Combating Weak Players
In my previous blog post, we discussed how to exploit calling stations. This time, we will discuss how to combat overly weak players. In my next article, we will discuss combating maniacs.
We will classify a weak player as someone who plays in a blatantly straightforward manner, raising when he has a premium hand, calling when he has a marginal hand, and folding when he has nothing. These players are by far the easiest to play against because you often know exactly where they stand.
The main adjustment you should make against these players is to continuation bet with essentially all hands that have little to no showdown value. This is because you will steal the pot about 60% of the time with a continuation bet, making a blind bet with any two cards profitable on most boards that are not incredibly coordinated. This is often the main adjustment you should make in small stakes games because many amateurs call with a wide range before the flop but then play straightforwardly once they realize they have a marginal or junky hand on the flop.
Notice that I do not suggest continuation betting with your marginal made hands. This is because when you get called, you will often be against a decently strong range that has marginal made hands beat. You are still best off checking behind on the flop to see what develops, which is what you should do versus strong players as well.
The situation discussed in my previous article had us raising preflop from middle position and only the big blind, this time a weak player, called. The flop comes Jh-Ts-4d. If my opponent checks, I would use this strategy versus a weak opponent:
This is the same range I used versus calling stations, but I am playing some of the hands differently. Against weak players, I am betting with my premium made hands, draws, and junk, opting to check my marginal made hands. I could have easily moved the strongest marginal made hands (Q-Js, A-To, etc.) to the Premium Made hand range, but I think checking those is still fine.
It is important that you figure out your opponent’s range when he continues beyond the flop. I expect most weak players to continue in this manner on Jh-Ts-4d after checking:
The title of the white “Fold” category is a bit misleading because it is actually hands played in a manner such that they are not in the current range. This essentially means that the best hands are 3-bet and the worst hands are folded before the flop, removing both from the range that the weak player sees the flop with.
Most weak players only check-raise with hands better than top pair with a decent kicker, and sometimes their premium draws. In this situation, K-Q and 9-8 would normally fall in a flop check-raising range, but most weak players will just call with those.
So, if you get check-raised by a weak player in this situation, you need an extremely strong hand to continue, perhaps K-J and better. When you call a check-raise with K-J, you should have some idea of how your opponent will proceed on the turn. Many weak players will split their range, betting K-J and better and checking Q-J and worse. If that is the case, you should then fold K-J to a turn bet. If your opponent will blindly barrel off with all top pairs, then K-J becomes a reluctant call down. Always be sure to think about how your opponent plays on each street because K-J is quite strong against some weak players but absolute garbage versus others.
It should be clear that if we are folding all hands worse than K-J to a check-raise that we are folding a gigantic portion of our range. Against a normal player, this would be a huge mistake, but against a weak player, it is perfectly fine because almost all hands are crushed by his check-raising range. This concept of betting for value on all three streets and fold if raised is a powerful tactic in small stakes games that should not be underestimated. Most players simply play in a face-up manner. They raise when they have the nuts, so if you can’t beat the nuts, you should fold.
Most of the weak player’s check-calling range consists entirely of marginal made hands. It is up to you to decide how your opponent will play these hands on the turn. Some players will fold that entire range to a turn bet, some will call a turn bet and then fold to a river bet, and some will call down. That said, I have found that most weak players will release hands worse than top pair if you fire all three streets. This should lead you to bluff on the turn and river versus these weak players. Beware that some weak players elect to check-call with hands as strong as K-J with the intention of check-calling down. This should make you a bit more cautious when it comes to barreling off your stack.
It is worth mentioning that some weak players will only act weak when facing large bets. When you are bluffing, this should lead you to bet larger. When you bet large and get called, you should assume you are against a strong hand and should give up on your bluff. Most weak players can only withstand so much pressure. Once they put in more money than they are only willing to with a strong hand, you should simply assume they have a strong hand. Another adjustment you can make is to bet a bit smaller with your value hands because many of these players will call with a much wider range when they feel priced in and do not feel as if their entire stack will eventually be at risk. When you have a decent, but non-nut value hand, the best way to maximize your value is to play in a manner that keeps your opponent in with worse value hands that you beat. Obviously these are very exploitable tactics, but we are counting on your opponent to be a bad player who is oblivious to your strategies.
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Be sure to come back next week where we discuss how to exploit maniacs. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends. Thanks for reading!