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Poker News | World Poker News

Weak-Tight: Every Aggro's Dream, Every Donkey’s Nightmare

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There are two insults at the poker table that hit players where it hurts. Calling someone a rock normally means that a player respects your game although they feel you are fairly predictable. Call someone Weak-Tight, however, and those are fighting words. Weak-Tight is a synonym for more vicious terms that include fraidy-scared, wuss, or something less than a man (or woman). We spoke to three successful players to get their take on Weak/Tight and what we can do about it. Matt "jacksup"Matros is a successful pro and author of The Making of a Poker Player. His best MTT cash is 3rd place in the 2004 WPT Championship held at the Bellagio, where he took down $706k. John "fuel55" Veltheer is a rising player making his way through mid-stakes NLHE as well as mid-level MTT's. Kevin "lucko21" O'Brien is starting to make a name for himself in online MTT's, winning several tourneys this year including a $10k payoff this spring and $25k on PokerStars this Wednesday, his best cash ever.

I overheard Kevin saying that poker bloggers were weak/tight generally. Kevin, is that true?

Kevin: I definitely hope I didn't offend anyone. I do think that a lot of bloggers are weak tight though. Part of why I have done so well in a lot of blogger tournaments are because players do play weak tight.

John: Bloggers are just plain weak. Many have written about this. They last longer in tourneys than average donks (compare the bust rate after 1 hour in a blogger tourney to a $20 tourney from the general population and you see the bloggers are 25% bust vs. 50% in the norm) However this is more indicative of weak tight than smart play. They play to survive, not play to win. Smokkee is a master of pushing weak tightees, Lucko is close behind. Matt and Jeff (Williams) play a super aggressive style that would run over even modest tighties especially in live play. I push harder in live play since I can see my opponents and their reactions. Personally I let the weakies be for the most part and look to trap the guys taking advantage of them. But, I am certainly not above showing down a huge multi-street bluff to a weak/tightie.

CC: What are the characteristics of a weak/tight NLHE players?

Matt: There are gradations of weak/tight of course, but the main features are an unwillingness to call bets/raises without very big hands, and an unwillingness to be super aggressive with poor holdings, even when the situation warrants it.

John: I'd say the three big mistakes that the weak/tight player makes are checking (especially check folding), ABC poker, and failure to raise to get information (on flop they prefer to call and never know where they are at).

CC: What are the causes?

John: Playing over their head and bankroll, an inability to multi-street bluff, an inability to float (in and out of position), and lack of c-betting.

Matt: In tournaments, by far the biggest cause is fear of busting, in my opinion. In cash games, I believe the cause is the "grind it out" mentality. Players learn how to beat the game for a small profit playing weak-tight poker, which is the lowest variance way to play; and since they've already found a way to beat the game, they see no reason to increase their risk. What weak-tight grinders are missing is that, no matter what your previous results are, it always makes sense to play in such a manner that offers you the highest EV, assuming you're properly bankrolled for the game to begin with.

CC: What do you think the motivation is behind playing weak/tight?

Kevin: I have some guesses on motivation, but that is what they would be, guesses. I really don't understand the mindset. My natural play was always aggressive and the more I learn about the game, the more I understand why. Passiveweak play just doesn't make sense to me. I do know that some people want to look smart when they play. They always want to be the one making the smartest decision. Unfortunately for them, they usually don't understand that the smartest play will many times look majorly dumb when the right play was against the wrong hand. I have reraised people all in with 8-3o. There are many people I played against that I am sure thought I was a brain dead donkey. I do think many people are afraid to make a play that will make them look dumb. I also think that people like to play "safe". They want their money in with the best of it. They think this is the only way to make money in the game. Getting your money in first is almost as important and in many cases actually more important. If I get my money in first, I can win with a fold or if my hand is best at the river. If I get in with the worst some times but also to get some folds, I will usually end up positive.

Risk is a part of the game that I think people shy away from. Safe plays are easier and like you said, they can avoid the tough decision and fold the small pot and try to find an easier decision later. But those are all really just guesses. Like I said, I don't really fully understand why they do it, I just try to recognize it and exploit it as much as I can.

CC: How do you personally sniff out a player who is weak/tight?

Kevin: When it gets late in a tournament, I will start raising more and more hands. If people start playing back at me, which they should be based on how often I am raising, I will slow down. If they keep letting me, I am only going to start raising almost every single chance when it comes to me, the cards almost don't matter. And in a lot of the blogger tournaments I have played, people just keep folding to me. Or they call, see a flop and fold if they miss. I usually don't have people playing back at me with mediocre cards. They are waiting for their big hands. So I get to take the blinds and antes several times each rotation until someone picks up a real hand against me. If they are too short, I can call with junk hands and try to suck out. I will usually have picked up more chips in previous steals than I am risking making the small calls. Plus there is always the chance they play back at me when I actually have the goods. In one recent tournament, I won over half the hands dealt. There is no way the players at the table should have let me run over it like that.

