Do not pay off the tight poker players

September 25, 2012  

Time and time again, I see people play overly tight, hoping to get paid off whenever they pick up a strong hand. While everyone probably knows to simply fold whenever they enter the pot, it seems like the tight player often finds a way to get all-in with A-A preflop. The easiest way to avoid set-up situations against the tight players is to simply never give them action.

Suppose a player who looks and plays tight opens 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 K-K. Everyone folds to you on the button. With basically your entire playable range besides A-A and K-K, you should call, not because you’re scared of your opponent or his hand, but because you want to play a pot in position against someone who will virtually turn his hand face-up postflop. The flop comes {k-Spades}{7-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}. Your opponent bets 600 and you elect to 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 a hand such as A-K or A-A, you should bet the turn and the river to try to get him off hands such as Q-Q through 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 then simply get out of the way if you miss.

While this seems easy enough, I constantly see players call the tight player’s raise with a hand such as {k-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds}, flop top pair, then call down when the tight player fires three sizable bets. Suppose the same action as before happened again and you have {k-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds}. If your opponent fires on any turn besides a K or a Q, you have a fairly easy fold. Even though you have top pair, second kicker, you have to realize most tight players will have a range of squarely A-A, A-K, and possibly sets when they fire twice, making K-Q an easy fold.

As stacks get shallow, look to fold to the tight players’ initial raises. Suppose you have {a-Spades}{9-Spades} on the button with 18 big blinds. If a player who hasn’t played a pot in an hour opens to 2.2 BBs from early or middle position, you have a pretty easy fold, though {a-Spades}{9-Spades} is normally an easy push 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 he plans on calling your all-in with, you need a strong hand to push.

Another situation that often occurs is when you raise to two BBs out of your 18 BB stack and a tight player goes all-in for around 18 BBs. Say you’re playing 500-1,000-100, you have 20K and raise to 2K from middle position with AS-JD. A super tight player in the big blind goes all-in for 19K. Some players would assume this is an easy call, but against someone who’s only going all-in with a range of big pairs, A-K and A-Q, you have an easy fold (32 percent equity).

What this all means is 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 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 specific situation. As long as you know how your opponent will play in most situations, 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, a representative for Blue Shark Optics, is the author of Professional Tournament Poker Vols. 1 & 2, owns the poker training site FloatTheTurn.com and 3bet Clothing, plus check out his iPhone app, Instapoker.