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Poker Fundamentals: Exploits

One skill that every winning poker player needs to master is exploiting their opponents’ weaknesses. While this cannot and should not replace time dedicated to playing fundamentally sound poker, such as understanding ranges and bet-sizing, it’s one of the best ways to steal some chips, especially from weaker players.

The key philosophy behind adjusting is figuring out what your opponent does too often or not enough—also known as their frequencies—and adjusting your own frequencies to counter them.

In this article, we’re going to introduce you to two basic exploits that you can use against two player types.

Against Tight Players

If a player often folds, rarely voluntarily puts money into the pot, and almost never raises, then we call them a tight player. This player is characterized by fear. Unless they have a great hand, they’ll never feel safe. As a result, they don’t bluff often enough.

How would you counter this player? You can start by playing more aggressively, and betting more often. This is especially true when you have “thin value”, or a hand that has some showdown equity but that isn’t actually that great.

Make a bet for about half-pot and see what happens. You’ll be surprised how often your opponent will fold in this situation. If, however, they raise your bet, then immediately fold.

You don’t need good cards to beat tight players. You just need to take advantage of their fear.

Against Loose Players

On the other hand, if you see a player who plays a ton of hands, bets with impunity, and, most importantly, often shows up at showdown with pure junk, then you’re playing against a loose player. These players are bold, love to gamble, and are easy to trap.

What would you do to play against them? Start by tightening your range, bluffing less, and just playing good cards. A great strategy is waiting for a premium hand and then trapping the loose player by pretending to be weak. They’ll often take the bait, start betting into you, and all you have to do is call them down.

As you can see, this exploit is pretty much the opposite of the last one. The sooner you can put players on the loose-tight spectrum, the earlier you’ll be able to adjust your strategy to exploit them. That’s just one reason it’s so important to always pay attention, even if you’re not in the hand.

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