the bulk of the player pool, who still play for pleasure and don’t even try to develop and take their game to the next level.
This post will teach you high stakes cash game methods that aren’t widely known yet, and by using them properly, you’ll be a step ahead of the pack.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
3-bet Bluff the Isolation Raises
Any reasonably skilled poker player knows that the biggest money in poker comes not from their better talents, but from the shortcomings of their opponents.
They also understand that the easiest method to grab the fish’s money is to play a heads-up pot against them in preflop aggressor position.
And if you know that, as well as the exact position of said fish and the respectable players, you’ll be able to spot when they try to separate the fish by raising after they limped into the pot (which is a basic story of a recreational player 99 percent of the time).
When you observe a situation like this, consider 3-bet bluffing and trying to win the pot before the flop.
This play works so well because you are attacking both the fish and the raiser’s very broad and weak ranges.
The recreational player’s limping range is typically as large as their total VPIP, and it’s impossible to predict what type of crap hands they’ll play.
The isolated raiser’s range will include at least some playable cards, but the majority of them will fold under the pressure of a 3-bet.
Isolation rises from late positions should be targeted since they tend to be the widest.
When they can play in a post-flop situation, decent regs will target limpers more widely, therefore they will play the most hands-on the cutoff and on the button.
When it comes to which hands you should 3-bet them with, you shouldn’t just do it with any two cards you come across, even if you have a lot of fold equity. You should select hands that have at least some post-flop playability.
Needless to say, you should always 3-bet your high-value hands. Aces and Kings, for example, are strong candidates for 3-bet bluffing.
They can not only block your opponents’ strong value hands, but they can also form monster flushes, which will be useful if your 3-bet bluff is called. And that will happen from time to time.
And when it happens, you’ll be in terrific shape. You’ll either play heads-up with a fish or against a reg who has a range edge, allowing you to win the pot with a simple flop c-bet.
If you are called by both or more players, you’ll almost certainly end up in a multiway swollen flop, which isn’t ideal. In that situation, if you don’t hit the flop in any fashion, which is most of the time, you should just give up.
Remember that the idea is to obtain folds before the flip, so only 3-bet the villains for value if they aren’t likely to fold.
Advanced Cash Game Strategy Example Hand
Stack sizes: 100 BB.
You are dealt Q♣T♣ on the BU.
A loose-passive player limps in Under the Gun position.
A TAG regular re raises to 4x.
What should you do here?
You should 3-bet to 12x.
There are several reasons why a 3-bet might be superior than flat calling in this situation.
To begin with, you can easily get folds preflop because you’re attacking very wide ranges from both the fish and the ordinary, and we can’t win the pot simply by calling.
If you merely call, you’ll almost certainly end up in a multiway pot with no range advantage and a dominated hand.
Furthermore, the players in the blinds have the ability to force you out with a 3-bet of their own.
Your hand is an excellent option for a modest 3-bet here, as it has a blocker and great postflop playability (i.e. it can build powerful straights and flushes), but it might also cause you problems in a multiway pot, where you won’t always know where you are in the hand.
If both the fish and the reg call your 3-bet, the best strategy is to play the rest of the hand “honestly.”
If you strike the flip or receive a drawing hand, bet big to get value or as a bluff if they simply check, and fold if you utterly miss.
Remember, the purpose was to generate folds before the flip, and if that doesn’t succeed, it doesn’t make sense to try to buy out the pot at this point.
This hand exemplifies the proactive approach you should take with each hand you play. Your decision-making process should take into account as many aspects as feasible.
It can’t be as simple as thinking, “I like my hand, so I call,” or “I like my hand a lot, so I raise.”
Shove the Flop With Ace-high Against Fish
When playing cash games, the aim is to find the fish as soon as possible and steal their money before the next player does.
The tried and true strategy of waiting for a powerful hand then value betting the heck out of it against it is typically the way to play, but the problem is that strong hands don’t come around as often as they used to.
As a result, depending on the size of the fish, you should be ready to broaden your value betting range. You shouldn’t just wait for Aces to steal all their money if someone is playing 80 percent of their hands, for instance.
If you have something slightly playable, you should endeavour to participate in it as often as possible. That’s because you have a huge skill advantage postflop versus these guys, and you might be missing out on a lot of value if you don’t participate.
If you iso-raise these guys, you will frequently play shallow SPR pots, because fish in cash games tend to play with fewer than 100 big blinds stacks.
They frequently buy in for a low amount, and if they buy in for 100 large blinds, they will spew their chips rapidly without adding/reloading more cash.
So, when and if you hit the flop with a top-pair hand or better against them and have an SPR of 3 or less, you will be immediately committed to the pot, which means you should be prepared to play for the remainder of their stack.
But what if you don’t get the flop? Should you simply give up?
No, not always.
You’ll miss the flip two out of every three times, but so will your opponent. And if you’re up against a casual player who plays a ridiculous number of hands, they’ll miss even more often.
That’s because they’ll have a number of unsuited and disconnected cards in their range, so they’ll seldom make a big connection with the flip.
Some fishes are fit-or-fold, which means they prefer to watch a lot of flips but will abandon the flop if they don’t hit.
In a shallow SPR pot if you hold an ace high hand against them, consider just pushing the rest of the stack in for maximum fold equity.
This manner, you may apply maximum pressure and push them to give up their equity.
Even if they do call you, they’ll frequently call with all sorts of ridiculous draws, making your Ace-high hand a favorite to win against them.
6-max game. Effective stack size: 40 BB.
You are dealt A♦Q♠ in the CO.
A loose and passive fish limps in the MP.
