The notion that any poker book can help you master the entire game would be a false one, so when one comes along that helps you to focus in on one aspect and broaden the lesson you learn to the game as a whole, it’s to be grabbed with both hands. This week, I literally did just that as I devoured Evan Jarvis’ excellent Mastering Small Stakes Cash Games.
One of the common misconceptions about getting the better of small stakes cash games, for example a no-limit hold’em full ring table at blinds of $1/$2, is that experience guarantees results. Nothing in poker does that, so if at any stage of picking up the game recreationally you also pick up this book, then you’ll be doing your bottom line a big favor.
Mastering Small Stakes Cash Games — Overview
The book covers many of the aspects of beginner level cash games that you might expect, with tips on how to prepare for gameplay, the science of hand selection and how to use aggression correctly. It’s all about putting yourself in the optimum position to make a profit and Jarvis explains the fundamentals to take into consideration before you even begin really, really well.
Jarvis writes a lot in the early section of the book about a ‘Triple Threat’ tactic that has carried him through what is a highly successful poker career and its clear from his learnings that he is passing on what is really important to him and that has lasted to boot. As he puts it at the start of the book, the heart of poker is “a battle of wits between you and many varied opponents.” This comes through in his teachings and really gives you a competitive edge if you start using the tips he shows you work over time.
Jarvis sets out the terms for what he considered small cash games early; he’s talking about $0.50/$1 up to $2/$5, which some might say is the cusp of turning a hobby into a profession. That’s very handy, because Jarvis covers that too later in the book, but we’ll come back to what he feels need to be achieved first, namely crushing the lower stakes cash games first.
The Importance of Turning a Profit
As Jarvis explains in the early stages, becoming a winning poker player is not about turning pro, only turning a profit. Winning more often than you lose in these games is all about maximising your edge at the right time and pressing home when you feel you have your opponent beat. Part of the reason we do anything as human beings is our focus and what we are aiming for. While poker cannot always be measured in terms of a bottom line, working to targets and focusing on what you need to do to get there can be highly motivational.
Let’s say for example that you deposit $20 and want to make money playing cash games. If you sit down with that mindset, a bad diet or exercise plan and no focus on how to get there other than trying, then you could be beat before you click ‘Take Seat’. But the polar opposite is true if you are feeling healthy and rested, plan to turn that $20 into $50 and have a structured method for how you aim to get there.
Many of poker’s greatest lessons come from those who have already walked the path we ourselves want to tread, and Jarvis’ journey should be an inspiration to those who push for poker profit in small cash games. Working out your odds of winning hands is one thing, but Jarvis teaches you how to objectify your chances of winning based on that ‘Triple Threat’ theory of position, selection and then aggression.
Seeing your chance to make a profit in poker is everything, but after reading this book, I saw how it’s about a whole lot more to the consistent winning player. Winning the hand isn’t enough, and nor does losing the hand matter. What really matters most is putting yourself in the best possible position not only to win as often as you can, but to make the most money while you do it. One of the biggest takeaways from this book for me was how well communicated this obvious yet marginal difference between ambitions is explored by the author.
Takeaways from Mastering Small Stakes Cash Games
Inside the book, there are charts, diagrams and examples that are used sparingly but wisely in illustrating each theory as the author shows you how to put each tip into practice. Should you work your way through the book and take the lessons on board, it is the belief of the author – and this reader! – that the competent reader can utilise these pieces of advice to turn a consistent profit in playing the game.
From that baseline, there’s every chance that the useful, informative and entertaining knowledge that is revealed in Mastering Small Stakes Cash Games will make you want to read much, much more of Evan Jarvis’ work. It certainly did that for me, and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to work on leaks in their cash game play, or is starting out with the ambition of turning profit into a professional career, too.
There is a lot to learn in Mastering Small Stakes Cash Games and across over 350 pages, Evan Jarvis does a superb job in helping any reader take it all in and, most importantly, put it to practical use.