No Limit Hold'em Poker Cash Game Strategy

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No Limit Hold'em Poker Cash Game Strategy

Poker cash games, also known as ring games, are the original and purest form of poker and have been around for much longer than poker tournaments, so what’s the difference? 

Poker Tournaments vs Poker Cash Games

In tournaments, the object of the game is to outlast all other opponents to be the champion of the tournament, scooping the largest share of the prize pool. The buy-in is exchanged for tournament chips that don’t have the same value as the cash you paid for them. You play in a tournament until you are eliminated by losing all your chips, or until you win it, - whichever comes first. Tournaments force a conclusion by gradually and continually raising the stakes (blinds and antes) throughout.

In cash game poker, however, the value of the chips you get to play with has the same value as the amount you paid. If you buy-in for $200 you receive $200 in playing chips. In cash poker games you can start and finish whenever you like, rather than being obliged to play until there is one player left. If you lose your initial buy-in, you can buy-in again to continue playing at that table, but there is no obligation to do so. One other important difference is that in cash games, the stakes tend to remain the same throughout, they don’t raise periodically as they do in tournaments.

These intrinsic differences mean that the poker cash game strategy is somewhat different from tournament poker. In this article, we outline the basics of how to play No Limit Hold’em cash games.

Before You Play

Some of the advice in this article is useful for any kind of poker, in particular the way we prepare ourselves to play. Whether it’s No Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, Sit & Go tournaments, or cash game poker, being well prepared is always a good idea.

  1. Get the fundamentals right. Advising someone to be well rested, eat healthily and exercise may seem patronising, but this approach is usually the way to get the best out of a human brain, whatever the activity.
  2. Game Selection. This means researching and observing the cash games you wish to enter with your bankroll and style of play in mind. Choosing tables with weaker players and avoiding tables with pros and more experienced opponents is a good live cash game poker strategy, but not all online poker sites allow you to see who your opponents are before sitting down to play.
  3. Learn the house rules. By this, we don’t mean the rules of No Limit Texas Hold’em Poker as such. We’ll assume that if you got this far, you already know the basics of how to play the game. We're referring to the specific rules of the live or online poker room that you're playing in. Poker rooms usually have a copy of their rules on display, if yours doesn't, you can ask at the poker room desk for one. House rules can relate to things like buy-ins/rebuys, waiting lists, posting of blinds, missed blinds, side bets, rulings and penalties for inappropriate behaviour.
  4. Set goals and limits before you play. Have financial targets and impose time limits on the length of your session. Financial targets will help you to walk away with a profit. Setting both profit and loss targets, so you know when to stop in both winning and losing scenarios is a sensible cash game poker strategy.
  5. Bankroll Management. Don’t play for more than 5% of your bankroll at any one time. You should look to have at least 20 x the buy-in for the stakes of the cash game you wish to play in. Even if you have to rebuy two or three times, you still won’t be risking too much of your bankroll on any one session.

Educate Yourself

In addition to actually playing the game, the more time you spend learning about it, the better you are likely to get. There are many ways to improve your knowledge and understanding of the game.

If you have a group of poker-playing friends, just chatting about the game with them and analysing how a hand was played can help to plug a leak or improve your play next time. If you don’t have a close group of poker friends, there are dozens of online forums to discover where No Limit Texas Hold’em cash game strategy is discussed in-depth.


The skill level of the average poker player has raised in the last decade or so, with many players educating themselves to a higher level than ever before. One of the reasons for this is the emergence of the GTO (Game Theory Optimal) approach to poker strategy. Coupled with the rise of solvers that help players to improve their skill level by deep analysis of hands played, the modern poker player is a formidable opponent. 

It pays to keep up with the latest trends and schools of thought when it comes to playing profitable cash game poker. Even if you don’t become a diligent student or proponent of GTO, it is useful to know the basics, to be able to identify which of your opponents is using this approach.

Pay Attention!

Another general piece of advice that will help you in any cerebral game you play, poker or otherwise, is to pay attention to what is going on. It seems like a straightforward piece of advice but it’s one that most players are guilty of not doing properly at some point or another. At the live cash game poker table, you will see many players glued to their phones when not in a hand, or distracted by TVs, table chat, or football scores.

Every poker table has a storyline that is made up of the hands that take place on it, including what happens at every stage of every hand. Treat a poker session like a movie and try to follow the plot, even when you’re not in a hand. If you don’t pay attention, you won’t be able to put the clues together so easily and will find it harder to crack the poker room escape code when it comes to leaving the table with a profit.


