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Cash games; playing for stacks

April 7, 2008

I’ve had this said to me more than once, and it’s slowly starting to be part of my poker playing awareness. I think that tournaments, because of the thinly spread payouts, are about going deep in the money, one table Sit and Goes, because of the sharp edge between 3rd and 4th, are somewhat more focused on playing to place in the money, and cash games are about being patient, picking up small pots and then playing for stacks.

It seems awfully aggressive but that seems to be what I’m waiting for, decent hands where I want to get all of my (and someone else’s) money in the pot. This is not just AA/KK preflop, but also AK/AQ/TT/JJ/QQ against a loose aggressive player with a small stack, or 88 on an AJ8 board, or 9h8h on a AdTh7h board.

Perhaps too much of my early poker thinking has evolved from Harrington’s tournament books, where generally stacks are much shallower which means that the implied odds are not nearly so high. Large stacks mean greater implied odds meaning it can be worthwhile to call raises with a pair of 6s because the times that you hit a set, you can get a huge payoff.

It also means there’s potential value in calling flop bets when you have a good draw, especially an OESD or a double gut shot which are much less obvious than a flush draw when it hits.

This all means opening up the preflop and somewhat post flop calling ranges when you feel that the implied odds are worth it. This is interesting, because I’ve been pushing myself to tighter, tighter with calls, while opening up my late position raising range and my 3 betting range. Now I’m thinking that I need to open up my calling range, but, only when I have something that has real potential. This is not the same as calling with crap in late position or in the small blind just because of pot odds. Pairs, connectors, suited gapped connectors, possibly even suited Ace rags have potential, as long as I can get off them when I don’t catch enough of the board.

The weird thing about this is that by opening up some calling ranges, I feel like I’m reverting to a fish or calling station. This is not LAG, since we’re not raising more hands preflop or necessarily betting more often on the flop. I’ve already opened up my raising and reraising range preflop in position or in bad position. This is selective calling preflop and later, with potential monsters, with appropriate stack sizes, with useful reads in terms of aggression levels, with position.

Again, reads and general situation are critical as I play a variety of levels and situations, and really, only where I play the highest level that I’m comfortable with is it worthwhile contemplating these issues. Mind you, implied odds are implied odds, and the weaker the player, the more their stack is available to you so the better your implied odds. If I keep this up, I may turn myself back into a fish.

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