Online Poker Strategy Session: Cash Games, Bluffing, Tells, & More With New LearnWPT Instructor Michael Gagliano

June 9, 2021
Online Poker Strategy Session: Cash Games, Bluffing, Tells, & More With New LearnWPT Instructor Michael Gagliano

Longtime New Jersey online poker grinder and Twitch streamer Michael “Gags30” Gagliano is the latest addition to the LearnWPT strategy team.

A consistent force in cash games and tournaments during his 15-year career, Gagliano has several high profile tournament titles. In 2016 he won a World Series of Poker bracelet for $448,463.

Gagliano is an East Coast poker scene regular and also an ambassador for Borgata Poker and partypoker US Network. He has more than $6 million in live and online tournament earnings and nearly a decade as a professional coach. He recently spoke with USPoker about online poker cash games, bluffing, and more.

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Adjusting to online cash games

The growing number of online poker players in US regulated markets has been a plus for cash game players looking for action.

Michael Gagliano battles in the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic. (photos courtesy WPT)

When playing hands, Gagliano advises being more discerning for a better route to success over the long run.

“The biggest mistake that I see players making is simply playing too many hands,” he says. “It can be very tempting to play lots of differently suited hands or hands that have an Ace in them, but in most situations it’s best to stick to better starting hands.

“Playing a stronger range preflop will also make the rest of the hand much easier to play, as it’s easier to make better decisions when on average you’re starting with better hands.

For tournament players looking to add cash games, Gagliano also has some advice. The transition can be difficult, so it may be wise to play at lower stakes than your usual tournament range.

“Give yourself a chance to get used to the play style in cash games before moving back to your usual buy-in level,” he says.

Another important factor is picking a cash game format that closely matches the tournaments you’re used to playing. For example, if you play eight- or nine-handed tournaments, don’t jump into heads-up or three-handed cash games with fast and aggressive play. 

“Instead, take some time to find some nine-handed cash games or at least some full six-handed tables so you can ease yourself in,” Gagliano says.

Analyze playing styles

Additionally, take notice of the differences in playing style between tournaments and cash games. Most tournaments have antes while most cash games don’t.

This difference affects play preflop tremendously, Gagliano says. Stacks are going to almost always be deeper in cash games. Hands that work well in tournaments might not always be great at 100 big blinds deep.

It’s also productive to analyze the play of others at the table, keeping in mind some key ideas. 

“Try to take notice of what the better regulars are doing,” he says.

Some concepts to consider when analyzing opponents include:

  • What kinds of sizings are they commonly using?
  • How often are they playing pots from under the gun or from the button?
  • Why are they playing tighter in certain spots or looser in others?

“The transition to cash is a rewarding one,” Gagliano says, “and once you start figuring out how to better play some of these unique situations you will quickly feel yourself improving as a poker player.”

Looking for tells

Finding a tell on an opponent in a live game has always been a big part of poker. Is a particular player doing something that gives away the strength of his hand?

While it’s not quite as easy, online players may also have some tells.

“The biggest tells I look for in online cash games are bet sizing tells,” Gagliano says. “Try to figure out what type of player someone is by how they think about bet sizing. Do they bet big with their strong hands, or do they bet big when they’re trying to get you to fold?

“If you can figure out how someone thinks about their sizing, you can gain extremely valuable information on what they may be holding. Sometimes you can gather a large amount of information about how a player thinks just by seeing one or two hands that they’ve played.”

Mixing in some successful bluffing

Finding the right time to bluff can really pay off in certain situation. On the other hand, bluff too much and that chip stack can be hacked away by opponents. That’s the tightrope players must walk. But Gagliano notes that occasionally mixing in some bluffs can be very rewarding in the long run. 

“This is a complex topic worthy of a much deeper discussion, but to simplify: you need to bluff sometimes in poker because if you were never bluffing, then no one would ever call your bets, and you wouldn’t be able to make money,” he says.

Pick bluffing spots based on your hand and compare it to all the overall hands you might have in a situation. This helps analyze if it’s time to make a move.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you very normally have a very strong hang, but this time have a very weak hand,” Gagliano says, “then you’ve likely found a very good situation to start bluffing.”

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New role at LearnWPT

As a longtime poker coach, Gagliano not only brings a history of teaching others but also considerable experience. He’ll be helping out both tournament and cash game players.

“I’m very excited to be part of LearnWPT,” he says. “I’ll be making strategy content to help others improve their game. Being that I specialize in both high stakes multi-table tournaments as well as cash games, players can expect to see me produce a variety of content.

“I hope to help players to better bridge the gap between solid theoretical play and high-EV [expected value] exploitative play.”

Players on the partypoker US Network have already become used to LearnWPT’s strategy offerings. The site recently partnered with the network to help players improve their skills as well as streaming some final table action.

Gagliano now becomes another addition to the team and hopes to help players create their own poker success stories.

New members of LearnWPT can gain access to the first month for only $5. Click here for more information.

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