Most No Limit Hold’em cash games allow players to choose how much to buy-in for. Online poker sites typically allow players to buy-in for a maximum of 100x the big blind in No Limit Hold’em cash games. Live cash games often allow a higher maximum buy-in, typically 200 x the big blind. 888 Poker allows a min of 40x the big blind and a max of 100x in most of its No Limit Hold’em, cash games.

Although some players buy-in short-stacked to poker cash games, the more skillful players usually prefer to buy-in for the max amount. Bet sizing needs to be more precise to play a big stack and it takes a greater level of skill to negotiate your way through a hand against another deep-stacked player.

If the game you are in seems like it could be a tough one, one poker cash game strategy that is advised for beginners is to buy-in short and expect to take shots on the flop, as you won’t have the ammunition to make it through to the river in many pots without being put all-in by a bigger stacked opponent.

Preflop: Position & Hand Selection

The most important initial factor to consider in any No Limit Texas Hold’em Poker cash game hand is your position relative to the dealer button. Your position in any given hand should be your initial guide when it comes to which starting hands to play and which to muck.

Generally speaking, the earlier the position, the stronger the hand required to open the pot. In late positions, when there are fewer players left to act in the hand, weaker hands that would have been folded from an early position can be great hands to make an opening raise with.

Hand strength/weakness relative to position cannot be considered in an isolated way when deciding which hands to play preflop. You should also use observed knowledge of how your opponent’s play to refine your hand selection further. For example, if there is a very tight player on the table still to act after you, you may wish to widen the range of hands you open and raise with. Conversely, if there is a habitual re-raiser still to act after you do, you may wish to be more cautious and selective about the kind of hands to tackle such a crazy player with.

For a basic guide on which hands to play from which positions, read our article on No Limit Hold’em starting hands, but adjust your selection accordingly for the game you are in.

Pre-flop: Bet Sizing

Bet sizing in cash game poker tends to differ from tournaments. A typical opening raise in cash games is a bit larger than a standard opening raise in tournament play. It will vary from game to game, but 3x, 4x, or even 5x is a typical standard opening raise in many low-level No Limit Texas Hold’em cash games.

The exact sizing depends on a lot of factors. Position, stack sizes and relative strength/weakness of opponents are all things to consider. For example, a stronger player is likely to raise larger against a weaker player, to build a larger pot, as their skill level means they are more likely to win it than their opponent with aggressive play post-flop.


Bluffing is a hugely attractive part of the game, but it is difficult to get right. For beginners, it is advised to play more straightforward ABC poker and leave the fancy moves out until you have a little bit more experience. Once you have gained the confidence, remember to choose your bluffing spots wisely. The bets you make tell a story and for a bluff to be successful your story has to be believable. Badly timed or ill-thought-out bluffs can easily be sniffed out by more experienced players. Follow the storyline of the session carefully and you might just be able to pick off an opponent’s bluff attempt by making a well-timed re-raise of your own.

Post-Flop Play

Post-flop play can be very tricky. There are many factors to consider after the flop and it is post-flop play that separates the romantics from the true exponents of the game. Weaker players will have fewer and simpler moves post-flop, such as going all-in, whereas experienced players will have developed more complex betting strategies.

It would take an entire article to properly do justice to post-flop play, but here are a few poker cash game tips for beginners to take note of when approaching post-flop play:

  1. Read the board/board texture. Does the flop connect with your hand? Has your hand improved or have you picked up any flush or straight draws? Think about how the board might have helped your opponent’s hands, or not.
  2. Use your position. If you were the pre-flop raiser and it is checked back to you, most players are expecting you to make a continuation bet. Sometimes it’s good enough to take down the pot there and then.
  3. Ask how many players are in the hand? If it’s a multi-way pot, there’s a high chance that someone has you beat if you only picked up a pair.
  4. Be aware of the stack sizes of opponents. If one of your opponents has a short stack, it might not be the time to bluff, as you can be raised if you make an opening bet on the flop.
  5. Prepare your response. You can’t defend all the time and you can’t fold all the time, or you will become too easy a player to exploit, so decide what your response will be in any given hand before you open on the flop.

Knowing When to Quit

It's best to have a predetermined max session length, coupled with profit/loss goals. Keep an eye on your energy level at the table, as playing for too long, especially when tired, is one of the most -EV (negative expected value) common mistakes.

When you start yawning or nodding off, it’s already past the point when you should have stopped. Your bankroll will thank you if you step away from the cash game table as soon as your physical or mental capacities start to fade. 

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