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About loose and tight play
IntroductionIn this Article
- Tight is right
- Bluffs only make sense if opponents can fold
- Slowplay is rubbish
In poker there are different roads to success. Depending on your experience and knowledge you can win in many ways.
In general there are two different playing styles:
- loose play
- tight play
This article will explain the meaning of these strategies and reveal the advantage of tight play.
What does loose or tight actually mean?
A loose player predominantly plays many hands without emphasising their pre-flop value. This includes playing hands with a low or even negative EV.
Loose players also tend to continue playing weak hands after the flop (e.g. low pairs)
A tight player plays only very few hands. A starting hand chart for instance, helps him select his hands by following certain criteria. He doesn't play weak or marginal hands post-flop as often as a loose player does. His play is generally more conscientious.
So what are TAGs and LAGs?
TAG means tight aggressive and is the ideal basic style of play.
A TAG plays few starting hands (see SHC) and only plays them when he hits a flop or a promising draw. However, he plays these hands very aggressively and protects them by raising and betting for value.
LAG means loose aggressive. This kind of player plays substantially more starting hands and doesn't even fold them if he doesn't hit the flop. His play has a negative expected value in the long run.
The bigger the pot, the higher the blinds and the more opponents in the game, the looser you can play. Sounds paradoxical? At first perhaps, but note that more players equals higher antes and higher blinds automatically cause better pot odds. All of this gives speculative hands, like small suited connectors, a positive expected value.
While such hands have no value against a single opponent who isolates you, they will improve in multiway pots. The pot odds here will rise dramatically and far fewer of your hands need to actually develop into strong hands to get a positive expected value.
Your own game must not only adapt to the game and the table, but also to the opposition.
Bluffs and semi-bluffs
Semi-bluffs should only be used against tight players. The reason for this is simple: the semi-bluff has a positive expected value due to the assumption that you can make an opponent fold under certain circumstances. Without this possibility, the semi-bluff has a negative expected value. In comparison to loose players, tight players will often fold, which makes a semi-bluff unprofitable.
The same is true for a bluff, since the expected value of the bluff is entirely based on the probability of a fold. If you are called down to the river by a very loose player, a bluff has a very negative expected value.
Your starting hands in a loose game don't need to be as good as in a tight game, because the opposition for their part will tend to play worse hands and give poor starting hands a larger edge. You should fold AQo against an early position raise from a tight player at a 10 man table, but against a loose player you can stick around.
The improved pot odds in loose games tend to help small suited connectors become legitimate starting hands. If you hit a flush or a straight with them, you will have a very high expected outcome for that one hand, especially since loose games typically lead to large pots.
In loose games, you should play more draws than in tight games. The reason for this is as follows: loose game typically lead to better pot odds, especially better implied odds (meaning expected value). If you complete your draw, the expected value will increase with the number of opponents.
Slowplay should be avoided in both tight and loose games. Loose players will often just check and you'll miss out on value if you don't bet yourself. Tight players will fold to your aggression more often than not, but checking won't lead to a bigger pot either.
As we can see, adapting your own play to the style of your opponent's and to the structure of the game (antes, blinds etc.) is very important.
Many tactical possibilities in poker are only applicable in particular situations (e.g. bluffs and semi-bluffs).
- You should avoid bluffs and semi-bluffs in loose games
- Speculative hands like suited connectors gain profit in loose games, because there's a better chance of getting paid for them
- In tight games you can loosen up and play more bluffs or semi-bluffs, since tight players are more inclined to fold
- Select your starting hands carefully
- Suited connectors lose value if there aren't many players to pay you off up to the flop
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