Cash Game Question about leveling the playing field in a cash game

Toaster

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BACKGROUND: I hosted my first cash game this weekend with me and an additional 3 players (4 players total). We had two players cancel last minute. We played 25c/25c blinds and everyone bought in for $25. Most of us knew the rules, but we were all very rusty. We played for about 2 hours without money just to be sure everyone understood the rules and basic strategy. I didn't want anyone getting stacked or angry because they misunderstood something.

GAMEPLAY/PROGRESSION: One player ("Player 1") knew the game well but hadn't played in a few years. He knew most of the rules, some strategy, but doesn't have a strong grasp on advanced concepts. ("Player 2") knew most of the rules and knew some strategy, but also hadn't played in a long time. ("Player 3") was a near complete novice--he knew some of the basic rules, but we spent a while before the game teaching him (this was actually pretty fun). I was probably the most competent player, but also extremely rusty.

Player 1 got stacked once, bought back in, and eventually ended the night +$1.50 (approximately). Player 2 was aggressive and (very very) easily tilted. He also had a couple bad beats (he called Player 1's all in with pocket kings--Player 2 flopped trip kings and Player 1 hit 1 of 3 outs on the river for a straight). Player 2 ended the night losing 3 buy ins. Player 3 came out of the gate guns blazing. Super aggressive and bluffed the socks off of Player 2 several hands (and tilting Player 2 quite a bit). Player 3 eventually lost a big hand (approx 50% stack) and played passively the rest of the game. He eventually lost his remaining stack at the end of the night to my all in, about 2 hands before the game broke (he was tired pulled a YOLO). I played a fairly consistent strategy, calling very light sometimes just for fun. I ended the night up 3 buy ins.

CONCERN: By the end of the night, there was some concern about the disadvantage of buying back in the game when the max stack at the table is so much larger than the buy in amount. In this case, I had about $100 on the table. When a player got stacked, they bought back in for $25 which was about 25% of the max stack. In a larger game with more players, I imagine this gap could be even larger. My goal is to play poker with friends and have fun. I want people to buy back into the game as many times as possible, not because I want them to lose more money, but because I want to keep as many players playing as possible (in this instance, if someone doesn't buy in, we are playing 3 handed).

QUESTION: Has anyone experienced this and/or have a potential solution in mind? Me and the players spent a while after the game broke discussing this. In my mind, I see only two potential ways to remedy this. The first is to allow buy in amounts larger than the original $25 (100 BB)--for example, X% of the max stack--OR to limit the size of the max stack at the table. My players didn't like the first option because late in the evening the max buy in may be much larger than they want to spend (e.g. 50% of a max stack of $100 is already twice the original buy in amount, which might be hard to stomach if you've already lost a bullet or two). I, as well as my players, understand that it's an option to buy in for less than that amount, but they also don't want to buy in for less and be at a larger disadvantage compared to the max stack. The only other option, assuming players don't want to buy in for a single bullet more than $25 and aren't going to buy in for that amount if they are at a 4:1 disadvantage compared to the max stack, is to limit the amount of chips the max stack can have on the table. My players seems to like this idea with a possible implementation being that every hour on the hour, all players with stacks above twice the buy in amount (could also be something like 3x the buy in amount) have to cash out chips above that amount. Another implementation is doing this every time someone gets felted and buys back in.

We also discussed just nixing the cash game and doing a tournament, but this is less favorable to me because of the logistics (people arriving at different times, delaying tournament start, players sitting around not playing if they bust early, etc.).

Thoughts?

Thanks!

Note: My players also unanimously agreed that they do not want to go down in stakes, say to 5c/10c game. They thought 25c/25c was a good balance for the game.
 

Legend5555

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Big stacks do not have any advantage over smaller stacks. The only thing that matters in a given hand is the effective stack at play (the smaller stack) since the big stack can't put any more at risk than that.

It's not like a tournament where the big stack can pressure the smaller stacks because they must be afraid of going bust. Some will say a big stack in cash gets to play with less fear as they are typically up for the night. But if they are playing more hands and overly aggressive, that will often mean they aren't playing optimally and the smaller stacks can take advantage of that.
 
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upNdown

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Short stacking (buying in for the minimum - maybe 40 or 50 bb) is actually a legitimate strategy in some cash games, because you can double or triple up without risking too much. And a lot of people hate playing with short stackers.
Point is, many people, especially novices, misunderstand the dynamics of disparate stack sizes in a cash game. The best thing you can do is help your crew understand that it really doesn’t matter.
 

raynmanas

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it is very common to allow cash game rebuys to be some % of the largest stack - 50% being the most common, but anything up to 100% works. whatever is comfortable for your crew. but for reasons already discussed here, playing with a short stack should actually be preferable to newbies.

limiting the maximum allowable stack is a terrible idea, don't do that.
 

