After writing my column on “Too Much Raising Preflop,” I thought it appropriate to offer GT readers more advice about playing at highly aggressive tables. Playing in such games can be very expensive. On the other hand, a few changes can substantially increase your winnings, since the pots are bound to be bigger.
As suggested in the previous column, increasing your starting hand selection criteria can make a big difference in your favor.
Consider making a table change, hoping the second table is less aggressive – much less raising preflop. There is always the option of taking a break from the game, hoping the texture changes during that time to a friendlier one. You do not have to leave the table during your break. Just quietly sit there and observe your opponents as they play their hands. This could be a good opportunity to enjoy a light meal as you relax. But keep your eye on the game and the players as you do so. I cannot over-emphasize how important it is to your “poker health” to know how each opponent plays his hands. It might help to take some notes, rather than rely on your memory.
If the heavy-raising at your table is due to a “maniac” (he loves to raise/re-raise), position can make a big difference:
(1) You are seated to the maniac’s right and must declare before him. Observe him before you act. If he picks up just enough chips to call the Big Blind bet (that’s a valuable tell), call the bet if your starting hand satisfies the Hold’em Algorithm criteria; otherwise fold unless your hand well exceeds the criteria.
(2) You are seated to his left so he acts before you. If he just calls, you can feel more comfortable in using the normal Hold’em Algorithm starting criteria. If you happen to hold a made hand (A-A, K-K, or Q-Q), and at least one other opponent has already limped, this is a great opportunity to thin the playing field by making a raise – thereby making it more likely your hand will survive to take the pot at the showdown.
Two or more maniacs in the game makes it almost impossible to avoid getting caught in costly losing hands. Definitely avoid that table! No matter the texture of your table, it is very wise to “know” your opponents. What type of player is each? This information is bound to influence your decisions to your advantage.
Tight players usually should be believed when they make or call a raise, especially before the flop. Later in the hand, they might call a raise when they have lots of big outs – usually more than six (such as eight outs with a draw to an open-ended straight, or nine outs when drawing to a big flush). Opening the betting from an early position, almost shouts out the tight payer has a monster hand. Unless you have a similar hand (preferably, the nuts – or near to it), believe him, and muck your cards to save some chips.
Loose-aggressive players and deceptive ones (prone to bluff quite often) are less likely to have the best hand. If you have a hand that could take the pot – especially when the pot odds are favorable – a call is in order. Know your opponents’ playing traits to be able to make wiser decisions in your favor.
And, as suggested above, tells can provide vital information. Carefully observe your opponents’ facial expressions and body motions as they study their hands. Some call this “body language.”
Example: Your opponent had been chatting with a friend standing behind him. Then, when the river card hit the board, he abruptly left the conversation, sat up straight, focusing on his hand, and then made a big bet or raise.