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Playing Against Nits

The nit. The rock. The TPP. Whatever you call them, the tight-passive player profile is one that you’re sure to play against and that is ripe for exploitation. Though you might not be able to rake in as many chips against them as you would a maniac, this play imbalance is just as easy to use to our advantage.

Nits are characterized by folding too often. They are risk adverse. They play as if they’re scared—and, of course, the shark can smell this weakness like blood in the water.

These players rarely bluff, and when they do it’s usually a small amount. They play a tighter range than your average player, meaning they play less hands. When they do stick around with a good hand, they rarely raise, instead preferring to call.

Raise or Fold, Don’t Call

How would you go about exploiting the nit? Since their primary weakness is over-folding, the first thing we notice is that our fold equity goes way up, meaning that we can rely on making more chips by forcing them to fold.

This incentivizes us to play aggressively, to raise instead of calling. Raising allows the nit the fold, whereas calling just plays into their hands. They probably have a reasonable made hand if they’re betting, so we should generally only call nits when we have the nuts.

Of course, we can’t just raise them with impunity without opening up leaks in our play, so we should fold to the nit when we don’t raise. This denies them equity from their strong hands.

Bluffing the Nit

Bluffing nits is a favorite past time of poker players everywhere. Since they don’t have the cajones to call with bluff-catchers, we can put them on blast again and again until they wish they had just stayed home.

Sometimes, nits will even fold to small bets, especially if they don’t appear to understand pot-odds. Other times, we want to use a larger bet-sizing because nits have such a sensitive pain threshold.

If the nit does call our bluff, however, we must proceed with caution. Nits rarely call with drawing hands, so we can put them on a reasonable made hand.

This means that we either need to hit our hand on the later streets to win the pot or that the board needs to run out in such a way that we can convince the nit that it hit our hand. Wet boards can terrify them, so they may give up something like a set if the turn or river completes a straight, a flush, or (preferably) both.

Either way, the key to beating the nit is combining raw aggression with a certain wariness. We want to make their life as difficult as possible when we’re in the pot together, but we also need to know when to get out and just let the pot go.

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