TheDuke

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Taking chips off the table mid game as you describe is usually a major no no. Rat holing, going south, etc.

For novices, it's in their best interest to play with smaller stack sizes. Makes for simpler decision making. Big stack poker is an advantage in tournament poker, not cash games.

As described (new game with new players and rusty players), encouraging big buyins will likely kill your game.
 
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LeLe

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Some game allow people to match the biggest stack, some allow them to buyin marching to 50% of the biggest stack, some allow only 100bb re buyin

All is allowed and okay as long as the rules for buy in is set from the start of game till end of session

Also half way cashing out part of cash is a big NO NO, it basically banned everywhere, also giving or buying part of stack to another person is also not allowed in case in case you wonder if buying another person stack is allowed too
 

ratbastard

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Most players will not support big stacks cashing out any of their chips while still playing (me included). This takes money out of the game and makes it impossible to win it back. In fact, most games have a rule that if you cash out mid-game and then decide to come back in, you have to buy in for at least the amount you cashed out for. This prevents winners from taking their profits before the game is over.

Allowing for a larger buy-in (for instance, up to the biggest stack at the table) may mean that players have to put more at risk, but they may want to so they have a chance to win back lost money. As Legend555 said, there is no real advantage that a big stack has in a cash game because smaller stacks can play tight all night long if they want to and not have to worry about busting because blinds aren't increasing like they would in a tournament.

I know you said that you and your players do not want to decrease the stakes to $0.05/$0.10, but you might want to consider smaller stakes if the style of play means people will be in for 3x or more bullets and they have a cap on how much they're willing to play for. Playing lower stakes generally means the game will be a bit looser, which some people think is more fun. It is easier to get everyone on board with straddles and/or bomb pots, for instance, which are a nice addition to a cash game IMO. You could also try $0.10/$0.25 blinds, which are a happy medium between $0.05/$0.10 and your $0.25/$0.25 blinds.

Another consideration still might be to try fixed limit stakes, which our group has found to be a really fun alternative to no limit. @ChristopherM has a great video on YouTube about it.
 

Highli99

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Set your stakes where most players are comfortable with 3 buy ins. If that is $60 total then consider lowering your stakes to .05/.10 with $20 max buy ins.

I allow players to rebuy up to half the big stack. I will not allow rabbit holing (taking money off the table) and no place ive ever been would allow that either. It’s actually an advantage to the winning player and a detriment to the losers because that becomes money they can’t win back.
 

LeLe

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I think about the group agreeing the lower stake part, it will properly take the group a few session when there is a clear winner and clear ATM every session.

Only after that the group will know what stake they are comfortable with, however it more important to build up your player base first as 2 out of 6 people cancelling last min is really bad.

I usually played in 6 handed poker and even missing 1 player will be very damaging to the whole session
 

Toaster

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I think about the group agreeing the lower stake part, it will properly take the group a few session when there is a clear winner and clear ATM every session.

Only after that the group will know what stake they are comfortable with, however it more important to build up your player base first as 2 out of 6 people cancelling last min is really bad.

I usually played in 6 handed poker and even missing 1 player will be very damaging to the whole session
Yea, playing 4-handed was a bit of a bummer. I'm too inexperienced to know if playing with fewer or more people has a bigger impact on the issue I stated in the OP.
 

ArielVer18

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You want stakes that are high enough to be meaningful, but low enough that won't drastically affect the player's lifestyle. It sounds like $25 is a good starting point, but it it also sounds like your players are comfortable risking more than $100 when they're stuck to get a chance to win their money back.

I had this discussion a couple years ago with my players when my game was a 0.25/0.50 with a buy-in of 20-60. When stack sizes reaches 300-500, losing players were pissed I won't let them buy back in for more than $60 and would open shove $60 for a chance to build a big stack.

My solution was to change the game to a 0.50/$1, buy-in 40-100, with the max buy-in going up after an hour to 300 or biggest stack, whichever amount is lower.

My suggestion for you is to change the game to a 0.25/0.50 with a 20-100 buy-in, or keep the 0.25/0.25 with a starting buy-in of 25, and slowly increase the max buy-in to whatever feels comfortable.

