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How to Play Loose Live Games

Evan Jarvis

categories Tournaments
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Playing in loose live games can be frustrating for players who have spent time, money and energy perfecting their strategy, but – despite your hard work - it's important to understand that just because you think you deserve to win more, doesn't mean you will. 

Loose players - and yes, even bad loose players - are not obligated to hand over their money. 

Sure, they can be pains in the ass, but this doesn't mean you have to make it your mission to tear them a new one. You don't have to be some ego-maniacal poker vigilante. If you put yourself out there - if you throw yourself into the water with loose players - you are effectively playing by their rules, when you should be making them play by yours. 

It's all about control, friends. A true shark will handle their business however necessary, and won't worry about ego. 

Being a good player isn't just about having more knowledge than your opponent, or putting in more hours than your opponent: it's also about knowing when to apply which strategy and against whom. A good player has many styles and knows when it's time to take on a different persona. 

With that in mind, let's get into the best strategy for playing loose live games.Here's the question: can a school of fish take down a shark?

Technically, yes. Outnumbered nine to one following a basic strategy, yes, you might get taken down. But over the long run, this doesn't have to be the case, because a true shark will adjust its strategy to the one that can best win the game. And here's another little truth: the school of fish is never really beating you - you are beating yourself. By not employing the right strategy, by giving in to tilt and acting reactively rather than proactively, you're sinking your own ship. 

I'm getting lost in nautical metaphor here, but you get the idea. 

General Strategies for Different Settings

The tactics that apply to online poker don't always apply to live games. For one, most online poker is played short-handed while most live is played nine or 10 handed. 

In full ring poker, you want to focus on playing good cards and acting in good spots. Be selective about your aggression. It's hard to run a full ring table, especially when everyone has relatively deep stacks. With so many hands dealt, odds are someone got dealt something pretty good, and you can't push someone around who's got the goods.

Shorthanded play, on the other hand, doesn't involve many premium hands. You can focus on playing the players through relentless aggression and yes, you can run the table. If you properly focus on who you're playing against and play in position, a strategy that applies constant pressure can work.

Based on the players in the mix, the strategy will always be changing, so don't be a one trick pony. Develop your dimensions.

The Best Strategy

This is simple: just do what everyone else is not doing. For example, if the table is playing very weak/tight, then implement a loose/aggressive strategy. If the table is playing loose/aggressive, then you're going to want to play tight/passive. 

Your money and overall winnings will come from one of two places:

  1. Value bets (getting paid off when you got it).
  2. Bluffs (getting your opponents to fold when you don't got it),

Going with our opposite’s theory, if players are folding post-flop, focus on bluffing (i.e. getting fold equity).

If, on the other hand, your opponents are calling too much (e.g. they can't fold top pair or over-pair or even mid-pair) then you're money is going to come from making solid value bets (i.e. pot equity: making sure you have the best hand then hammering away).

Sometimes you've got to be willing to wait, which is why hands with the best implied odds are going to be the biggest money makers in these games. People can have trouble folding marginal hands, so you'll get paid on your big ones. See as many cheap flops as possible with the right drawing hands. Not just anything that looks pretty; not just because it's suited. Being connected doesn't make it the right hand. Frequency will never be your issue. You have to focus on not paying too much to see flops or your draws through. When you do make your hand, you need to go balls to the wall and take action.

Think of it like mining gold: you don't have to strike it hard that many times to get rich. 

You want to visit as many mining sites as possible, and scope them out for as little as possible. This said, you don't want to waste your resources or equipment on every potential mining opportunity. It would take too much energy to haul everything around all the time. Save the big guns for the site that looks like it has the goods waiting for you, then use your chips to dig deep into your opponent's stack. This idea can apply to big bluffs as well. Invest in that site where the big payoff is waiting for you.

Adjustments for Loose/Passive Games

Embrace the predictability of your opponents. It's a wonderful thing. They may as well have their cards face up, and they'll react exactly the way you want them to when you make your bets specific sizes. 

Remember, it's not about winning every pot you enter: it's about making the best decision based on the cards you have. It's OK to check/fold ace king or jacks or even aces when the flop sucks for you and there are too many people in the pot. 

Manipulate the pot. Build it up by raising small. Invite the callers. Get them interested in a pot that's more than 5BB in size. 

Learn more about perfecting your bet sizing here.

Play heads up. If you want to isolate a player to go heads up, make the pot massive. Try jacking it up to 10BB or hell, go for 20BB. It may seem crazy at first, but this is the only way to actually knock players out of the pot. And yes, you'll probably still end up with one or two callers pre-flop, but that's what you want. 

Make cheap investments for major payouts. Hand selection, people! Act on hands that you know will yield high return for minimal investments.

Get over yourself. Here's a little tough love for you, but it needs to be said. Poker is about money, not about your ego. As I said earlier, your ego is a glutton for self-aggrandizing behaviour, and has nothing to do with logic. Check your ego at the door. 

Listen, if you want to be the boss at the table, and that's your driving goal, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Poker is about being patient when you need to be patient, and acting when you need to act. Accept this, and you’re on your way to success. 

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