How To Transition From Tournaments To Cash-Games
If you’ve primarily been a tournament player during your poker-playing career, it can be understandably tough to make the transition over to cash-games; the competition is generally tighter, the hand-ranges are often wildly different, and the patience and discipline required can sometimes feel excruciating for players used to shoving their stack in the middle once or twice an orbit.
Not only do transitioning players have to contend with slower pace, more rake, and the inability to pay off a bad run in a short time-span, but many of the same strategies that have been wildly profitable for them at the tournament-tables can suddenly become completely ineffective or even downright unprofitable when utilizing them in a cash-game setting.
That’s why we’ve decided to put together a list of 3 simple tips tournament players should focus on while making the transition to cash-game play in the hopes that they’ll be able to help you reduce the friction during this period and keep your bankroll safe until you get a much more secure handle on this lower-varianced poker game format.
The first thing tournament players need to do when sitting at a cash-game (CG) table is to take a deep breath and relax that impulse so many tournament players have of wanting to win every single pot. The reason for this, of course, is that CG preflop hand-ranges are generally incredibly tight compared to their tournament counterparts and thus players often have much more value-oriented ranges on later street, something that can leave tournament players scratching their heads wondering how everyone can possibly have the nuts all the time.
So if you’re a tournament faithful who’s never found much success in cash-games, consider taking a couple of deep breaths before you sit down at the table, recognize that two of your biggest edges in poker are patience and discipline, and focus on playing a solid ABC strategy for at least the first 10-20 sessions to get the feel of this game format before beginning to mix in a little more creativity.
On a related note, tournament players learning how to transition to cash-games often share a common leak of not giving players enough credit for big hands on turns and river., particularly at the lower limits where sophisticated bluffing is few and far between. Having watched hoards of hyper aggressive low-stake tournament players bluff wildly for so long, transitioning players often end up calling check-raises and river bets far too often looking to ‘bluff-catch’ when the reality is that CG players at 100NL and below are rarely bluffing on turns and, apart from weak probe-bets after the turn has been checked through, almost never on rivers. So while it might be difficult as all heck to fold the 4th nuts after investing half a stack into the hand, if a river checkraise seems like it can never be a bluff, you’re probably right and therefore must develop the ability to let a big hand go in spots you rarely would in a tournament. And besides, even if you do make the tight fold in one of these situations and get shown a bluff, know that over the long run making those types of folds will save infinitely more money that calling them would make, most likely by many, many multiples.
So, once again, make sure to take that deep breath before making your final decision, ask yourself how often you’ve seen players bluff the spot you’re facing, or how often you’ve bluffed it yourself, and if the answer isn’t to your liking, practice that self-discipline and talk yourself into a bit of a hero-fold. After all, heroes are heroes for a reason.
Although they may be much better versed at shortstack play than their CG brethern, tournament players transitioning to cash-games often lack significant experience playing 100+ big-blind poker thanks to the nature of progressive blind-increases in tournament-play. For this reason it’s critical for tournament players to spend the majority of their early CG days working on this part of their game and understanding that multitude of complexities that come with holding a 200-500 big blind stack.
One tip for navigating this stack-size is to recognize the changing of hand-values compared to shallower play; hands like AKo and AQs on an ace-high flop might be premium hands late in a tournament or sit & go, but their value shrinks (heavily) once facing multiple-street aggression with 200+ BBs in play. Similarly, preflop all-in wars should be approached much more cautiously with these same types of hands as well as other quasi-premiums such as 99-QQ. More often than not, someone looking to get in 250 bigs preflop in a full-ring cash-game is not worried about your Jacks or even your Aks, so make sure to take much more caution getting in stacks in a cash-game than you would in your favorite Sunday tournament.
Finally, when playing regular cash-games defending your blinds becomes less paramount thanks to the lack of antes or increasing blinds. That is not to say you don’t need to continue developing your blind-vs-blind game, you most definitely do in every form of poker, only that there is not the same desperate need to protect your blinds at all cost in cash-games as there can sometimes be in tournament play. Not only are you under no time-constraints in CGs, but overplaying your blinds will likely lead to a lot of tough situations against strong hand-ranges (see tip #1) and cause you to leak extra money while paying unnecessary rake.
For this reason and all the other listed above, when transitioning from tournaments to cash-games, make sure you maintain a calm and steady approach and, generally speak, tend to err on the side of caution. Do this, and your move between the two biggest variants of the game will be much smoother, and most likely much less expensive as well!
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