How to Beat Loose Players
Loose players are the most ideal type of opponent. Not only do they not know what they are doing, but they are also putting their money up for grabs in almost every pot. There are some players who play badly but are also quite tight, but these opponents aren't going to be nearly as profitable as the loose players.
A loose player is defined as someone who likes to see a lot of flops, turns, and rivers. Don't confuse loose players with aggressive players, because they are not one in the same. An aggressive player will make raises and smart plays, while a loose player simply calls away their stack time and time again. Taking advantages of these players is easy, and you should adopt a strategy that caters to their individual weaknesses.
A loose player is going to play the same way in almost every pot. These players aren't prone to switching up their game on a dime. This is due to the fact that they tend to not really care. A loose player is the very definition of a recreational opponent, because they just want to have fun. They feel like calling off tons of bets is the way that they are going to get the most enjoyment out of their time playing poker. While this is obviously going to be wildly unprofitable, no one can argue that seeing lots of hands is the most exciting way to play poker. Loose players can be frustrating when you are unable to make hands, but they are incredibly easy to dominate once you manage to hit just a few fortunate hands.
How to Not Play Against Loose Players
The worst thing that you can do when facing a loose player is to try and beat them at their own game. You shouldn't ever try to bluff a player out of a pot when they have no intention of folding. Bluffing a calling station is the equivalent of lighting money on fire. As obvious as it sounds that you should not bluff someone who never folds, some players will continue to fire bullets if only in hope that they can get that one big fold.
Continuation bets and double barrels are two plays that should be in any winning players' repertoire. When it comes to facing loose opponents, however, these two particular skills should be tossed out the window. Continuation bets only work when you are up against someone who is capable of laying down a hand when they missed. Loose players will often times continue to call even if they have nothing at all, as illogical as this might sound. Double barrels are even worse than continuation bets because you will be putting even more money on the line, which is inevitably going to be lost. All that you need to do is remember that betting without a made hand is a terrible strategy if you are attempting to beat a loose opponent.
Profiting From Loose Players
The very downfall of loose players is what will open up your opportunity to capitalize and walk away with significant profits. The one thing about facing loose players is that you can't win if you don't have a strong hand. Since these players are never going to fold to your aggression, the only thing that you can do is to wait for a made hand that can be used to extract maximum value. This is both very easy and very difficult at the same time. If you are running well and continue to make strong hands, you are going to be printing money. If you miss what seems like every flop, you'll be as frustrated as possible. The good thing about loose players, though, is that they require minimal risk in exchange for sizable gains.
Pre-flop play against loose players calls for playing in lots of pots. While this may seem like backwards strategy given that you should avoid pots where you don't have a made hand, it actually makes perfect sense. The key to this equation is getting involved for a small amount of money. You should be looking to play as many pots as possible in limped or single raised situations. In fact, it's beyond profitable to even call blind against a loose player if you can get in without a raise. Even though you are seldom going to wind up with a big hand, the times that you do get lucky will far outweigh the times where you miss and lose 1 big blind.
Extracting Max Value
It's one thing to understand that you need to beat loose players by waiting for good hands, but it's another skill altogether to know how to make the most money possible. The easiest way to do this is by simply winning more from an unusually loose player than you would otherwise be able to make from an average opponent. Since loose players can't help but to call off bets in just about every spot, you'll be able to take advantage of this by squeezing out extra bets both pre-flop and post-flop.
If you would normally make an open raise pre-flop to 4x the big blind, consider bumping that raise to 5x or 6x if you feel like the loose player is going to call. Even though this type of exploitation is going to be known to you, the majority of loose players will never pick up on it. Many poker players assume the best in their opponents, but the truth is that most don't pay much attention to bet sizing at all. Raising your standard bet sizes pre-flop is the first step to extracting maximum value from your loose opponents.
In post-flop situations, the same advice applies as is given for pre-flop play. You already know that you should be shutting down when you miss the board, but you should be firing on all cylinders when you have a real hand. Make bets that are close to the size of the pot on the flop, do the same on the turn, and shove on the river. These are the types of plays that would be disastrous and would dilute all value from your big hands in most other pots, but they will be just perfect against a loose player.
Loose players love two things: getting lucky and hitting a big hand or calling you down with nothing at all. Even if they have to call off a sizable portion of their stack for a shot at a gut shot straight, they will give it a shot. Anyone can appreciate the thrill of hitting that gut shot, but it's clearly going to bleed any player dry over the long run. Use the beyond sub-par approach to poker to make a lot of easy money. Loose players are an absolute dream of an opponent, so you need to ensure that you aren't leaving any money on the table when you are fortunate enough to be playing with one.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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