By Kenny Smith
“I can’t believe they called me to the river with that garbage.”
“This person raises pre-flop with nothing, bets all the way and then hits a miracle on the river.”
“They won’t ever fold. No matter what I do.”
These are some of the statements you may have heard others say. Maybe you have been guilty of uttering one of them yourself. You’re in a $4/8 or $8/16 limit game full of loose calling stations. You have aces, raise pre-flop, and bet all the way to the river.
One of your opponents has bottom pair on a flop of Q-9-3 rainbow and stays in the hand the entire time despite your betting on every street. Plus, you have another two callers along for the ride. When another 3 hits the river your opponent makes trips and takes down a pot in the range of 12 to 15 big bets.
Seeing your opponent grin while stacking the chips you should have won makes you sick to your stomach. Smile. I have some good news for you. You just found yourself in a poker games that you want. You are in a game that gives you the opportunity to make the most money every time you sit down.
Let me rephrase that in a way with the volume turned up, just in case you misunderstood me: LOOSE PLAYERS AND LOOSE GAMES MAKE YOU THE MOST MONEY!
Hold’em games, especially limit games, are known for players who notoriously take weak hands much further than they should. It is not uncommon to see loose players chase a pot to catch a backdoor flush draw with no pair on the flop and just the ace with a rag card in their hand.
When you have top pair with top kicker, top two pair, or even a set, it can be painful to lose a big pot to a player who chases as a 9-to-1 underdog (or worse). On the flip side of the coin though, these are the types of players and bad calls that you want. If you have the odds that strongly in your favor, it means that if you have the best hand on the flop you can deal the turn and river 10 times and you will win nine times against the same hand. If every 10 times I bet $10 I only lose once I would walk away with $90. Sure, I would like to have all $100, but I won’t get upset over my opponent taking a bet in my favor.
Hold’em is no different. Poker is a game that has a random element of luck in it. No matter how lucky an opponent may seem to appear, over the long haul, luck will lose money to the statistical probabilities of the game.
A player may make a bad decision and get rewarded for it. However, the same player that continues to do it more times than they should, cannot and will not win money in the long run. The mistake that you don’t want to make is to make drastic changes to your game trying to get money back from a bad player who got lucky. By doing so you will find yourself playing hands that you know you shouldn’t. Playing loose poker like your opponents subjects you to relying on the same luck that they do. Then you’re no better off than the rest of them.
If you believe that you have the best hand, you should continue to bet and hope that your opponents continue to contribute to your stack. You also have to have the discipline to pull up from time to time, and check if the board starts to become too draw heavy. Let’s say that you have Q-Q in your hand against four opponents in an $8/16 limit game. The board on the turn is 7d-Qs-6s-Jd. Checking on the turn isn’t a necessity. But it’s not a bad move either. There are so many draws that more than half the deck can beat you. If the pot starts getting big (10 big bets or more) no one with any of those potential draws is going to fold. The only opponent that you have drawing dead would be one that has two pair.
Consistent, tight poker is the best solution. When you have a monster, continue to extract the maximum value you have out of your opponents. Tight poker in a loose game means that there may be a number of hands that you want to play, but you should throw them away. This can be a challenge because big pots get us stimulated. The best time to be in a big pot with a field of loose players is when you have an edge to win the hand. If you don’t have the edge, fold. By doing so, you will walk away from the table as a winner more often than a loser.