Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beating the Loose-Passive Texas Hold'em Game

I played very aggressively in Friday Night Poker.  When I had a strong starting hand, I raised.  When the action checked to me, I raised.  I fired big bets pre-flop, at the turn, and at the river, sometimes even if I knew I had the worst hand.  This aggressive play worked in the first game and I came from behind once it was down to the final 3 and won the game.

As I've mentioned before, except for a couple of very strong players, this Friday night game is primarily a loose-passive game.  Of the 10 regulars, we have 3 that are mostly tight-aggressive, 1 that is mostly loose-aggressive, and 6 that are mostly loose-passive.  This means that we have a lot of river card chasers and a lot of checking and calling.

The key to winning the loose-passive game is understanding what your opponents are likely to do.  They are going to call most small to medium sized pre-flop bets with a very wide range of starting hand combinations, but they aren't likely to continue if they don't pair on the flop or have a draw of some kind.  After the flop, they will likely check, but call many bets.  If they don't fold, they have a pair, a draw, or in my game, an Ace.  Bluffing them is not effective because they like to call and many of them either don't understand the odds of hitting their card or they may not care about the odds because they have more fun when they're in the hand.

Playing in a loose-passive game can frustrate a stronger player because they get drawn out on fairly often.  If a game has just 2 loose-passives, drawing doesn't happen as often, but with 6 players, it can just be maddening.  So, how do you play in a game with so many players that make you want to run in front of traffic?

1.  Loosen up some yourself and play a wider range of starting hands.  2 face cards are not necessarily needed to win these games.  With so many players usually hanging in to see the flop, smaller connecting cards like 7-8, 7-9, 6-8, and even 5-7 can be strong hands.  If everyone else wants to play their face cards and many of them stay in the hand, it stands to reason that your smaller cards have a greater chance of hitting.

2.  Don't bluff too often against the loose-passive player.  They want to call because playing is more fun than folding.

3.  Bet your medium to strong hands.  If they don't pair or have a draw, they will fold.  If they call, you'll have a pretty good idea what you're up against.

4.  Check your weaker hands and they will usually check behind you to give you cheap or free turn and river cards to possibly win with.

5.  If you bet and they raise, get out if you don't have a clear winner.  The loose-passive only plays aggressively when they have a big hand.

6.  If the loose-passive is in a position to act before you and they bet, use caution because they probably hit their card and you may be behind.  Or they may be betting a draw with lots of outs.  Be careful.  You may not be able to bet them off of those hands.

7.  Value bet more often, especially when draws clearly missed.

8.  Try not to mix it up with more than 2 loose-passives at a time.  It's better to isolate against a single player to reduce your odds of getting out-drawn.

9.  Know when you're beaten and get out.  This was my big mistake Friday night.

10.  Keep a long-term perspective because the odds are going to be in your favor in the long-run.  Drawing for a flush after the turn gives at best a 1:3 odds against hitting.  Drawing for an open-ended straight gives at best a 1:6 odds against hitting.  Hanging in for the chance to hit the 1 miracle card left in the deck that could give you the win gives an overwhelming 1:50 odds against hitting.  Your tight-aggressive style will win most of the time in the long-run.  So, hang in there.

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