TIPS FROM THE PROS
Playing Cap Games
This week, Full Tilt Poker launched Cap Games - a version of our Pot- and No-Limit games in which no player can commit more than 30 big blinds to any pot. The biggest cash games in the world, the ones that Jennifer Harman and Phil Ivey play in, use a cap when they play No-Limit Hold 'em or Pot-Limit Omaha, and we thought you'd enjoy the experience as well.
For this tip, I am going to discuss some of the advantages of Cap Games over traditional big-bet poker, then I'm going to cover some strategic points that should help you when you first sit into a Cap Game. For even more information on Cap Game strategies, you can read my recent Pro Chat transcript.
Most players reach a point where they grow uncomfortable with the thought of risking all the money they have on the table in a single hand. For example, say that a player in a $.50/$1 No-Limit game has done well and has built his stack from $50 to $300. He's certainly happy with that turn of events but, if there's another big stack at the table, he may be unwilling to stay at the table for fear of losing a very large sum on a difficult hand. In a Cap Game, however, this player can keep his seat, knowing that he can't lose more than $30 on any single hand.
When a cap is in place, there tends to be a lot of action. Players open up their games when they know their losses will be limited and will commit for the cap on hands they might be more cautious with in a standard No-Limit game. So Cap Games can be action packed and a lot of fun.
For the most part, Cap Games play just like other big-bet games. But there will be some key pots where you can use the cap to your advantage. You'll be able to take some shots at pots that you probably wouldn't take in deep-stack games.
In particular, Cap Games offer great semi-bluffing opportunities. For example, say that you're in a $1/$2 No-Limit Hold 'em Cap Game and a player opens for a $6 raise. You think he's weak and decide to re-raise to $20 with the 9c-Tc. The blinds fold and the raiser calls. The flop comes 2c-6c-Js. He checks to you and you decide to bet about the size of the pot - $40 - with your flush draw.
With this bet and the pre-flop action, you've reached the cap; you can't commit any more money to the pot. That makes this flop bet a pure semi-bluff. There's a good chance that you'll force a fold and, if you don't, you've still got about a 1 in 3 chance of hitting your flush on the next two cards. In a standard No-Limit game, however, this play could go very badly. You could be check-raised or called. If called, you could face a large bet on the turn after missing your flush. Either way, you might be forced to fold without having the opportunity to hit your hand.
Also in Cap Games, you can play some medium-strength hands more aggressively than you would in a traditional No-Limit game. For instance, you might be reluctant to commit 100 big blinds on a middle pocket pair, even if you felt your opponent was playing overcards and missed the flop. But in a Cap Game, you might play for the maximum on something like pocket 9s if you feel it is, in fact, the best hand.
In addition, there are more opportunities for slow-playing in Cap Games. Say that you hit a set of 5s when the flop comes 5d-7d-9c. You could be up against some sort of draw here and, in a standard No-Limit game, you'd probably want to bet so that you didn't risk letting a flush get there for free. But in a Cap Game, you might give the free card. The draw will probably play for the cap no matter what you do, and if an opponent had overcards and missed the flop, he'd only commit money if he connects with the board on the turn.
In general, you don't need to be so concerned about super-fine reads or making big laydowns in Cap Games. If you think there's a reasonable chance you're ahead, you can play for the cap without putting an excessive amount at risk.
Give our new Cap Games a shot. I think you'll enjoy the more open style of play that accompanies these games. They really are a lot of fun.