One of the prime skills you as a poker player can possess is the ability to change gears.
A given style might be highly profitable versus one set of opponents and yet might be a total money-loser against another set of opponents.
It's the players who can adjust to the particular circumstances of each game they take on who are the most successful.
Simply put, if you can't adapt to the game you're playing in, you'll be a loser in that game. You can't just force-fit some cookie-cutter style onto any game.
The most profitable style of play is often opposite to the one your opponents are employing. So if your opponents are playing tight, you must open your game up and play loose. If your opponents are playing loose, you can just clam up and play tight, waiting for a hand.
How to Win in Tight Poker Games
Some people see a tight table and lament the supposed fact that there'll be no easy money at it. This is misguided. Tight players are as exploitable as their loose brethren, just in a different way.
Where loose players will be putting money in bad all day, tight players will fold all day. Tight players by definition will only be playing their best hands, meaning they're folding a ton. You can exploit a tight player by using his tendency to fold against him.
To beat TAGs, you must know how they think. TAGs do not like to risk much. You can often steal small pots off them all day.
ABC TAGs don't open up their play to beat you. If they see you raising every button they aren't all of a sudden going to start calling with A2. Instead they're thinking, "When I get a hand I'm going to bust this aggressive asshole."
However, by the time they get that monster and play back at you, you will have stolen so many small pots from them it'll be easy to let that one pot go.
A few years ago the predominant style in online poker was tight-aggressive. Even at six-max games you would find a table full of these TAGs playing extremely ABC poker.
They would all be hoping that some fish would sit and start raising it up all day long, thereby paying off their pocket aces.
A New Species to Beware Of: The Good LAG
However, that wasn't the case. As the games became tighter a new playing style began to emerge: the loose-aggressive style (LAG). Good LAG players began punishing the TAGs by raising 20% of pots and stealing pots from them before and after the flop.
Let it be understood that these LAGs are a different species to bad LAGs. Good LAGs will push and push and push when they know their opponent will fold. They'll be stealing tons of small pots.
However, if the pot gets big, they'll be sure to have a big hand. Good LAGs know that when their opponent pushes back, they'd better have a hand. Bad LAGs do not possess this type of discretion. They don't distinguish between small pots and big pots.
Good LAGs know that TAGS like to fold and thus they give them a reason to whenever they can. They develop this loose image and they exploit it.
TAGs are often frustrated by loose players raising and betting all the time. LAGs know this. They use their image and they get their normally TAG opponents to stack off much lighter than they would against another TAG.
Good LAGs punish their opponents by playing aggressively in position. And you should too. This is the trick to playing against tight opponents: you take their tendency to fold and you use it against them.
Play in position and play aggressively. Your TAG opponents will be caught off guard. TAGs play an ABC style of poker and are thus very easy to read.
If you are considering a LAG game, you must first be familiar with ABC poker. Their hand ranges are ridiculously easy to read. You know that TAGs do not like to risk money with one pair and you can often get folds out of them on dangerous boards.
Successful LAGs play strong post-flop poker. When you play many hands you must have very strong hand-reading skills, because you will be put to some tough decisions.
LAG is not an easy game to play. But it's definitely more fun than folding all day, and against a table full of TAGs it's your best bet to make money.
Adjusting for a Loose Poker Game
Loose games are easier to adjust for and in my opinion easier to play than tight ones.
The loose-passive style is usually favored by poor poker players. They play too many hands and they take them too far past the flop. These players usually bleed money, often putting their money in bad.
Such opponents are the ATMs of the poker world. How to beat these players should be fairly obvious: just wait for a good hand and when you have it, value bet it. Bet, bet, bet. To beat calling stations you just have to eliminate bluffing from your arsenal and value bet them relentlessly.
Loose-aggressive players (the bad kind) are the same. You just wait for a big hand and then pick them off. If they keep betting, allow them to do so.
A bad LAG will be betting with less-than-stellar holdings fairly often, so it's incredibly easy to trap them. If you just wait for premium holdings you will eventually make a hand where you can stack them.
Playing in position versus a LAG makes your life easier. Try to get a seat to the left of a known LAG so you will not have to worry about him three-betting your openings all day.
LAGs by nature are playing far too many marginal hands and are far too aggressive in doing so. You can be the passive one playing against a LAG because you know the money is going to be going in. Just make sure you have a strong hand relative to his when you get it in!
As discussed in the "adjusting for tight tables" article, no longer are all LAGs bad. There are good LAGs playing these days. These players are extremely difficult to play against.
Before you label someone a bad LAG you must witness them make some sort of grievous error on a large street of betting. Good LAGs will be raising quite a bit before the flop and betting a ton of flops.
This does not necessarily mean that they're bad players, because whenever the pot gets big, you can bet that this player has a big hand.
What makes a LAG bad is his/her inability to slow down - the lack of a "stop" button. Good LAGs are gifted with self-control, whereas the bad LAG has no discipline and will often build a giant stack and lose it just as fast.
Make sure you are able to differentiate between the two types.
Poker Games with Tight and Loose Players
This is the type of environment in which the ability to change gears will help you the most. You can play one style versus one opponent at the table and yet completely different against another.
Your ability to change gears at the drop of a hat will make you a formidable opponent. Once you have identified your bad opponents at the table and why they are bad - because they're either too loose or too tight - you can exploit them by playing as many hands against them as possible.
If either the tight or the loose player limps in, you should often try and raise to isolate him or her. The more times you find yourself heads-up against these bad players in position, the more easy dollars you will make at the table.
The ability to change gears greatly increases your chances of becoming an extremely successful player. Many live players can't adjust to the online atmosphere and find themselves losing money.
Contrary to the rationalizations some of these players come up with, this has nothing to do with online poker being "rigged." Rather, it's because they're unable to adapt to the specific dynamics of the online game.
True, it's all poker; online is just played in a different style than live. If you learn to adapt to whichever game you're playing, you'll win money hand over fist both live and online.