King of the Ring: Poker Full Ring Cash Game Strategy
Beat nine-handed poker cash games: The Tip Top Fox explains the skills and approach needed to be king of the full ring cash game
Full ring cash game action is usually played either nine or ten-handed and is many players’ first sojourn into the cash arena. The opposition is usually nitty and the action a tightly contested affair. Get used to folding because you’re going to be doing a lot of it.
Some players criticise full ring game cash action as being boring, but that is simply not the case, although it is a great deal slower than its six-max counterpart.
The format does have its perks, however, and lends itself particularly well to multi-tabling and is a great place to first learn and practice this useful online poker skill.
The best way to approach full ring cash games is with a tight, solid play style that lends itself well to playing multiple tables and putting in the volume when it comes to the number of hands played.
The HUD (Heads-Up Display) tool is particularly useful when it comes to keeping track of numerous opponents and their playing tendencies across multiple online tables. It is also an invaluable tool when it comes to working on your own game, helping you plug leaks, and review past hands so that you can learn from your mistakes.
Solid HUD stats to aim for at a full ring cash table – at least at the lower stakes $0.01/$0.02 up to $0.50/$1 – are 15/12/3 with the numbers mentioned representing VPIP/PFR/AF or money voluntarily put in the pot, pre-flop raise percentage, and aggression factor.
VPIP represents the percentage of hands played and PFR represents the percentage of hands a player raises. AF is calculated by adding the total number of times a player bet to the number of times a player raised. The lower the number, the more passive a player is, the higher the number the more aggressive they are, both pre and post-flop.
Other useful statistics to consider are three-bet (re-raise) percentage, usually displayed as 3B, and fold to three-bet percentage, displayed as F3B.
Knowing how often a player re-raises enables you to work out what range of hands they are doing this with, enabling you to adjust your game accordingly. As a general rule of thumb, a solid three-bet percentage in a full ring cash game is around 6-7% and you should be folding around 70% of the time you get three-bet yourself.
ATS (attempt to steal) and FTS (fold to steal) the blinds are another useful statistics as knowing which players get aggressive in position, and which players will fold when you raise their blinds can really pad out your win rate at a full ring table. Good stats for these yourself are 30% and 75% respectively.
Of course, some poker networks like partypoker, Coral and Ladbrokes do not allow you to use tracking software, although they do have tools available onsite that allow you to track your own results. That means you will have to revert back the tried and tested way of taking notes on a player manually. You can then colour code them as TAG (tight-aggressive), LAG (loose-aggressive), or weak/fishy accordingly.
As previously mentioned, a solid strategy will prove invaluable at the full ring cash game tables. Nine or ten-handed games mean more players in action, and the more players there are dealt into a hand, the higher the chance of them getting dealt a big hand. It can also mean more players to a flop, increasing the statistical likelihood of them hitting the flop and making a decent hand. That means tight is right and a disciplined tight-aggressive approach is the way to go.
You should be aiming for a 15% range, meaning you should be playing around 15% of the starting hands you are dealt, which looks like this:
Of course, you won’t be playing ONLY those hands; position is key at the poker tables, especially in full ring and you want to stick to this range fairly closely when you are in early position.
The later your position and the closer you get to the button, the more hands you can add to your range. From the button, cutoff, and hi-jack (the two seats to the right of the button) you play around 25-30% of hands. This means you can add in A2s+, K4s+, Q9s+, J9s+, K9o+, and A2o+ when you are on the button.
Tight aggressive play is the way to go, with aggression being the key to a winning game. When you are first to enter a pot it should be with a raise the majority of the time, although it is ok to call a raise in position with hands that can flop well like small to mid pocket pairs and the odd suited connector.
The key to success at the full ring tables comes from a solid stealing strategy. As previously mentioned, the majority of players at full ring are tight. However, some opponents play too tight and you can take advantage of this.
You should try and exert maximum pressure before the flop – tight-aggressive remember! – which will give you the betting lead in the hand. Most players will be folding around 70% of flops when they miss, meaning you can take down the pot unopposed.
This is where all those stats we discussed earlier come into their own. You can see who is folding the most in the blinds and steal accordingly. You can also see who calls but folds to sustained flop aggression and target them. If an opponent does continue in a hand, then it becomes fairly straightforward to work out their hand range – something you should be aiming to do in every hand you play.
Every successful blind steal gives you 1.5 big blinds in profit. A solid full ring game win rate at the lower stakes is around 5BBs per 100 hands (5BB/100) so a player with a 3BB/100 win rate could almost double their win rate by adding a few more hands to their range and stealing more from late position. And at full ring, that can make a big difference to your bottom line.
Even if you do get called, you still have the power of position over an opponent with an extremely tight calling range making them easier to read, while your range is considerably wider, making it tougher for them to put you on a hand. Position is key in poker, and this is especially true in full ring and it can often be a determining factor in either winning or losing a hand.
C-bet For Victory
This makes the continuation bet (c-bet) a key tool in your arsenal. Take the following example. You raise in position on the button with K♣J♥ and get called by a tight player in the big blind. What should you do on an A♣T♠7♥ flop?
The answer; bet. While you only have a gutshot straight draw, two-thirds of the time your opponent has missed the flop anyway. If they called with a pocket pair 22-99 they can only continue with 77 for the flopped set.
As a tight player they are unlikely to reverse float (call out of position with a plan to make a play/semi-bluff on the turn) with hands like KJ, KQ or QJ and you block some of these possibilities also with K♣J♥. And with any suited connectors barring JT, 9T they have missed everything so are going to fold the majority of the time. Hands like KT, QT and JT might call you but fold to sustained turn aggression, and these only make up a small part of their range.
A continuation bet of 1/2 pot only needs to work 1/3 of the time to be a profitable play. Plus, you can begin narrowing their range if they do call and you still have a few outs also with your gutshot should they actually have an ace.
While this is by no means an exhaustive guide to playing full ring, using the above approach should see you win in the long run over multiple tables. So to recap: Play a solid, tight-aggressive game; add more hands to your raising range the closer you get to the button; steal the blinds from late position once every few orbits.
One important caveat to remember is to be mindful of your table image. By only playing around 15% of the total hands you’re dealt, your image should be solid and your blind steals successful the majority of the time. That means no stealing with total garbage every time you are on the button as opponents will notice and are more likely to play back at you. Good luck at the tables.