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ICM Play In Cash Games

May 2, 2012

Last week I found myself at the Grand Casino Luzern in Lucerne, Switzerland and decided to play a cash game. Now cash games are not my strong game and, in fact, they’re my weakest game. I know I need to practice them a lot and put in more hours to get better at it but still I tend to be a net winner in these games never the less. However oftentimes I am left with the feeling that I was outplayed or that I had made an unnecessarily risky move on the river that a seasoned and well-rounded cash game player would never have made.

Anyhow, the game in Lucerne was very interesting. It was a 5/5 game but they only let you sit down with 80 big blinds which is quite short for a cash game. Usually a proper (deep stack) cash game is played with 200 big blinds or more. So by making the game more shallow you do not have enough chips to make a pot sized bet on the river, if there was betting pre-flop, and on every consecutive street.

But what it does mean is that you have to be willing to go with the hand all the way since 25% or so of your stack is invested in the hand, which can happen pre-flop or certainly post-flop. So because of this the game actually behaves like a tournament at the final table, where it becomes too expensive to be pre-flop and then fold on the flop, turn or river. But what this also means is that ICM, Independent Chip Model, can (and should) be played throughout the entire cash game, treating it for what it is, one table with short stacks, and push or fold should become the predominant strategy.

Now I have never played in such a ‘hybrid’ structure where I have to switch in a cash game to a tournament ‘end game’ strategy but let me tell you it works!! Not only does it work but it does so fantastically! Cash game players are not often used to seeing an all-in push pre-flop or on the flop (stop and go strategy) so they have difficulties adjusting to and countering it. Sure, you can argue that the all-in pushes lose a bit of bite to them, when people reload after they lose their chips, but that’s only partially true since more of the players come with just one bullet and are not ready or willing to reload at all. So for them they must drop out when they lose it, so they have to go home, just like in a tournament.

So now you might be wondering how I did in this game. Well within 3 hours I 5-folded my money. I guess this shallow stack cash game structure will become one of my favorite ones since I can play ICM throughout the whole evening and have an edge against players who don’t know what that means or how to counter it, and who don’t like to play tourneys at all. This is why they are sitting at that cash game table trying to grind their way through the night. Well, I will transform this ‘friendly’ cash game to a ‘tough to play’ tournament end game and will have it right in my neck of the woods where I have the skill.

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