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Defending Cash Game Limit Poker

Defending Cash Game Limit Poker

Many newcomers to poker forget that our beloved game involves a lot more than tournaments. In fact, it was not many years ago when it was hard to find anything other than a few Stud cash games at most card rooms. But it seems that the television coverage of tournament-style play has quickly put cash game poker on the back burner for many poker amateurs. I speak to more and more players who consider themselves tournament “specialists.” If I mention cash games these players sometimes quip, “Oh no, I don’t play in those boring games. Cash games are all about catching cards, especially in limit poker.” This sort of mindset has become so prolific that I sometimes can’t find the energy to argue with individuals who believe it.

Television production companies are excellent at what they do. They have found a way to edit poker tournaments to a point that every hand seems intriguing. The skilled announcers help to build the anticipation and hype. The hole card cameras and exclusive interview vignettes make us feel like part of the action. It all adds up to have us, the viewers, perceive that tournament poker is sexy, exciting, and cutting-edge. This presentation of poker is like a magnet for the testosterone laden young and middle-aged man.

These new players often seek the thrill and challenge of tournament poker. In doing so, many then turn up their noses at limit cash games. They mistakenly assume that more skill is needed in tournaments. They foolishly believe that cash games are for old timers who have more time on their hands than they know what to do with. They assume that cash game players all sit steadfastly while awaiting a top ten starting hand. In short, they don’t truly understand poker.

In reality, limit cash games are the purest brand of poker that we have. While I love tournaments, I can’t always say that the biggest money winners in tourneys are actually the best players. Instead, I can assure you that I can find many players who have won $100 thousand plus in tournament poker that are only so-so poker players. One lucky ride in a large tournament could award some fortunate soul with this type of paycheck. Find me a player who has ground out $100 thousand in limit games, though, and I will bet we’ve uncovered a very skilled player.

Tournaments have climbing blinds and prize pay-out tables that cause the action to speed and slow at predictable paces. Many players have hit a series of lucky cards to survive deep into tournament fields when they weren’t nearly among the most skilled at the tables. Cash game players do not have the luxury to hit a few good cards at opportune times. They live through hot streaks and cold streaks just the same, relying on their edge in skill to provide the profits.

Poker psychology is at its height in cash games, as well. Invariably I am frustrated in tournaments by the tournament directors having to move players to equal the tables. I study my tablemates and their mannerisms, catching a read on their styles and mindsets. Before I can cash in on my read, though, that player might bust out or get moved to a new table. In cash games, you have time to read players and take advantage of what you learn. You can methodically sap them, draining their bankroll as you climb deeper into their psyche. In cash games you can truly overpower a player, feeling as if you own them. In tournaments, these types of opportunities are fleeting due to the quickness of the pacing.

Good limit cash game players are not simply drones that sit and hope for a nice pocket pair or Big Slick to play a hand. They are skilled poker players that have a deep and definitive understanding of position, odds, and poker psychology. They have a unique drive to suck every dime from weaker opponents. They do not thrive on the energy and excitement of the tournament. Instead, they find their own internal drive to stay focused and hungry on the task at hand. If you are exclusively a tournament player, I just ask that you show your due respect to those who delve into the limit cash game aspect of poker. Please don’t make it a chore to others to have to continually defend limit poker.


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