Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in the London Telegraph in 2005.
Historical note: The following explanatory note didn’t appear in the series, but was sent with each column as submitted.
Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson stands unchallenged as the most celebrated poker player who ever lived. In 2005, at age 72, he won an unprecedented 10th championship gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker. He is among the few living members of the Poker Hall of Fame, and his books are the bibles for poker professionals.. Through www.poker1.com and www.doylesroom.com, Brunson has teamed with Mike Caro, today’s premiere poker educator, to offer a free learning experience to players worldwide. This column is founded on those collaborative teachings.
Young poker players can be mighty mistaken about their best paths toward profit. Often you’ll see them take poker so seriously that they’ll study the most minuscule tactics and bring an arsenal of poker weapons to the table.
That’s good. But then, arriving at the table as thoroughly prepared as a player can be, they bump heads, one against another. And each one of the warriors is a great player in theory. But none is destined to make a decent living.
This scenario plays itself out worldwide — serious poker players colliding and becoming damaged. That’s too bad. Usually it takes years worth of experience to discover the biggest truth regarding poker profit. It is that most of your winnings will accumulate over the years, not by knowing the most finesses, but by putting yourself in the right games.
And putting yourself in those games means finding the right opponents. Who are they? Many times, I’ve been asked that very question, going back to my days chasing poker games along the lonely roads in Texas. And from that fairly young age, I’ve always known the answer in my heart. Perhaps letting that answer guide my game selection has accounted for much of my success.
Now you might think that the best games are the ones with the biggest pots. That’s usually wrong. When pots averages are exceptionally large — especially in no-limit games — it often means there are many aggressive players competing. Sometimes this can be profitable, but it isn’t the most promising garden to grow a bankroll.
Loose and passive
The games you should chase are ones populated by what’s come to be called “loose and passive” opponents. Most readers will know what the term “loose” means in poker. It’s the opposite of tight. Loose means that players enter far too many pots indiscriminately. Tight means that players are especially selective about the times they choose to risk their money. You can be too tight and get bluffed out of your bankroll, but that disease is rare in poker. Far more common an ailment is looseness — players jumping into pots where they have no business and losing consistently as a consequence.
So, yes, you want to find loose players and sit down in their games. But there’s something even better. You want to find loose players who are passive. Passive means non-aggressive. It means that players don’t get the most value out of their hands by betting and raising when they have you beat. So, put those two traits together — loose and passive — and you’ve defined the most profitable opponent in poker.
A loose, passive opponent gives you a lot of extra money by (1) calling unwisely and (2) surrendering potential profit by not taking maximum advantage of winning hands. Aspiring pros and serious players should find those loose and passive opponents and chase them down wherever they go. It’s the easiest route to poker profit. — DB