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Exploiting Loose Players Preflop in NL Cash Games

Discussion in 'Poker Strategy Articles' started by TheMightyJim2k, Dec 19, 2007.

  1. TheMightyJim2k

    TheMightyJim2k Faux Clay Nation

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    Exploiting Loose Players Preflop in NL Cash Games
    by Themightyjim2k


    "This guy never folds, preflop! I just can’t beat him."

    "I wish I could play with somebody that knew what they were doing. Then I would actually know where I am in a hand."

    HAVE YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVED UTTERED THESE PHRASES OR SOMETHING SIMILAR? IF SO YOU MAY NEED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP!

    On a more serious note, loose players can be difficult to play with in no-limit hold’em cash games. It is very hard to put them on a range of hands. You often don’t know if your hand is worth value betting or is purely a bluff catcher. They will make strange and often erratic plays, some which will run counter to what you generally consider to be correct strategy.

    Common wisdom is that we should play tighter when we are up against loose players. And while that is certainly true, if we are playing too tight we are giving up countless profitable opportunities. The key to playing against loose players isn’t playing tighter, its playing tighter THAN THEY ARE. At its most basic we understand that if I am always entering the pot with a slightly better hand than you, then I rate to win the money in the long run. So by that logic we should want to play as many hands as possible with loose players so that we can realize our long-term equity edge.

    The first thing we can do is to make sure we are sitting to the left of the loose player. That way we will have position against them as much as possible. Having position will give us more information and let us control the betting to ensure that we are maximizing our strong hands, and minimizing our mistakes. Loose players are a lot easier to play against when you always get to act after them.

    So far all of this may seem like common sense, but this is where I might throw you a curve ball. When I find a really loose player to my right and some med.-to-tight players on my left, I play as loose as I possibly can. Every time that player limps into the pot I raise with any reasonable playable hand. I am raising for two reasons. First I am raising for value because my hand rates to be a favorite over the loose players preflop range. Second I am raising to isolate the bad player. I have the greatest chance to exploit the bad player when I am heads up with him with position. When that loose player enters the pot I want to be the player who has a chance to win his money when he makes his big mistake. If I just limp behind, or fold then the other decent players are given the opportunity to take his money. So I want to isolate the fish from the other sharks. I’m protecting my prey so to speak.

    This has long been a commonly used tactic in limit hold’em. Raise with your decent hands to isolate the weak limpers and then pound them with value bets postflop. But many no limit players fail to realize that the same principles apply in their cash games. In fact it may be an even more powerful tool in NL since if you play well postflop you induce your opponents into making much larger and costlier mistakes. Once you’ve isolated your fish you simply need to understand whether or not you can bluff them out of pots, or whether or not you need to make a hand and then value bet them. Obviously this takes practice, and the intricacies of postflop play certainly exceeds what I can cover in this article. But understanding the value of the above strategy is a huge step towards greatly increasing your expectation in any no-limit cash game.

    To summarize the above points:
    • Make every effort to play with loose players on your right
    • Play reasonably higher quality starting hands than the loose player does
    • Raise with your playable hands preflop to isolate the loose player from the other good players
    • Exploit the loose player appropriately postflop (c-bet relentlessly if she folds too much, value bet relentlessly if she calls too much)
    So the next time you are playing online or at your home game and you look down and see 89s after that loose player limps in with his god-knows-what, don’t just limp behind. Make the same raise you would with a pocket pair or AK. Push those other guys out of the pot and get heads-up with the loose player. Often times you’ll take down the pot with a continuation bet, and if not you have a great playable hand and position. Don’t turn into a nit when you have loose players on your right, figure out a way to exploit their mistakes. That way you have the best chance to make their chips flow into your stack and not your neighbors.


    If you want to further discuss this or any other strategy concept, shoot me a PM and we can set up a coaching session or hand history review. I can help you implement this strategy into your game, or work on whatever problems you are having.

    Feel free to discuss your thoughts on this article below, and I will do my best to respond to any comments. Thanks for reading and good luck at the tables!

