Tuesday, September 5, 2017

How to Beat Tight Poker Players - The Essential Guide

how to beat tight poker players
If you play low limit poker then you have undoubtedly encountered many tight poker players. They are also often referred to simply as nits.

A "nit" in poker is somebody who plays extremely tight. They only play very strong hands before the flop, and usually if they are betting after the flop, then they have something very good as well.

Learning how to smash the nits is absolutely essential for your success in today's micro stakes games. And the reason why is because they will be your most common opponent by far.

Go load up any game at NL50 and under right now and you will see countless players folding like it is their job!

Now it must be noted right from the start that there is no way that you are ever going to turn a massive winrate against these types of players. And this is because by playing so tight they actually protect themselves from ever losing too much.

You can only ever expect to truly win big against the players who are making tons of huge mistakes and playing way too many hands (i.e. the recreational players). But that is a topic for another article.

However, there are several ways to exploit the tight players in today's small stakes games in order to make sure that you are at least earning a solid profit against them.

And I actually have a few bonus tactics that you will find at the end for how to put them on tilt and potentially get them to spew off ALL of their chips to you.

So let's get started!


1. Play loose and steal their blinds


The first way to start making a steady profit against the tight players is by playing loose and stealing their blinds more often. Now you may have heard this before. However, it still amazes me how many people fail to have a look at who is in the blinds before they raise preflop. 

When you see a couple of nits who are going to fold perhaps 80% or 90% of their hands when you raise, then you can profitably raise with an absolutely huge amount of hands.

This is especially the case when it is folded to you in late position (the cutoff or the button). I always cringe a little bit inside when I see regs folding so much from these positions when there are a couple of extremely tight players in the blinds waiting to give their money away.

This is especially the case if they are the kind of nits who do not fight back very much either. You can quickly check their 3Bet% on your HUD in order to make sure. If it is below 5, then you should literally be attempting to steal their blinds all day.

I would be raising something like the top 50% of hands. This means anything that is even remotely playable. Any ace, any king, any broadway, any pair, suited connectors, suited one gappers, heck even suited two gappers! You get the idea.



You only need to risk a small amount when attempting to steal the blinds, 3x or 2.5x the big blind is fine. Some people even just miniraise it.

For Example: 

You are playing NL2 online where the big blind is 2 cents.
  • 3x the big blind = 6 cents
  • 2.5x the big blind = 5 cents
And it is important to remember that every time you successfully steal the blinds you earn 1.5 big blinds in super easy and variance free profit. 

Since most people only win a few big blinds for every 100 hands that they play at the micros these days, stealing the blinds a little bit more often could potentially mean doubling or even tripling their winrate!


Example #1

You are on the Button with:

86

The small blind is a nit and the big blind is a nit.

You should RAISE!


Example #2

You are on the Button with:

K5

The small blind is a nit and the big blind is a nit.

You should RAISE!


Play looser overall at a table full of tight players and steal their blinds more often. Watch your poker winnings increase. Thank me later :)


2. Re-raise them before the flop


Another way to abuse the tight players is to re-raise (3Bet) them frequently when they are clearly just trying to steal the blinds themselves. Just because nits tend to play really tight doesn't mean that they don't know about the profitability of stealing the blinds as well. 

Most nits these days will be trying to steal the blinds with as much as 30% of hands when it is folded to them in late position. Sometimes even more.

Here is an idea of what the top 30% of hands looks like:
beating tight poker players
Now the question to ask yourself here is how many of these hands is a nit likely to call with if you re-raise? Remember that this is typically a risk averse type of player who doesn't like to play a big pot with a weak hand. 

I think you already know the answer to this question. Not very many.

It is always a good idea to check the Fold to 3Bet% stat on your HUD first if you have any doubts. Many of the tight regulars that you will encounter at the micros will fold to a 3Bet 80% or more of the time. 

Therefore, you can once again make a variance free easy profit by simply re-raising them preflop a little bit more often when they are trying to steal the blinds.

The key is to do it just often enough to keep them guessing if you out of line or you just happen to pick up AA more often than everybody else. 


3. Bet again frequently on the flop


Sometimes you won't be able to shake the nits preflop though. Sometimes they will either call your preflop raise or call your preflop 3Bet. What do you do then?

Well, the easiest way to turn a profit against tight poker players like this is just to continue betting on the flop most of the time.

As Partypoker points out in a recent strategy guide, the simple math tells us that the odds of flopping a pair after the flop with a random hand is only about 1 in 3. So we know that 2 out of 3 times they won't have much of anything at all on the flop.

The other thing to note is that you only need to make your bet on the flop about 50% or 60% of the size of the pot. 

For Example:

The pot is 10 cents on the flop. You should bet 5 cents or 6 cents.

When you are betting such a small amount you only need to get a fold about 1 in 3 times in order to break even.

Pretty much any nit that you will encounter at the micros these days will fold versus a flop bet this often. Usually it will be much, much higher in fact.

