If you enjoy playing a nice game of cashgame poker at the local casino or your favorite online poker site, but also would like to make some profit, while doing so, then you will have to build a profitable game plan for the specific game, you will be playing.
Find the best casino or online poker site.
Your first consideration will be the casino or online poker site, that you will be playing at. If you have a choice, you might want to place your action, where you have the best advantage. This advantage is made of lots of elements, such as the player pool and environment.
Set the right bankroll management plan.
If you plan on making a long term profit, then the size of your bankroll has to be sufficient, so you are protected against the variation and downswings, that is a part of the game. This will strike early or later. I recommend at least 25 buy-ins of the stake, you will be playing, which can reduce your risk of ruin to less than 5%. This depends on your skills and win rate. Read more about this in Variance and downswing in poker.
Prepare ranges for preflop play.
Prepare a well defined set of ranges, that you will be comfortable playing, and, that you know, you have played profitably. You might want to think about the expected player pool tendencies and use this information to prepare a tight and aggressive set of open ranges, 3bet ranges and 4bet ranges. You might want to tighten up or adjust slightly, if you will be moving up and want to compensate for your initial lack of information about the player pool tendencies.
Plan your actions for flop, turn and river play.
Prepare a plan for your flop, turn and river play. This is more important, when you will be playing the small stakes and higher. You will want to think about, which hands, you will be betting vs. certain players on certain board types. You will also take into consideration, whether you are in or out of position. You might want to have a neat balance between value and bluffs for every street. For this to work, you will need to be able to profile your opponents and hand read, so you know, when you have equity to bet for value and when you have bluff equity to bet as a bluff.
Manage your time, so your game plan stays strong.
Make a routine, that ensures, that you have a good balance between studying poker, playing poker, reviewing key hands and analyzing your lines. All of which ensures, that your game plan stays updated and profitable. You should also ensure, that your mental and physical health is strong. It might not directly be a part of your game plan, but the execution of your game plan rely on it.
Inspired by a poker friend, I have taken on a mutual February cashgame poker challenge with the goal of playing 20.000 hands with a profit of $400. He will be playing regular shorthanded NL10 on PokerStars. I will be playing fullring NL10 on PokerStars.
There is 4 weeks in this month, which is 5.000 hands per month to complete the total 20.000 hands. PokerStars only allows 4 tables, which plays about 300 hands per hour, which means 17 hours per week for this challenge. I will probably not be able to play the full amount of hands, because of that, but I will try.
Strategy to beat NL10.
The strategy, I will be using, will assume, that the players are mainly level 1 and 2 players, and generally on the passive side, which I will exploit by playing quite simple tight and aggressive player style, that I will adjust to individual player styles of my opponents in terms of value to bluff ratio, bet sizes and lines. I will bet and raise more against passive fish and check and call more against aggressive fish. You can read more about this in my post Poker player profiling and color coding.
I will only expect very few good and strong level 3 players. I will expect, that these players will quickly recognize my level and play straight forward against me with a value or give-up mindset. For that reason, their tendencies against me will be different than against other players and I should not level myself into being deceived away from that.
My biggest challenge will be adapting to the crazy fish, that exist on these stakes, as they will play their hands in surprising lines and are generally hard or impossible to read. They do not use preflop charts and does not know how their hand performs in relation to their opponent. It is very easy for a player like me to level myself into either putting them on strong made hands, that makes sense to me, or putting them on bluffs, that they are not capable of running.
Tracking progress and results.
I will track all played hands in PokerTracker and update the results after each week. When the challenge in complete, I will also run a some of my sample analysis filters and present pool tendencies.
The poker players, that fall into the category of a maniac, a more extreme kind of aggressive fish, can be found at any stakes, but is slightly more common on the micro stakes. Maniacs are either level 0 players or level 1 players, that has become low stacked, on tilt or just plain out drunk. Read more about levels in Poker player profiling and color coding.
The range of a maniac all-in open shove.
In order to find a profitable calling range against these players, take a look at their hands, that they open shove or go all-in, typically from between 10 and 150 big blinds deep, with. The hands below are from my own tracked poker hands. It’s about 50% of their dealt hands.
23% call range with 59% equity vs. maniac open shove.
If you want to get a higher chance of win the maniacs money before he goes broke to other players at the table, then you might go for slightly wide range, but with a slightly higher risk of variance.
13% call range with 62% equity vs. maniac open shove.
If you want to reduce the risk of variance a bit, but with a price of other poker players at the table, that takes the money, you might might reduce your call range to pairs and aces.
4% call range with 45% equity multi way vs. maniac open shove.
