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Home arrow Poker Strategies arrow The Pace of Play and Positionarrow Playing It Loose And Tight
Playing It Loose And Tight


Loose poker players play a large percentage of hands. They have relatively low starting requirements, and they continue in the pot with relatively weak hands. Tight players play a small percentage of hands. Their starting requirements are high, and they are quick to throw away weak hands that don't develop into big hands. Some players always play loose. Others always play tight. Good players adjust their play to the games.

The higher the ante, the looser you play. The smaller the ante, the tighter you play. With a high ante, there is more money in the pot from the start; and the more money there is in the pot, the better pot odds you are getting to play hands that might not be worth playing were the ante very small. With a small ante, on the other hand, there's no point in gambling with marginal hands, especially when you know other players in the games are likely to be betting and calling only with big hands.

This brings us to a second consideration in deciding how loose or tight to play - namely, the way in which the other players in the games play. Assuming a normal ante - about 10 percent of the average future bets - it is commonly believed that when the players in the games play loose, you should play tight, and when the players in the games play tight, you should play loose. There is some truth to this principle. For example, you can steal antes with anything (a loose play) much more successfully against tight players, who will fold their marginal hands, than you can against loose players, who are likely to call you with those same hands. However, the principle of playing loose against tight players and tight against loose players is in need of refinement.



Semi-Bluffs in Loose Games

Remember that in a normal games, semi-bluffs have three ways of winning - by making the best hand later, by catching a scare card to make opponents fold later, or by making opponents fold immediately. It is these three possible ways of winning that make semi-bluffs profitable plays. But what is likely to happen in a loose game? First, loose players don't fold easily, so your semi-bluffs will rarely win immediately. Second, when you catch a scare card that doesn't really help your hand, loose players are more likely to want to "keep you honest" with a call than are average and tight players. Consequently, one of the ways a semi-bluff can win - when opponents fold immediately - has been all but completely eliminated; and a second way - when you catch scare cards - becomes doubtful. Without these two extra ways of winning, semi-bluffs no longer have positive expectation. Therefore, you must abandon most semi-bluffs when there's a high probability that the only way they can win is by improving to the best hand. With respect to semi-bluffing, then, it's true that you must play much tighter in a loose game.



In a tight games semi-bluffs increase in value, and even pure bluffs can be profitable since tight players are more likely to fold. Paradoxically, though, legitimate hands don't have nearly the value in a tight game that they would have in an average or loose games. The reason should be obvious. When you bet a legitimate hand for value in a tight games, you will be called only by players who have strong hands themselves because tight players starting.

The mathematical principle here is the same as the principle that governs bluffing against more than one opponent requirements are higher. In a loose game an opponent with two small pair at the end will probably call your bet with aces up. But when you bet that same hand in a tight game especially if both of your aces are showing and you get called, you cannot feel too comfortable. The caller probably has you beat.

Many aggressive players fail to devaluate their legitimate hands when they sit down in a tight games. They steal money with bluffs and semi-bluffs, but when they get a decent hand, they wind up losing. Then they mumble to themselves, "If I just never got a hand, I'd be doing great because it's with my good hands that I lose." What they fail to realize is that in a tight games the value of a hand goes down because players who stay in the pot will have good hands themselves better hands on average than players in a regular games would have.

In a tight game, then, you loosen up on bluffs and semi-bluffs, but you tighten up on your legitimate hands. Nor would you play as many drawing hands in a tight games, since you'd be getting pot odds sufficient to make it worthwhile less often, and when you did hit, you wouldn't get paid off as much as you would in an average or in a loose games.


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