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A Beginner’s Guide to Cash Games

There are two main ways to play poker. The first, and perhaps the most celebrated of these, is poker tournaments. Here, you pay a fixed buy-in and attempt to finish as deep as possible, with the winner getting all the glory. The other way to play poker, though, is a cash game, where players come and go, and each chip represents real money. 

While tournaments offer bigger one-off prizes, cash games are the most accessible way to play. Low-stakes cash tables are especially useful for beginners to learn the ropes. Discover all about this format in this blog post, including the best poker strategy for cash games. 

How Do Cash Games Work?

In a cash game, the chips you play with have real money values. Unlike tournaments, where stacks are essentially Monopoly money, each chip wagered in a cash game has an actual monetary worth. For example, a $5 chip can be cashed out at any time and exchanged for a literal five-dollar bill.

Whether you’re playing cash poker online or offline, you can join and leave a game whenever you like. There’s no set start time, and all players may keep going for as long as they want. Of course, they’ll need to have the available funds to do so. But if someone busts, they can simply reach for their wallet and purchase more chips. 

Hit a few good hands in a row and want to quit while you’re ahead? Simply take your chips to the cage and exchange them for cash. An online poker room will automatically cash them out and add them to your balance when you leave a table. Likewise, you could also leave when things are looking bad to try and limit your losses. 

Cash Game or Tournament?

If you’re deciding between tournaments and cash games, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Tournaments might offer bigger potential prizes, but unless you’re a top player, you’re unlikely to reach the cash places. On the other hand, it’s definitely possible for beginners to do well in cash games.

The other main advantage of cash games is how easy they are to play. You can sit down and join a table at any time of day. There’s no specific start time to worry about, and you won’t have to pay a set buy-in, either. 

All tables have a minimum requirement for purchasing chips, usually between 20–40 big blinds. But you’re not obliged to buy the same amount as anyone else.

This makes cash games more suitable for those with a lower budget. However, freeroll tournaments are usually the best option if you’re solely looking to spend as little as possible when you play poker online

How To Measure Cash Game Success

As a beginner, developing your skills is a challenge. New poker players often find it difficult to measure their progress. But there is a simple way to judge how well you’re doing in cash games. Success during these games is measured by your win rate. 

Essentially, your win rate will be the difference in skill level between you and your opponents, minus the rake. When playing online, you measure your win rate in big blinds per 100 hands. Always keep a careful record of how many hands you play and calculate your win rate to track your progress. 

Cash Game Advice for Beginners

It goes without saying, but the goal of any cash game should be to leave with more money than you sat down with. Most cash game tips poker players follow will instruct them on strategies for outplaying opponents. While those are incredibly useful, here are a few more pieces of advice to follow as a complete beginner.

Table Selection

Focus on games where you’ll be taking on inferior opponents. Always look for tables where you’re better than the opposition, even if it takes longer to find one. Naturally, this is much easier to do when playing online, as more games are available. If you can’t spot the weakest opponent at the table, then it’s probably you.

Quit While Ahead

Learn to quit while you’re ahead. With cash games, it’s possible to leave anytime you want. It’s always best to leave with a profit locked in, even when it feels like you’re on a roll that will go on forever. 

Bankroll Management

Only risk money you can afford to lose. Unlike tournament buy-ins, you can theoretically keep increasing the number of chips you have to play with during a cash game. The more chips you accumulate, the more you have to lose. All it takes is one bad beat against a bigger stack, and you’re finished. 

Don’t forget, these chips are worth real money. So it’s vital that you play responsibly and avoid betting with cash you can’t afford to lose.

Strategy Advice

The previous tips for beating cash games are just simple snippets of general advice. Here are a few more specific strategies you should consider for specific cash game situations. 

Bluff With Strong Backdoor Potential

You shouldn’t get too carried away with bluffing as a beginner, as it’s always tricky to pull off. One of the best spots in which to try, when playing cash games at least, is when you have backdoor potential on the flop. 

This means you have a hand that isn’t really a proper draw but could turn into one. For example, you hold the K♠ on a flop that contains two spades. You don’t really have a flush draw, but if the turn is a spade, you do now. And you could quietly get there on the river.

You can bet more on the flop as a bluff in such situations, choosing to continue only if your hand improves. 

Check the Flop in Multiway Pots

A multiway pot is one that has more than two players. This means you and at least two opponents. In these situations, you should exercise more caution. 

It’s better to be selective about which hands you bet in multiway pots as the chance of your opponent having a better hand is higher. Check with strong pairs, as they have less equity against multiple opponents. 

Build the Pot With a Strong Hand

Most of the time, you want to focus on betting and building a pot whenever you have a powerful hand. As a rule, bet as often as possible if you’re holding two pairs or better. 

However, do keep the most overplayed hands in mind and don’t get too carried away. These are hands that some players, especially beginners, tend to overvalue. 

Cashing In on Cash Games at BetMGM

Cash games are a great place to start out as a beginner. You can join and leave whenever you want without having to put up too much money as a buy-in. So, to improve your game further, register at BetMGM and put these cash poker strategy tips into practice.