Playing Too Tight In Online Poker Tournaments

Playing Too Tight Can Cost You A Lot Of Money In MTTs,
Especially When Combined With Predictable and / or Passive Play

The extra-loose players are the ones who easily get labeled as the ‘fish’ in online poker tournaments. Their mistakes in overplaying bad hands or making impossible bluffs are clear for all to see (and often look crazy to more experienced players).

What I will explain in this article is that extra-tight players are actually just as much ‘fish’ as the crazy loose players. They will often fly under the radar and might even look unlucky when they bust after a few hours after getting their money in ‘good’…  However the chances of many ‘too-tight’ or ‘tight / passive’ players winning in the long run are no better than the crazies. If you do recognize any of your own characteristics here then there is some good news – some great suggestions on how to find spots to make a move and get out of that cycle of tightness!

Too Tight In Tournaments – Signs You Are Too Tight

Tightness is more than just having a ‘top 15 hands only’ tournament starting hand selection. It includes characteristics like folding mid-strength hands whenever there is a raise ahead, 3-betting only with AA, KK, QQ or AK, this can include folding to continuation bets when you miss as a matter of course, failing to raise the button even when the blinds are not defending or even being reluctant to bet draws – instead taking the free card that subsequently kills the action when it completes an obvious flush, and leaves you wondering what might have been when the card misses and your opponent bets into you. As we get into more advanced strategy the failure to take thin-value or folding implied-odds hands like suited connectors when they were playable could also be added.

If you are worried about calling a flop bet from an aggressive player, if you are ‘waiting for a better spot’ to get your chips in, if you are frequently convincing yourself your opponent will never fold as an excuse to ditch that mid-strength hand then there is a fair chance you are playing too tight.

The Pitfalls Of Playing Too Tight

At the very lowest buy-in levels you can get away with tight play (but frequently not when combined with passive (calling not raising) play). Once you start to meet even moderately experienced opponents, you will find tight players quickly become victims of their own patience.

Once people notice that you need a monster hand to play back with, they will raise to steal your blinds or take away your position again and again. If you call that is fine, since a monster would have re-raise and they can usually then steal the pot on the flop.

If a tight player open-raises then they are telling the table a lot about their hand. It’s a premium, or at least very strong holding. Many people will set-mine or call with a variety of suited / connected cards, knowing that if they hit the right flop there is money to be made (since tight players are often reluctant to fold those aces they waited so long to catch) – and even if they miss then tight players will often fold on later streets if the board is scary.

Tight and passive players will often call with draws rather than bet with them. With again this makes hand reading easy. If your tight / passive opponent bets then they have a made hand of some kind, if they suddenly wake up and start betting big (or check-raising you) when the obvious draw comes in then it becomes an easy fold.

Last is the 3-bet or re-raise. Some players will only ever do this with aces or kings, though others will include more hands. When you ‘know’ that someone has this narrow a range and the chip stacks are still deep enough – you will often find that ‘easy call’ situation coming up again (or easy fold, depending on stack sizes), since if you hit the flop hard you could win a very big pot.

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Why You Need To Make Moves In Poker

We all get the dealt the same hands over the long run. With this in mind there are 3 ways you can end up with all the chips in tournaments:

  • Win a little more when you have the best hand.
  • Lose a little less when you have the worst hand.
  • Make moves which get your opponents to fold.

When someone plays too tight it is difficult to get the first 2 right – since people will often fold when you finally do raise and if they do call then chips will only go into the pot when you are behind!

The third one just does not happen. That well timed 3-bet bluff, stealing just enough blinds to maintain your stack while waiting for a good hand, that continuation bet on a flop which it is difficult for your opponent to have hit. All of those things add up, so when you do play a big pot you are doubling up from a much higher level – giving yourself a chip stack which can cause some damage.

Players who do not make moves blind themselves down. When the big hand comes a double can get you back into the average-zone… only to start blinding again. If you do not make moves in poker tournaments, you are unlikely to find yourself in a position to push your advantage at the crucial points of the bubble and final table.

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How You Can Start To Loosen Up And Win More Tournaments!

playing too tight in online poker tournamentsThis article has been deliberately a little gloomy so far – I wanted to get the point driven home that tightness is just as ‘fishy’ as loose play. Fortunately, there are some simple steps to breaking out of the tight traps and taking your fair share of chips!

First, you can start to use your tightness to steal.

After playing snug for an hour or more, try raising or re-raising one of the looser players at your table. The best hand to choose is one at the top of the range of hands you normally would have folded, something with just a little backup if you get called – but that you would be fine to fold should you face a huge re-raise! Time this right and you can win a few chips just because nobody would expect you to raise without a real hand.

If you can get to the flop, then making moves will look even more scary. Remember that hands miss the flop 2/3rds of the time in Holdem. Most of the continuation bets you face will be from unimproved hands. Floating (calling in position with the intention of taking the hand away on the turn) or re-raising the flop can look very scary indeed if the player doing it is known to be a ‘nit’.

The tournament situation will often give you opportunities too. At the bubble nobody is expecting you to fight back without a hand, which encourages them to steal without a hand in the first place! Re-shoving your stack can result in some nice gains.

Finally, try playing at a level where the money really does not matter to learn to make a few moves. Going to the micro buy-ins will remove the pressure of money and allow you to experiment with new ideas – simply making one or two moves a game is a great start, you can build from there.

There are some great games to improve your tournament skills in my list of the best beginners tournaments – check it out now!

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