In Texas Hold’em, you want to win as much money as possible. The more players you make pay off in the long run, the bigger your bankroll will be. This is why it’s important that you don’t get too greedy and play tight against your opponents; this is not a profitable strategy. So what should you do instead?
Let’s say you are playing with a $5/$10 no-limit hold’em table, and you have a big stack of chips in front of you. You’ve had a few good hands recently, and you’re feeling confident about your ability to take down some pots when you are dealt a bad hand. Your opponent has a decent pot-sized chipstack in front of him as well.
The flop comes down and your opponent bets his remaining chips into the pot. He has a strong hand, but he also knows that you have been on a bit of a hot streak lately. You call his bet.
You have two pair (Ace-King or King-Queen) and the turn card is a blank. Your opponent makes another bet, which you match. The river brings you four cards, making your flush draw. You raise all-in and your opponent calls.
What do you do now?
Playing tight vs. loose players
Your opponent is a loose player, meaning that he plays for fun rather than for profit. In other words, he doesn’t care about his net gain from each hand – he cares only about winning the game. If he thinks that he can beat you, then he’ll put up a lot of chips in order to try and win the hand.
On the other hand, if he thinks that you have an edge over him, he won’t put up nearly as many chips in hopes of beating you. He sees himself as having an equal chance of winning. And that means that you could end up in situations where you lose money even if you win the hand because your opponent was less aggressive than you were.
So how does this impact your play? Well, let’s say that our hypothetical player has a strong hand and he has a great read on our player. He realizes that we are a loose player who likes to play aggressively when we’re on a good streak. This means that he may decide to play really tight to us.
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What might he do?
Well, he may consider betting small amounts into each hand until he gets the best hand. Once he has the best hand, he may choose to bet very large and try to bluff us out of the hand. Or he may just wait for a better opportunity to come along. Either way, he’s going to be less likely to make a mistake by playing too aggressively against us. We know that he isn’t going to shove his whole stack into the pot every time, so we can relax and play our best poker.
Why is this a problem? Because we don’t want to play so loose that our opponent can take advantage of us. That would result in losing money. But it’s also true that we don’t want to be too tight either, because that would mean that we’d be forced to fold too many pots. That would lead to poor results as well.
We need to find the right balance between being loose and being tight.
Tight vs. loose players
The other extreme is a tight player. A tight player is one who plays aggressively in hopes of taking money away from their opponents. They tend to be really short-stacked, and they usually play with very little variance. Their biggest fear is getting called by a stronger player.
For example, let’s say that our opponent is a loose player and he decides to play super tight against us. He may only bet half of his stack into any given hand and never bet larger unless he has a strong hand (like two pair). Now, let’s say that we are a loose player who wants to play really tight. Maybe we decide to only bet half of our stack into each hand. When our opponent gets a weak hand like a single pair, we’ll decide to bet all-in and hope for a showdown. Our opponent thinks that we are a loose player who tends to bluff, so he’s going to fold most of the time. This leads to us keeping our stack intact and continuing to play loose.
But what if our opponent decides to be super tight? Well, we’ll have to be super loose to take advantage of his mistakes. For instance, maybe he thinks that we are a loose player who only bets half of our stacks into most hands. So he doesn’t want to risk betting our entire stack into any given hand. He’ll therefore only bet half of his stack into any given hand, regardless of whether or not he has a strong hand. If we bet all-in, then he’ll almost certainly call us because he doesn’t think we have anything. So we end up calling him back and trying to pick up some free hands.
This is where we want to be. We want to be loose enough to take advantage of his mistakes, yet tight enough to make sure that he doesn’t catch us with any big bluffs.
Balance is key
So there you go. Playing tight vs. loose requires us to balance our aggression level with our opponents’ weakness level in order to maximize our profits. It’s difficult to achieve this ideal balance, and so we often find ourselves falling somewhere in the middle. If you want to improve at the game of poker, you’re going to need to figure out how to play well with both types of players.
Do you see yourself as a tight or a loose player? Have you ever found yourself being too aggressive and folding too many pots? Share your thoughts below!