Online poker can seem overwhelming at first, but the truth is that you can quickly learn how to play cash games poker. Since this is a game that requires some skill for the best results, we strongly recommend going through our complete guide as we cover the poker rules, the basic strategies, the top online poker sites, and more.
What Are Poker Cash Games?
Poker cash games are gaming options where you are using real money chips to play. Unlike in poker tournaments, the chips in cash games have their face value when converted into a set real money currency. For example, if you are betting two chips of $1 on the table, you are actually betting $2 in real money.
Moreover, cash games allow players more freedom. New members can join a table whenever there are empty seats available and you can also leave at any time. The main requirements are that you meet the poker cash buy-in for the table and pay the blinds as required by the given poker setup.
Cash games can also have additional rules and limitations, depending on the version of the game. Most poker cash games at the best online poker sites are played using the Texas hold’em variant. Omaha is the second most popular poker variant but the traffic is significantly lower. Here, we can also add betting limits, like no-limit, pot-limit, and fixed-limit tables.
Lastly, the maximum number of players that can take part in a poker cash game can be a differentiating factor. Tables can host just two players, also known as heads-up poker, or go up to 10 maximum players in some cases. However, the standard poker games will have six or nine maximum players.
How to Choose a Poker Cash Game?
Choosing the right table for you is the first step in learning how to play cash games poker. In general, we recommend starting at micro or low stakes. These are the most affordable and also come with softer competition.
Furthermore, nine-seat tables are better when starting out since having more players can let you fly under the radar. When there are fewer players at the table, more experienced users can easily spot patterns and take advantage of your playing style.
The safest bet would be to join a cash game poker table with at least six active opponents at the lowest stakes available and buy-in for the maximum limit. When it comes to online poker sites, you will find great traffic at $0.01/$0.02 tables for no-limit Texas hold’em. You can filter the options with ease from the lobby but it is best to stay well away of the high stakes poker cash tables when starting out.
How to Play Cash Games Poker Right Now
It only takes a few minutes to create an account and start playing cash poker games online. However, you will have to be physically present in state with legal online poker to join a licensed site. For this example, we will be using BetMGM Poker in New Jersey. However, the sign-up process is similar with other top brands as well.
Step 1 – Go to the Site
The first step is to go to the site of the chosen online poker room for cash games in the US. Make sure that you have the right state selected for the correct version.
Step 2 – Download the Software
Click the “Download Now” tab from the top to download the software. This will only take a few seconds. Run the downloaded app, called BetMGMPokerSetup.exe, and install the online poker client on your machine.
Step 3 – Create Your Account
Open an account from the installed application by clicking on the register button. The sign-up form will have three stages that require some information, like your name, address, and account details.
Step 4 – Make a Deposit
While you can play free poker with practice credits and still have a good time, you will need to deposit funds if you want to try out cash poker with real money. You can do this by accessing the cashier from the account menu and then choosing a preferred deposit method. Enter the details and confirm the transactions.
Step 5 – Play Cash Game Poker
Select the “Cash” tab from the poker room lobby and view the available tables. You can filter them by game type, buy-in, and other features. Join the preferred table while meeting the minimum buy-in and start playing.
Poker Cash Game Basics
Our poker cash game tutorial will help you get ready for the real money action. However, if you want to learn more about the game, we strongly recommend checking out our how to play poker guide. This will show you the poker rules and hand strengths that you should be familiar with before joining a real money cash game table.
To start with the basics, the goal in poker is to win as many chips as possible. You can do this by having the strongest hand at the end of the round, or by being the only player left in the hand at any point in the round. For example, if you make a raise and everyone folds, you win the money in the middle of a poker table.
Unlike in tournaments, poker cash games don’t have a time limit or scheduled breaks. Furthermore, the size of the blinds don’t go up. You can leave the table at any time, be it after a big win, after losing a hand, or just because you played enough.
To better understand how to play cash games poker, let’s break down the different stages in a session, from taking a seat, to standing up with the winnings.
Joining a New Poker Cash Game
Online poker makes it very easy to join the action as the large poker sites have great traffic. This leads to plenty of cash games running around the clock. You can browse the list and join the preferred table based on the size of the blinds, the maximum number of players, and the average pot. You can also use the Quick Seat feature to join a table that meets your requirements right away.
When you first join a cash poker table, you will most likely have to wait a few rounds for the big blind to come to you. However, you can agree to pay an additional big blind and be dealt in right away.
