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Upswing Poker Lab: Five Strategy Tips For Dominating Cash Games

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The Upswing Poker Lab is a poker training course taught by Doug Polk, Ryan Fee, and other top poker pros. The Lab is updated regularly with in-depth learning modules, theory videos, and a wealth of information to make you a better poker player.

By Mike Brady

If you plan on playing a cash game anytime soon, you’re in luck.

Today we’ll cover five fundamental tips that will help you dominate your cash game competition. You’ll learn when to bluff on the flop, how to play versus limps, and more.

No. 1: Avoid bloating the pot with medium-strength hands. Use them to bluff-catch.

Medium strength hands are often the toughest to play. When holding these hands, you should consider checking because they perform well in smaller pots as bluff-catchers.

As a result, medium strength hands will often be the hands you use to bluff-catch. Let me give you a few examples:

  • JDiamond Suit 10Diamond Suit on JSpade Suit 8Spade Suit 6Heart Suit
  • ASpade Suit 4Spade Suit on AClub Suit 8Spade Suit 5Club Suit
  • 8Heart Suit 7Heart Suit on KSpade Suit 8Club Suit 4Heart Suit

These are solid hands, but they shrivel up when multiple bets and/or raises start flying into the pot. Consequently, checking at least one street (usually the flop or turn) is the best approach with these hands.

Now, keep in mind that if your opponent has shown weakness by checking back or checking to you twice, these hands go up in value because he likely would have bet with his stronger hands. When this happens, you can comfortably start betting in order to extract value.

Pro Tip: The more vulnerable your medium-strength hand, the more often you should bet with it early in the hand because vulnerable hands benefit from denying equity. For example, 7-6 on 6-4-2 is quite vulnerable, but A-4 on A-8-2 is not.

No. 2: Bluff on the flop with hands that have good backdoor potential.

When you have a hand with good backdoor (runner-runner) potential, you should very likely bet as a bluff. You want to choose hands that can turn a strong draw and potentially hit a flush or a straight by the river.

These types of hands work very well as bluffs because they can hit very disguised strong hands. Here are some examples:

  • 7Spade Suit 6Spade Suit on AClub Suit 9Spade Suit 3Club Suit – Can turn a strong draw on any 5, 8, or spade. Can also turn a gutshot on any 4 or 10.
  • JDiamond Suit 8Diamond Suit on QDiamond Suit 7Spade Suit 5Spade Suit – Can turn a strong draw on any 6 or diamond. Can also turn a gutshot on any 4, 9, or 10.
  • QClub Suit 6Club Suit on KHeart Suit 7Heart Suit 5Club Suit – Can turn a strong draw on any 4, 8, or club. Can also turn a gutshot on any 3 or 9.

Note that with these hands you will only continue betting on the turn when you improve to an actual draw.

No. 3: Check the flop a lot in multi-way pots.

You need to be selective with the hands you bet on the flop in multi-way pots. The more players who see the flop, the stronger the hands you should check with. This is because the likelihood of an opponent hitting two-pair or better increases drastically.

Consequently, you should:

  • Check with strong top-pairs and overpairs if the pot has four or more players. These hands have much lower equity in 4-way pots compared to heads-up pots.
  • Bet small (one-fourth to one-third pot) when you have two-pair+ or a very strong draw. Betting bigger risks chasing away all but the strongest hands.
  • Fold with many more bluff-catchers, even against small bets since your opponents are unlikely to bluff such unfavorable situations.

No. 4: Check-raise on the flop with your strongest hands after defending your big blind.

After defending your big blind against a steal from a player in position, you should almost always check-raise your strongest hands. This allows you to start building the pot so you can hopefully get all-in by the river.

Make sure you stay very conscious of the board texture when check-raising. For instance, bottom two pair is worth a check-raise on a 9Heart Suit 5Spade Suit 4Club Suit flop, but that same two pair should just be check-called on boards with flush and straight potential, like 6Heart Suit 5Club Suit 4Spade Suit or 9Heart Suit 5Heart Suit 4Heart Suit. Additionally, you should almost never check-raise on boards that are good for your opponent’s range (such as [A[suit:heart]] KClub Suit QSpade Suit).

No. 5: Take advantage of limpers.

Every time you see a player limping you should see an opportunity to take their stack – or at least a big chunk of it – in a rather short span of time.

Since most limpers are weak players, you will want to isolate them by raising over their limp with a wider range of hands. Forcing a limper to call your raise preflop, out of position, and with their weak range, is one of the most profitable situations in poker.

As far as sizing goes, find the perfect size to put the weakest hands in their range in the toughest possible spot. The general rule of thumb is your standard raise size plus one big blind for every limper. So, if you usually raise to three big blinds and there is one limper, you should raise to four big blinds.

Now, Go Smash A Cash Game!

Whether you are playing poker for fun or you want to make some extra income, the five tips you just learned will help you play a stronger game and make more money.

If you want some more advanced cash game advice, I highly recommend getting the Upswing Lab training course and then integrating yourself into Upswing’s members-only community. The combination of the videos in the Lab and the discussions with fellow members are incredibly valuable.

Ready to take your poker skills to the next level? Get your access to the ranges and strategies used by world-class poker pros when you join the Upswing Lab. You can also learn to make quick, high-quality, profitable poker decisions in 30 seconds or less with the $7 Post-Flop Game Plan Mini-Course. Learn more now!