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Capture the Flag -- Cole South

by Kristy Arnett |  Published: Mar 05, 2010


Cole South
Cole South has prospered in high-stakes online cash games with his hyperaggressive style ever since he began his career in 2005. He has gained the reputation of being a cutthroat opponent, having made millions of dollars during his fairly short career. South continues to make his living playing ring games, and has ventured into mixed games.

Kristy Arnett: First of all, how did you get your start in cash games?

Cole South: I started playing a $10 buy-in home game with my housemates in college. We played no-limit hold’em, and basically none of us had any idea what we were doing. After a few months of playing, I started to get a decent idea of how to play a tight, solid game, and decided to try my luck in some online cash games.

KA: What was the most difficult concept for you to learn as a beginning player who was trying to move up in stakes?

CS: Patience. You really have to give both your bankroll and skill level a lot of time to mature. No matter how soft a game looks, if it’s too big to play, you have to pass on it.

KA: What’s the most helpful piece of advice that you received during your growth as a player?

CS: Taylor Caby was by far the most feared player around when I began my poker career. He always emphasized to me how important it is to tailor your game to your opponents and be creative. When I started out playing cash games, I followed pretty strict guidelines of which hands to play, so when I saw Taylor open with K-3 offsuit in a teaching video, I wondered what the heck he was doing. He followed it up with a detailed explanation of how often his steal has to work, and gave evidence that it would be a profitable play based on the tightness of the specific players in the blinds. At that point, I realized how much more there is to poker than playing your cards, and that I would have to develop a wide array of plays that were tailored to the other players at the table.

KA: What advice would you give to a generally tight player who wants to learn and become more comfortable playing an aggressive style?

CS: Drop down in stakes and push your comfort level. When I was moving up in stakes, I noticed that there were a few players in the bigger ring games who played significantly looser from late position than I did. I decided to drop down a level and force myself to open every button when the action was folded to me. On average, many of these opens were slightly losing plays, but the experience was invaluable. Increasing my tighter ranges by 10 percent or 20 percent after opening every hand felt easy.

KA: What games and stakes are you playing these days?

CS: Mostly $200-$400 or $300-$600 pot-limit Omaha, and $1,500-$3,000 or $2,000-$4,000 mixed games.  If the action is sparse, I will frequently play down to $25-$50 pot-limit Omaha. Despite having played millions of hands of poker, I really enjoy it a lot and sometimes play low stakes for fun.

KA: What characteristics do you think high-stakes cash-game players must have in order to be successful?

CS: Successful cash-game players across the board have a strong desire to win. Of course, everyone wants to win, but the guys at the top absolutely thrive off it. To play with the best, you have to want to be the best.

KA: What are the biggest mistakes that you see players making when moving from medium to high stakes?

CS: By far the biggest mistake is assuming that grinding out the hands is sufficient enough to make it to the top. Putting in the hours away from the tables is vital to improving your play, and in a game where everyone else is getting better, you cannot afford to let your game become stagnant.

KA: Did you encounter any obstacles in learning mixed games, and if so, what were they?

CS: Sometimes it was tough to accurately quantify my edge, or lack thereof, in a game in which I didn’t have as much experience. I was conservative with my daily stop-losses, to make sure that I didn’t go too far into the red in tough games. The most important part of learning a new game is being self-critical and thoroughly preparing before and after sessions. When I started out playing mixed games, I was definitely a dog to any competent player, but through a lot of hard work, I’ve been able to put up great results in some of the toughest, biggest games around.

KA: In low-stakes six-handed cash games, what are some adjustments that you can make against short-stackers who buy in for the minimum at multiple tables?

CS: If there are short stacks to your left, you need to tighten up your opening range. Implied odds are reduced at a table with short stacks, because there will be less post-flop play. Hands like 7-6 suited and 2-2 go down in value, while hands like K-Q offsuit and A-9 suited become more powerful. Full Tilt recently raised the minimum buy-in on every game, which allows for deeper stacks and more post-flop play.

KA: What are a few important adjustments that players need to make in six-handed cash games when they are 200-big-blinds deep or more compared to 100-big-blinds deep?

CS: You must gauge how each player at the table will react to having bigger stacks in play. As stacks get deeper in a no-limit hold’em game, some players will become so reluctant to play big pots that they can be moved off nearly any hand. On the other hand, some maniacs will take the extra money in play as a license to fire big bluffs at every pot. By observing how each player changes gears with deep stacks, you can devise a strategy to beat him.

KA: Do you have any advice for those who have made quite a bit of money playing cash games at a young age regarding managing their money?

CS: Be conservative with your tax planning and splurge on a great accountant.

KA: Do you have any tips for players who are trying to better themselves at poker by subscribing to a training site on how to successfully take the information and implement it?

CS: There is so much valuable information out there that you would be crazy not to digest it; you know that your opponents are. It’s easy to fire up a couple of training videos during a poker session, but I would always recommend setting aside time exclusively for studying the game. If a few hours of analysis away from the tables increases your win rate by the slightest amount, it’s worth it. Spade Suit