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No limit holdem strategy is one of the most difficult poker strategies to learn. One of the hardest lessons for many beginning poker players, even good ones, is realizing how big a difference there is between no limit Hold’em cash games, and no limit tournaments. In my first year of playing no limit hold’em, I found that I was an excellent sit and go tournament player. Because of this, I thought shifting to a cash game should be easy, since in both cases there were only nine other players to deal with at any given time. That was an expensive assumption.

Cash games require a different strategy that tournaments, and your no limit hold’em strategy has to shift drastically depending on which game you’re playing. Some of the early things you need to know about cash games:

  • Top pair isn’t nearly as strong in cash games as in tournaments
  • Aggressive, aggressive, aggressive, and aggressive
  • Reading your opponents is not optional, it is an absolute necessity
  • Press even the smallest statistical advantage

In no limit holdem cash games, know you are going to bust, and that you need to buy back in and keep playing. In tournaments you bust and then you’re out, which means if you are a 51% to 49% favorite, then in a tournament you almost never want to go all in when this situation comes out. You want to wait until you have the ability to push a big advantage. In a cash game, it is almost always right to press even the smallest of advantages.

There are several reasons for this. In a tournament, you have to reach a certain place in order to get into the money, which means finishing outside of that leaves you with nothing. Because of this, you only want to risk your chips in situations where you are an overwhelming favorite, or when you have a perfect read on your opponent. In a cash game, you want to push every advantage, since in the long run a 5% advantage should at least pay off that much. In addition, playing aggressively may occasionally let you steal a hand that you had no business winning. Because of the times in cash games you’ll loose to a lucky draw that beats you, you want to make sure to cash in on weak players’ mistake when the cards hold out. Good no limit hold’em strategy in the tournament means waiting for a huge edge, but in cash games it simply means pushing any edge.

In cash games, many players will play rags like 5-9 off suit, hoping to hit two pair. Sometimes they will hit that lucky rag on the river, and beat your pocket aces. This can be frustrating. Why should you bet heavy when they may beat you like that? Because for every time that happens, there will be four or five where the aces hold out, and you want those weak players to pay you off when they don’t get lucky. In the short term you may lose a hand here or there, but in the long run you’ll make money.

Cash games are more like a roller coaster. You will have huge highs, and huge lows. You’ll see king high win several hands between guys betting every single turn, and you’ll see high pair dominated constantly. Keep your head, press your advantage, no matter how slight, and buy back in when necessary. The best cash game players in the world know how to read their opponents, know how to never get shaken up, and aren’t afraid to keep betting and play aggressive. Work on this, and you will find that despite ups and downs, in the long run by using good no limit hold’em strategy you will become a dominant player.

Now that you’ve learned some no limit holdem strategy, start playing at an online poker room today!