One of the most important things that has changed over the last ten years in no limit cash games is the capped buy-in nature of smaller tables. Before the Money Maker affect No Limit use to truly be no limit, that is no matter what the blinds where you could buy-in for any amount. However, a buy-in for more than one hundred big blinds was considered big and if you had two or three hundred big blinds you would have the table covered by a ton. Nowadays, in unrestricted buy-in games, two hundred big blind buy-ins are almost standard.
When No Limit as a cash game first started developing seriously popularity after 2003, casinos realized that the best way to continue a steady rake and to make sure that players would not get annihilated was to institute capped, restricted buy-in structures. These games where way more restricted than what you see today. I remember at the Commerce Casino they had $2-$3 blind $100 buy-in, $2-$5 $200 buy-in and $5-$10 $400 buy-in. By today’s standards these rules were ridiculously short. And now, more than ever, we see the trend of the capped buy-in games becoming deeper and deeper. Currently, in a lot of areas, five-dollar big blind games allow you to buy in for $1000 and in some places even $1500. The minimum cap that you will see now is $500.
So how do these new buy-in rules change the nature of the game? Well it is my contention that No Limit as a cash game is way more about stack depth than it is about blind size. At my home casino, The Bicycle Casino, in Los Angeles, I routinely will play in a $5-$5 $1000 cap game over the $5-$10 unrestricted buy-in game if I think that lineup and the stack sizes are right. If I know that I guy is not capable of folding an over pair in a certain spot would I rather play with him $2000 deep at $5-$5 or $700 deep at $5-$10? If he is not going to fold I want to get him in the game where he has the most money in front of him—not concentrate on the blind size. And commonly, nowadays, you see a lot of the fishier players buy in shorter in the bigger blinded games but deeper in a smaller blinded game. It may have to do with them thinking that they can run over the table, that the game looks smaller or perhaps, the most important factor, that they realize that they are playing against weaker competition at the “lower stakes”.
The point is that now, as recreational players get better and better, game selection is more important. And you want to find the tables with deep money where people will make the most mistakes. That is often times at the lower levels. I remember back in 2008 when they changed the cap on the $5-$10 game at the Commerce from a $400 max buy-in to a $500-$1500 buy-in the tables where absolute gold mines. I could not believe that some of the so-called “live pros” would not step down from $10-$20 to play $5-$10 and it had a lot to do with their egos. During that period I played $5-$10 pretty much full time and was making more than most of the $10-$20 pros. Funny enough, it also had to do with the fact that the $5-$10 was in the “lower level” room and higher stakes players did not want to be seen playing at those stakes.
What a joke that was and still is today. Poker is a game about trying to make the most amount of money not ego. And this also works for some of the higher stakes games as well. In my last trip to Vegas this summer I saw guys playing $10-$20 that in the past had played $50-$100. The thing is everybody at $10-$20 was sitting with over $6000 and these guys had a lot of experience playing deep. Why would they not sit at the smaller blinded game with weaker competition with the same amount of money in front of them? They were doing it right.