Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid in Low Stakes Cash Games
Last Updated: December 18, 2023
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Poker is booming again, and this is one of the best times to hit the tables in years. This is particularly true for small stakes cash games, which are just amazing and offer a ton of value. To realize this value, one of the most important things is to eliminate mistakes from your own game.
It’s impossible to play perfect, completely mistake-free poker, but there are some major mistakes that you can easily eliminate today!
In this article, I’ll talk about three of the biggest mistakes players make at $1/$2 and $2/$5 and how you can go about fixing them to give your win rate a massive boost.
Mistake #1 – Only 3-Betting the Nuts
Many players at low stakes will 3-bet only with the top of their range, i.e. big pocket pairs and hands like Ace-King. While it is certainly possible to find some super-soft games where you don’t need any creative plays, you’ll make much more money in the long run if you can project a loose-aggressive image, even if you’re not playing all that crazy as it may appear to your opponents.
If your opponents think that you bluff a lot, it will be much easier to get paid with your nutted hands!
Charts below show what your 3-betting range should look like. As you can see, these charts include some of the best poker hands, but also quite a few bluffs, especially small suited aces and some suited kings.
These hands have a potential to flop really well, as you can get straights and flushes. Many players at the lowest stakes don’t 3-bet these hands often enough (or not at all).
When it comes to connected hands like T9s or T8s, many players prefer to call instead of 3-betting, as they don’t want to face a 4-bet and be forced to fold.
What you need to realize is that at low stakes, when your opponent 4-bets, more often than not, they have a hand like pocket aces or pocket kings, so you can easily fold and move on.
In a nutshell, you want to make sure you have solid preflop 3-betting ranges, allowing you to play aggressively across a variety of flops and making you much trickier to play against than your average $1/$2 weak-tight player.
Mistake #2 – Not Check-Raising Enough
This particular mistake is actually my number one small stakes exploit! At these stakes, people c-bet way too often, and you can take advantage of that on many boards that are good for your perceived range.
Many of your opponents will blindly follow the principle that if they raised before the flop and it’s checked to them, they need to fire a continuation bet. This means that your opponents c-bet in situations where they definitely shouldn’t, and you can crush them by adding quite a few check-raises to your game plan.
Let’s demonstrate this with a hand example. You’re in the big blind with Q♠10♠ playing $1/$3. The cutoff makes it $10 to go, you call, and the flop comes 9♠6♣4♦. You check and they continue for $10.
This is an excellent spot to check-raise, because your opponent will often have just an Ace or King-high, and they’ll have to fold to your aggression.
So, you make it $40 – you want to make your raises big enough so that you have enough fold equity. You don’t want to make it tiny! In this particular instance, they fold, and we win their $10 flop bet without having to see any additional cards.
In the event they call, you can often just check and give up on the turn, but if you catch a card that gives you a lot of equity, you can also continue betting and applying pressure, forcing the opponent to pretty much fold all hands that don’t contain at least a top pair.
Of course, you want to be attacking the boards that are good for you and not particularly good for your opponent, like the one in the example above.
Mistake #3 – Calling Too Much on the River
The ultimate goal in poker is to make money – that’s it. It’s not about ‘being right’ or showing the table how you got outdrawn. However, many players can’t get away from these ideas, leading them to make way too many hero calls on the river.
The bottom line is, at low stakes, people aren’t bluffing nearly often enough on the river. The best way to exploit them is to fold and never hero call.
Most hands go something like – they raise before the flop, they c-bet on the flop, and they play pretty honestly from that point onwards. So, when your opponent is trying to load the pot, concluding with a massive bet on the river, they have a big hand almost 100% of the time.
Simply put, if you have a hand that can only beat a bluff and are faced with a big river bet, the best way to exploit your opponents and make money at low stakes is by always folding and never hero calling.
In the “GTO world,” many of these hands might well be calls. However, at these stakes, you’re not playing in the GTO world, and your opponents have certain tendencies that you can recognize and exploit easily, deviating from the GTO strategy.
Wrapping It Up
So, just to sum up, three of the biggest mistakes cash game players make at low stakes are:
- Only 3-betting the nuts – making them super-easy to play against
- Not check-raising enough flops – failing to take advantage of the fact their opponents c-bet way too much
- Hero-calling on the river – people don’t bluff nearly enough on the river to make this profitable; the best way to exploit them is by folding to their big river bets when you only have a bluff-catcher
There you have it! Keep these tips in mind the next time you play, implement them in your strategy at the tables, and you’ll see your win-rate increase significantly in no time!