The key to getting paid in a live cash game is to drink, gamble and play like an idiot. As Nick Wealthall explains, it’s all part of the lost art of promoting action…
The art of loosening up a cash game is sadly a dying one. It was taught to me by my first poker mentor and it’s time to share it with you in an attempt to keep it alive. David was a rounder in his fifties when I met him as a young poker pup many years ago. He learnt poker when the maths of the game was secondary and your mission was to get an edge on your foes.
He knew every edge in a live game, from talking his opponents into tilting to holding his cards in just the right way to induce a fold. David did it with a smile on his face and never crossed the line into jerkdom.
I can’t claim to have always steered clear of that line. However, I do love to try to replicate what David used to do. During my trip to Vegas for the 2009 WSOP I had several occasions where I played lower stakes than usual – either because I was waiting for a game or too tired to play seriously. I tried to resurrect the game-loosening antics of yesteryear and met with a freakishly high level of success.
KEY TO THE MAGIC KINGDOM
The key to loosening up a game and getting paid is to be perceived as a maniac who doesn’t care about the money. Your mission is to get people out of their comfort zone and get them to play differently – i.e. badly – against you. The thing to realise is that all players form initial impressions of you and these are very hard to shift.
My approach is to sit down as if I’ve just entered a party – I’m excited to be there and I want to play. I talk to as many people as possible, especially casual players who obviously aren’t enjoying things as much as they could. The point is to make people want to play and want to gamble.
A few things are crucial early on – always be drinking booze, always post before the big blind gets to you and always play the first few hands aggressively. The few chips you give up early on are +EV because you’re building an image that you don’t care. However, when the big bets go in later you’ll have the goods. It’s all one big magic trick.
Momentum is very important. If you’re doing this routine for profit you shouldn’t be afraid to abandon ship if you don’t make some hands early – either leave the table or revert to playing normally. Also, make sure you know your image; once you’re seen as a total nut people will be very hesitant to fold against you. This doesn’t mean you can’t bluff, but don’t make bluffs that require your opponents to fold decent hands in big pots, because they won’t.
This routine worked really well when I was killing time in a $1/$2 NLHE game at the Venetian. The first thing I did was come in for a straddle. I then started selling straddling as a fun thing to do to liven things up. Sell this right and I guarantee people who have never straddled in their lives will be putting in more dead money. Four people limped, the small blind completed, I pretended to look at my cards and then shoved all-in. This is such a good move to make – it looks like a huge gamble but actually it’s close to 100% to succeed. In live low stakes cash games nobody is ever calling in this spot. The next hand I was able to raise preflop then take it down with a c-bet before proudly showing Jack-high and asking if it was the best hand. And that was that. I was now a ‘maniac’ in the other players’ eyes.
EXPLOITING THE IMAGE
The next step is to make some hands, and this is where I got super lucky. A few hands later I raised in mid position with 10s-8s. Nearly everyone called and I flopped gin on a J-9-7 flop. It was checked to me and I bet into what was, with the straddle being on, a decent-sized pot. Everyone folded to a regular who’d been giving me stares that showed he didn’t like my ‘schtick’. He thought for a bit and shoved all-in. It was an overbet – not ridiculous, but a big bet. I snap-called and he looked furious when I showed my hand. The board ran out and as he mucked he flashed his cards – T-9 for a pair and a gutshot – and started chuntering about how lucky I was. Of course I was lucky to flop the nuts, but he made a play he would never have normally made against a normal $1/$2 opponent. He’d just seen the drinking, chatting idiot – not someone who’s never c-betting that flop with nothing into four opponents.
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