Intermediate Poker Strategy: Swimming With the Fishes

Most of the time, these articles are written under the assumption that you’re always going to be playing against players who are as good as, if not better than, yourself. What happens if you’re playing against a table full of calling stations, loose passive players who are just happy throwing their chips into the pot? Believe it or not, you’re going to want to tighten up your opening hands but be willing to take others to the mat when the time comes.

This strategy works because of the large pot odds that are built by multiple players who limp into a pot. For instance, I would never limp into a passive table with QT suited in first position, but I’d totally call with a hand on the edge like that if I were on the buttons and there have been no raises before me. Mediocre hands can become profitable if you don’t have to pay very much to see the flop.

Let’s say you’re on the button and six players limp in to you. You’re holding 8d9c. You should call because if you operate under the assumption that the small blind completes the big blind and the big blind checks, you’re getting eight bets in the pot for one call on your part. This is, of course, as long as you and the other players have enough money in the pot to ensure a large score if you do connect on the flop. I recommend calling no more than 5% of the money you could reasonably expect to win if you did hit your hand when you’re calling with suited connectors or small pairs. That means you can call off 5% of your own stack only if at least a couple players in the pot have you covered or near covered.

This is all without talking about the automatic advantages you have when you’re playing against weak players. By going against your training, you’re denying them the get paid off big when they make big hands and you’re holding mediocre action on your part. You’re also going to see a lot more money when you have big hands because a smooth call is going to ensure that everyone else plays exactly the same way.

Playing against a table full of weak players isn’t something that happens as often as we’d like, but you should definitely know how to make the most out of it when the stars align for you.