This is the first in a two-part series looking at cap games and some of the adjustments needed to adapt your game.
Unlike a regular No-Limit game (where the amount you can buy in for is capped, usually at 100x the big blind, but there's no limit on what you can lose in a given hand), in a cap game you can buy in for as much as you like. Instead, the amount you can lose on any given hand is limited - or capped (thus the name).
Cap games are becoming increasingly popular in high-stakes poker. One reason: cap games are livelier than a standard game, since the maximum amount you can lose on a hand is capped. As a result, players are much more aggressive.
Interestingly enough, the amount of the cap varies slightly between No-Limit Hold'em and Pot-Limit Omaha Hi. For example, in No-Limit Hold'em, with blinds of $2/$4, you have a cap of $120. With the same size blinds in Pot-Limit Omaha Hi, you'd have a cap of $160.
No-Limit Hold'em Cap Games, Explained
For the sake of this article, we'll focus our discussion on No-Limit Hold'em cap games and some of the adjustments you'll need to make to end up with the money.
The primary adjustment is to play (selectively) more aggressively. Because of the cap, there's less of a penalty when you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar.
Since the most you can lose on any given hand is $120, you're far less likely to get yourself in any awkward situations on the turn or the river. By that time, all of the money is already in the middle.
Some other important adjustments to consider when playing in a cap game:
1. Don't play small pairs heads-up in raised pots.
In raised pots, small pocket pairs can't be profitably played for set value. Imagine a $2/$4 game. If the pot is raised to $15 pre-flop, you'll have to call $15 and the most you can win is $120. This is exactly 8x the $15 bet.
Despite a growing popularity in recent months, most players are still fairly unfamiliar with cap games. But the way a cap game works is relatively simple.
Since you'll flop a set approximately one in eight times, it's fairly clear you don't have the implied odds to try and hit your set.
Paradoxically, because the stacks are effectively much shorter, small pairs can also occasionally be played more aggressively than normal. If you think your opponent has raised with two big cards, a large re-raise is often a good play.
You have fold equity and even if your opponent calls, you're still a slight favorite to win a race.
2. If the pot has been raised, you can be more aggressive with your re-raises.
Specifically, if you think you're ahead of your opponent's range, play aggressively. Any time you have A-K in a cap No-Limit game, you should be happy to get all of your money in pre-flop.
I would also tend to re-raise all-in (the amount of the cap) with weaker hands such as 66-JJ and A-Q, A-J and K-Q anytime there was a raise followed by one or two callers.
3. Don't be afraid to move in with any reasonable draw.
As we've mentioned, one of the most interesting aspects of cap games is that people will play far more aggressively. This is primarily because their downside is limited to 30x the big blind.
Consequently, if you consider the possibility of your fold equity, it's not hard to see how there's little downside to playing your draws aggressively.
In fact, any reasonable draw should usually be played fast - especially if you're up against a single opponent (where the probability of getting your opponent to fold increases dramatically).
4. Avoid playing (small) suited connectors in raised pots.
The case for avoiding small suited connectors is much the same as that for steering clear of the small pocket pairs. Simply put, in a raised pot, you won't be able to get the correct (implied) odds to call a pre-flop raise.To play suited connectors profitably, you need to have much deeper stacks.
Of course, you can still limp in, and if there are several players in a pot, calling a small raise can be okay too. But you should very rarely attempt to play smaller suited connectors heads-up, especially in a raised pot.
I hope this introduction to cap games, and more specifically, No-Limit Hold'em cap games, has at least piqued your interest. Cap games are loads of fun and can be found at many different sites.
In our next article, we'll talk about Pot-Limit Omaha Hi cap games and some of the adjustments needed to adapt your game.
In the meantime, the next time you play some online poker for real money, search for a cap game and give it a try. I think you'll enjoy yourself.