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Cash Game Strategy: Exploiting Typical Tourist Mistakes

Cash Game Strategy: Exploiting Typical Tourist Mistakes
  • Playing low-stakes side games in Las Vegas while at the #WSOP? Learn to profit from others' mistakes.

  • Ashley Adams on how to exploit loose players looking to "gamble it up" in low-stakes cash games.

You're going out to Las Vegas for the 2017 World Series of Poker — or perhaps you're already there. You've been told about the juicy side game action. And sure enough, you're planning to play in some of those great games.

You may be a tourist yourself, coming in from out of town. But you've got some serious poker chops that you're dying to use against other less skillful tourists.

You've been asking around and have found some of the rooms most frequented by out-of-towners — the less experienced poker players you're hoping to encounter at the cash game tables when you play during your trip to Las Vegas.

You've decided to visit a few places, while making your temporary "poker home" in one of them (my favorite is the Mirage, by the way). But what do you look for when seeking out such opponents, and when you find them, how do you take advantage of them?

Let's focus on what is probably the most common "tourist mistake" in these games — playing too loosely — and how to exploit that mistake to your advantage.

Most who visit Las Vegas only there for a short time, so when they play poker they want to make the most of it. They didn't come out to the center of poker action only to fold their hands away. They want to gamble, baby!

And gamble they do. Many play everything — or nearly so — especially as the night wears on and they're getting bored and/or inebriated.

True, some tourists play very conservatively and timidly. But in general, if you find a tourist — especially one who is drinking and/or obviously enjoying a vacation away from a life filled with fewer opportunities to gamble — they are in Las Vegas to play, and will therefore be calling too often and folding too seldom.

The most obvious way to exploit players who are too loose is to play more tightly against them — that is, to play a "stronger range" in the poker parlance of today.

If your range is stronger than their range you'll be an overall winner against them over the long run. Premium pairs and ace-king will win money against an opponent who plays any ace and any pair. You need to exploit those tourists by taking the initiative when you have those hands by betting them aggressively.

Ideally, you want to get heads up with such opponents — something that you often cannot do by passively calling along preflop. Bet your hand aggressively and try to isolate them when you judge yourself to have a stronger range, even if you don't have an extremely strong hand.

But that is only a small part of the battle.

Another way to take advantage of these overly loose players is to avoid scaring them into making correct folds on the flop and turn. Rather, you want to seduce them into making erroneous calls when they are behind.

For example, in a $1/$2 game say you raise to $12 preflop from early position with {A-Spades}{K-Spades} and get a call from one of these weak, overly loose players on the button. The two of you then see a flop come {K-Clubs}{7-Clubs}{2-Diamonds}.

It would be a mistake for to bet $50 hoping to pick up the pot right there — that is, to "protect your pair" from a possible flush draw. You'd be more profitable exploiting your opponent by making a much smaller bet — say $15 or $20 — in the hope that he would erroneously call you with any of a number of the dominated hands he would be more likely to have in his calling range.

Similarly, if a blank comes on the turn, you'd be making a mistake to crash the pot with a big $100 bet, again looking to take it down right there to prevent your opponent from hitting a miracle river. You'd be better off betting smaller, hoping his bad judgment would have him make an erroneous call without the proper pot odds or implied odds.

For more on this concept, see Steve Selbrede's recent article "Five Weak Reasons to Bet (and One Weak Reason Not To)" — in particular the section titled "Don't Bet to Protect Your Hand."

When playing against loose, gambling tourists you need the courage to bet strong starting hands into opponents who are playing a very wide range. But you also have to be courageous in another respect as well — by betting small enough to entice them to incorrectly draw against you.

Yes, they may sometimes draw out on you and win. But more often — much more often — they will keep drawing and lose. Give such players a chance to spew more money at you when they pay to draw.

Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 50 years and writing about it since 2000. He is the author of hundreds of articles and two books, Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003) and Winning No-Limit Hold'em (Lighthouse 2012). He is also the host of poker radio show House of Cards. See for broadcast times, stations, and podcasts.

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