When you play No Limit Hold’em, the ideal strategy is to take minimal risk, do little bluffing, and hope that weaker players call you when you have a strong hand.
But that’s the perfect world. Sometimes you’ll face opponents that play very conservatively and will rarely pay you off when you have the goods.
Tables like these aren’t as profitable as loose games but there are adjustments you can make to clean up here, too. In fact, if you approach tight games properly, they’ll provide a stable opportunity to steadily build your bankroll.
Say you’re in a game where the other guys just seem to be waiting around for the nuts. They won’t play unless they’re dealt premium hands.
You can exploit this situation by playing more aggressively. Raise more pots before the flop. Look to steal blinds and antes, and try to pick up pots when the other players don’t show strength. Use caution, though, especially when someone decides to call or reraise.
That’s the basic adjustment to make in tighter games, but it doesn’t stop there. It also makes sense to bluff more at bigger pots, particularly if your opponents tend to play scared.
Beating a tight game requires focus. You’ll need to seek out every opportunity where you can steal a big pot. One way is by representing a hand that your opponents probably can’t beat.
Let’s look at a situation where you should be able to successfully bluff out a conservative opponent.
With blinds at $5-$10, a tight player raises to $30 from first position. You call the raise with 10c-Jc. The flop comes 5c-6d-8c, giving you four cards to the flush.
Your opponent bets out $50 and you call. The turn card is the 7d, adding a straight draw possibility on the board. He checks and the action is on you.
Because your opponent is a rock, there’s a good chance that he has a hand like A-K, A-A, K-K, or Q-Q. And if that is the case, well, he obviously didn’t make his straight. Also consider that he won’t play a big pot unless he has the nuts or close to it. A solid bet here and this pot is yours without even worrying about if you’ll catch the straight or flush on the river. With $175 in the pot, a bet of $100 should be enough to steal this pot away.
There are other ways to exploit tight players. For example, they’re usually easy to read since the range of hands they’ll play is limited. And they’ll tend to bet their hands in a straightforward manner – another clue as to their holding.
Make sure to use the board cards to tell your story when bluffing tight players. Be on the lookout for cards that you know your opponents don’t like. When they do come, bet to represent a hand they can’t beat.
Keep in mind that this advice runs counter to the small ball style characterized by playing lots of marginal hands and needing a strong hand to play big pots. Small ball just doesn’t work in tighter games because the big payoff isn’t likely to be there.
As you get more accustomed to playing in tighter games, it will become easier to get a feel for the pots you can steal. You’ll also recognize the ones that are best left unchallenged. Even if your hand is very strong, if a tight player raises you back, chances are he’s got you beat.
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