On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I sat at a $1-$2 no-limit hold’em table for a few hours with mostly recreational players and I was amazed at the tightness of the play.
Many of the players seemed risk-adverse and their moves reflected that. What they didn’t realize was that by being ultra-tight, they were playing most vulnerable.
Many flops were seen with six or more limpers. Once flopped, players would not fold top pair to any bet.
Let me offer a few examples as to just how dangerous this kind of play is.
In one hand, a player limped from the button with A-K suited and saw a flop six-handed. A king-high flop seemed good for him but with that many players he was third best.
Two hands of two-pair were ahead and our button called until the end, losing a big pot. Of course, a simple preflop raise would have prevented this kind of trouble. It should be noted that most players would limp and then fold to a big preflop raise, which itself is very exploitable.
On another hand, a limper with pocket 10s couldn’t fold on an A-K-2 flop and lost plenty of money that could have been avoided.
The absolute worst hand I saw, however, was a limper in mid position with pocket queens. With two limpers in front of him, he chose to limp and, incredibly, saw a hand seven-handed. The flop came Q-9-3 rainbow, giving him top set.
The flop got checked around. I don’t have an issue with him checking as he’s way ahead.
But the turn brought a second club and, again, the betting was checked around the table. Now, not only is he asking for trouble but what is he waiting for to bet? If he wants to get any value out of his hand, he has to bet something.
The river brought the trouble he was seeking with a third club. Again, it got checked around to the button, who made a big overbet. The queens called lost to A-5 of clubs.
I ended up doubling my money in two short hours before I had to leave.
I had no memorable hands, but was able to easily exploit this play by taking plenty of hands preflop and being situationally aggressive and alternatively limping with some speculative hands without fear of being punished.
The moral of the story is that you can never sit at a poker table with risk aversion being your top goal. It’s a sure way of losing.
— David Apostolico is the author of numerous poker strategy books including Tournament Poker and The Art of War. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.