Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2011) in Poker Player newspaper.
In poker, the term “loose” defines a player who enters too many pots and calls too many bets. By contrast, a conservative player who seldom enters a pot without a quality hand, is often called “tight.”
Fine. So, in today’s self-interview, we’ll talk about playing loose poker.
Question 1: Everyone says you play loose. Why have you chosen that style?
I’m sure not “everyone” says I play loose. But many players probably say it. And they’re wrong. My basic mode of play is tight.
Question 2: Then why do they say it?
First, tight for me doesn’t mean I play only the same restricted number of hands as an average player who is trying to eke out a win conservatively. I play many more hands than that. And I raise much more often, too.
There’s a logical reason for this, and it applies to poker players at all levels of skill. The explanation is that the better you become at poker, the more you can afford to enter pots with hands that seem slightly substandard on paper, but which, in actual table play, can be fitted with finesses that overcome that disadvantage. Simply, the more skill you acquire, the more you can outplay opponents on later betting rounds, and the more liberally you can enter pots.
Second, it’s an illusion that I’m playing as loose as they think I am. I use many means of psychological manipulation and table chatter to make it seem as if I’m playing inferior hands often. In reality, I’m playing profitable hands almost exclusively.
Question 3: You said you don’t just enter more pots. You also raise more often. Why?
That’s because if you’re not certain (or don’t have a strong belief based on logic) that your hand has an advantage – or that raising itself will put you in an advantageous position – you shouldn’t raise. World-class players and other professionals are more certain more often, so they can raise more often and show a profit doing it.
If you just raise at whim, you’ll most likely lose money. So, you’re better off not raising at all, unless it’s obvious that you should. The more skill you acquire, the more you can raise.
Question 4: In general, who wins more money – loose players or tight players?
Tight players. They take advantage of their opponents’ most common fault of calling too often by usually entering pots and making bets only with an advantage.
Question 5: Then why do you try to appear loose? Don’t you want to look like a winner?
I want to look like a lucky winner. I don’t want to look like a winner who’s milking the game by only playing superior hands.
Opponents are intimidated by good luck and they play worse because they fear it. If I appear tight and seem as if I’m taking advantage of their loose play, they’ll tighten up defensively. But if I look like I’m gambling right along with them, even though I’m playing much tighter than they think, they’ll provide me with extra profit by continuing to play substandard hands.
Question 6: Is there anything you do to make yourself seem loose?
One thing in particular: I’m always friendly. Now, I’m going to tell you an important secret, and I hope you’ll remember it: Friendly players naturally seem looser.
Tight players often appear serious, and that discourages opponents from playing ultra-weak hands against them. Loose-appearing players who are friendly have an intense psychological advantage.
That’s why I never get upset when I lose pots. I want opponents to think I’m happy for them. And, another secret is that I actually am happy for them. I practice that attitude. It keeps me from becoming upset.
In order to set the stage, I occasionally play conspicuously weak hands and giggle about them, win or lose. Opponents appreciate the gamble. Then I inconspicuously tighten up, while continuing to talk in ways that make opponents think I’m a bit bizarre and unpredictable. Unpredictability, coupled with a friendly personality, wins chips that derive from especially loose calls.
Question 7: So, what if you reversed it and had a tight image, but played loose?
Actually, I’ve done that. It works, but not as well as the other way around. In fact, seeming loose and playing tighter than your image suggests is much more profitable than the reverse.
Sure, you can bluff more when you seem tight. But there’s more potential profit in getting extra calls than in bluffing. That’s because most of your opponents call too often, and you want an image and a game plan that takes advantage of that fact.
In summary: Establish a loose image, then play tighter than that image suggests. You’ll like the results. — MC