Calling Patterns of Loose-Passive Players
And How to Exploit Them in No-Limit Limpfests
Last month we talked about the profitability of playing against loose-passive players (LPPs) and how best to take advantage of them. Naturally, our profits will stem primarily from the simple facts that LPPs play too many hands and aren’t aggressive enough with their good ones.
Not all LPPs are created equal though. They tend to follow different calling patterns based on their levels of looseness. In my Book of Bluffs, I broke LPPs down by four simple calling patterns:
Players who frequently call preflop, even in raised pots, but then fold if they don’t like the flop.
This is the classic “fit or fold” mentality. In other words, if the flop fit their hand even a little bit, they’re probably calling at least one bet. But if they miss the flop and are facing a bet, they’ll let their hand go without thinking twice.
This was the type of player we focused on last month. The trick is to see how big a raise he’s willing to call preflop, and then how little you can bet and still have him potentially fold post-flop. The “fit or fold” LPPs are by far the simplest to beat, and usually pose the least risk to your stack, since you pretty much know where you stand based on their flop decision.
Next, let’s look at players who frequently call both before and on the flop, but then fold if they don’t improve on the turn.
This type of player appears much more frequently in limit hold’em games, since the flop bet is smaller than the larger bets on the turn and river. But you’ll see them sometimes in no-limit as well, especially in games where the majority of flop bets are “feeler” bets as opposed to more legitimate, larger bets.
If you were betting the flop against a trickier player, he might call for several reasons. He could have a decent hand, or he could have a weak made hand, but suspect that you are simply continuation betting, so he’ll want to call and then see what you’ll do on the turn. Or, he could have no hand at all and be purely floating you, hoping you’ll shut down on the turn so he can steal the pot.
Typical LPPs don’t think on that level. They simply decide, based on the strength of their hand, whether or not they want to call. In the case of an LPP with this second calling pattern, a call on the flop tells you almost nothing about his hand strength, since he will usually want to see the turn regardless, but once he reaches the turn, he’ll need a hand to continue further.
There are two ways you can use that information. The first is to let the action get checked around on the flop against such an opponent. After all, he probably won’t fold, and you won’t gain much information by betting. The upside is that you are risking less of your stack, plus you are keeping the pot small, perhaps giving him less incentive to call a turn bet unless he has something decent.
On the downside, your check on the flop may plant the idea in his head that you really don’t have much. That might sway him towards calling a turn bet with a very weak made hand, one which he might have folded if you had double-barreled the flop and turn.
I often favor betting the flop in this situation, even when you have little or nothing and you know you will probably get called. For one thing, you can often gauge your opponent’s reaction to your bet to have some idea of whether he is calling out of strength or just hope. Also, you allow yourself to “build a bluff pot” which is a fantastic tool against players with calling pattern #2. In other words, your called bets early in the hand can become your profits with a successful bluff later in the hand.
Obviously the risk and reward are both higher than if you had checked the flop, since you are now risking preflop, flop, and turn bets. But, if you have him pegged clearly as a player who often folds on the turn, then you’ll make enough from his preflop and flop calls to make the play worthwhile.
In short, you want to set up a moment of truth for your opponent on the turn. While his primary focus is on the strength of his own hand, a flop bet followed by a larger turn bet will usually make anyone, even an LPP, feel the need for a stronger than usual hand in order to proceed.
LPP type 3: Players who frequently call all the way to the river because they want to see all five community cards, but then fold on the river if they haven’t made a decent hand.
Pure calling stations, who frequently call all the way, including on the river, even with hands that stand very little chance of winning.
If you are against one or more players who fit these patterns, your best bet is really to wait for decent hands and then fire away at them. You may be able to set up situations where you can get players with calling pattern #3 to fold on the river, but too often the reward is not worth the risk. You shouldn’t be excited about being in situations where you’re completely reliant on the strength of your own cards, but if the players are that loose, then that’s really your best plan of action.
Success in these types of games is a two step process. Your first step was choosing the right game. There’s not much point in joining a tight, low-limit, no-limit game; you’ll rarely be able to beat the rake. Hopefully you were able to find a seat in a no-limit limpfest with some nice loose action. That alone made you a theoretical profit.
But the job is only half done. Now you have to get to know your individual opponents and their levels of looseness. Only a few opponents will conveniently fall into one of the calling patterns I’ve outlined, but when they do, you should be fully aware of it. LPPs in general are some of the easiest opponents to beat. LPPs with a defined calling pattern are even more exploitable. You can beat them with or without cards, and under the right conditions, you can completely control the game.
Just make sure you don’t assign a player a calling pattern when he doesn’t clearly have one. If an LPP calls a preflop raise and then folds on the flop, you should definitely take note of it, but make sure you see it happen at least a couple more times before you are ready to call it a pattern. Once that happens, formulate your plan of attack against that player and take him down. ♠
Matt Lessinger is the author of The Book of Bluffs: How to Bluff and Win at Poker. You can find Matt’s other articles at www.cardplayer.com.
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