5 Tips to Help You Win More at the Poker Tables This Holiday Season
The holiday season is the time of the year when the action at the online poker tables in particular tends to heat up. It's snowy and cold outside and people often have more time off from work. So for many casual poker players it's a good time to gamble it up!
This means that for those of you who take poker a little bit more seriously, this is a great time of year to really pad those profits. All that increased loose action at the tables means higher potential winnings.
That said, many people — including good players — struggle against these "wild" players and don't know how to beat them. So in this article I am going to break it down for you step-by-step and suggest specific tips to increase your chances of success against such opponents.
1. Get Involved in as Many Pots as Possible
I know the age old advice tells us to keep it tight at the poker tables and only play strong hands. But in some situations it can be a good idea to open up your game a little bit more.
One problem with playing too tight is that if there is a really wild or loose player at your table, you reduce your chances of getting that player's chips before another regular does. The more often you are involved in hands against such opponents, the better your chances are of winning a big pot.
Now while you definitely want to continue playing mostly strong hands, you should be more willing to get involved in pots with the holiday recreational players, including with all sort of hands that have great potential like...
- suited aces
- suited connectors
- small pairs
All of these hands can flop big and wind up winning you a big pot against a loose player. You don't need to wait for aces in order to profit big time against these kind of players. Try and get involved in as many pots as possible against them.
2. Isolate the Recreational Players
Something else you should be doing is isolating the recreational players. When they limp into the pot, as they will do very frequently, you should be raising it up with a wide range, especially when you are in position. You should do this with all of your strong hands but also with many weaker speculative hands such as I listed above.
The advantage of this isolation strategy is that you will often get the pot heads up against them. This gives you the best chance to outplay them and ultimately try and win a big pot against them.
And since you will be in position most of the time (and acting last on the flop, turn, and river), it is going to be much easier to win the pot against them even when you don't have anything.
3. Don't Slow Play Your Big Hands
We all know that big hands are hard to come by in poker and that is why it is important that you win the maximum with them every time they come around. The best way to do this against the loose holiday players is just to go ahead and bet them every time.
The reason why this strategy works so well is because these players love to call with any pair, any draw, and sometimes even with nothing at all. Furthermore, since you have been isolating them non-stop as I just recommended above, they will be even more likely to call you down because they think that you are bluffing them.
When you finally hit your big hand against the recreational players it is extremely important to make sure that you always go right ahead and start betting strong and bet every street as well. This is not the time to slow play. Charge them the maximum and get all their chips.
4. Be Patient
Sometimes these holiday players are going to fight back, though. And sometimes they might just be really wild players who like to bluff a lot. You need to remember to remain patient in these situations and against this type of opponent.
As difficult as it might seem in the moment, understand that you don't need to win every little pot in order to turn a profit against these players. Don't worry if they bluff you a few times.
The key thing to focus on is making sure that you win the big pots that actually matter. You do this by remaining patient and waiting for the right spots to pounce on them.
Keep getting in there and mixing it up like I discussed above, but make sure you have a decent hand (top pair or a good draw) before committing a large portion of your stack.
You definitely don't need the absolute nuts in order to win a big pot against wild recreational players since they are bluffing so much. But you need to have something reasonably good before going to war with them.
Stay patient, don't worry about getting bluffed out a few little pots, and their chips will all be yours in the end.
5. Be a Good Host
The last piece of advice that I would give for playing against loose holiday players is to be a good "host," so to speak. This especially applies if you play live.
Entertain them and chat with them if you can. Encourage them if they get "unlucky" in a certain hand. In general, just be a good sport and don't worry if they get lucky against you.
The worst thing you can do is be one of those people who only talk to the recreational players in order to berate them about their poor play. This helps absolutely no one and it makes the recreational player not even want to play anymore.
Always remember that these are just regular people who play poker as a hobby. They are there to have fun. And ultimately they are there to give away their money in the long run.
Be a gracious host and treat them with respect whether you win this time against them or not. Because eventually their chips are coming your way, anyway. You can't fight the math in poker.
The holiday season is a great time of year and especially at the poker tables for those of us who take the game seriously. There is more loose action than normal, and this gives us a great chance to pad our profits a bit.
Make sure to mix it up with the casual holiday players as much as possible, but also be patient and don't commit large portions of your stack to the pot without a good hand.
Lastly, be a good host whether you win or lose, and create a positive environment where the recreational players feel comfortable and happy to keep playing and reloading their stack.
Nathan "BlackRain79" Williams is the author of the popular micro stakes strategy books Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes. He also blogs regularly about all things related to the micros over at www.blackrain79.com.