If you are a winning cash game player, your profits come from outplaying weaker opponents. If you are a barely winning player, it means you are barely better than recreationals, but worse than other winning players.
If you are a regular with a good winrate it means you are better at winning more money from recreational players, while also probably not losing money to regs.
If you are an elite Short Deck player with a 20+bbEV win rate it means you are winning the maximum from recreationals and even winning from weak regs, who, while being able to win at around 5-7bb win rate, probably play too obvious versus regs and are vulnerable to being exploited by better players.
The quickest way to improve your win rate is to become tough to play against versus regs, at least as much as they don’t target you, and to win the maximum from recreationals.
To do that, the first thing you should learn is to classify recreationals in many, deeper categories. Not just ‘’fish’’ or at best ‘’aggro fish’’ and ‘’calling station’’. In this article I will attempt to show the categories you should use for recreationals and how to win the maximum money versus each group.
Passive, station ABC recreational
As a Short Deck player, you want these guys at your table the most. These are players who play a lot of hands preflop and call ISO out of position a lot to try to flop something. They play very obvious postflop. They will call along if they flop something average and will raise and fast play their good hands, because they are scared of turns and rivers, without considering opponents ranges etc.
An example of a typical play from this type of player would be limp / calling 8c9h preflop 100ante deep vs a 9a ISO and a call from another player. Then check / calling on KcTc6c versus a bet and a call, because a club gives them a flush and a 7 gives them a straight. Then check / calling 8x turn versus a bet and a call, because now his hand has improved to a pair + draws.
In this player’s head, he hasn’t done anything wrong. He called preflop 89o because it is connected and can make straights. He called on the flop, because now he can make straights or flushes on the turn. He called on the turn because now he also has a pair. But an experienced player will recognize that this player made a mistake preflop, because 89o plays badly postflop, especially out of position
In postflop situations, you should avoid letting him control the action. Regs will often try to call all-in jams with marginal hands because they see that the player is aggressive, but once again, you have to consider their range and whether aggro fish is betting allin with weak hands. Often these guys will stab flop and turn very loose but will have a decent range when they decide to go allin.
Avoid slowplaying too much because in 6+ equities can change very quickly. And don’t be afraid to make some resteals if you are playing against a player who stabs too loose. If you have this type of player, you want to target him. If possible, you want to get a position on him, so you can play in more hands against them.
Versus this type of player you want to ISOlate preflop to try to get in a situation postflop, where you are heads up against him, with position and range advantage. Then on the flop, it will be easy to get value when you have a better handand it will be easy to get away from a hand when he shows aggression.
It’s important to distinguish between a card chaser and a calling station. Card chasers will become a lot more passive once the river comes, while calling stations are happy to call all streets, even if the river bet is all-in and he is not that strong. So versus calling stations, you want to ISOlate and bet value, but versus these ABC recreational, high VPIP card chasers, you will do a lot of bluffing actually. That’s because they will be very honest when they are not strong and you can use this to steal pots. And since it’s 6+ holdem, all pots are big due to antes, so stealing pots is more profitable compared to regular hold’em.
Below is an example where you should fire 3 bullets versus this type of player:
Preflop 100a deep: rec limps CO, you ISO BTN 9a, he calls CO, everyone else folds
Flop 679, he checks, you bet 9a, he calls
Turn K, he checks, you bet 21a, he calls
River 6 and he checks and you bet allin
If you have a type of player who fastplays his hands on the flop, because he is scared of draws, this is a great spot to bluff. Since he is check / raising his sets and straights on the flop he is very capped in this spot.
K on the turn and 6 on the river doesn’t help his range much, because he doesn’t have a lot of Kx on his flop check / calling range and he doesn’t have a lot of 6x in his preflop calling range. So he will mostly have hands like 78, 98, 1010 etc. These hands he will probably fold to a river bet because from his point of view, there is so much that beats his hand. Straights, full houses, AK etc. He will not consider that in your range you have almost no straights or fullhouses except KK.
This might seem like a very specific example but I see these type of players a lot. The biggest mistake to make against these guys is to fire 2 bullets and stop, since he will be calling more flops and turns than the average player. You can also adjust by checking turns with a semi draw, and then see what he does on the river.
No one likes playing against good players, but as long as there are recreationals there will be regs. The good news is, regs are often easier to put on a range, since you know how they play.
Especially on lower stakes, some regs might be as easy to play against as fish, since they play a very obvious exploitative strategy that works well versus fish, but they are losing money to regs by not being balanced.
Some regulars, especially the ones who are taking a shot at higher stakes will try to avoid playing pots versus other regs or will decline taking those high variance spots that are more ev+, instead choosing to softplay other regs in hopes that they will do the same. But this is a mistake for 2 reasons.