The situation change, when another player has called before you. The call range of a better player vs. a maniac, can be assumed to fairly tight, so your range should be slightly tighter in exchange of winning a massive pot.
Maniacs rely on variance.
It is important to know, that the maniac actually has a surprising large amount of equity, which is why, that it is not uncommon to see, that the maniac sits on a 400 bb stack. He simply won 3 stacks by going all-in. He might even have cracked aces or ace king. But this is soon about to change, when variance tips back towards the mathematics. When the night is over, the maniac will have gone broke and his money has been distributed to the better players, who had strategy, patience and courage.
I searched for poker training sites, that would have the knowledge about todays NL100 pools and its tendencies – and, more importantly, the graphics, tools and strategy, that is needed, to beat it. The Red Chip Poker training site, among others, claimed to be such a site. I signed up and looked into it, but I was not satisfied.
The site claimed to have the latest tactics, but apart from very few videos, with no production date, that discuss a few general topics, the videos actually seems to be old and out-dated. Production dates of videos are not shown, but details in the videos, such as versions of software and other data, indicate production dates from 2012 to 2016. This includes the win graph from Adam Jones, which is listed as one of the poker professionals, but wishes to be somewhat anonymous and not answer, where he plays poker. I have never seen him at any table though. However, online poker in those years were much different from today. Just as 2012 was much different from 2006.
The site claimed to have in-depth training material, that is specific to the games, I play, but apart from very few videos, that discuss a few general topics of unconfirmed theory, there was not a single in-depth video or book about todays NL100 nor the current and up-to-date strategy, that is needed, to beat it. I did not even find any bookshelf with any in-depth books about todays NL100 or similar stakes.
The site claimed to have VIP service and guidance from a team of professionals, but I did not find interaction with these, because they did not respond to email and there was no other built-in way to discuss anything with any professional. The nearest thing was the forum for other users of the site, but who knows, who is a succesful pro and not.
I did not get any training, that could help me beat NL100. I cancelled my membership and asked for a refund, which was given immidiately. However, I am dissappointed, that they did not give any answer to my questions nor comments on my review though. I am afraid, that it confirms, that the site is based on a business model about making money by reselling old content.
AK ranks very high among the top 3% strongest hands, that you can be dealt in a poker game. For that reason, the majority of poker players will just go for an all-in preflop line. The typical lines are 2bet and 4bet all-in jam, 3bet and 5bet all-in jam or 3bet, 5bet and call an all-in jam. There is a problem with these lines though: They are not profitable at modern fullring cashgames.
If your villain is the very common tight and aggressive player, or a semi-loose and aggressive player, his range is often down to QQ+ and AK at the point of 4bet+ actions. That is a 3% range. AK blocks 3 combos of AA, 3 combos of KK and 7 combos of AK. That leaves 12 combos of QQ+ and 9 combos of AK. AK has just 38,82% chance of winning those massive flips. It is slight better than other lower ranked hands. You might be surpriced, that a hand like JJ, that is ranked higher than AK, only has 36,19% chance of winning these spots. The reason is, that it does not block the aces and kings, that villain can have.
Let’s go through the math in some well known scenarios.
Scenario 1: Should you call a 4bet all-in jam with AK?
You are in the BB, 3bet to 9 bb and face a 100 bb 4bet jam from a tight and aggressive player in SB. You have to risc 91 bb to win 109 bb. The break even percentage of a call is 45,50%. SB has QQ+ and AK. That is a 3% range. According to Equilab’s range calculator, you can only call with KK+. That range has a chance of 70,64%. You should fold AK. AKs has a chance of just 41,90%. AKo has a chance of just 38,82%. Even a hand as strong as QQ has a chance of just 40,21%.
Scenario 2: Should you call a 5bet all-in jam with AK?
You are in the SB, 2bet, 4bet to 23 bb and face a 100 bb jam from a tight and aggressive player in BB. You have to risc 77 bb to win 123 bb. The break even percentage of a call is 38,50%. BB has QQ+ and AK. That is a 3% range. According to Equilab’s range calculator, You can call with QQ+ and AK. That range has a chance of 50,00%. AK has a chance of 38,82%. However, you should not just call to break even. You should have a margin for rake and it would be nice with some profit too. If you add 1%, or even 2%, then you should fold AKo and call AKs. AKs has a chance of 41,90%.
Scenario 3: Should you call a 4bet jam from a semi-loose and aggressive shortstack player?