    Themightyjim2k

    <HR>
    More advice from Themightyjim2k: Poker Coaching by Jojobinks and Themightyjim2k
     
    #1
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2008
  2. Jeff

    Jeff Super Moderator
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    Great artical, very helpful.

    One politically correct editorial comment...you may want to make your prose gender-neutral. "They" instead of "she", perhaps.
     
    #2
  3. shanes3t

    shanes3t Active Member

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    >>So far all of this may seem like common sense, but this is where I might throw you a curve ball. When I find a really loose player to my right and some med.-to-tight players on my left, I play as loose as I possibly can. Every time that player limps into the pot I raise with any reasonable playable hand. I am raising for two reasons. First I am raising for value because my hand rates to be a favorite over the loose players preflop range. Second I am raising to isolate the bad player. I have the greatest chance to exploit the bad player when I am heads up with him with position. When that loose player enters the pot I want to be the player who has a chance to win his money when he makes his big mistake. If I just limp behind, or fold then the other decent players are given the opportunity to take his money. So I want to isolate the fish from the other sharks. I’m protecting my prey so to speak.

    The problem with playing too loose to the utmost to match a loose player is that you are less apt to chase with a bad draw as a truly loose player is, effectively making their EV on equal hands greater than yours. This produces a rate of return against these players to a number slightly below 0 (which mean, over the long haul, you'd get blinded off waiting for a big hand). Also, factor in the fact that the better loose players are savvy to your technique and that reduces your EV even further.

    To take advantage of the loose players without killing your EV, you should be raising with marginal hands that would be a coinflip against a tight player's marginal hands & flat-calling to the loose player with excellent hands. Reason being is threefold:
    a) you want two loose players to raise and re-raise you pre-flop if you have a monster starting hand
    b) you want to be re-raised by good hands when you have a marginal hand
    c) if the loose player has a monster starting hand and you don't, you can get out cheap after the flop (where the loose player has a much tougher time doing this and this increases your advantage).

    To demonstrate:
    Ex 1:
    You're on the button with ATs, everyone folds to the loose player who raises to 3BBs. You re-raise to 12BBs. Facing a raise and a re-raise, the blinds are only playing if they have made hands. In a likely scenario, both blinds fold to the loose player (let's call her Lucy for sake of argument). Lucy calls and the flop comes out K-T-4 rainbow.

    Lucy, figuring you as a tight player who would only raise pre-flop with an ace or a pocket pair, raises the size of the pot (more or less) to bluff you off the hand. You respond by re-raising a sizable amount (IMO, all-in). Lucy figures you for AK, KK, TT, AA, or two pair and should fold. Even if Lucy's feeling incredibly loose and calls your big bet, it's likely Lucy's drawing with Q-T (7 outs, because you have an A) or A-J (8 outs) or A-Q (8 outs). Anytime you can get an aggressive loose player to play big pots for less than 10 outs, it's as good as you're gonna get.

    Loose players win on the number of the pots they steal rather than the size of the pots. They figure that if they lose a pot for a quarter of their stack on bad pot odds, they'll just make it up stealing from you later.

    If you get them playing too many big hands against you (or even better if you can double up off one of them), they'll back off and steal someone else's blinds because you're killing their EV.
     
    #3
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2008
  4. jmc

    jmc Well-Known Member

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    :huh:
    I'm getting seriously leveled here, aren't I?
     
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  5. Poboy

    Poboy Well-Known Member

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    Maybe Lucy's nuts.
     
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  6. jojobinks

    jojobinks Poker Nerd (and Admin)
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    bottom pair and a flush draw
    using a plural pronoun to refer to a singular individual isn't quite sound. instead, it's become standard construction to alternate (not necessarily every time) use of the male and female form.
     
    #6
  7. MixMastaPJ

    MixMastaPJ Faux Clay Nation

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    Then we get hands to play with up in the hotel room.
     
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  8. shanes3t

    shanes3t Active Member

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    If Lucy's that loose, you shouldn't need hands.
     
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  9. jamby

    jamby Creativity Alliance

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    Nah, no Nuts named Lucy. :wink:
     
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  10. J78_R

    J78_R Active Member

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    LOL this post made my day. LOL
     
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