Once again you don't need to guess though. You can simply double check this on your HUD by looking at the Fold to Flop CBet% stat.


4. Call them when they bet

beating the nits
One of my favorite methods for beating the tight players in today's small stakes games is to call them when they bet into me. This is also often called a "float" in poker. 

The reason why you want to be floating the nits frequently at the lower limits is because they often won't have the heart to keep betting on later streets unless they have an extremely strong hand.

You can double check this once again on your HUD by comparing their Flop CBet% with their Turn CBet%. If there is a gap of 20 or more points, then they are a perfect target for floating.

When they check to us on the turn this gives us a ton of different ways to take the pot away from them especially if we are in position.

And this is a crucial point that many people forget. It is important to remember that the entire point of a float in poker is to win the pot on a later street (i.e. the turn or river).

So if I float a tight player on the flop and he checks to me on the turn, then I am pretty much going to be betting 100% of the time. My cards literally do not even matter.

Now it is important to make sure that you always have some sort of equity or outs when attempting this play. You don't want to float people in poker with absolutely nothing because you are going to get looked up sometimes.

So you always want to have a little bit of equity in your back pocket. This gives you a chance to win the pot later on by simply "getting lucky" as well. 


So I will often call their bet on the flop with hands like:
  • Middle pair
  • Bottom pair
  • A flush draw
  • A straight draw
  • An inside (gutshot) straight draw
  • Two overcards

So as you can see I am calling the tight players on the flop with a wide variety of hands. Often they aren't the best hands right now (i.e. I am mathematically behind) but they have plenty of outs to win the pot later on.

And also, I am planning on pouncing on any weakness that they show me later on in the hand. So I will often win the pot without having to showdown the best hand anyways.

This float and take it away on the turn play can do absolute wonders for your redline or non-showdown winnings by the way.

And you can check out my complete guide to improving your redline for 8 more ways to take more pots away...without the best hand.

The bottom line is that you have to start getting involved more often versus the tight players (and all regs for that matter) if you really want to start turning a bigger profit against them. 

You simply can't expect to win big in poker by folding all the time. You just won't make hands often enough for this to be the case. So floating the tight risk averse players like this, especially in position, is a great place to start.


5. Raise them on the flop or turn


Another way to abuse the nits is to raise on the flop or the turn. Once again you want to do this with a wide variety of hands that aren't necessarily the nuts. In other words hands like draws, middle pair and so on. 

You certainly don't want to be doing this all the time. But sometimes you need to find more ways to apply more pressure against the tight players in order to win more pots against them. 

So here is an example of a situation where instead of calling I might consider raising from time to time. 


Example #3

You have:

T9


Flop

85J

A tight player bets

You should RAISE!


This is a great spot to take a pot away from a tight opponent by making a raise instead of a call. We have an open ended straight draw (8 outs) and we also have a backdoor flush draw. It is important not to forget those backdoor outs!

We could just call here and we definitely should do that plenty of the time. But what do we do when the turn comes with another high card and they bet again? Fold?

You don't win at poker by folding. 

We could raise instead in this situation though and then bet the turn regardless of whether we make our hand or not. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on a tight player to show up with a real hand. 

And what's even better is that we still have the exact same odds of making our hand by the river whether we choose the conservative calling option or the aggressive raising option.

In other words sometimes we will still win the hand the old fashioned way by simply making the best hand. Try applying some real pressure on the nits like this more often when you have some sort of draw or reasonable hand. 

You might be surprised at how many more pots you start winning. And this is because you have given yourself more ways to win. You can make the best hand OR bluffing them out.


6. Bluff the river more often

crushing the nits
Another great way to start turning a bigger profit against the nits at the lower stakes is to start bluffing the river more often. And the reason why this works so well is because one of the main weaknesses of tight poker players is not wanting to go to showdown without a strong hand. 

This is another reason why I recommend using a HUD so much at the micros. Because you can easily double check this as well by looking at the WTSD% (went to showdown) statistic. It basically tells you who you should bluff and who you shouldn't.

Here are a few rough rules of thumb for WTSD%:
  • 26 or higher = calling station, don't bluff
  • 23, 24, 25 = it's close
  • 22 and below = risk averse player, bluff them frequently

So when I get to the river versus a nitty player who I know doesn't like to go to showdown without a strong hand, then I am frequently going to be trying to bluff them. I am specifically looking to do this on:
  • Big broadway scare cards (ace or king especially)
  • Draw completer cards (cards that complete an obvious flush or straight)

You can often bluff them out of the pot by betting on these cards and pick up some really easy profit. This works especially well if you have a relatively tight table image yourself. They won't expect you to be getting out of line.

Often they will think it over for awhile but ultimately decide to make the disciplined fold with their middle pair or even top pair. It is important to make sure that you never show them the bluff. Always keep them guessing. 


Advanced Bluff/Raising Strategy

Another relatively advanced way to win more pots on the river is to mix in some bluff/raises as well. This is especially effective when a really scary card falls. A situation where the board has one card to a straight for instance.


