Playing small pocket pairs against different styles (Part 3)

October 22, 2012 by  
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Part 3: Versus Loose Passive Opponents

‘Loose’ and ‘Passive’ should be music to our ears. Our opponents will be willing to pay good money for hands that don’t justify the investment (Loose) and we don’t even have to worry about being put under pressure (Passive).

Furthermore, when we are lucky enough for the flop to connect with our pair we should be able to engineer a situation that brings about calls to our bets, to the extent that we can even emerge from the pot with the maximum payout. Remember, Loose-Passive players call all the way through each street having paired an ace, for example, while they also tend to be happy to pay over the odds for flush draws (on the turn, too). Consequently there’s no need to be conservative, rather we should exploit the big weakness that identifies such players. Unlike pots involving Tight-Passive opponents (see Part 2), where our implied odds are vastly reduced, against Loose-Passives we can look forward to very juicy implied odds.

With this in mind, the implications of holdings such as small pocket pairs holds a great deal more significance when Loose-Passive opponents enter the equation. Note that stack size is also a key factor – it is assumed in all four articles in this series that we have a stack of sufficient size with which to play properly, and this is particularly important here, where it makes sense to give ourselves the opportunity to make as much as possible from the excellent implied odds.

Given that we need to try to see as many flops as possible with our small pocket pairs, and that we need also to maximise our chances when we do manage to hit a set, the next question revolves around whether we should be seeking to just limp pre-flop (and subsequently call a raise if enough players will be involved) or instead fatten up the pot a little from the off with a sensibly sized raise (i.e. one that can be called). Incidentally, we shouldn’t forget that when we don’t hit a set and our check on the flop meets with aggression, then it’s time to give up the hand – against this particular style it’s just not worth trying bullying tactics.

Whether to limp or raise is obviously situational, and position plays a role. The later we are the more action (or otherwise) we have seen, while being in early position obviously means more guesswork. The safer option would be to limp when early, for example, because we don’t know what’s coming. This isn’t set in stone, of course, and if there’s a history of a few players habitually calling modest pre-flop raise then it’s fine to step up a gear now and then. But we should steer clear of such plays when people have been 3-betting.

An advantage of raising with a multi-way pot is that the bigger the pot, the bigger our ‘standard’ bets become, making it easier to get more money in against players we dominate without having to conspicuously bet too much. Having said that, even after limping it’s possible against Loose-Passive types to juice up the pot and make the job easier by setting the tone with an over-bet on the flop.

The more players involved, the better our EV, and the more justified we are in raising pre-flop. It also makes sense to be in a raised pot when big stacks are in play so that we can get the best chance of winning big.

Generally, limping is the more prudent option but, importantly, the aim is to still be in the hunt on the flop in multi-way pots.

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador

Self-assessment: seeing past our style

August 13, 2012 by  
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Not long ago on 32Red Poker we concentrated on playing styles by categorising the major conventional approaches, namely Tight Aggressive, Loose Aggressive, Tight Passive and Loose Passive. Of course it’s impossible to avoid being too simplistic but, essentially, the point was to help recognise our own characteristics as well as to better determine the kind of players we find ourselves up against and, in turn, consider how we might subsequently deal with the more obviously defined player types.

While this serves as a constructive starting point and a guide as to how we might be perceived by others (and how we can take this a few steps further to influence this perception), there are aspects of the learning/improvement process that benefit from removing our personal player type tag altogether.

One such key subject is the occasional requirement of rigorous self-assessment. When it comes to addressing our bad habits and poor plays, plus ironing out those mistakes we are aware of but have done little about, it’s imperative that during this corrective process we remember not to label ourselves (or, at least, to avoid doing so too rigidly).

If we are proud to be Tight Aggressive, for instance, then rather than actually do something about running into – and folding against – check-raises too often after overdoing continuation bets, we might instead stubbornly stick with this tactic because c-betting is part and parcel of our style and, indeed, defines us a TAG. Similarly, a ‘modern’ Loose Aggressive player tends to tread a fine line between success and failure, and those who put down losing too many big pots to bad fortune or lucky calls and so on when the facts suggest they’re being too loose, and reading the game and their opponents poorly, are allowing their desired image to take priority.

The best way to avoid style literally getting in the way of substance is to keep in mind that, to achieve constructive change, we need to deconstruct the whole, and this means dispensing with inflexible presumptions that might better be described as vanity.

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32red Poker Ambassador

What type of poker player are you?

June 20, 2012 by  
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Iron Mike Tyson famously stormed out of his corner from the opening bell looking for a quick knockout. Barcelona like to pass their way up the field to the opposition’s goal. Pete Sampras dominated tennis with his almost Terminator style serve-and-volley tactic.

Most sports can be approached in different ways, and poker is no exception. Although poker, being such a situational game, requires us to be flexible in order to deal with all sorts of scenarios, we can as a general guide put most players into one of the following four simplified categories.

Tight Aggressive

The tight aggressive (or TAG) style is the classic, ideal approach, albeit not the only favourite in the modern game. TAG means getting involved only with quality hands (extending the range a little in position), and playing them aggressively … Read more.

How to play against Tight Aggressive players

Loose Aggressive

There was a time when TAG was the only way to play and LAG was for reckless, impatient fools. In many ways this is still the case because, compared with tight, selective, sober aggressive play this style is much more difficult to get right … Read more.

 How to play against Loose Aggressive players

Tight Passive

While being generally tight is a positive attribute when part of an overall strategy, we need to be aware of the distinction between deliberate, selectively aggressive play and a negative, passive approach … Read more.

