In the first of a regular series of cash game columns, Nick Wealthall dissects a hand that he played particularly well…
Welcome to my new, all-singing, all-dancing column, where each month I’ll be recounting my misadventures in the land of cash game poker. You should be forewarned that this could read as an advertisement for playing cash poker, such is my love for this form of the game. It’s not that I dislike tournaments – they can actually be a lot of fun – but ultimately I find them a little bit silly. Let’s face it, once poker’s reduced to a game where everyone’s got 15 big blinds or less, I could probably teach my cat to play fairly well. However, stick Mr Tiddles in a ring game and he’s going to struggle to evaluate his equity against an aggressive opponent when check-raised on the turn with 120 big blinds behind…
One of the biggest benefits of playing cash is that in terms of life happiness it’s hugely +EV compared to tournaments. The problem with tournament poker is that you can play for hours, lose to a suckout against a terrible player, and then you have to leave. When you’re playing cash you can simply reload and sit there until he makes another terrible mistake and gives you your money back.
This means that a good regular multi-tabling cash player can see the truth of the game as it plays out over thousands of hands. This can, or at least should, result in a mentality of caring less about the outcome of specific hands and caring more about whether you made the right poker decision. At least that’s the theory, and while I can hide behind my column and not be viewed on CCTV going red in the face, becoming a potty mouth and repeatedly slamming my mouse on the desk while the bad beats rack up, I’m sticking to it.
I was reminded of this in a recent session when I executed a plan to perfection, only to have the random number generator spin out a disappointing outcome. Playing with effective stacks of about 110 big blinds, I opened for a standard pot-sized bet with pocket Kings on the button. This always has the potential to be a great spot as no one ever has a hand on the button. My opponent in the big blind – an aggressive regular player – re-raised and I elected to call. This is a pretty standard play as I stand to make so much more money with my monster hand rather than four-betting and folding out a lot of hands I have crushed. The flop came down a more or less ideal 8?-4?-2? and my opponent quickly bet just less than the pot, which he was going to do with almost his entire range of hands.
I thought for a second about how to get paid. If I flat-called I could get outdrawn, but it could also bring a card like a heart or an overcard (if my opponent had a pocket pair) that could kill my action. However, if I made a standard raise the pot was big enough for my opponent to know I was committed and he’d fold all the hands that my pocket Kings crush. I opted for the little-used min-raise. Now this isn’t a play you should make too often, but against an aggressive opponent it has a huge benefit – it can tempt him into doing something stupid.
My opponent wasn’t in a mood to disappoint and thought for a bit before shoving his stack in. I did the obligatory fist pump, blew a kiss to the imaginary gallery, and snap-called. He showed A-K offsuit, which might not make his play the worst in the world, but any time you induce a mistake like this you can feel a little bit special about yourself. Tragically, in this hand justice wasn’t done. The turn brought the 3? and the river an incredibly tedious 5?, making my opponent the wheel straight and giving him the pot. But this isn’t a bad beat story. During the rest of the session the hand gave me a huge feeling of satisfaction. I’d outplayed my opponent, got my money in good, and did everything in my control to take my opponent’s stack. And if you keep doing that when you’re playing cash poker, you’ll die a happy rich man.
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