You are in the BB, 3bet to 9 bb and face a 40 bb 4bet jam from a semi-loose and aggressive shortstack player in SB. You have to risc 31 bb to win 49 bb. The break even percentage of a call is 38,75%. SB has 99+ and AQ+. That is a 5% range. According to Equilab’s range calculator, you can call with TT+, AQs+ and AKo. You should call with AK. AKs has a chance of 45,70%. AKo has a chance of 42,87%.
AK goes up in value, when played all-in vs maniacs and aggressive fish.
This all applies to spots in which your villain is a good tight and aggressive player or good semi-loose and aggressive player. Things dramatically, when your villain is a maniac or aggressive fish. These players will have a wider range, that not only has strong hands, but also junk hands. These players, that will take a 3bet all-in jam line with hands like A4s, KQ or 87o are not uncommon.
AK can lose.
While AK might be ahead in preflop all-in spots vs aggressive fish, it should be noted, that AK can lose to a better or worse hand anyway. It’s just the reality of the game.
In my quest for mastering the higher stakes of online poker, I am interested in becoming a member of an online poker coaching and training site, that is run by a team of active professional poker players. I have played online poker since 2012, and live poker since 2017, with millions of hands on record, which means, that I have a good understanding of the fundamental elements of poker and solid knowledge about todays poker player pools. I should be the perfect student to work with.
I am looking for a site, that provides updated modern theory and strategy for todays low and mid stakes full ring cash games by use of graphics and functionality, that takes full advantage of the capabilities, that modern web design and programming language provides. I will also look for support and the possibility to ask poker related questions to professional poker players of the team.
Through the years, studying poker has been based on reading poker books, watching small theme based video courses, conducting poker tracker analysis, working on own theory and maybe a private one-to-one poker coaching session with professional poker player, but over the recent years, online poker coaching sites, claiming to have suites of latest theory and practice, created by a team of professional players, for professional poker players, has been launched. These sites are based on memberships and recurring payments.
Are they actually any good? I will try and get an idea of this.
Poker Coaching by Jonathan Little.
Poker Coaching by Jonathan Little. He has a popular YouTube channel. The coaching site has a short introduction video, that gives an ultra short look into the coaching site. It seems to be slightly more focused on tournament poker and the content mainly based on commenting on hands, that are played by the team of professional poker players. The rest of the site is not very informative. It is unclear, what topics, that are covered, and, whether the site provides a full suite of strategy and support for cash game players. I was not impressed by the graphics and functionality. The price for a premium membership is 99 USD per month. That seems too high for what I have seen. I wrote to him about his site, but he did not reply. When people behind sites does not answer, it is safe to assume, that their site “does not respond” either and therefore not worth it.
Red Chip Poker by James Sweeney.
James Sweeney is a poker coach, that specialize in full ring cash games and produce neat graphics for his teaching courses. He creates some amount of free content on his own website and co-founded the poker coaching site Red Chip Poker, that provides updated modern content, created by himself and his team. I am not sure, if he plays that much online poker himself, but he is clearly mathematically founded, able to explain complex theory and works close with his team and poker community. The site gives an overview of its contents and, most importantly, me claims to have the latest strategy and guidance for the games, that I play. Red Chip Poker has a free podcast, that discuss different topics, that can be listened to, while doing other things. The price for basic membership is 5 USD per week. The price for professional membership is 50 USD per month. These prices seems fair to what I have seen.
Doug Polk, which had some years of fame on YouTube for his great hand reviews before he retired, created a poker coaching site, that he named Upswing Lab. He also recently demonstrated to be profitable in his grudge match against the old professional poker player Daniel Negreano. However, even though the site has been online for some time now, it has contradicting information and non-functioning references. The introduction video does not demonstrate impressive graphics nor functionality. The general language seems to be a little too smart and non-academic for my taste. However, Nathan Williams did make a video, that shows a little more insight to the contents, which seems to be a series of videos, many of which are old or not dated, together with some different newer content. This site does have active players in the team of professional poker players. These can probably be expected to produce content at some frequency. The price for membership is 99 USD per month. That is too much for what I have seen. It remains unclear, if the site actually teaches and supports strategy for todays cashgames, but the fact, that the site itself is not able to demonstrate this, is not a good indicator.
Raise Your Edge by Benjamin Rolle.
Benjamin is a tournament, and somewhat cash game, poker player, that has a popular YouTube channel and founded the Raise Your Edge poker coaching site. However, the site gives little insight and its hard to determine the quality of graphics and content. The cash game master class description is very general and gives no insight. A general use of too smart and non-academic language seems to be in use. The price for membership is 397 USD per month. That seems way to high for what I have seen. After my visit to the site, I became a victim of heavy advertising, that presented wild claims about the great site. I wrote to Benjamin from Raise Your Edge on two occasions, but very short and arrogant replies was given. It is safe to assume, that this kind of attitude is only used, when something is not worth its claims. One of his claims was, that a player can become a winning tournament player just be looking at 10 tips, which is obviously a false claim. A claim to which the answer was, that not every player can learn that fast, but some do. Also an obvious false claim.