- The elite regs will take these slightly more ev+ spots even if they are higher variance (like if checking down is +0.5bb but bluffing and jamming river is +1.5bb). So in the long term, you will be losing more money to them by avoiding these spots than by taking the highest ev+ option every time.
- If you find a reg who is avoiding playing pots versus you and who is avoiding these high variance spots when playing you, it means you can win even more from him if you do decide to play as tough as possible versus him. It means this other reg feels uncomfortable in these high variance spots and will probably overfold.That also works in multiway pots. Let’s say you are playing a 3 handed pot versus a weak reg and a fish. Reg makes a standard c-bet, fish calls and you have a hand where raising is slightly better than calling but obviously, a higher variance play. The added bonus is that if the weak reg is holding a hand where he is supposed to call your raise and then call down your turn and river bets due to amount of bluffs you have he might often choose to fold and sacrifice a little bit of EV, but avoid big pots versus a good reg and avoid these tough spots. Now, you are not only winning more EV from the reg but you have also successfully isolated the fish if he decides to call your raise, therefore winning even more EV.
If you are playing chess and your opponent offers you a draw, 90% of the time it means he is doing worse. The same applies to your relationship on tables with other regs. If someone is avoiding playing pots with you it means he is scared, so you should increase your pressure on him, so he will avoid you as much as possible and you are left alone to outplay the fish. Another added bonus is that if a weaker reg gets bullied by you constantly he might end up avoiding sitting on a table with you by leaving and his seat then might be taken by a fish.
If you want peace prepare for war, if you keep playing very tough against regs and keep pushing them around they are more likely to leave you alone
For new players these are often the toughest ones to play against. When you have a player who is obviously doing mathematically wrong things like calling preflop all-ins versus 1 player with 109o or doing crazy bluffs, you instantly realize that this player is a losing player and you are supposed to win money from him, but it can sometimes be tough to play against these guys because unless they are openjamming every hand, even their mathematically bad decisions have some sort of login behind them. So again, you have to put them in deeper categories.
Some guys are crazy preflop. They are willing to gamble and call all-ins loosely, but they might be more conservative postflop. You need proof of craziness postflop to start making loose calls postflop. Some guys you might classify as loose because they bet a lot of flops. But these guys might slow down once called or raised.
Often these players are emotional. They might start playing very loose after losing a big pot but then, after doubling up, they might lock down and play conservative until the next lost all-in. So an important thing here is to keep track of the player’s state of mind. If I am facing a 50/50 decision of calling or folding to a jam I think of how this aggressive player is doing emotionally. If he just lost a big hand I am leaning towards calling, if he just sucked out, I might lean towards folding. It doesn’t mean he will become a tight player just because he won a hand, but most recreationals like to enjoy their win for a hand or two before they jump back into being aggro donks.
But let’s assume you are playing an aggro fish and you have enough hands to make these reads:
- high VPIP (plays too many hands)
- sometimes limps but sometimes open raises preflop (all kinds of sizings, 3x, 5x and 9x)
- can bluff if they sense weakness
- Overplays average hands
- Realizes basic hand values and won’t just check / call all streets with 1 bad pair
So against this guy, you also want to isolate him, and here his preflop exploitativeness needs to be used against him. Smaller sizing preflop when open raising often means a weaker hand. So if I see this player raising 3x from utg1 I might 3bet to 12a from CO to either win this hand preflop or if he calls, I can outplay him postflop. If you just call these small raises preflop, you are losing money from situations when this player folds preflop and you pick up all the dead antes and you are risking a situation where BTN can reraise and you have to fold. Or, BTN can just call too and now you are squeezed between 2 players and not in position anymore.
If this same player opens 9x next hand, I might fold AJo preflop because even though his VPIP is too high, his 9x opening range dominates my range.
In postflop situations, you should avoid letting him control the action. Regs will often try to call all-in jams with marginal hands because they see that the player is aggressive, but once again, you have to consider their range and whether aggro fish is betting all-in with weak hands. Often these guys will stab flop and turn very loose, but will have a decent range when they decide to go all-in.
Avoid slowplaying too much because in 6+ equities can change very quickly. And don’t be afraid to make some resteals if you are playing against a player who stabs too loose.
For example, in a 3-way pot, aggro fish bets on a flop of A67, extra player folds and you are holding 97 on the button. If you know he c-bets too much and will bet a lot of turns, the best option is to make a small raise from his 4a c-bet to 12 or so. Even aggro fish will probably fold KQ or JJ here, and even if you are wrong and he has AK, you still have a good equity with a pair and a gutshot and now you are controlling the tempo, especially if you are in position. Use hands with pairs + blockers for this move.
Remember to view each player individually and understand in which spots he is aggressive, and don’t get too emotional playing them. It’s easy to get tilted playing these guys and start calling them down too much and not notice that they are no longer jamming loose. Don’t take it personally if they win some all-ins against you. Remember that keeping your cool will make you more money in the long term.
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