In many sports, we’re told to “Keep your eye on the ball.” In poker, we call this “paying attention.”
In Texas Hold’em, we should strive to understand the concept of game texture. The texture of a game is often defined by how loose-passive the players are, or conversely, how tight the players at a table are playing. At a tight or tough game, typically two or three players will see a flop and most often there’s a preflop raise.
In a passive game, there are four or more players who take a flop and in a game like this, there are often fewer raises before the flop. It’s your job to take advantage of these scenarios and adjust your game accordingly. Let’s examine a few ideas on how to accomplish this.
IDEA 1: You’re in a game where many players are limping to see the flop.
Also, when you put in your standard raise, instead of narrowing the field, the opponents seem to ignore the raise and you find yourself in a multiway action hand.
You’re in a passive game, which can be dangerous. Assuming you’re a tight-aggressive-solid player, it’s time to make adjustments. Most likely, you’ll have to increase your preflop raise to narrow the field.
It’s your job to find the sweet spot to accomplish this. I often hear, “I can’t beat the lower-stakes games” and in games where there’s multiway action. It should be obvious there will be many more straights and flushes and therefore our big pairs are likely to go down in flames.
Adjust your game and keep in mind that games often change texture from hour to hour. We always must be adjusting, too. Changing gears is one of the attributes of the world’s best players. Time to step up and encompass this into your game plan.
IDEA 2: Allow me to contradict my July column, which emphasizes the importance of starting hand-discipline.
In a passive game, opponents aren’t “doing their job” and are allowing you to open your starting-hand range. Many strong players shy from opening their game because what makes them winning players is a strong discipline.
We become uncomfortable playing hands we’d normally muck. Because opponents are allowing you in the hand for a great price, don’t be afraid to take them up on their offer. You are getting a form of preflop implied odds.
There are ways to approach this. I like to stay tight in early position and loosen my middle-position starting-hand range.
There are many low-limit games where table texture is passive. Making the right adjustments will increase your hourly earn rate. Games change often; keep your eye on the ball.
— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima CC. Email him at email@example.com.