Poker has changed a lot over the years. The use of poker solvers especially has led to the rise of GTO theory in online poker, characterized by the use of balanced ranges, tightening and widening as necessary in a bid to return the most profit in the long run. But this long-term thinking is often absent from the kind of live cash game played by the regulars at your local casino. These players are in it to have a good time; their play is so loose it’s splashy. This can be surprisingly difficult to deal with for players who expect their opponents to make more logical decisions. To ease the confusion somewhat, here are some poker cash game tips to use at very loose live tables.
Signs of a Very Loose Live Table
How do you know if you’re in a splashy game? There are three major indicators. First, look out for an unusually large number of multiway pots. Modern online poker theory says that most postflop pots should be heads up, but players in splashy live games haven’t heard about that or don’t care. They tend to play too many hands preflop, so the pots in these games often have multiple players fighting over them.
Second, the average open raise in a splash game is anything from 5 big blinds (bb) and upward. Online poker solvers suggest that the optimum open-raise size is between 2 and 3bb, but chances are good that your opponents in a splashy game don’t play poker online. What’s more, these large raise sizes are accompanied by wider ranges than poker theory recommends.
In theory, you should be able to exploit this, but very loose play has very high variance, sometimes verging on flat-out gambling. This reflects the mindset of splashy players – they’re in the mood to take risks, theory be damned! An extreme example is live poker tournaments in Vietnam, where preflop raises up to 11 or 12bb can be expected to be called by four to five players. Raises of 3bb or below are treated as limps and will be called by the entire table.
The third sign of a splashy table is that players are totally on board with betting big with marginal hands. You might see them going all-in or calling huge preflop raises with the weakest of hands, calling postflop with low pairs or draws or raising with hands that simply don’t make any sense.
Adjust Your Raises
The easiest adjustment that you can make to your live poker strategy at a very loose table is to adjust your preflop raise strategy. Gradually increase your bet size while maintaining your ranges, adding one big blind at a time to reduce the number of multiway pots until you’re mostly playing heads up. You’ll easily win against passive poker players who are scared of big pots and you’ll have sussed out the players who’ll take you on. Either they’re worthy opponents who might excel at live poker online or they’re total maniacs.
Another option is to include more marginal hands in your raising range. The idea is that splashy opponents play too many hands preflop and don’t postflop when they should. In theory, this should allow you to benefit from their mistakes. This is a high-risk adjustment, however, if you aren’t sure how to navigate later streets with wider ranges. If you don’t have deep knowledge of your opponents or lack the necessary postflop skills, it’s better to stick to the blind-by-blind raising strategy previously mentioned.
Adjust Your Defense
It’s a mistake to defend too many different hands at a splashy table. The large raise size makes it very expensive to call, so rather play tighter, regardless of how many other players call. When it comes to defending the big blind, it gets worse the more players commit to the pot. That’s because you have less equity against more opponents than just one or two. Also, with multiple players willing to call or raise behind you, you’ll have to pay to see the turn more often than you’re used to. These factors negate the more favorable pot odds that come with multiway pots.
If you do decide to defend, a good tip for live poker is to go with hands that can dominate your opponents’ ranges or potentially grow into the nuts. These include suited connectors, pocket pairs and suited ace-anything hands.
Adjust Your Continuation Bets
When it comes to continuation bets, you have to remember that bluffs in multiway pots need to go past multiple opponents before you can make a profit. The more opponents you’re up against postflop, the more likely it is that the flop will benefit them. Combine that with the fact that splashy players generally call way too much and bluffing becomes a hazardous proposition. The same goes for betting with hands that have marginal value. Once again, the more players commit to the pot, the higher the chances that at least one of them will be holding a two-pair or better. The key live poker tip here is to consider checking the flop with value hands more often.
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