One of the simplest leaks to plug when playing small level no-limit cash games is calling with the wrong kind of hands preflop. Most of the time the games are not deep enough to make large preflop calls with speculative implied odds types of hands.
There is an easy formula that can be referenced when evaluating whether to call or fold preflop. I call it the “Ten-Times Twenty-Times” rule and it also applies to gapped suited connectors. Basically the rule states that you must make ten times the raise size from the total pot when set mining, twenty-times the raise size when calling with suited connectors and thirty times the raise size from gapped suited connectors. The “total pot” references the amount won by the end of the hand—which is another way of saying your opponents’ effective stack.
Let’s look at an example. Say we are playing a $1-$2 no-limit game where we have $300 and our opponent has us covered. He raises to $20 and we hold 44 in position. How do we determine if we can call? Just multiple the raise size ($20) by ten and the rule dictates that we need to make $200 from the total pot to call. Since the effective stack sizes are $300 we can call. The actual odds in flopping a set are about one out of 8.5. We use one out of ten to account for the times that we flop a set and our opponent misses or has a hand like KK on an ace high board.
We can use the same math when dealing with suited connectors and gapped suited connectors. In the above example if our opponent raised to $20 we could not call with a hand like 5 ♣ 6 ♣ because if we multiple the raise size times twenty we end up with $400—but our effective stacks are only $300. The same could be said if he raised to $15 and we held 9 ♥ 7 ♥. Here, we multiple the preflop raise size by thirty and realize that we are not deep enough to continue on.
The math here is really simple and will immediately increase your win rate. The formula is only intended as a rough guide, however. Some have made the argument that to set mine we actually need fifteen or twenty times especially in tougher games where opponents will not stack off easily with overpairs. You should also adjust the numbers when calling opponents that have much looser opening ranges because it is more unlikely that they will not have a big hand when we flop a set.
Be aware of playing suited connectors and gapped suited connectors from out of position. Even if you are getting the correct twenty or thirty times most of the time it is not going to be profitable to call heads up from out of position. You too frequently flop a draw with these types of hands and are at a big disadvantage when playing first to act. If I am playing against a really tough opponent from the blinds—especially if they have a wide opening range from late position—I may not call with small pocket pairs either. Too often I will get bluffed off of the best hand or hit my set and not win the ten times I am looking for.