I want to point out here that when we look at categorizing players along certain types, like for instance tight passive ones, we are just dealing with generalities, to provide some examples on how it is best to play certain players. We do need to be careful not to look to over generalize though, as less experienced players tend to do.
There aren’t just four types of players you’ll ever be up against, and in fact there are infinite combinations of variety that you will see in terms of playing styles. We always want to drill down as much as possible when we look to characterize and understand an opponent’s tendencies, which generally means how he plays in as specific a situation as we’re able to define.
So it’s best to think of these discussions as not necessarily being a strategy against a player who is tight passive overall, for instance. What we instead want to be thinking about is how to play against situations where the tendency is toward that style, keeping in mind that there are degrees of tightness and passivity as well. We need to adjust for these degrees, meaning that the general strategy will apply more or less depending on how much the opponent fit’s the mold.
Characteristics of a “Tight/Passive” Poker Player
With that out of the way, let’s start with the category of tight passivity. In this instance, there is a tendency to play a tighter range of hands, and also to play them relatively weakly. This is probably the easiest style to exploit, as it tends to be more predictable, although the profit potential isn’t as high as the looser styles, where you can extract more value from your made hands. We’ll win more hands from the tight passive player though, and combined with the ease of play against them they make welcome opponents indeed.
Pre-flop, we know these players will be playing a fairly tight to very tight range of hands. What we want to look at is their pre-flop VP$IP, and since we’re dealing with smaller numbers than average, it will be easier to put them on a hand. Typically we’ll be up against medium or better pocket pairs, two high cards, and perhaps some medium suited connectors.. We can further refine this by position of course, although it’s important to look and not just assume a player is making these distinctions.
Betting Strategy Against a Tight/Passive Player
The most important thing to realize here is that our biggest profit potential here is going to be through getting folds out of these people, so we don’t necessarily need a hand to play with them. So pre-flop, the first thing I look to is how often the player will fold to a flop lead, both in and out of position. More often than not players miss their hands on the flop, even with tight ranges, and you can often exploit these players simply by being very aggressive against them. Of course you want to pay attention to their adjusting, but if someone is going to fold too much, it’s best to just pound away at them until they do. Then you can adjust your own strategy as needed.
Unless you’re playing heads up though, you are always going to need to temper your strategies according to your expectation of how many people that are likely to be involved in the hand. This adds to the value of trying to isolate the tight passive player though, and ideally you want to be alone in pots with him or her. You don’t want this to get too expensive though, so for instance if there’s a looser player yet to act, you want to make sure that whatever moves you make are profitable overall.
Unless you’re up against a total nit who doesn’t adjust at all, you do want to mix up your play, especially when the tight passive has position on you. When you check to him, he will most often tell you where he’s at by whether he will bet or not, and given that he doesn’t bet without a hand very often, and usually will do so with a reasonably strong hand or better, this will give you some good information.
You don’t want him to start having to get tricky or change his style too much, so this isn’t the best player to use a lot of check raises with, unless he has a strong tendency to bet fold and thus can frequently be pushed off real hands with bluffs. When you do have the likely best hand here, he often will bet it on further streets as well, and you can wait until later to put the check raise in for value, when he is more committed to the hand.
How to Take Advantage of This Type of Player
We’re not just looking to take advantage of his tightness, we want to take advantage of his passivity as well. So we know that by being very aggressive we will gain all sorts of fold equity from him, but by way of his being too passive, he won’t be extracting as much value from us as he would if he was playing more correctly. So this will have us tightening up generally when he takes the lead in pots or plays back at us, and when that happens and we don’t have the cards to play on, we need to be thankful that we’re getting better information than we would get from looser or more aggressive players.
Another benefit is that, as we mix it up, we can look to check more speculative hands, like good draws for instance, and often obtain free cards to look to hit. The downside here is that we’re less likely to get paid off, which makes the value end of a semi-bluff less powerful for instance. In looking to balance our ranges though, I’d lean more toward straight bluffing the garbage and look to pass up with the more promising hands like this. Another advantage of this is that we will show down better hands when we lose, and that will add weight to our straight bluffing attempts, where presumably we had a better hand than this, and a made hand perhaps.
Looking to extract value from our good hands will be trickier than normal though. I’d look to check at least some of these if he’s folding to bets a lot, and the more he tends to bet the more I’d look to check with what would likely be ahead here. The danger here though is that you don’t want to get too passive yourself and give him too many free cards, so you don’t want to do this too often, but it adds to the balancing, and depending on how often he can be coaxed into betting lighter, it can add some value for you as well as looking to confuse him a bit more.