How to Control a No-Limit Hold’em Poker Cash Game Table
July 12, 2013 2 Comments
When I sit down to play poker, my main objective is to maximize my opportunity for profit in the long-run. In order to achieve this, I employ a super-aggressive playing style that confuses my opponents into making fatal mistakes in pots they play against me. In no-limit hold’em, you can bet any chip in front of you at any time. This creates a dynamic that I use to exploit my weaker inferior opponents for maximum value.
When I first sit down at a no-limit cash-game table, I buy-in for the maximum amount and begin to size-up each opponent that is seated around me. I develop player dependent reads straight from the get-go by analyzing stack sizes, neatness of how chips are stacked, clothing attire, what kind of beverage is in front of them, and how comfortable each player’s demeanor is. Without even playing a hand, I can judge who has experience at a poker table, and who doesn’t. From this point, I begin to establish which opponents I want to test, and gather more information from.
I will start off a session very slow, playing tight and simply observing how each opponent plays their hands. I want to build a table image that has the stronger players at the table thinking I am tight-aggressive and not getting involved much. When I do begin to get involved, my bets and raises get a lot of “respect” from my opponents because they think I have a good hand, which might not be necessarily true. I switch gears often depending on table flow, and the hands I am dealt in certain positions on the table. There will be times when I open-raise five times in a row, and there will be times where I open fold 10 times in a row. It all depends on what adjustments I want to make to eventually beat my opponents.
The weaker players at the table for the most part won’t even recognize I am at their table until I get involved in hand against them. When I get involved in a hand with them, I have a ton of information already on how they play, bet, and react to certain bets. Each session of poker my goal is to gather as much information as possible from each opponent while giving off virtually 0 information to anyone else. Poker is a game of incomplete information, and I want to limit the information I give away while simultaneously gathering as much information as possible. Every piece of information is important because you never know when you will be involved in a hand that requires prior information to play for maximum profit and value.
You will rarely hear me speak at a table, and I will have headphones in a majority of the time to give the impression that I am not listening to anything. In reality, when I hear table “chatter”, I silence my music and listen to how specific opponents discuss poker and how they played certain hands. They have no idea I am listening, and I have valuable information at my disposal for use in the later stages of a session when I get involved in a hand against them.
I like to give off “false-tells” to weaker opponents to throw them off about the strength of my hand. I will act “weak” when I am strong, and act “strong” when I am weak. This only works against certain opponents who have no idea what I am doing. I will also mix in “strong” tells when I am “strong” and “weak” tells when I am “weak” to balance my image if I believe my opponents have picked up on what I am doing.
In Parx Casino, the 2/5 NL game has a maximum buy-in of $1,000. Every other casino I have been to maxes out their buy-in at $500, something I have always disliked because when I hit a monster hand, I want to win as much money as possible. Being extremely deep stacked yields a great advantage for strong, solid players. The opportunity to exploit my stack size presented itself about 8hrs into my session last week, and I was able to capitalize on it.
The hand went down like this:
I am in the cutoff with $1250, the table folds around to me and I raise to $20 with the KJ suited of spades. The weakest player at the table with $1050 in front makes the call in the big blind and we see a flop of AQ10 rainbow (I flop the nuts.) My opponent fires $55 into the pot, and I wait for about 30 seconds then make the call. The turn comes a blank 5, and my opponent instantly bets $200 into the pot. I tank again, this time for about a minute, then make the call. The river comes a 2, and my opponent thinks, then bets $375. I play around and wait about 2 minutes in “agony” then declare “all-in.” My opponent without hesitation calls, and tables AQ thinking he might be good, he is sadly mistaken as I flip over the flopped straight, and rake in all of his chips. He knocks on the table “nice hand” and reloads another $1000. Easy game isn’t it?
My opponent made a fatal mistake on the river of this hand. If I was in his position with AQ against myself, I would have checked the turn (pot control), and probably call any sized bet hoping to fill up on the river. When the river hits a blank, I would check again, probably folding to any bet over $300 knowing that I was most likely beat (any set or straight has “me” crushed and the way I played the hand would indicate as such.) Unfortunately, my opponent wasn’t observing my game and only recognized the value of his own hand, and not the possibilities of hands I could have had. He figured himself to be “pot committed” after he already had invested over $500 into the pot.
Taking control of the table is easy when everyone fears you. I want every player to fear me knowing that if they play a hand against me, it could be for every chip in front of them. After that big hand, no one would want to get involved with me and I was able to make some more profit by playing small pots with the initiative, and inducing folds. The entire session I was “card-dead”, but the value of my cards hold no bearing when I understand how each opponent plays certain hands in certain spots. I know when I can take an opponent off a hand, and I know when I am beat and have to fold. Not losing money is the same as winning money.
I want each opponent to have no clue what I may hold, while I have an understanding of the “range of hands” they may have in every pot we play. My opponents are essentially playing “face-up” while my cards remain a mystery. To solve the mystery, it will cost you money to find out, and when you decide to pay to see, I will have the better hand and rake in the pot.
This type of aggressive playing style takes an absurd amount of time to master due to the fact that you must be able to analyze each situation that arises with a keen sense of observation, statistics, and table dynamics. In future posts, I will outline how to play specific hands in specific positions on the table, with “position” and “initiative” being the most important factors.
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