live poker mistakes

5 Common Mistakes Live Cash Game Players Make

If you play live poker, you probably notice your opponents making a lot of mistakes…

…but could you be making any big mistakes yourself?

Nick Petrangelo put together a list of the 5 most common mistakes that he sees live cash game players make. Watch or read on for that list.

Note: Nick Petrangelo and Brad Owen’s brand new Smash Live Cash course just came out! If you want to destroy live cash games, don’t miss out on this course. Learn more now!

1. Sloppy preflop play (too much calling, too much passivity)

People tend to play extremely loose versus raises in live cash games.

Unless you’re specifically in the Big Blind or on the Button, the optimal strategy when facing a raise is to mostly 3-bet or fold (and rarely call). There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Your pot odds to call aren’t that good, especially versus the large raise sizes live players often use.
  2. The high rake common in live games makes those pot odds even worse.
  3. There are multiple players behind who can squeeze you out of the pot with a 3-bet.

To be fair, live poker players don’t squeeze nearly as often as they should, which allows you to do at least a little more calling preflop. But most live players take this way overboard.

Let’s look at one of the 4,808 preflop ranges from Nick’s Smash Live Cash course to bring this point home.

This is how the solver plays as the Cutoff versus a Hijack 2.25bb raise in a game with no rake and no ante (100bb stacks):

smash live cash co vs hj range no rake no ante

I’m willing to bet that you and most players in your game do a lot more calling than this, and that’s totally fine to a certain extent.

But notice how almost every playable hand is 3-bet at some frequency. That’s because 3-betting is an extremely effective move that, frankly, you probably aren’t doing often enough.

(Note: This range assumes there is no rake and that your opponent is using a 2.25bb sizing, which is likely much smaller than the raises you face in your games. If we added rake and increased the raise size, this range would include even more 3-bets and even fewer calls.)

2. Not taking advantage of everyone else’s sloppy preflop play

Building on the previous tip, you can take advantage of your opponents’ sloppy and passive preflop plays with calculated aggression, particularly when squeezing. The results may surprise you because this move works like magic in most live games.

Sit back and imagine you’re playing a $2/$5 game with 200bb stacks right now. A player in middle position raises to $15 and two players (Cutoff and Button) call.

You’re in the Big Blind with 7♠ 6♠. What’s your play?

If you’re like most players, you probably call with this hand every time. You probably call every time with hands like Q T, K♣ 9♣, and maybe even K Q as well.

The best course of action with these hands, generally speaking, is to squeeze. According to the charts in Nick’s course, the 4 hands above should be squeezed at the following frequencies at equilibrium:

  • 7♠ 6♠ – 55% raise
  • Q T – 100% raise
  • K♣ 9♣ – 60% raise
  • K Q – 100% raise

And that’s at equilibrium, meaning that those frequencies assume your opponents are playing “perfect” ranges preflop and postflop.

In reality, your opponents are probably much sloppier. They are probably calling with all sorts of marginal hands, and they’re likely going to make a lot of mistakes after the flop.

When you factor in your opponents’ sloppy play, these hands become even better squeezes. Give it a try next time you pick up a nice suited connector or suited high card hand in a multiway preflop spot!

3. Playing too polar in every spot after the flop

Live poker players seem to be almost allergic to the concept of linear ranges.

Related article: Polarized Ranges vs Linear (Merged) Ranges Explained

For example, when live players defend their big blind and flop top pair, they almost always opt to check-call. Instead, they only check-raise with super strong hands (sets, two pair) and bluffs.

That just feels like the more comfortable approach. They don’t want to check-raise a hand like top pair and get in a little extra money because they’re worried about ending up in a tricky spot on a later street.

But poker isn’t about being comfortable. It’s about winning money. And sometimes the way to win the most money (on average) is to make a decision that could potentially lead to a tricky spot.

When exactly to check-raise top pair is a huge topic that’s covered in the Smash Live Cash course. In fact, Nick devoted an entire video series to it.

4. Botching multiway pots

This is another mistake that’s exacerbated by sloppy preflop play.

When 3+ players reach the flop, live poker players are inclined to put too much money in with certain hand classes. They bet with hands that should be checked. They call with hands that should be folded. They raise with hands that should be called. The list goes on.

Multiway pots are complicated, so it’s understandable to make a mistake here and there. But most live players have atrocious fundamentals in multiway pots, which leads to very frequent mistakes.

This is another topic that Nick covers extensively in Smash Live Cash, but if you want to get a bit better at multiway pots for free, check out 7 Multiway Tactics You Should Know.

5. Not adjusting properly when stacks get deep and/or leaving the game because you’re intimidated by playing super deep stacked

If you have an edge in a poker game, that edge (and your hourly win-rate) increases as stacks get deeper. This is because your opponents’ mistakes are magnified — it’s more expensive to get stacked when you’re 250bb deep than when you’re 100bb deep.

Despite this, many players damn near freeze up when stacks get deep. They get thrown off their game and may even leave to avoid having to play a massive pot.

You can read this article to learn the fundamentals of deep stack poker.

But if you really want to destroy your opponents when stacks get deep, you’ll want to check out Nick and Brad’s Smash Live Cash course. You can watch the video at the top of this article for a walkthrough of the course.

Want to win the max in live poker games? Get the new Smash Live Cash course and watch your hourly win-rate soar. Learn more now!


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About the Author
Mike Brady

Mike Brady

I used to play a ton of poker. Now, I'm the Vice President of Upswing Poker and only play a decent amount of poker. Read my full bio here.

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