Playing at a Tight Table
written by: John
Many poker players make it out to seem like it's extremely difficult to make money while playing at a tight table. It's certainly not going to be easy, seeing as how tight players only like to commit chips when they're holding a strong hand. But it's far from impossible. It's just that playing at a tight table will be more of a grind since you'll win frequent small pots in comparison to the larger and infrequent pots won at a looser table.
How to Know a Table is Tight
You can tell when a table is tight (or loose) by looking at a few key stats in the lobby of your poker room:
- Average Pot Size: The average pot size at a tight table is going to be rather small, right around 5 to 8 big blinds on average. It's normally just a little bit more than the cost of the blinds plus a steal and maybe a c-bet.
- Average Number of Players to the Flop: This will tell you in the form of a percentage how many players are seeing the flop each hand. A tight table will see a little over 1 to 2 players to the flop.
- Hands Per Hour: The number of hands player per hour will be higher than that of a looser table because much of the action at a tighter table ends pre-flop thus resulting in more hands being dealt.
Adjusting for a Tighter Poker Table
You will likely have to make a few adjustments if you're playing at a tight poker table. As we mentioned in our article for playing at a loose table, the general rule of thumb is to play the opposite of how the rest of the table is playing. At a loose table, the optimal default strategy is to play tighter and at a tight table, it's a good idea to play a bit looser.
In general, your basic strategy will consist of taking advantage of your opponent's tight tendencies by stealing blinds frequently and taking away small pots post flop.
Here are some of the adjustments I make in more detail:
Wider Range of Hands
When seated at a table full of nits, my hand range is going to widen a lot. The reason being is that most of our opponents are nut peddling just waiting for aces, kings and ace-king. This obviously doesn't happen too often. So, I will exploit this by adding more hands into my opening range since I can expect my opponents to fold more often.
For example, I might raise all my pocket pairs, KQ suited, AJ suited and better from under the gun. At a tighter table (6-max), I might actually widen my hand range to include KJ and AT as well. As I get closer to the button, I will start to widen my range a lot more adding hands like one and two gapers into the mix. Normally, I would save hands like 89, 9T or 9J for the button, but if the table is tight enough I'll certainly start mixing these hands into my cutoff and UTG+1 hand range.
Many of you might be worrying that playing such marginal and/or bad hands at a tableful of nits would be suicide. And, it would be if it weren't for the fact that these guys play so few hands. When they decide to raise or 3-bet you, you can comfortably let your hand go because you'll know the villain isn't doing this without a solid hand.
Stealing & C-Betting
Stealing from the button is going to be one of your main sources of making money at a tight table. The great thing about this is that you can profitably steal with almost any two cards because the blinds are not going to 3-bet you without a hand, much less play you with a marginal hand out of position.
I'll play everything that I'm willing to play from UTG to the cutoff while also adding in any suited ace-rags, king-rags and some queen-rags as well. If the blinds are super tight I'll even add absolute trash into the mix. Again, you'll find that the blinds will be so transparent since they will only raise you with the top hands in their range. When they do, you can easily dump your unplayable hands and feel good about it.
Furthermore, even if one of the blinds does call you, you'll still have the initiative in the hand plus the added bonus of position. In many cases, you will be able to continuation bet on the flop and take the pot down without any more hassle. Once again, if you're played back at then you can re-evaluate your hand and let it go if needed.
Realizing You're Beat
I think it can be easy at times to constantly pound the living hell out of everyone at the table for small pots and get so carried away that you don't realize that it may be time to hit the brakes, namely when you're getting played back at.
See, the beautiful thing about a tight table is that these guys are pretty vocal about what they have and how good it is. Either they're going to fold to your bets or they're not. When they don't, it is imperative that you listen and either fold your weaker hand or be prepared to get your stack in and/or go to showdown. Guys who wait around all day for a hand are not going to want to let it go, no matter how much it may seem like they may be beat. Just be sure to use this info to your advantage.
Playing at Tight Tables in Poker
Me personally, I prefer to play at a looser table because it's more action packed and the pots are generally bigger due to all the fish freaking out with marginal hands. But tight tables aren't so bad every once in a while; they can definitely be a little bit more stress free given how much easier it is to read your opponents whom allow you to pound on them relentlessly for small pots until they finally wake up with a hand.