Playing in Loose Games

Returning to Stud

So, how do you apply the previous concepts to a very good seven card stud game? That is, in a loose, passive game where many people play on third poker street and then play poorly after that you should:

1. Play more hands than you would if the players were better, especially if you can get in for just the bring-in. This is because weaker hands are still often better than theirs and also because even if they aren’t you can often outplay them later on.
2. Often try to keep the early betting down to the size of the bring-in or just one full bet on third street. This is because you gain a lot when bad players make incorrect calls on fourth street and beyond, as long as the pot is kept small.

Let’s discuss this second point in a little more detail. Even if you have a good hand, you should be a little less apt to raise than if you were against better players. This is not only because the hand doesn’t do well against many people, but for a second reason: With a hand that is pretty good but not great, if you don’t raise (and thereby cost yourself a little bit of money at that point), you gain it back plus some because had you made the pot bigger there would be less opportunities for your opponents to make significant mistakes later on.

Here is a general example. Suppose you know that a raise with a particular starting hand gains you $ 3 in expectation. It could still be wrong to raise. The problem is that by putting extra money in early you may make your opponent’s play on fourth poker street and beyond become “accidentally” correct or close to it. This might cost you more than the small amount gained on third street. Thus, while you should play more hands than almost all pros do, a lot of those hands that seem like automatic raises should not be raised. You want your skill to mean more on further rounds. There is a bit of a two-edged sword here. If you’re playing against extremely terrible obbonents, it’s hard not to raise with pretty good hands because even though you’re costing yourself money on the later streets, you’re gaining so much on third street since your hand is usually so much better than theirs. In other words, if people are coming in with absolutely everything, you have got to raise with a pair of jacks simply because your hand is so much better on average than so many of the other players.

But if these players are playing merely a bit looser than what they normally should, and then they play weekly and badly, a good reason not to raise is that when you make the pot larger, you are now making some of your opponents play correctly. This is in addition to the fact that some of these hands, such as the pair of jacks just mentioned, don’t do well in multiway pots.

There is also another reason why you want to play a few more hands in these loose, good games: It is the fact that since you’re playing a lot of hands, even if these extra hands don’t show much long term profit, your opponents will see this. Thus when you do have a top quality hand they won’t throw their hands away as much because they are frequently seeing you in the pot. When there are many people in the pot certain hands go up in value. They are basically the three-flushes, as well as certain high three-card-straights, even the ones that have gaps in them. For instance, a hand like

becomes fairly good because of the two-fuslh in addition to the straght cards if all of your cards are live. We have discussed this before in other parts of the book, but this concept is even more important in these loose games.

(By the way, when we talk about playing certain hands in loose games, we mean because the pot is multiway or you expect more people to call behind you. But even loose poker games sometimes have only heads-up pots, and therefore, you adjust your startegy and play your hand as you would in a short-handed situation. The fact that the game in general is loose doesn’t mean that you also change your strategy for those times when the pot is short-handed.)