It used to be that poker players were a wild, unpredictable bunch. Loose-passive or loose-aggressive would probably typify the typical hold ‘em player 10 to 20 years ago. Interestingly enough, however, it seems like the typical poker player has evolved to meet this changing landscape and now most players could be classified as weak-tight players.
There are many explanations for this change, but probably the most influential is the explosion of poker literature from numerous pros and other successful players, such as Phil Hellmuth, Lee Jones, TJ Cloutier, etc. (all weak-tight players IMHO). These pros have been attacking the game for decades and their style produced consistent profits for them. What’s interesting, though, is that as more and more amateur poker players read the poker literature out there, more of them are becoming weak-tight, thus making a weak-tight playing style no longer as profitable as it used to be. It’s an interesting example of poker evolving to match the style of players.
Let me explain: Weak-tight play is extremely effective in a loose-passive game, which is what I said used to be the norm 10 or 20 years ago. It’s the style that Johnny Chan credits for winning back-to-back championships in the WSOP. However, nowadays, if you are just going to sit back and wait for premium cards, it won’t win you as much as it used to because play in general is a lot tighter – you won’t be getting as much easy money from loose players any more.
What’s also interesting is that the most profitable style of play nowadays is probably much more loose. There are two reasons for this:
1) More weak-tight players out there
2) The development of deep stack, low blind NL ring games
I’ve already explained reason #1 so let me go a little bit into reason #2. Playing a looser style is a more profitable way of playing nowadays in deep-stack NL ring games because of the concept of implied odds or +EV (expected value). Nowadays, a typical game is something like a $1/2 blind, $100-300 buyin game. With blinds costing less than 1/50 of your stack, you almost always have a +EV on any hand you play, especially in late position, given you can limp in for a relatively cheap price. You’re investing an incredibly small portion of your stack with a decent possibility that you may double up.
What makes playing junk cards even more profitable is reason #1, that most players nowadays are weak-tight. This means that most of the time, you’re going to be facing a strong hand and if you can hit a monster, you will get paid off by your opponent. This is extremely important – if you can exploit a loose image, you can ALWAYS get weak-tight players to call you down. When amateurish, tight-weak players see loose play, they immediately assume that they are playing against a bad player (it’s what the poker books tell them). That means that they’ll always think their top pair is good because you are probably just playing some junk against them. While you indeed ARE playing junk, a lot of times junk can destroy top pair if you hit three of a kind or two pair.
Weak-tight players will also pay you off because they are usually incapable of making the big lay-down. After folding a large majority of their cards, once they hit top pair, they get way too excited and become “married” to their hand. They will not lay it down to two pair because they’re been waiting way too long to look for another opportunity.
Any style you play, of course, can be profitable. If you’re a good weak-tight player, you’ll make a lot of money against bad weak-tight players and bad loose players. But if you want to exploit the biggest profit, I think that loose play is absolutely the best way to make the most money fastest. Of course, it also takes the most skill – you’ll be forced into tough decisions a lot more often because you’ll be playing a lot more hands – but it will also most importantly let you learn the game the quickest, because you’ll be forced to think all the time.