For brand new tables, or when starting cash poker games, each player receives a random card from the deck. The player with the highest card is the dealer, and the following two players to his left are the small and big blinds, respectively.
Playing a Poker Cash Hand
There can be some differences based on the poker variation played, but for this example we will focus on Texas Hold’em. It is the most popular variant and probably the one that most beginners are interested in playing.
There are four betting rounds here as part of the poker setup.
The game starts by determining the dealer. Then, the player to the left places a small blind, and then the next player places a big blind. These are fixed values set for the table, with the big blind being worth two times more than the small blind.
All players then receive two cards facing down that only they can look at. If, for example, you are in a middle position at the table, you can look at the cards freely without placing a bet on the table.
Players to the left of the big blind can then announce their decision to call the big blind, raise the bet, or fold. This is done in clockwise order on the table until all remaining players have called the highest bet.
2. The Flop
Once the first round of betting is over, the flop takes place. This is where three community cards are placed facing up in the middle of the table. A second round of betting will then take place, with the player to the left of the dealer button being the first to act.
3. The Turn
The third round of betting takes place after the fourth community card is added to the table, known as the turn. Again, remaining players have the option to check, raise, call, or fold. All wagered money in the middle of a poker table is added to the pot.
4. The River
The fifth and final community card is added to the table, known as the river. A final round of betting takes place. Remaining players will show their cards and the one with the strongest hand of five cards made out of any combination of owned cards and community cards wins.
What is Rake in Cash Games?
Rake is a percentage of the pot that goes to the online poker room. This is basically the cost of playing on the poker room and the way the operator makes a profit. For cash games poker, rake is usually a fixed percentage that depends on the stakes. Moreover, most poker rooms have a rake cap based on the number of players in the hand.
For example, at $0.01/$0.02 cash tables, you can expect to find a rake of 3.50% with a $0.30 cap. For higher stakes, the rake usually goes up to 5% and the cap can exceed $3.
Cash Game Poker Strategy for Beginners
When it comes to poker strategy, we can go on for a very long time given the complex nature of the game. However, the truth is that you can easily learn how to play poker cash games and have good results without dedicating a lot of time to it. You can start with a beginner poker cash game strategy and then improve it as you play and learn more. So, to help you get started, we will go through the main tips to get you an advantage.
In every round of Texas hold’em cash poker, you will start with two cards, known as hole cards. This is your starting hand and while it’s true that you can win with any two cards, it is best to carefully choose which starting hands to play and which ones to let go. Since you will have to pay at least a big blind to see three community cards, the starting hands must be a clear focus in your poker cash game strategy.
A general rule here is to only play strong hands, especially when you are just learning how to play cash games poker. By strong hands we mean high ranking cards, high pairs, and suited cards.
Paired hole cards, also known as pocket pairs, will give you a good poker cash advantage in the hand. Moreover, the higher the rank of the cards, the better, with A♠ A♥ being the best starting hand. Low pocket pairs can be costly if they don’t improve by creating a set. For example, having 6♥ 6♣ doesn’t make for a very strong hand.
High unpaired cards give you the chance to create a pair. Having A♥ K♣ makes for a strong starting hand because it can create a high pair and is also part of a high straight.
Suited cards can also be good starting hands, but again, the rank is important here. While they can create a flush, it is best to have other outs as well, like solid pairs or straight draws. For example, K♥ 9♥ can be a hand worth playing in the right situation. To have more details close by as you play, make sure to check out our poker cheat sheet.
The position in poker cash games refers to your location at the table based on the position of the dealer button. In tables with nine players, the first four seats to the left of the dealer are known as early position. The following three are middle position. The seat to the right of the dealer and the dealer are in late position. Basically, the earlier you have to act, the worse the position is.
The poker setup for early position includes the two blinds, which have to place a bet before even seeing their cards. The following seat is known as “under the gun”, which is first to act in the first round. The risk here is that if you call the big blind from early position with a mediocre hand, there is a good chance that another player will raise the bet and you will then have to either call for more money than the hand is worth, or fold and lose the initial called bet.
Acting later also gives you more information. You know if some players are out of the hand and if others are representing strong starting hands by raising. The dealer position is the best in a poker cash game.
Moreover, you will have to consider your position at the table when determining your starting hands. Only start with very strong hands if you are in early position. Consider some weaker hands based on the information available from late position. To master how to play poker cash games, you have to pay close attention to the position.
Betting plays a huge role in poker cash games. You need to know the reason behind your bet and also the reasons behind other players’ bets. Moreover, you have to determine the size of the bet based on the given situation.
