Most live cash games in the world play loose, splashy, and consist of many recreational players if we exclude nosebleeds happening in the likes of Las Vegas.
Players in live cash games come from all walks of life, and most of them are far from professional poker players.
With that said, many players who transition from real money online poker games and have solid fundamentals struggle to adapt to these live games and leave a lot of money on the table by playing a mediocre strategy at best.
Today, we will go over some ways you should adapt your game in live poker to get the most value from playing at the tables and protect yourself from falling into the trap of becoming just another fish in the sea.
Adapt Your Preflop Ranges
Unlike the tough online games in which most pots get heads-up by the flop, live games tend to see four, five, or even more players. This means you should worry less about winning the pot pre-flop and more about getting navigating your way through later streets.
A good example of adapting your pre-flop ranges comes when talking about pre-flop 3-bets. You may have learned that you should balance your 3-betting range by adding hands like A5 suited to it as a bluff. However, this only works if players fold the hands they opened with sometimes and if other players aren't going to cold-call you.
In live games, it is a very common situation to see a button 3-bet cold-called by the players in the blinds with extremely marginal holdings such as 33 or 56 suited. For that reason, your ranges should be adapted towards playing the flop with hands that can make the nuts and charging your opponents when you do make a strong hand.
Limp Your Monsters
The idea of limping with a pair of Aces under the gun is one that’s as old as poker itself, and I would never recommend it in any game with thinking players, as you simply give away the strength of your hand by limp-reraising too much.
In live games, however, people will very often not even notice what action you took, and even if they do, they won’t care too much about it. After all, they would probably call you even if they were close to 100% sure you had a better hand, as they want to gamble.
Limping a pair of Kings or Aces in early position, followed by a hug 3-bet once someone has raised and a few players have called, is a recipe to print money in splashy live poker games against the super-weak players you will encounter there.
Play in Position
When you are dealt super-strong hands like QQ, KK, AA, or AK, you will have to play them no matter what position you are in. However, you should seriously consider the way you play all other hands in the blinds and early positions.
The reason for that is the fact that most pots go multi-way in live cash games, and that means it will be very difficult to win pots and even more difficult to realize your entire equity, as someone else is likely to make a big hand whenever you are drawing.
Playing in position lets you control the size of the pot and sometimes trick your opponents by checking back your strong draws or simply calling bets with draws you could potentially raise with.
Position is king in all poker games, but live cash games make the position even more important. Make the most of your button and cutoff hands, and play very carefully when you are in the blinds.
Don’t Worry About Balancing
If you have learned how to play poker online and you have the skillset to beat solid six-max games, you know that learning GTO strategy and balancing your ranges is a must. That said, this might cause you some difficulty understanding which hands you should play from different positions in live games.
Any serious poker course will teach you that you have to balance your ranges in order to keep your opponents guessing whether you have a value hand or a bluff in every situation.
However, players in live games literally don't care what you have, and they only care about their hand and the way they see you in general. If you have a bit of a reputation for waking up with a bluff now and then, you will get called more often than not. The same works if you have a tight reputation.
In either case, balancing your ranges is not very important in live games. You should make pot-sized bets and overbets when you have monster hands in multi-way pots and check to give up with your weak draws or complete misses.
This may seem like a transparent way to play poker, but most players in live games won’t notice what you are doing even after months or years of playing with you.
Make Significant Player-Based Deviations
While some players in live games play an average and relatively balanced poker, there are some who play an extremely imbalanced approach.
Examples of this are guys who try to bluff every hand all the way to the river and those who fold everything but the nuts on the flop or turn even for medium-sized bets.
Even if the optimal strategy tells you that you should call or bluff in a certain spot with high frequency, you may want to deviate from this based on the particular player you are playing against.
Folding decent strength hands against some players will prove absolutely atrocious, as they will keep bluffing you out every single time you don't have the nuts. The same goes for calling value bets from the nits who only bet the turn and river if they have an exceptionally strong hand.
If you are playing in a local game where most of your opponents are far from professional players, you should really work on dissecting each player’s general game plan and make significant adjustments based on your understanding of their play.