During my time at the last WSOP, time and time again, I saw people play overly tight, hoping to get paid off whenever they pick up a strong hand.
While everyone else should know to simply get out of the way when these players decide to play for all their chips, it seemed like the tight players still often found a way to get action with the nuts or close to it.
The easiest way to avoid set-up situations against these tight players is to simply never give them action.
Suppose a player, who appears, acts, and plays tightly, raises to 500 out of his 10,000 stack from second position in the second level of a large buy-in event. So far, he has only played one hand, which turned out to be pocket kings.
Everyone folds to you on the button. With almost your entire playable range besides aces and kings, you should call. Not because you are scared of your opponent or his hand, but because you want to play a pot in position against someone who will essentially turn his hand face-up post-flop.
The flop comes K 7 4. Your opponent bets 600 and you call.
If your opponent bets again on the turn, unless you have A-K or better, you should fold. If your opponent checks the turn, unless you know he’s capable of check/calling with strong hands like aces and A-K, you should bet the turn and the river to try to get him off hands such as Q-Q and 9-9.
This should be your default line against weak, tight, straightforward opponents. If you think your opponent would bet most turns and some rivers with Q-Q, or if you think he would never fold Q-Q on a K-X-X board, you should probably try to flop a strong hand while simply getting out of the way if you miss.
While this strategy seems easy enough, I constantly see players call the tight player’s raise with a hand such as K J, flop top pair, and then call down when the tight player makes three sizable bets!
Suppose the same action as before happened again and you have K J. Folding preflop may be best because you will often be dominated, but let’s suppose you made it to the turn as played. If your opponent bets on any turn besides a king or a jack, you have a fairly easy fold. Even though you have top pair, you have to realize most tight players will have a range of exactly A-A, A-K, and possibly sets, making K-J an easy muck.
As stacks get shallower and your implied odds decrease, look to fold to the tight players’ initial raises. Suppose you have A J on the button with 18 big blinds. If a player who hasn’t played a pot in an hour raises to 2.2 big blinds from early or middle position, you have a quick fold even though A J is normally an easy three-bet shove against most opponents.
It’s important to always think about your opponent’s range and how your hand does when called. If your opponent’s opening range is the same as the range they plan on calling your all-in with, you need a strong hand to push.
Another situation that often occurs is when you raise to two big blinds out of your 20-big blind stack and a tight player goes all-in for around 20 big blinds.
Say you’re playing 500-1,000 with a 100 ante, you have 20,000 and raise to 2,000 from middle position with A J. A super tight player in the big blind goes all-in for 19,000. Some players would assume this is an easy call, but against someone who is only going all-in with a range of big pairs, A-K and A-Q, you have an easy fold because you only have 32% equity against this range.
What all of this amounts to is that you should rarely give a tight player action when you have low implied odds. If you can accurately pinpoint your opponent’s range and realize it has your normally strong hand crushed, you have to fold.
It’s important to always compare your hand to your opponent’s range, not the range you, or anyone else, would play in a similar situation. As long as you know your opponent’s range is far too tight, and thus incredibly strong, you will be able to make excellent folds, saving countless chips in the long run.
Just make sure you don’t mistake a loose player for a tight player! ♠
Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.