You raise it to 5x. BB folds, fish calls.
Pot: 11 BB
What should you do?
You should shove all-in.
This one may seem strange at first, but stick with me.
While a modest c-bet is absolutely a common move here, consider what you may accomplish with a push.
To begin with, the board is relatively dry, so the villain is unlikely to have made a substantial impact on it. You receive the most fold equity by pushing all-in, and there’s not much left in the villain’s stack anyway.
If the adversary has a bizarre gutshot draw or a backdoor flush draw, your Ace-high is really a favourite to win, so you’re playing for value rather than a bluff.
Furthermore, implied odds are higher on earlier streets than on later streets, and given that the villain is a fish who enjoys hunting draws, why not get all the cash in as soon as possible?
Even if he calls you with a Tx hand or a middle pair, you still have two overcards to strengthen with on subsequent streets. You might be amazed at what type of rubbish they’ll call you up with.
In the worst-case situation, if you lose the pot, you lose to a fish, and you can always try to recoup your losses from them.
This type of out-of-the-box thinking may also do wonders for your table’s appearance from time to time.
But first, a disclaimer. Trying to shove all-in on the flop with an Ace-high hand should never be done as a default.
This is only a single case versus a specific opponent with a short stack left behind, and while it may appear insane at first glance, there is some logic to it.
The goal is to look unpredictable and wild while actually contemplating carefully and behaving intelligently in every situation.
4-bet Light Against Aggressive Regs
Back in the day, a 4-bet meant only Aces. As the games became more competitive and players grasped the value of 3-bet bluffing, a counter tactic in the shape of 4-bet bluffing gradually emerged.
That is the allure of poker. There is a means to successfully adjust to every tactic, hence there is no such thing as a standstill. To stay ahead of the competition, you must constantly develop and adapt.
This is where 4-bet bluffing can help, because most players still 4-bet solely with pocket Aces, Kings, and possibly pocket Queens, so they think everyone else does as well.
And this is where your chance lies if you can pull off this bluff successfully. Keep in mind that this is not something you should do frequently, but if you can pull it off once a session, for instance, it can do wonders for your bottom line.
All you have to do is identify the appropriate place to do it and accept that it’s a high volatility move. It works best against pushy regulars who 3-bet a lot themselves.
The reason you should use this technique is that when you play against excellent thinking opponents on a regular basis, there isn’t a large skill advantage between you and them.
Nobody will make many mistakes after the flip, and you’ll essentially be trading money back and forth. So it’s important to keep seeking for advantages in every circumstance, and 4-bet bluffing might be one of them.
Effective stack size: 100 BB.
You are dealt A♠6♠ in the CO.
You open raise to 3x.
A loose and aggressive reg 3-bets to 9x.
What should you do?
You should 4-bet to 20x.
Calling a 3-bet out of place with a dominating hand isn’t a good look, so fold or 4-bet.
Given the sort of villain you’re up against and the position, you can anticipate he won’t 3-bet for value, making this a perfect opportunity to 4-bet light.
With your hand, you block a lot of the villain’s value range, and even if you are called, your hand is playable postflop, since it can create a straight as well as a nut flush, so you have a lot of equity to fall back on.
If you’re called, you’re automatically invested with a top pair and/or flush draw, and you may win the pot with a simple c-bet on almost any board texture, except the coordinated boards that favour the villain’s calling range.
The Bottom Line is
These three strategies are intended to make you a more challenging opponent, and they go significantly beyond the cliche “just play tight.”
First and foremost, distinguish between regulars and casual players as soon as possible.
When you detect a regular attempting to isolate the fish, use a 3-bet bluff to attack them. But don’t do it just for the sake of it. If your 3-bet is called, try to do it with hands that have some post-flop playability.
Following that, if you are the one who isolates the fish preflop, consider pushing the flop when they check to you for greatest fold equity.
Again, don’t do it simply for the sake of it; instead, make sure you have some form of equity to fall back on if you are called.
When facing loose and aggressive regulars who 3-bet frequently, consider assaulting back with a light 4-bet, especially if you are out of position.
Small suited Aces (Ax) are the greatest hands to accomplish.
If you’re playing out of position against aggressive regulars who take advantage of their position, toss up an odd check-raise against their flop or turn c-bets, since they’ll have a lot of bluffs in their range.
The greatest place to do so would be one where you have gained some equity, such as with straight or flush draws. Doing so on occasion will make them reconsider barreling into you with recklessness.
Finally, if your session is running a little sluggish, try if you can add some drama by going out of your way to really destroy someone’s day.
Find a weak and timid regular on your straight right (ideally on numerous tables) and 3-bet him every time you get.
Tighten up dramatically as he begins calling you down wide, and trap him when you ultimately wake up with a monster hand.
Aggression is one element that all of these methods have in common.
Winning poker is aggressive poker, and the best winners are those that know-how and when to impose maximum pressure on their opponents, so they don’t have to rely only on their hand strength.
The goal of this post was to potentially highlight certain areas where you might want to reconsider always opting for the “conventional play.”
You may frequently conclude that normal play was correct all along, but by asking yourself what would happen if I simply shoved here instead, you may be surprised at how many +EV places you can uncover.
Even if it doesn’t always work out, don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t be concerned about seeming silly if your stone-cold bluff is called.
Everyone else is so caught up in their own game that they won’t even notice.
Even if they do, seeming wild and chaotic isn’t always a negative thing. What happens on one hand has no bearing on the other. Poker is a lengthy game that is played in one continuous session. All you have to do is keep going ahead.
And the only way to do so is to occasionally step out of line. So go out there and have a good time with it.