John: If I consistently see a player check folding or check calling the flop then checking the turn, then my antennae go up on that player. Someone who is preflop calling instead of reraising is another tell-tale sign.

Matt: Yeah, it's usually not that hard. A person who folds a lot is clearly tight. Once I find a tight person, if I see him routinely betting out one time and folding to raises, or getting married to over pairs for the fifth raise just because he "finally found a hand", or saying things like, "I hate ace-king", I'm pretty confident I've found a weak/tight player.

CC: How do you overcome a tendency to play weak/tight?

Matt: I used to be weak/tight, and the way I overcame it was simply by understanding that I was costing myself a boatload of money. This understanding didn't come immediately, but once it came I did make a rather abrupt and beneficial style change. Other players can too.

John: I think bankroll is extremely important. You have to play at lower levels where the money is meaningless and you can really push hard.

Kevin: In cash games, you can play passive against an aggressive player and trap them in big pots. Late in tournaments you are usually not deep enough for that to be a long term successful strategy IMO. I think that a lot of the players (not just bloggers) think tournaments are mainly about surviving each hand. Chip accumulation is huge and you just can't pass up +EV plays in tournaments and do well long term. If you pass up these spots, you will not have as much success as you should.

CC: Can you give us a tourney example?

Kevin: Let's say its down to 2 tables, with 16 left, blinds are 300-600, 50 ante. I have 25,000 and have been raising about 1/2 the hands that fold to me. I am in the cutoff, everyone folds, I make it 1,700. Everyone folds to the big blind who is sitting on 8500 with J-Ts. Many people will call or fold there. They figure they have 14 big blinds and there is no need to risk their stack on such a mediocre hand. Some times people call and fold if they miss or just fold outright. Then a couple minutes later the blinds go up and they are now under 10 big blinds and starting to be in a spot where they will have to gamble. They wait to pick up a good hand and maybe let the blinds pass again and then push in with a good hand, often the best hand. Sometimes it holds and they are healthy again. Sometimes it doesn't - they bust and are upset about how they *always* get unlucky.

So let's backup and look at it another way. An overly aggressive player raises from the cutoff, I am in the big blinds with J-Ts. I am getting all my chips in there almost every time. I have 8500 and two things can happen. The cutoff folds: He is getting about 1.6-1 to call, so he shouldn't be calling with garbage. He will need some what of a real hand to call with. More times than not, you should be winning the pot right now. 1700+300+600+antes, puts your stack over 11,000. Now the next level you have some chips to steal with on your own and you don't have to push and try to get lucky. The cutoff calls: Chances are you J-Ts is behind, but not in as horrible shape as most people think. Even if the CO only calls with 9-9+ and A-J+, you still will have about 33% equity in the pot. So if you push and get called by a tight range of hands you still have about 5850 equity in the pot. So mathematically that means minus your BB, you only risked 2050 chips to win the 1700+300+600+antes in the pot. If you only get folds 40% of the time, you will still be making money pushing here. If it is someone who is very active, they probably won't call that much and if they do, you will be against hands that you fair even better than 33% against.

So combine that equity with the amount of money you make with folds it's a very +EV against any half way intelligent aggressive player. The other thing is that you don't even need a hand this strong for it to be a profitable play. Plus the times you win, you are now sitting on a monster stack, which opens up tons of options for you late in a tournament. It is not a play to be used often. But once or twice a tournament, done in good spots, it can help you accumulate lots of chips.

CC: You can look like a luck box or get in embarrassing situations when you make these plays and catch hands, though.

Kevin: When you run into aces and suck out, people get mad at you, and you look like a bit of a donkey to some people. I get called a luck sack all the time. I shove my chips in behind a lot if I think I have enough fold equity to make it a profitable play. I look like a donkey when I get called. When I suck out and go on to win the tournament, people talk about how I got "lucky" to win it. In a sense I did get lucky, but when I get lucky, I am
following the math. Plus I am accumulating a ton of chips in the process.

I have somewhat of a "go big or go home" strategy. Attack and put pressure on other players. Exploit fold equity when it is there. If a decent situation comes up, take it. Don't think about how you don't need to take that risk yet because you are some what healthy and can wait for a better spot. If it is a good spot, take it. Stop calling and then folding when you miss. Take advantage of opportunities that are there. No one is good enough to pass up these +EV spots and do well long term.

John: I have thought about what I call "advanced" detection of weakness quite a bit. Catching weak tights is easy. Catching LAGs is tough. I know all the obvious stuff regarding weakness but as the cash games get to the higher limits you start to see multi-street floating (in and out of position), multi-street bluff leads (out of position) and resteals/bluff reraises (in position). I seem unable to read this stuff beyond a 50% statistical shot at it and I think I fold winning hands way too often.

CC: There are many successful ways for attacking a cash game or tournament, but everyone would agree that weak/tight play should be avoided. The insights from Matt, John, and Kevin will help any of us as we progress in this game, three players who have worked through these tendencies and now exploit them when they appear.

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