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What is up, Elite Poker University! Here to give Jesse and Armando a much-needed respite. I was reluctant to write a poker article at first. Don’t like giving away my secrets, just like tells at the table. But then again, you are all my family and part of the EliteMafia! Just like the family who shares my same surname, what’s mine is yours. I share and like to play nice… sometimes.
Allow me to start by filling you in on exactly who I am. I’m a cash game grinder by nature. Don’t get it twisted; I’ll play tournaments for a chance at a big score, but tourneys almost always pressure me into unfavorable situations. If a hand comes down to hitting that lucky card, my next move is for a rebuy or enter the next tournament. And if it comes down to a coin-flip, I’m fucked. This is why you’ll more than often find me grinding at the cash tables, online or live. I can better control the flow in a cash game setting. I can zig where they zag, duck and dodge with the game flow. More on that later…
I’m also cheap by nature. I count my change when checking out at a convenience store. Back when we could safely eat out at restaurants, I’m the type of motherfucker that’ll check the check and do the math; I ain’t never gettin’ robbed. Those margaritas not goin’ on my card. This is my anthem so don’t double charge me for that! But do you wanna know something else about me? I also haven’t had to pay my mortgage and/or property tax out of pocket since 2013! I grind, that’s what I do.
Back when I was young, like most of us during the mid-90’s all the way to the ESPN inspired poker boom of 2003, I wanted to be Johnny Chan, one of the “Phils” (Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey) or even nutcase Mike Matusow. But then, Rounders came out in the fall of 1998. While most were enthralled by Matt Damon’s and Edward Norton’s characters, the character who captured my attention was Knish, played by the great John Turturro. This particular scene shaped my poker play for years to come: I Play for Money. In this scene, Mike and Knish could not see eye-to-eye because the prior was chasing the big score to satisfy an even bigger debt, while the latter, well, you know… you more than likely saw the movie (but if you haven’t, MUST WATCH).
Bridging back to IRL, this scene also represents two different major philosophies of poker, or at least the two main archetypes of poker, Cash Game Players vs. Tournament Players. Jesse wrote an excellent article on the fundamental differences (as well as similarities) back in Lesson 01. If you have not yet read, I suggest you do so! Daniel Negreanu, my real life Knish and another major influence on my poker game, was interviewed for an article back in 2008. Here he further describes the skill sets necessary for both types of play.
If you are anything like me and tournaments have not been your bag, baby, check out my four tips for successfully (and regularly) profiting at the cash game table.
Patience is a virtue, or at least that’s what they say. You know, they, them… the people who know! Don’t be afraid of folding countless hands in a row to wait for your spot. $AVE DAT MONEY! Folding hands is both a necessity of a cash game player’s life as well as a strategic tactic. Often see folks limping into pots to see if their mediocre hands hit, only to fold after someone places a bet after the flop in Texas Hold’em, for example. All this does is lower your stack for when you catch a monster and deplete your resources/options. Sure, it sucks when 6,7 offsuit hits a straight on the flop, but the mathematical odds behind catching this hand are 1.31%! Translation: not very good. Click this link for more on various Texas Hold’em Poker Hand Odds.
In order to play like this and still obtain a sizable profit, the hours involved can be quite extensive. There have been times I haven’t played hands in over an hour at the table. This is normal if you are a true poker grinder. People may talk shit… let ’em! They don’t have your bills and your responsibilities. Treat poker like a business and also like your DFS play. MANAGE THAT BANKROLL! Make sure to also allot the proper amount of time it will require. Don’t jump on your laptop or device to play a cash game when you know you have a meeting in two hours or are taking the wife and kids out for ice cream. Punch the clock. I don’t know about you, but a standard workday for me is 8-10 hours.
Get Caught… On Purpose!
By adhering to the above-mentioned tip, you may get labeled as a “tight” player, and justifiably so. Now, it is important to get your opponents off your scent! At some given point the first 1-2 hours in a poker room, when the situation presents itself, get caught bluffing on purpose for a minimal loss. This gives the illusion you will play low-percentage hands so that you get paid off later. Let me explain one possible ideal scenario.
You are dealt the same 6,7 offsuit hand as previously mentioned. You are on the button, and everyone has either called the big blind or folded. Limp in with a call. Next, let’s assume the lower-stacked players in the small and big blind position call and check respectively and the flop misses you. Everyone checks and it’s one you. Also put that check in the mail.
If someone had made a bet, it’s still easy to walk away at this point. But they didn’t. Turn comes and you pair your six. Again, check city all the way to you. Fire out a bet 2-3x the pot and hope you get a call (if not, you successfully stole a pot unless pair was good, in which case, best hand won). River equals a blank for you, but one of your opponents paired their king and makes a conservative bet, as there is an ace on the board and you had made a substantial bet, possibly indicating you slow played your ace on the flop yet bet the turn. Everyone else folds, and you are last to act. Call the bet, and when they show the winning hand, show your’s too and act dismayed.
Lastly, it’s back to the grind we go. You will get that money back and then some when that same opponent calls your full house.
Vary Hand Selection
This one is simple. Within the process of the cash game grind, oscillate between playing only Aces, Kings, Queens to Aces through 10’s then to all of the above plus suited connectors (a Negreanu favorite) during your time at the table. Choose for yourself which selection of hands feels the most comfortable and practical for your game. Make that your mainstay. But by varying your play during an 8-10 hour workday, you will further get your opponents off your scent. The more you play, the better of a feel you will develop as to when to change hand selection. It’s like The Force, just be sure not to stay on the dark side long enough to forget our Ashla mission: $AVE DAT MONEY!
The Trap Game
I’ll keep this explanation as brief as possible because you are probably tired of reading by now. The Trap Game (aka consistency in betting patterns) is the way you get paid off for all your hard work, boredom and agony. Initially, bet your made/nut hands similarly to your limp hands. If for hours you have done virtually nothing but folded or limped into hands when you had to, a bet of 3-4x the big blind preflop will be answered with nothing but folds. Maintain consistency in your betting patterns, whatever that looks for you, then lay the hammer on the turn and river with that full house.
Tempting it will be to fire out massive amounts of cash when you have been so patient, got caught once while bluffing on purpose, and have been varying your hand selection to perfection. Save that shit for when your opponent(s) are roped into your scheme. The payoff will be worth it!
Follow these four tips and guidelines, develop your own grinding tactics, and you’ll be playing chess while your opponent(s) play checkers… Happy Hunting!
If you ever have any poker questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @Rob_Povia. Impossible to capture all that filters through this head of mine in one given short, to-the-point article!
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