Flop

34J

Turn

6

River

7

When a tight player bets into me on this river I know that they are often making when is referred to as a "blocker bet." This means that they have some sort of decent hand (such as top pair) that just wants a cheap showdown.

But what they probably don't have is the only hand that actually matters on a board like this, the straight. After all, how many 5's is a tight player likely to have in his range? Very few. They will fold almost all of them preflop. 

So you can consider putting in the bluff/raise in a spot like this to represent the straight and make them fold their top pair or overpair hand. Once again, make sure that you never show them the bluff.


7. Put them on tilt


One of my absolute favorite ways to make a solid profit against the nits is to put them on tilt. When you can successfully put someone on tilt and get inside their head, this can cause them to start playing very poorly against you. Getting all their chips therefore becomes very easy.

So when I begin a new poker session I will often pick one or sometimes two tight players that I notice are on several of my tables. And I want to make sure that I have position on them as well. 

From there I will just go ahead and start re-raising them literally every single time they enter the pot. I am going to make it as obvious as humanly possible that yes, I am out of line. I am going out of my way to ruin their day at the poker tables.
beating the poker nits
How I picture them once I start raising them every hand
Now even though most nits these days are just auto-piloting on a bunch of tables while waiting for the nuts, when somebody starts re-raising the crap out of them, they are going to take notice. So it often won't take very long for them to start adjusting by calling me more or even re-raising me back. 

It is important not to let this deter you. You should still go ahead and try to bluff them out of the pot several times after the flop as well. Usually in the early going (before they are 100% sure that you are messing with them), they will still give you the benefit of the doubt and make the tight folds.

You can often pickup several pots by just straight up bluffing the nits like this before they realize what is going on and start calling you down. At this point you want to revert back to totally normal play and only show them strong hands.

The great thing about this strategy is that it causes many micro stakes regulars to tilt very easily. This is especially the case if you are running good and winning most of the pots. This can cause a tight player to come out of his shell and start making all kinds of terrible calls that he wouldn't normally make against you.

I recommend trying this strategy out at NL2 first if you have never done it before because the money is relatively meaningless to most people at this stake. Just pick one tight reg and start raising them every single hand. You might be surprised at just how easy it is to quickly put them on tilt.


8. Set them up for future mistakes

beating nitty poker players
The other amazing benefit of this strategy is that it sets them up for future mistakes as well. This is often referred to as the "meta-game" in poker.

You need to remember that you are playing against many of these same tight players every single day at the poker tables. If you truly want to get ahead against them then you need to start employing some mind game tactics like this.

Poker is psychological warfare and the battle is won or lost over long periods of weeks, months or even years. What matters in a single session is not important.

However, in my lengthy experience of trying to tilt the regs at the micros I have often found that it takes them a very long time to forget that single session when I was totally out of line against them. 

I have gotten paid off months down the road in some cases because of this. There have even been a few occasions where they were so embarrassed by what they called me with that they felt compelled to explain their actions in the chat.

It was because I played like a total lunatic against them in some hand weeks or months ago that I barely even remember! They remembered it though, and they probably had a note on me that I am "crazy, love to bluff" etc.

And the other reason why this strategy works so well is that there are very few players at the lower limits who do it. You don't start seeing the regs radically changing their game from session to session like this until much higher limits.

So when you do it at the micros it will make you stick out like a sore thumb. They will be furiously taking their notes on you if you show up with even one crazy bluff.

This can pay off weeks or even months down the line when you pick up AA against them and suddenly you are getting all the action you ever wanted.


Final thoughts


Learning how to beat the tight poker players in today's games is absolutely crucial to your success. And the main reason why is that they will be your most common opponents by far. But luckily there are still several ways to exploit their weaknesses. 

First off, make sure that you are playing loose and raising their blinds frequently in order to take advantage of the most obvious leak in their game, folding too much preflop.

Also, re-raise them before the flop a lot when it is clear that they are just trying to steal the blinds. They won't have a hand strong enough to call you with very often.

After the flop make sure that you are applying plenty of pressure as well. There are numerous ways to do this such as betting the flop, floating, raising and bluffing the river. 

You should also go out of your way to tilt some of the tight regulars from time to time. This is one of the easiest ways to get them to come out of their shell and finally start making some really big mistakes against you.

Lastly, if you want to read my entire "playbook" on how to smash the nits (and everybody else at the micros for that matter), then make sure you pick up your copy of my brand new book that was just released last week, The Micro Stakes Playbook.

I hope this article gave you some ideas on how to start beating all the tight players at the lower stakes. Let me know in the comments below what some of your best strategies are for abusing the nits!

If you found this article helpful, do me a quick favor and give it a "Like" or a "Tweet" below. Thanks!
how to beat tight poker players

6 comments:

  1. Mate, what a great blog post. One of the best I have read so far.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What vpip/pfr you estimate would be nitty at fr table 13/10 10/8????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 10/8 is really nitty, 13/10 is slightly nitty.

      Delete