SplitSuit and The Vault by James Sweeney.
This is a more personal poker coaching site of James Sweeney, that also is a co-founder of Red Chip Poker and well known for his high quality content, that is well founded in simple mathematics and thought processes, for beginners and intermediate poker players. It is a very nice site, rich on content about a wide range of topics. His site also offers paid courses and a membership to The Vault. I am not sure, if his site has content for professional poker players with regard to todays small stakes and higher stakes of online poker. The price for membership is 99 USD per month. A little high for what I have seen, but I can not tell without having seen it. Another option is to just buy specific poker books, that he produces.
BlackRain69 by Nathan Williams.
All though this poker site is not really a larger poker training site for professional poker players, but more a personal site of a poker player and author of poker books, Nathan shares frequent blog articles, where he writes about different poker topics of more general kind. His site mainly targets beginner players, that are looking to straighten out their fundamental skills of poker. He wrote some of the best poker books, that was based on the actual games of that time, in the years around 2014 and 2015, which was, however, also a time, when online poker was much different and less evolved than it is today. I am not sure, if Nathan still plays any online poker. Despite, that his site claims, that he is a professional poker player at the lower stakes, with millions of hands on record, I have never seen him at the tables. His picture is from a time in the past, when 18 tabling was possible. His win graph and results data screenshot, which he calls recent winnings, is not dated, but the software in use indicates, that they were produced in 2013. This is confirmed by his rakeback claim of 45%, which was a thing many years ago. I wrote to him recently, with a question about a questionable strategy, that he advocated for, but he did not respond despite two attempts. He frequently refers to another poker training site, which could indicate, that he actually use his site for referral income through SEO today. These are all indicators, that this is probably not a site, that is worth learning from, if you are in the market to become a professional poker player.
I am sorry to see, that the market for professional poker training sites seems to be somewhat flooded with sites by former poker players and former coaches, that wants to resell their old content by using a recurring payment model to make it feel like an active way to keep up to date with todays games. I hope, that there do exist one or more sites, that actually does provide knowledge and strategy about todays online cashgames by active professional poker players. That unfortunately remains unclear though.
An alternative to poker training sites could be teaming up with other professional poker players or hiring personal coaching sessions from an active professional poker player. Those can be found at the tables and on live streaming platforms.
It’s been a long time since I have visited the poker room at Casino Copenhagen due to the current corona virus situation. The casino has secured the poker room to protect the players from infection and I missed the regular players, so I decided to mask up and go there. It was very nice to enter the well known relaxed atmosphere and meet the regular poker players, that were present, but I quickly was given the sad message, that one of the regular poker players had passed away during the last weeks.
I meet Amir V. at the poker tables in the summer of 2017, where I decided to try my online poker skills at a live poker table. According to my poker player notes, I had my first personal chat with him in the fall of 2017, where I learned about his history and his extra ordinary kind personality. He had Iranian background, was the founder of a succesful Persian carpet business and had played poker for more than 15 years.
His play style was the well known nit style, which describes a player, who only plays premium hands and usually in a passive way. While this style might not be the most profitable style, it is a more safe approach, that can work well against the drunk and recreational players, that will often get seated at a casino, finish their drinks and bluff their entire stack off. Let me put it this way: I was scared, when he actually raised preflop. He would mostly limp premium hands as strong as QQ+ and AK preflop. He would also limp suited premiums, that could make a royal straight flush, because it would give him the casino royal flush jackpot. He would even try to signal such hands with a huge smile, while he hoped, that I would not have a hand and raise the pot.
Amir was an honest man with a good heart. He would reserve seats for me. Sometimes even coffee. He always offered a deal, that we shared a part of the royal flush jackpot with each other. A good deal, because he would play his royal flush draws even though not having the correct odds. When playing heads-up, he would sometimes say, that I should just fold my hand, because I could not win. A tough message, when you have a hand as strong as a set, which could earn you thousands at a casino. And that is exactly, how my last time and hand against Amir was: I lost all-in with a lower set against Amir’s top set. He had limped pocket jacks preflop, which I failed to recognize, when trying to test his line and work my hand reading. I could not give up my hand and had to pay the price. Amir did not like to win this way.
Amir never won his royal flush jackpot. I am sad, that I never had a chance to say goodbye and I will miss him greatly. Rest in peace, Amir.