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Sports & Games

Daniel Negreanu's Winning Poker Cash Game Strategy

Written by MasterClass

Nov 16, 2018 • 4 min read

Learning cash game strategy is essential if you want to be a professional poker player. Poker tournaments have extreme variance even when you are playing well, but cash games can provide a steady income. Daniel “Kid Poker” Negreanu is one of the most successful, respected, and influential poker players alive today. He has won six World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets and two World Poker Tour (WPT) championship titles.

Daniel’s secret weapon—the almost mystical ability to pinpoint his opponents’ exact cards through reasoning, deduction, and a superior awareness of human behavior and psychology—might be out of reach for ordinary poker players. But his cash game strategy is accessible to novice and experienced players alike.

Written by MasterClass

Nov 16, 2018 • 4 min read

What Are Cash Games?

Cash games, or ring games, are poker games in which players bet real money. Cash games have no designated start or stop time; they happen round the clock in online poker rooms as well as at tables in casinos. Cash game players may bet as little or as much as the table allows. One famous example of a high stakes cash game is at the Bellagio’s Big Game Room, where an ever-rotating cast of cash game players try their luck at no-limit hold’em along with other player’s choice games.

The Difference Between Cash Games and Poker Tournaments

Cash games require a different strategy than tournaments, as tournament structure is typically winner-take-all. Cash games are all about value; but deep-stack cash games are more intricate than tournaments and require you to make more difficult decisions because more chips are under threat. Often in a tournament you will only have to make a decision preflop and on the flop because the stacks are so short. In a cash game, you have to consider your poker strategy all the way to the river with a deep stack at risk.

Don’t assume, however, that because cash games are all about value they’re simpler. The complexity of cash games is in the value game. Choosing your bet sizes is a difficult process when you’re deep-stacked, but it is critical to extract maximum value from your opponents. In a poker tournament, factors such as ICM (which stands for “independent chip model” and distinguishes the difference in value of a chip at various stages of tournament play) and the bubble relieve you of this pressure to always go for value and push your edges.

The Pros and Cons of Cash Games

Cash games can be dangerous for poker players prone to tilt. Some players have the tendency to let their stacks dwindle to the point that the real money value is so small that they make a bad decision to either pull it back or bust. Maintaining a healthy stack size can prevent this leak.
If you’re the best player at the table, Daniel advises that you keep your stack close to the maximize buy-in to maximise your potential earnings. That way, you can win as many chips as possible when opportunities arise.

Daniel advises against open limping preflop. Many amateurs do this because they like to see as many flops as possible. Skilled players only raise preflop because there is a benefit to being the aggressor and taking the initiative, which can allow you to win pots postflop that you wouldn’t win if you had limped in. The person who made the last bet or raise is said to have the initiative. Usually, the other players still in the hand will then check to this player on the next street, waiting to see what their action will be. In this pattern of play, you will often be able to take down the pot with a continuation bet.

It is important to capitalize on reckless players or weak players in a cash game. You should try to be aware of the mental state of all the players at your table as this affects the metagame on a much higher level than it does in tournaments. If you think an aggressive player is getting out of line, you have many more options to exploit them.

How to Protect Your Hand With Daniel’s Cash Game Strategy

If you feel that you’re in an unfavorable cash game situation, one way to protect yourself is to buy in for the minimum. While this is still deeper stacked play than in a tournament, it will prevent you from being put in more difficult spots against skilled opponents with deep stacks. If you’re deep stacked, your average hand strength should increase as the hand progresses to the river. Daniel’s famous small ball strategy was successful because of this principle. He would bluff at many small pots, but when the decisions were most important, such as on the river in a big pot, he would always have a strong hand. Don’t be afraid to fold, and don’t be afraid to go all-in either.

In deep-stack games, position becomes more important. Being out of position is always a disadvantage if you are not short-stacked because your opponent gets to see what decision you make before they have to make their own. This extra information, in a game of incomplete information, gives your opponent a big advantage. When you have a deep stack, this advantage is amplified, so you should play more cautiously.

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