McHaffie: MCU lesson 026 / Loose opponents


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2004.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at diane@caro.com.


Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 26: Can you face too many loose opponents?

Usually I write about simple poker concepts, because I’m just a beginner, passing along my first lessons at MCU. As I’m learning, so are you.

Still, sometimes my mind wanders beyond the basics, and I’m fascinated by more in-depth discussions about poker. For instance, there is a prevailing theory that you would rather not be in a game where all your opponents are very loose. My question is, since “loose” means they play too many hands recklessly, “Why not?”

Intuitively, it seemed to me that the looser and more careless your opponents are, the more you stand to earn from them. Right? But I read the opposing arguments and began to be persuaded. Maybe there could be too many players against a given hand; maybe when there were too many drawing to beat you, it could be worse than if there were only a few.

Must beat them all

The argument was that poker isn’t a game where you get rewarded for beating each opponent. You must beat all your opponents to win a pot. There’s simply no second-place money.

That mathematical logic is pretty complex. So, I referred back to my teacher and asked him whether it was true that you could have an edge against each individual opponent and still be in an unprofitable situation. He said, “Yes. To make it simple let’s say there’s a fifty-fifty expectation that you hand will hold up. Against one opponent, you’re still going to make a profit, because of the money already in the pot. Against two opponents, each having a 50 percent chance of drawing out on you, it’s only 25 percent that your hand will hold up. That’s because half the time you survive the first opponent, you get destroyed by the second. You lose three out of four times. However, it may still be enough to make your hand worthwhile. But suppose your hand is a fixed target and there are four opponents trying to make a better hand than yours. Now, you have just one chance in 16 of your hand winning. So, it’s true that with some hands, you can have too many opponents to make a profit, even though each is individually at a disadvantage against you.”

Just when I thought that Mike was validating the argument he said, “Beware! The concept fails in reality. You want as many weak, loose opponents as possible. There will be instances where too many loose players will have an affect on the value of a tight player’s hand. However, the tight, selective player still will win more money, assuming he isn’t playing too tight for the situation.”

Loose opponents play many hands that they shouldn’t. This mistake doesn’t go unpunished. Take advantage.

Mike says people who argue that you need two or three stable opponents while the rest are loose, are confused. You may need to adapt, but overall you’ll make the most money against the loosest opponents.

It gets worse

Imagine that you were previously playing with nine loose, reckless opponents, and you had them all to yourself. Now one of them leaves and a tight, skillful player takes the seat. Suddenly you must share the profits with that opponent. Take away another loose opponent and insert another stable one and there are three of you to share the spoils of the seven reckless ones. It gets worse each time that happens.

Mike told me that while the theory that you don’t want all loose players is intriguing, the conclusion is plainly “Just goofy!” He said, “Players at all levels, even beginners, should relish a table with as many loose players as possible.”

The more loose, weak, and unsophisticated opponents that you face, the more money you’ll make. Period. — DM

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3 thoughts on “McHaffie: MCU lesson 026 / Loose opponents”

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  1. What this essay does not say is which hands get stronger or weaker with many loose opponents. What works for me is this:

    Big random cards (ones that don’t have an ace, like KJo) are hurt badly. On a very loose table I just dump them. Small pairs are helped a bit. You almost always have the implied odds to draw for the set; if you miss the set get out. Straights are iffy – they don’t seem to do much better or worse. But the big winners are the Ace high and King high flush draws. When these come in, you make immense hands.

    By the way, there seems to be a broken link between lesson 24 and 25 of this series.

    Warm regards, Rick.

    1. I find that big random cards are not hurt badly in late position. KJo UTG usually spells trouble but KJo on the button with 5 callers in front of you preflop has worked out well for me. With a preflop raise in front of you usually need to worry about being dominated if only one of your cards hits, but if it is just called around chances are pretty good you have the best hand if you hit the flop.

      1. Hi Mike S.,
        The problem with random big cards is that their normal way of winning is making a top pair. But in a no fold’em game where everyone is sticking around, and you are seeing 5+ players seeing every flop, usually by the river, _someone_ has better than a high pair. So apart from the chance of being dominated, too often the top pair, high kicker is blown away by someone with two pairs – say 8’s and 6’s.

        Sure if I’m in late position and can get in cheap I might see what will happen. Who knows, I might flop a complete hand. But in a game with many loose players, I am no longer looking for top pair. Sure it MIGHT stand up. But I don’t have confidence in the hand, which means that I am not able to bet it confidently.

        At a table made up of mostly loose players, I would far rather get suited connectors than see a pair of random big cards.

        Warm regards, Rick.

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