Casual poker players only think about how much money they're willing to risk. The actual blinds don't really matter. Only serious players think in terms buy-in in relation to the blinds.

Also, like everyone before me already said, don't consider allowing ratholing. It's a bad idea.
 

Toaster

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Set your stakes where most players are comfortable with 3 buy ins. If that is $60 total then consider lowering your stakes to .05/.10 with $20 max buy ins.

I allow players to rebuy up to half the big stack. I will not allow rabbit holing (taking money off the table) and no place ive ever been would allow that either. It’s actually an advantage to the winning player and a detriment to the losers because that becomes money they can’t win back.
I had no idea about rabbit holing, but it makes complete sense to me. In my next game, I will definitely not allow that. I am also hearing that the consensus is NOT to skim the max stack. It sounds like I need to do better educating my players (I will send some information from this thread to them) and consider lowering the stakes.
 

Moxie Mike

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Big stacks do not have any advantage over smaller stacks. The only thing that matters in a given hand is the effective stack at play (the smaller stack) since the big stack can't put any more at risk than that.
I get what you're saying but I don't entirely agree. If the goal in a cash game is to maximize your EV of any given situation, having your opponent covered is a significant factor in that. To the OP's stated objective this isn't critical, but if and when the game becomes more competitive the amount they allow players to rebuy for is worthy of consideration.

To the OP: what prompted this discussion between you and your players? Did someone complain? If not I might suggest just leaving it alone. A bigger concern in ruining the fun factor of the game would be uncapped buy ins. PCF is littered with threads about people complaining about maniacs ruining the game.
 

grebe

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Seriously, the length that people will go to not play limit is appalling.

Benefits of LIMIT poker:
-more of a friendly game
-much more simple
-faster
-easier on newbies
-stacks don't matter
-no "sick reads" or grand standing
-no getting stacked in one hand
-Easier to incorporate multiple games

Drawbacks of LIMIT poker:
-not on TV
 

Toaster

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I get what you're saying but I don't entirely agree. If the goal in a cash game is to maximize your EV of any given situation, having your opponent covered is a significant factor in that. To the OP's stated objective this isn't critical, but if and when the game becomes more competitive the amount they allow players to rebuy for is worthy of consideration.

To the OP: what prompted this discussion between you and your players? Did someone complain? If not I might suggest just leaving it alone. A bigger concern in ruining the fun factor of the game would be uncapped buy ins. PCF is littered with threads about people complaining about maniacs ruining the game.
The issues was initiated by a complaint from the player losing several buy ins (Player 2) which I think was supported by Player 1. Player 3 was largely silent, mostly because he didn't understand the conversation fully, lives out of town and won't come to many games, and was entirely fine losing the single buy in he lost. Player two is also likely in the worst financial situation of the four of the players, which likely plays into the situation. As I am reading through these posts, I am realizing that he may not have actually been okay with losing the bullets he lost, even though I asked everyone beforehand.
 

tabletalker7

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The important question to answer when in this situation is "Does a standard buy in give you enough to protect your big hands (rockets, cowboys, ladies) from your big stacks just thinking they can win the lotto that hand?" If the answer to that is yes, then do nothing. If the answer to that is no, then lower your blinds and play smaller.
 

Rieguy

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Seriously, the length that people will go to not play limit is appalling.

Benefits of LIMIT poker:
-more of a friendly game
-much more simple
-faster
-easier on newbies
-stacks don't matter
-no "sick reads" or grand standing
-no getting stacked in one hand
-Easier to incorporate multiple games

Drawbacks of LIMIT poker:
-not on TV

Admittedly, my groups have never given it a shot due to people wanting to have the potential to win bigger in any given hand and because we thought it would reward/allow easier card chasing. Are these not as much of an issue as we are assuming in Limit?
 

DeusEx

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While it can be difficult to calculate or think about due to the smaller stakes, its easy to take a more balance approach by simply multiplying the issue by 10.

Most places will let you buy in 50 / 60 % of the big stack.

In this case the big stack is 1000 USD (You), would the player 2(?) have bought back in for 1000? or would it be a bit more reasonable to buy back in at 250 or 500?

Would it be okay if a new player joined in and bought 100, played one hand all in against you, beat and then cashed out? Not really...
 

Darson

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Next time allow rebuys or add-ons up to half the big stack. It's often forgotten that you can add on (of course, you cannot add on during a hand). If someone loses a big chunk remind them that they can add on without having to bust before they can rebuy.
 

Highli99

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Seriously, the length that people will go to not play limit is appalling.

