This is the third installment of the Table Image article series.
Playing tight makes the money; this is a fact. When in doubt, play solid, tight, fundamental poker and you are sure to make a profit. There will even be short-handed games in which you must play tight to make a profit.
Playing tight seems easy - pick the best starting hands and push them. The problem is that many times you will get called and chased out. This is a very likely possibility so you must know how to play tight and when to vary your play for maximum profit. You also need to know in which games a tight style will be profitable.
Vary Your Play
You can play tight all day, but when the whole table is folding to your premium hands you must alter your strategy slightly. The way to do this is to limp or call raises with some "safe hands." What I mean by this is raising the hands that will pay you off, such as A-x suited, small pairs or, occasionally, in a short-handed game, playing K-x, Q-x, or even J-x suited. The point of this is to get action on your premium hands. You always want to keep people guessing if you can. Raising with "safe hands" also allows you to make easy decisions on the flop. Either you hit or you miss. If you are in a cash game you might even consider betting your draws. There are many ways to vary your play; just don't go overboard.
When to Play Tight
Generally, I like to play tight on really crazy tables. While this is obvious, many people fail to do it. Waiting on hands seems to be the average online poker player's weakness. You must exploit this on crazy tables by behaving like a monk. Envision a win for every time you fold. On a crazy table folding makes the most money. Repeat this over and over. Folding makes the most money. Folding makes the most money. Awesome; now you understand how to make the most profit on a table with maniacs.
Another great time to play tight is during the early stages of a tournament. This is by far my favorite tactic. The reason I prefer to fold my small blind a lot and show everyone how tight I am is so I can take advantage of their blinds in the later rounds. This way, even if I don't get the cards during any given tournament, I will have a chance to win it by bluffing the blinds. That is my "double whammy" strategy for winning tournaments.
The last great time to play tight is when you are unsure of the table. When you're in a game with a bunch of players that you are unfamiliar with, always play tight rather than loose. You will get a vibe for the overall status of the table this way. Always play tight when you cannot choose a table image regarding a certain game.
Tight is right.
How Tight to Play
When I say tight I mean it. I often fold top pair with a decent kicker if I am re-raised on the flop. Always look out for the turn. When someone re-raises you on the turn, you are almost always beat if the player is decent. Also, be aware of a re-raise on a flush card or an obvious straight. If you are even debating folding a hand, almost always fold it rather than call. That's the rule. You are either raising in a pot with the best of it, or folding when you are beat.