Playing in Loose Games

An Important Point

Before we delve into poker strategy, we want to stress a point that is very important in these types of games. When you are playing against bad players, the idea is to make the maximum profit from their mistakes. This is very different from playing perfectly.

For instance, theoretically you could program a computer to play expertly with proper game theory tactics and randomization so that, heads-up, nobody could beat it. However, that same program would not beat a bad player out of as much as is possible because it would be assuming the other guy is playing well.

Now, there is almost no question that if your opponent play badly, and you continue to play assuming he plays well, you will still win. But you will not win as much as someone who is adjusting to his poor play. And that is why most good players under perform in very good games. They do not adjust enough to optimize the amount of extra profit that can be made when someone is playing badly.

Here’s just one example of what we are talking about that doesn’t involve specific stradegy. When you are against bad players it is probably detrimental to mull over your decisions. When you sit there and think, you encourage bad players to play better against you.

You must understand that someone who plays poorly may do so for a variety of reasons. He might be an idiot. He might be drunk. Or he might be there to have fun. And it is not fun to play. It’s too boring you don’t play enough hands.

In many locations you constantly run into people who know how to play pretty well if they have to, but don’t. in a tournament they tend to play a little better, but their overall play is poor because they are there to have a good time. Of course they enjoy winning more than losing, but they enjoy playing most of all.

Now suppose that one of these players sees you debating over a decision. Believe it or not, some of them are unwittingly turned into better players against you because they begin to realize that there is more to this game than just having fun. We have noticed this over the years, and it usually occurs when a “fun” player sees a guy thinking hard about a particular decision.

So let’s say that you are in a game like this, you bet, and someone raises. Decide whether you are going to fold or call quickly. Don’t give that person, or others at the table, the opportunity to realize that you do in fact think about decisions. What may happen if you don’t follow this advice is that the “fun” player tightens up against you, but also thinks “You know what, I think I’m going to try to bluff this guy. I don’t think I could against someone else, but maybe I’ll throw a raise in against him. I don’t know if I have the best hand, but he thinks about throwing away so many hands, who knows.”

Notice that you accidentally make them play closer to the proper strategy. When a weak player sees you sitting there and thinking, you may cause him to play better, especially against you.

If you suffer from this problem, here are some suggestions. Since you only spend extra time on hands that are close anyway, you should quickly do one thing or another at random. Since the decision is close, neither one can be that bad. Better yet, every time you would stop to think, just call instead. It’s better than thinking.

Another way to get around this problem is to be ready for every situation. Think one step ahead.

An obvious example would be when you flop top peir when there is a two-flush on board. If the flush poker card gets there on the trn and you bet, know ahead of time whether you will call or fld if your oppodent raises.

We have a friend who is a very good player, but who exhibits a characteristic that we don’t like. When he bets with a good hand he will fold quickly if someone raises him (if he thinks that folding is the correct play). That is good. But he also does the converse, which we disagree with. That is, when he is blluffing and gets raised he thinks for awhile. The reason he does that is that he doesn’t want to make it obvious that he is bluffing. So even though he knows that he is never going to call, he still thinks.

Our contention is that against bad players you shouldn’t think in this spot either. You shouldn’t care whether the guy thought you were bluffing or not. What is more important is that you don’t want to portray that you are capable of throwing away good hands for one more bet and look at every single decision critically. That can become a disaster when someone unbeknownst to you picks up on it, and steals the pot from you for one extra bet. It is terrible to create an atmosphere where someone whom you have noticed never bluffs will try a bluff only against you. Again, the reason why he tried it against you and not anybody else is the ambiance that you portrayed that has registered in his mind.

You must attempt to display a carefree attitude in your decision making. (However, you don’t have to be “everybody’s pal” or the “life of the party.”) In this way it will be unlikely for the stranger to pick up on you as being one of these guys who “I think I can run a bluff against.” (So you continue to throw your hand away when he does show strength.)

Besides stopping bluffs, another reason to act less seriously and in an apparently unthinking manner is to keep everyone relaxed and “playing loose.” A serious thinking mode of play on your part will not only cause people to make plays against you, but will also often make them tighten up. Players don’t want to feel like suckers who are helping this serious pro make a living.

There are other things you should do or not do along these same lines. For instance, you should never make a play that makes a fool of a person. There will be times when a check-raise is clearly your best option. But if it is heads-up and you are against one of these “weakies” who is there for the fun of it, don’t do it.

Now we don’t pass on this play because we are afraid that it will make him quit. Rather it is because if you make a fool of a guy (with a check-raise for instance in a heads-up spot), he is going to tighten up against you and focus in on you for the rest of the game. He is no longer there to have fun. He is there to beat you. He is now playing better. You have put him in a frame of mind other than “let’s just be here and have a good time.” (It is okay to check-raise in multiway poker pots since no one is likely to take this personally.)

Besides not thinking or acting seriously or using tricky heads-up plays, there are other things you should not do if you want people to play badly. For example, throwing cards or getting mad when you lose a pot. You never want the tourist to say to himself “I’m here to enjoy myself and have comradery with everybody. If I beat this guy he’s going to be so upset that it’s not going to be fun anymore. I don’t want to have to feel guilty when I win.”

So these are some non-stragtegic concepts which are important to know in order to keep bad poker players playing badly. But this we mean “weak-loose.” That is, they are playing too many hands, they are not doing very much bluffing, they are easy to read, and they are going too far with their hands. That’s the ultimate for you.