Evaluating tight and loose betting players

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Are you tight or loose? Let’s characterize these diametrically opposed playing traits.

Tight poker players are very conservative, calling or betting only when holding a strong hand. If the flop doesn’t improve their hands, they toss their holecards into the muck with little hesitation – unless they hold a made hand (preflop, that’s A-A, K-K, and Q-Q) or premium drawing hand (A-K, A-Q, A-J, and K-Q). If they don’t have an Ace in the hole, they will often fold when an Ace hits the board unless they can beat a pair of Aces. They would never start with Ace-rag even if suited – in any position.

On the opposite end, loose players may call to see the flop with almost any two cards in the hole, rarely mucking their hands preflop. After the flop, they are likely to chase with just a few outs – going all the way to the river with any hand that has even a prayer of winning the pot. “Loose as a goose!” Those are the extremes. Most players are somewhere in between.

I‘m sure I need not remind you of the aggressive player. Such a player is prone to bet or raise – or re-raise – quite often – perhaps at every opportunity. A “maniac” is the ultimate poker aggressor; he bets/raises almost with abandon. A loose player may or may not also be aggressive. Whereas, a tight player is more likely to play aggressively only in certain situations – when he deems raising will benefit him.

A Table’s Texture

Do you prefer playing in a tight, a loose, and/or an aggressive game? We label that the “texture” of the table (game). Which is best to ensure a winning session? A few loose-aggressive players will quickly determine the texture of the game. Tight players have much less influence.

Your preference

So, what kind of game would you prefer? There are a number of aspects to be considered. Let’s assume you are a recreational hold’em player (not a pro), as are the vast majority of us. We play for the enjoyment and mental challenge; but our goal always is to win as often as possible and as much money as possible.

Personally, I much prefer a game that is neither too tight nor too loose, and moderately aggressive with occasional raises preflop and during the play of the hand. I like to be the one who does more than his share of the raising. This gives me better control over the game.

To avoid wasting chips, at such a table, I can see the flop without having to invest heavily with marginal hands – including small/middle pairs – that barely satisfy the Hold’em Algorithm criteria. If the flop improves my hand, then I am ready to continue in that hand, including betting/raising when it is to my advantage.

Pros and Cons

Tight games usually result in small pots; meanwhile, the cost-to-play is the same as in games with bigger pots. That’s a recipe for going home a loser. Very tight games should be avoided.

On the other hand, loose games with a few aggressive players often produce monster pots. That’s nice, isn’t it? You can win big! But there’s a big problem here: Most of the hands you play will be vulnerable to some degree – unless you happen to hold the nuts (quite rare). Loose players are wont to chase with just a few outs. The more chasers in the pot, the more likely one will river the card he needs to beat your hand. That’s a statistical fact – a matter of probability. And, that’s costly!

Often you will hold a drawing hand with a significant number of outs. In that case, multi-way pots are preferable with little if any raising by your opponents, so you have a Positive Expectation (pot odds higher than your card odds). It’s easier to enjoy a winning session at such a table.

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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