Once a month I get together with the same group of friends for a night of poker. We play unstructured "dealer's choice" games. Each chip is worth a dime and bets are rarely more than 50 cents. We do not play table stakes so we are constantly fishing green out of our pockets when our chip pile runs low. However, there is an "understanding" that if your hand is a monster, you won't be throwing down 10 and 20-dollar bills. We drink beer, munch salty snacks, at the half point eat a meal of cold-cut sandwiches, talk about sports, work, the stock market, and generally have a good time. On a really bad night, I might loose $30 and on a good night, I make that amount. It always feels better to win than to loose, but if you are the 10ser that night, where else could you have had such a good time for so little money?
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Strategic Considerations for Loose-passive Games
On poker night, we play Hold'em and Seven-Card Stud, but we also play many junk poker games with wild cards and antes high in relation to the final pot size. In high ante games where most of money in the pot has gone in before anyone sees their cards, it is impossible to gain an edge. Since the game consists of the same seven people, playing month after month, year after year, money just flows around the circle. Over time, no one wins or 10ses-a perfect social situation.
The social game I play with my friends is an extreme example of a loose-passive game. The defining features of these games are few raises and everyone plays until the end. There is always a showdown. If you go to a casino cardroom on a weekend, at the lower betting limits you will find games that are close to fitting the loose passive definition. Tourists, beginners, and people out to have a good time populate these games. Money is not the main issue-entertainment is the attraction. The stakes are small compared with the costs of most entertainment/social activities. Loose-passive games are actually the easiest ones to beat. To win money, you must become antisocial: that is, not play every hand through to the end.
Position is unimportant since everyone will call with every hand. There is little information to be gained from having an advantageous position.
Cost will be small in relation to the pot. Just about every drawing hand will have decent pot odds.
Number of players equals the number in the group. Everyone plays every hand.
Playing styles are passive. People rarely raise, even with the nuts.
Most Important Factor:
Your Cards. The only way to get an edge is to do what the others will not: fold unproductive hands.
Frustrating Features of Loose-passive Games:
Bad beats. After a long session of play where you end just about even, you will be thinking about the several hundred dollars sitting on the table that you still consider yours. Of course, the money is not yours because of that one last improbable card on the end that beat you. With so many people staying to the end in each hand, implied collusion is rampant. Bad beats are an unavoidable cost of play.
Putting people on hands. When there are six hands up against you, how do you figure out what they all are? Someone is on a straight draw; someone is on a flush draw; someone flopped two-pair; someone has a small pocket pair and is waiting for a set. But which one of your opponents is in each of these situations?
A Common Mistake:
Over aggression, particularly raising after the flop. You flop a flush draw; a person in front of you bets. How strong is their hand? You raise to find out and expect that you will also get a free card. Three players after you call your raise and so does the original bettor. You have learned nothing, and with this many players, odds are that you will not get your free card. Often it is better to get your flush draw as cheaply as possible and worry about raising if you do hit the flush because someone will still call at the end.
Fold frequently. If you watch the game and see ten hands in a row ending with a showdown, will that change with your presence? If no one's bets are respected, yours will not be either. To claim the pot, you must have the best cards at showdown. Forget about bluffing it won't work. What you can be loose on in these games is the position requirement for your starting cards. You can play drawing hands from an early position because you can safely assume that the requirements for playing a drawing hand-large pot, no pre-flop raise will always be present.
However, don't start playing garbage for starting cards and think that, because there are always many callers, anything is playable. Playing garbage is a seductive trap in loose-passive games because any two starting cards can hit the flop and win a big pot. All the pots are big, so don't compete unless you have an edge at the beginning. One way to think about loose-passive games is to imagine a poker player's dream where every hand has a large pot and you are always dealt the best starting cards. Want to realize that dream? Then fold every garbage hand that comes your way. With correct strategy, loose-passive games are the most profitable to play in.
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