Tourneys bring cash-game opportunities

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By Zack Bartholomew

When a tournament series hits your local casino, it’s an exciting time in the poker room. Lots of money is in the room, prize pools are big and there’s a lot of buzz. Tournament time is exciting for successful cash players, too.

The general style of play in cash games changes when tournaments are running. Tons of new people you’ve never seen before are in town and as a winning poker player, it’s your job to figure out how they play, adjust and profit.

This can be challenging, though, because sometimes your “standard” strategies suddenly don’t work as well with this influx of new players. Whenever I’m playing at a tournament series venue, I keep a couple of things in mind that help me gain success.

C-BETS DON’T WORK AS WELL: Tournament players hate folding to flop continuation bets. They are used to playing in games where you have to actively fight for every chip or else you will bust. This mentality carries over to cash games. This sort of attitude rubs off on other players at the table. You could be sitting at a relatively tame table, and then someone who just busted from the tournament sits down and the dynamic of the table changes.

Look for adjustments to help deal with this. Should you c-bet less, but double-barrel more? Maybe you should play fewer hands but continuation-bet larger? The adjustment usually will be dictated by the table. Observe what lines people are taking when they take the pot down, and look for similar spots to do the same.

IT’S A LOT EASIER TO TILT: Losing money to people you think you might not ever play against is really frustrating, especially when they suck out on you. I find myself saying, “When will I ever get a chance to be in that spot again?”

You can’t think about poker like that. Every spot in a cash game is one long session. Just because you lost in this amazing spot during tournament time, doesn’t mean you won’t get into more amazing spots when everyone has left.

Tournament time can be challenging because of all of the new players. Keep your focus, adjust to opponents and you will win the money.

— Zack Bartholomew is head instructor at Big Slick Poker Academy.