Poker Coverage: Poker Tournaments Casino News Sports Betting Poker Strategy

How To Beat A Very Loose Game

by Ed Miller |  Published: Apr 15, 2015


Ed MillerMany players struggle with frustration in very loose games. The frustration runs so deeply that a number of people are convinced that it’s nearly impossible to create a long-term edge in games like these. The thinking goes like this. If players are willing to call preflop with any two cards, and if they will call down to hit any draw, then you never know where you are in a hand, and it’s likely you’ll get drawn out on.

If you don’t know where you are in a hand, and you’re getting beaten left and right, how can you create an edge?

Strong Starting Hands

It’s actually very simple to create an edge in these games, but to do so, you have to let go of a few assumptions. First, you have to abandon the assumption that a strong starting hand or made hand on the flop is a through ticket to the river. This assumption is false in all no-limit games, but it’s especially wrong in these loose games.

If you typically have five opponents in a hand, then you are expected to win only about 17 percent of the pots, on average. In other words, when you play in these games, you should expect to lose most of the pots you play.

Good starting hands are still vital, since they tilt the odds in your favor, but they might tilt the odds from 17 percent up to 23 or 25 percent. This is not a monumental shift that will have you crushing opponents left and right. You’re still losing most of the pots you play. But billion dollar casino high rises are built on edges even thinner than that. The difference between 17 percent and 23 percent is the difference between being a long-term loser and a long-term winner. So a simple, tight preflop strategy is critical.

It can be seductive in these games to try to slip into pots with junky hands such as 8Heart Suit 4Heart Suit and JDiamond Suit 9Spade Suit in hopes of clobbering a flop. But this is not the right idea. Extremely effective, professional-level players might be able to squeeze a little bit of value out of hands like these from time to time, but if you find loose games troublesome, avoid weak hands like these.

Your goal is to play strong hands and raise preflop with them. Particularly strong hands in these games are big pocket pairs and big suited hands. A hand such as KSpade Suit QSpade Suit is very powerful, since it can make a top pair that you can bet three times for value. Also it can make a flush that pulls an enormous pot.

Small and medium pocket pairs are also good, since they make powerful made hands that are relatively hard to draw out on. Suited connectors such as 10-9 suited are also okay, but they are only okay in these games. A lot of the value of these hands typically comes from their ability to run bluffs after the flop. Bluffing will be only a secondary part of your postflop strategy, so these hands lose some of their value.

Suited connectors make up for this lost value somewhat because they do make strong hands fairly often.

But, you want to focus on playing hands like J-J and A-10 suited and build pots preflop with them. As I said above, you will still usually lose the pot you build, but you will win it more often than the average player, so getting money in preflop creates a long-term equity edge for you.

You also, obviously, want to see flops with hands like 4-4 in an effort to flop a set. Again, don’t be seduced by junky hands just because you see others playing and winning with them. Playing these weak hands is absolutely not the secret to success in these games.

Fold To Big Turn Or River Action

A key to winning in these games is to fold the turn and river when you’re likely beat. Your opponents won’t make these folds as consistently, and that disparity between your play and your opponents’ play will create a lasting edge.

Here’s the quick and dirty rule. If an opponent makes a big turn or river bet or raise, he’s not bluffing. If your hand can win only if he is bluffing, you should fold.

The math behind this recommendation is a little bit complicated, but it’s good advice. Don’t pay people off. They aren’t bluffing. Even if you see someone flip over the occasional bluff here and there, you still should keep on folding, because they aren’t bluffing frequently enough to justify flipping strategies.

This advice is critical for winning in these games. If you habitually pay people off after they hit their draws, you won’t win.

Keep Betting For Value

If they won’t fold, then you need to keep betting until you get raised. Most players who struggle in these games take their feet off the gas far too early in pots with far too wide an array of hands. This is no doubt a reaction to getting beat a few times—you bet your pair and get check-raised by someone who spiked two pair.

Yup, that’s going to happen in games like these. It’s part of the equation. As long as you refuse to pay off the raise, however, then you’re fine. You may wish you hadn’t made the bet in the first place, but chances are the bet itself was a good play. A risky play, perhaps, but also a good one.

Here’s an example. Again, I’m assuming that you’re playing in a loose game where players truly call to the river with all manner of hands trying to hit something. The more selective your opponents are about the hands they take to the river, the more selective you need to be with your betting.

It’s a $1-$2 game with $500 stacks. Four players limp, and you’re in the cutoff with KClub Suit KDiamond Suit. You raise to $20. The big blind calls, and the four limpers all call. There’s $121 in the pot and four opponents.

The flop comes JClub Suit 6Club Suit 5Diamond Suit. Everyone checks to you, and you bet $80. Two players call. There’s $361 in the pot and $400 behind.

The turn is the 5Heart Suit. Your opponents check, and you bet $160. One player calls.

The river is the 2Club Suit, completing the flush and a straight with 4-3. Your opponent checks.

Shove all-in for the remaining $240.

Many players would check it back here, assuming that if six people see a flop with a flush draw on it, someone must have flopped the draw and now have the flush. But this assumption is wrong to begin with. It’s actually more likely a loose player holds a jack here than a flush. Beyond that, there’s a decent chance the player would have shoved the river if he had the flush. You’re a good favorite to be ahead, and you need to bet.

If you follow these three rules, and you are patient, you should beat loose games long-term without too much trouble. ♠

Ed’s newest book, No-Limit Hold’em Made Simple will be available soon at his website You can also find original articles and instructional videos by Ed at the training site