As we find ourselves in the middle of the WSOP I figured that it would be a good time to discuss the adjustments that we should make playing against “tournament” players in a cash game. First of all whenever we get into this situation it is an absolute dream for winning ring game players. Most of the time players that play only tournaments are losing players in general. This is not ALWAYS true but in poker we usually have to deal with stereotypes and generalizations when dealing with unknowns. Nowadays it is almost impossible to beat live tournaments that are not ridiculously high buy-ins because of the cost of travel and the high tournament entry fees. So if you find someone spending most of their playing time concentrating on lower buy-in tournaments you can make the reasonable interference that they cannot beat cash games. Again, before you send in the scathing hate mail there can always be exceptions to the rule. But when you take a look at the necessary bankroll to win the same hourly in tournaments as say a $2-$5 cash game you realize that it needs to be exponentially larger.
When you get tournament specialists into a cash game some of their leaks become very exposed. Because they are used to playing a shorter stacked style one of the main things that they have difficulty doing is folding overpairs and top pair with good kickers. You will see these players lose tons of money not recognizing when their hand is not good in certain situations. For experienced cash game players sitting deep against these guys is like a giant freeroll because all you have to do is wait to flop two pair or better against their big hands. Another big leak that these tourney guys have is bluffing too much and in the wrong spots. Because they are used to people fighting for chips in tournaments where the blinds escalate and you need to sometimes make moves to survive they always think that everyone else is bluffing. They do not properly adjust to the fact that a solid cash game player is rarely continuation betting into more than 3 people as a bluff. They just always think that when someone bets on ragged boards as the preflop raiser they have AK.
When you combine these two things together and also add the fact that when you win a pot in a tournament and actually gain chips it gives you an inherent advantage you see why these players also play with a rampant style of over pot control. Most are not capable of folding their big hands and do not want to be put into a situation where they are faced with making a tough decision. They therefore miss critical streets of value with medium strength hands that more experienced cash game players would almost always take advantage of. And it is not just pot controlling earlier streets where this value is missed out. On the river they feel like they do not want to open the betting round up for the same reasons and will often times check back hands that should be almost mandatory value bets.
So you can see as a cash game player you should always welcome “tournament” players into your ring games. Their mistakes are common, frequent and easy to exploit.