In my first two columns I dealt with four of the 6 Universal Truths of Poker (UTP). Here I give you Universal Truth of Poker #5.
UTP #5 Play Tight in a Loose Game and Loose in a Tight Game
This is one of those general rules that many players learn early in their casino playing career and then repeat to other players new to the game. It sounds good, it makes sense generally, and it helps give players who are learning a good understanding of some general principles about how to play. But, unlike the other UTP, it isn’t even correct most of the time. It is a gross overgeneralization and more frequently wrong than right.
Let’s look at it closely to start. To play tight means to play more conservatively. It means, generally, to only play with the highest quality starting hands. A very tight player in Hold Em may only play a very high pair or an Ace-King or suited Ace-Queen, regardless of position. A very tight player in Stud might only enter a pot initially with high Premium Pairs like Queens or better. He’ll fold every other hand.
To play loose means to play many hands. It means that one has much lower than normal requirements for entering a hand. A very loose Hold Em player may play any two cards before the flop. He’ll certainly play any pair no matter what the position and nearly any hand from any position containing a face card or an Ace. A very loose Stud player may call with every starting hand he gets and will certainly call with any pair, any three-to-a-Flush or three-to-a-Straight, and maybe even with just two high cards.
A loose game is a game with many loose players – players who play many, many hands. A tight game is a game with many tight players – players that fold nearly every hand.
So what’s wrong with the UTP about playing loose in a tight Slot Gacor game and tight in a loose game? It seems to make sense to bet more if your opponents are likely to fold but be more selective if your opponents are likely to call.
The biggest mistake is that this simple strategy fails to appreciate the significant differences between the two types of loose players and the two types of tight players. Let’s look at loose players first.
Loose players can generally be divided into two categories. There are loose-passive players and there are loose-aggressive players. Loose-passive players are often known as calling stations. That is, they call a lot and raise little. Loose-aggressive players are the opposite. They are often known as maniacs because they raise a lot and call little. Your strategy will be very different against loose-passive players than it will be against loose-aggressive players.
If they are calling stations then just playing tightly doesn’t make sense. Since they are likely to call with sub-par bad starting hands, your starting hands can be relatively lower too since it is still likely to be better than the hands they’ll be playing. Also, since you know they won’t raise you later in the betting even if they do catch excellent hands, you can you can see more hands to start because you can see them develop cheaply. This means playing more loosely. Similarly, since they are likely to call your raises when you draw successfully, you will make more money on your drawing hands. This means that your drawing hands increase in value since when you hit them you’ll make more from them because your loose-passive opponents will be less likely to fold.
Accordingly, the general strategy against a table of loose-passive players is to play more loosely, not more tightly. You maximize your winning potential by just playing one level less loosely against these calling stations – making sure to become very aggressive when you make your high quality hands.
However, if the game is filled with loose-aggressive players this loose strategy doesn’t make sense. In a game filled with these maniacs you need to be much more selective. Calling early on with drawing hands will cost you much more money because of all the raises you’re likely to face. Since you can’t get in cheaply, you need to be more selective. And if you start out with an excellent hand you don’t need to be as aggressive because other players at the table are doing the betting and raising for you. Later in the hand, if you make your draws you can be aggressive. But even if you don’t, and still hold a borderline hand, you need to call because the pot has become so large with all of the raising of the maniacs. You need to become loose and passive with these kind of hands in this type of game. Against maniacs you’re going to play more tightly early, more passively early, and more loosely and passively later on with anything but monster hands.
Tight players can also be divided into two categories. There are tight-aggressive players and tight-passive players – also known as weak-tight players. Both players only play high quality starting hands. But weak-tight players are both conservative and timid. They seldom raise; they are easily bullied with raises and can be made to fold the best hand.
Against players like this you can play more loosely than normal because you might be able to win the entire pot later in the betting by being aggressive. If you’re against a weak-tight opponent who can be made to fold if he fears he’s beaten on the River it often makes sense to play mediocre hands all the way to the end, planning on a bet or a raise to get him to fold if his good high quality starting hand didn’t improve.
Similarly, if your opponent’s are too tight, you can be more aggressive early in an effort to steal the blinds or the antes. If you know they are more likely to fold, you can bluff and semi-bluff more, knowing there is a greater chance you will get them to fold either right away or when you apparently improve on a later Street.
When you’re in a game with weak-tight players it probably makes sense for you to play more loosely.
But this is not the case against a tight-aggressive player. If a tight-aggressive player enters the pot with a raise you should be less inclined to play than against a normal or loose player because there is a greater chance that the tight player has a high quality hand. And he is likely to continue betting and raising if necessary to get the maximum value out of his hand. Similarly, if the tight-aggressive player just calls a bet in front of you, you should be less inclined than normal to call along with a drawing hand – since he is likely to raise on a later Street with a high quality hand, making it expensive for you to draw.
When you’re against a tight-aggressive player it probably makes sense for you to play tightly as well.
Also, if the game is tight and aggressive then if a player raises you early, the pot is unlikely to have much money in it later on because few other players are likely to call the raise. In hands likely to be heads up against a single strong opponent you need to be more selective than in a hand with many opponents who are likely to be calling with inferior hands. Hence, a game of tight-aggressive players is tough to beat.
As you can see, there is much more to playing in tight in loose games than this simple UTP suggests. Unlike the others, I suggest that you dispose of it entirely when you sit down to play poker.