Benefits of LIMIT poker:
-more of a friendly game
-much more simple
-faster
-easier on newbies
-stacks don't matter
-no "sick reads" or grand standing
-no getting stacked in one hand
-Easier to incorporate multiple games

Drawbacks of LIMIT poker:
-not on TV
All of this is really true. Writing off limit is a huge mistake. It’s some of the most fun you’ll have. So relaxing.
 

JustinInMN

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The important question to answer when in this situation is "Does a standard buy in give you enough to protect your big hands (rockets, cowboys, ladies) from your big stacks just thinking they can win the lotto that hand?" If the answer to that is yes, then do nothing. If the answer to that is no, then lower your blinds and play smaller.
The max buy in is set before the game starts, so as a player, you should have asked and answered that question before sitting in the game.

I have turned against the notion that the max should change as a favor to help players that need to rebuy. They agreed to a max when the game started, that's the amount they can double up in a best-case scenario unless they WIN chips above the max buy-in.

Overall, so long as your buy in is such that most players are willing to reload twice more in a night as needed, deep pockets don't really have an advantage. If you raise your buy ins, you risk fewer reloads and shorter games.

Oh and @grebe is right, limit is the great equalizer here.
 

grebe

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Admittedly, my groups have never given it a shot due to people wanting to have the potential to win bigger in any given hand and because we thought it would reward/allow easier card chasing. Are these not as much of an issue as we are assuming in Limit?
You still have the same odds to draw in limit. There are less implied odds if you hit, though. Your win/loss in limit will more reflect your overall performance over the course of the night, whereas your win/loss in NL will usually key in on two or three specific pots. I routinely get aces/kings cracked in a session of limit, yet still end up winning. One or two hands just don't matter as much in limit if you play well overall. If you continuously call bets behind in limit, you will bleed money all night.
 

CoachBudKilmer

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Short stacking (buying in for the minimum - maybe 40 or 50 bb) is actually a legitimate strategy in some cash games, because you can double or triple up without risking too much. And a lot of people hate playing with short stackers.
Point is, many people, especially novices, misunderstand the dynamics of disparate stack sizes in a cash game. The best thing you can do is help your crew understand that it really doesn’t matter.
It's less about risk tolerance than it's about the dynamics when someone is short and multiple players are deep. Deep players are playing a wider range, and the short stack can play with a tighter range (and hence, better cards). The short stack has an advantage when the deep stacks are playing against each other.
I get what you're saying but I don't entirely agree. If the goal in a cash game is to maximize your EV of any given situation, having your opponent covered is a significant factor in that. To the OP's stated objective this isn't critical, but if and when the game becomes more competitive the amount they allow players to rebuy for is worthy of consideration.
Sometimes you want the opponent covered. Sometimes you want to be shallow.
 

Toaster

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Seriously, the length that people will go to not play limit is appalling.

Benefits of LIMIT poker:
-more of a friendly game
-much more simple
-faster
-easier on newbies
-stacks don't matter
-no "sick reads" or grand standing
-no getting stacked in one hand
-Easier to incorporate multiple games

Drawbacks of LIMIT poker:
-not on TV
Hi Grebe,

I have never played limit, but I am not opposed to it. Player 1 was pretty strongly opposed to the idea of playing limit, which in theory isn't a big deal, but is potentially problematic since he is my childhood bestfriend and the glue that holds together a big part of the group.
 

Toaster

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Next time allow rebuys or add-ons up to half the big stack. It's often forgotten that you can add on (of course, you cannot add on during a hand). If someone loses a big chunk remind them that they can add on without having to bust before they can rebuy.
Admittedly, I did not set add-on rules beforehand, which is an oversight on my part. Also, none of the players asked about it because they didn't know about it. In our post-game conversation, they couldn't seem to wrap their heads around the concept of adding on.
 

Toaster

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If you buy in for $20, what does it matter if the big stack has $25 or $250?
I suppose this is the critical question, isn't it? I was the max stack, so it didn't feel like an issue to me, but I was trying to be considerate when the other players expressed concern. It's quite possible they wouldn't have had an issue if it was them that was max stack and others losing their money.

I'm not an experienced player, but I did try to describe that there is no advantage to max stack (except maybe intimidation), but they didn't seem to get that.

Player 1 said that he noticed I played differently when I gained such a large chip lead (meaning I played more aggressively, which I agree with). I tried explaining that for low stacks that is a good thing since I'd be playing a larger range that they could capitalize on, but I don't think that point got through.
 
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