How to play against Tight Passive players

Loose Passive

As the name suggests, a loose-passive player gets involved in lots of hands – with a very wide starting hand range – but tends not to strive for the initiative, instead passively going with the flow, even when most probably behind … Read more.

How to play against Loose Passive players

Loose Passive

June 18, 2012 by  
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As the name suggests, a loose-passive player gets involved in lots of hands – with a very wide starting hand range – but tends not to strive for the initiative, instead passively going with the flow, even when most probably behind.

Loose-passive players are commonly given the unflattering label of being ‘calling stations’ and, not surprisingly, this is a style of play that is guaranteed to lose over time. Playing too many hands is already a very poor strategy, playing them passively compounds the problem.

How to play against Loose-Passive players

Identifying loose-passive players isn’t difficult but it is worth keeping in mind that there is a difference between these and trappy players. Obviously, when trying to exploit loose-passive types we are going to have more success betting strong hands than by bluffing. Calling stations mistakenly put their faith in mediocre holdings and are prepared to see the hand out to conclusion. With this in mind it is a bad idea to bet with equally average hands. The aim is to reach showdown with the winner.

Note as well that it is easy to come unstuck against loose-passive players if we allow them to overtake us by catching cards because we’ve given them cheap draws. Meanwhile, if such a player suddenly wakes up with a massive bet, then it is very likely they’re on a monster, and we have to be prepared to let go even when we have a good but beatable hand.

Given that loose-passive players allow us to dictate the progression of a hand it is imperative that we force them to pay through the nose for their habitual calling. When we have a strong hand, not only must we make a point of betting at every opportunity, but an effective tactic is to overbet because bet sizes don’t really concern loose-passive players – they’re happy to keep calling big bets at each stage and we need to extract as much value as we can when the opportunity arises.

Generally,  be patient, avoid bluffing, and bet big with strong hands.

No Limit Cash Games: Loose Tables II

August 8, 2011 by  
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No Limit Cash Games:  Loose Tables II

Following on from the Loose Tables introduction, here we feature how different types of loose players make for quite different tables, each requiring very different strategies. These are Loose Passive and Loose Aggressive.

A Loose Passive table has a number of players who have a tendency to limp/call pre-flop with all kinds of hands. This results in a much higher frequency of smallish multi-way pots than is usual.

Significantly, loose passive players, as the name suggests, are unlikely to re-raise us pre-flop, meaning we will get more opportunities on this type of table to get to the flop with hands that offer very good implied odds (such as suited connectors and small pairs) under the radar by joining the limp-fest. These holdings are perfect for multi-way pots. If we miss the flop we’ve had a good value punt, while the trick when hitting big with this or any strong hand is to avoid betting too big post-flop in order to derive maximum value from the passive callers who have caught some kind of (lesser) hand. The ideal scenario is to gradually build the pot and subsequently induce calls at each stage. Remember that with draw-heavy boards we need to bet sufficiently big with our made hands – passive players shouldn’t be given cheap draws any more than other players! If we have a drawing hand ourselves we should take the free card (which we’ll be able to do often) rather than run into potential trouble with a bet.

Playing strong hands pre-flop on a loose passive table, on the other hand, means having to put in hefty raises. Even a conventionally acceptable pre-flop raise of 3xBB might still not prevent loose passive opponents from anyway lining up to see the flop with a collectively wide range of hands, which is very bad news for pocket aces, for example. Instead we need to adopt a betting strategy specific to this situation in order to minimise potential banana skins, namely raising at least 5xBB to properly thin out the opposition.

Loose Aggressive tables are a different animal entirely. Here we have players keen on raising and re-raising pre-flop, the result being larger pots that don’t have as many contenders as a loose passive table. Consequently we won’t be able to liberally enter pots with speculative hands due to the large amount of (re-)raising going on. It’s fine to call a raise with such a hand in late position when it is unlikely another raise is coming to price us out, but a big mistake is to immediately call the opener’s raise with a small pocket pair, for instance, when the table has been routinely seeing re-raises.

As for premium hands like big pairs, then here, too, we can bet strongly. As well as thinning down the field – preferably down to a lone opponent – our big raises are no different to the table style and thus serve to well disguise our hand, and the loose aggressive table character also brings with it the not unlikely possibility that someone will dive in with a re-raise or even an all-in. On a loose passive table we worry a little that we might not be able to get the most out of our big pairs, but against loose aggressive players the action can drag us along to paradise.

Obviously we need to have a decent appreciation of the table dynamics and the players but this is not difficult to get to grips with. Good observation will also help us for the post-flop phase, and we know that on a loose aggressive table we can expect players to pay through the nose with draws, for example. Consequently we should bet very big – we can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, and while we will lose some big pots against flushes and straights, if we succeed in helping the opposition remain true to their loose aggressive tendencies we will profit in the long-term. Being too tricky by checking monsters can often backfire on loose aggressive tables because these players can be quite wary of sudden checks and, importantly, by turning down an opportunity to build the pot we sacrifice making increasingly bigger bets as the hand develops.


On loose passive tables we need to bet extra big with premium hands pre-flop (to thin down the field), not too big with made hands post-flop (to keep the passive caller calling), and take free cards rather than bet.

On loose aggressive tables we should also not be afraid to bet big pre-flop, but should maintain the aggression (when in Rome…) with made hands post-flop.

Good luck at the tables,

Angus Dunnington (AngusD)
32Red Poker Ambassador