Reasons for Betting in Cash Games
Although often overlooked when learning how to play cash games poker, we believe that knowing how to bet properly is one of the most important parts.
First of all, you need to think of the reason to bet. In general, there are three main reasons to bet in a poker cash game:
- To increase the pot – this is when you have a strong hand and you want to win more. Also known as a value bet, the goal here is to bet an amount that the opponent is likely to call, thus giving you more poker cash to win.
- To protect a hand – a bet placed to force opponents to either pay for another card, or fold their hands. A protection bet is made when you have a strong hand, but the remaining players still have outs that can make them stronger.
- To force others to fold – placed in order to discourage players from going forward. Also known as a bluff, this bet can be the only way to win the round with a weak hand. Best used when the opponent doesn’t have a strong hand.
Poker Cash Game Bet Sizing
After determining your reason to bet, the next step is to set the size of the bet. Depending on the cash poker variant, you can bet anything from the big blind to your entire stack. Since most online poker tables, and also poker home games, are played in the no-limit format, we will go with this when it comes to bet sizing.
The size of the cash game poker bet depends on the size of the big blind and on the size of the pot.
- Small bet – 1-2 big blinds or half the pot.
- Medium bet – 3-4 big blinds or around three quarters of the pot.
- Large bet – 5+ big blinds or more than the pot.
New players are more likely to place small bets when figuring out how to play cash games poker. However, these don’t always provide the best value since small bets don’t give you a lot of information if the opponents call. You also risk other players raising, which can put you in a difficult spot. Small cash bets in poker are best on boards with few connecting cards or as continuation bets after raising pre-flop.
Medium bets are generally best for beginners, if placed in the right spots. These can provide good value for strong hands, while making sure opponents don’t see cards for free. You can consider a medium bet with a good pocket pair, to protect your hand on the flop, to gain value with a strong hand on the river, and even to bluff in some spots.
Big bets put a lot of pressure on opponents, but they can also be costly. For new players learning how to play poker cash games, it is best to avoid big bets, especially out of position.
How to Play Poker Cash Games on Mobile
Mobile poker is very popular in the US as players can easily access some of the best poker rooms from their iPhone or Android device. You will still have to stay within state limits according to local regulations. However, mobile poker does give you the freedom to enjoy a few games at any time, no matter where the day takes you.
To get started, you will have to download the mobile poker client on your device. You can find the top brands on the Apple App Store and on the Google Play Store for different states. These apps are available for free, so just download and install it. Use your existing account to sign in, or create a new account if you are new to the poker room.
The lobby on the poker app will be a bit different, but it has the same cash games. You can browse the different tables and join with ease. Moreover, some apps even support multiple tables, allowing players to have up to four poker cash games running at a given time.
Poker Tips for Cash Games
Keep the following tips in mind when playing with cash in poker:
- Always keep track of your position – This should determine what hands you are starting with, the size of the bet, and your poker cash game strategy for the entire hand.
- Raising is better than calling – In most situations, calling is the second-best move. It is usually better to raise if you have a stronger hand or fold if you think that you are behind.
- Three-bet with strong hands – When you have a premium hand, it is best to bet three times the big blind pre-flop. This will help clear out some of the players and avoid them connecting with the board for free.
- Bet often with fewer players – If the cash poker table is running low on players, it is best to play aggressive while in position. Bet often and don’t allow your opponents to see cards for free, especially in high stakes cash games.
- Don’t be afraid to change tables – One of the best aspects about poker cash games is that you can leave at any time. If you think the opponents are playing well or if they are too tight for your style, leave and find a better table.
- Play with cash that you can lose – Always gamble responsibly and only play with funds that you can afford to lose. Having too much money on the line can negatively affect your poker cash strategy and make you question the right decisions.
- Make sure to check your outs – When first learning how to play cash games poker, players can often rush a decision without seeing some possible hand combinations. You may have a straight draw that you aren’t seeing if you hurry.
- Warm up before a session – Try out some free poker cash games or play at lower stakes than usual. This will allow you to warm up before playing high stakes cash games. It can take a bit before you reach your best level if you haven’t played poker all day.
- Track your results – It is normal to have good and bad sessions, so it is best to track your results over longer periods of time. This will give you a better idea of your current skill level. Plus, it may even highlight some aspects in your strategy that need improvement.
- Know when to stop – You can’t expect to play poker 24/7. Knowing when to stop is very important as you need a clear and rested mind for the best results. Moreover, considering stopping if you are no longer having fun and the game seems like a chore.