It’s okay to fold. You can fold until the cows come home, but your poker strategy for the hands you don’t fold has to be assertive and uncompromising.
You won’t find many poker players in the world who enjoy folding. This is a game, after all, and once you fold, you’re not playing anymore. Injured football players would rather risk life and limb than pull themselves out of a game – even if it means they’re also damaging the team’s chances by playing at far less than 100 percent. That’s why most of the money you make at poker will be at the expense of fish and donks who just can’t fold their marginal hands.
But there are people who fold. A lot. In our earlier article on player types, we lumped all these foldmeisters into one category, and called them nits. These are the people who only open, say, 12 percent of their hands or less in a full-ring no-limit hold ‘em game. Waiting to be dealt a premium hand is not the most profitable way to play poker. However, there are some good nits out there, as well as bad ones, and we need to know the difference if we’re going to exploit these players properly.
First, let’s take a moment to revisit the concept of player types. We use these stereotypes to predict the likely actions that our opponent will take. But that’s exactly what they are: stereotypes. There are no fish, donks or nits. There are only people who tend to fall into these classifications, at this point in their development. The more specific information you gather about an opponent and his or her tendencies, the more complete your profile of that player will become – which means you can employ a more sophisticated strategy against that particular person.
Until we get that specific information, we’re still dealing in stereotypes. But it doesn’t take too much information for us to separate the larger nit community into two types of players. Once we’ve identified that they fold too much, we’ll learn pretty quickly whether they’re the type who plays passively or aggressively. The former type is commonly referred to as weak-tight. The latter type, we can continue to call nits, or we can specify them as rocks.
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Rocks are incredibly easy to spot at the poker table. These guys are opening a very tight range of hands, and they’re playing very aggressively post-flop, hoping that you’ll call or raise with a worse hand. It’s a very conservative style, but if you have enough fish handing you their money, you can play like a rock and make a profit. It’s also a very simple style to execute with not a lot of marginal decisions soaking up your brainpower. Many players who multi-table will use this style; they might not make much profit, but they will rarely lose much, and they might even make a living off the rakeback and the other bonuses that come from cranking out a high volume of hands.
Weak-tight players are conservative, too, but they’re also more timid once they do decide to open. The most glaring example of this is when they limp in. While a rock will almost always open-raise all his premium hands, a weak-tight player in NLHE might only open-raise, say, JJ+ and AQ+, while limping in with hands like AJ and KQ. This makes the weak-tight player very predictable and easy to deal with once he or she has been identified.
How do we do it? As with any kind of nit, we want to steal relentlessly when they’re in the blinds, expecting them to fold. And when they open-raise, we almost always want to avoid getting involved, unless we’re holding something like AA or KK ourselves. But when a weak-tight player limps in, provided the situation allows us, we want to isolate the limper as much as we can. A nice 4x or 5x raise will often elicit a fold, and if they happen to call, a c-bet on the flop will often do the trick. It’s pretty simple, so work this into your exploitative poker strategy as soon as you’re ready.