BLOG – Is playing tight a retro fashion?

BLOG – Is playing tight a retro fashion?

Monday, 26 July 2010

Ten years ago, when Chris Ferguson had just beaten TJ Cloutier heads-up to win the 2000 WSOP Main Event, the tight-aggressive, patient style was king. Professional players waited for premium cards or hands with good implied odds before entering a pot, only bluffing in the ideal situations and exploiting their image as someone who always has the nuts.

This style continued to be successful post-2003 for a couple of years, the regulars in online and live games played a narrow range of hands in order to extract maximum value from their weaker opponents. And then...

Well, certain players began employing a successful loose-aggressive style. Some kid called “Holdem_NL” on PokerStars was entering twice as many pots as his opponents and yet he was beating the hell out of the mid-stakes and higher stakes games from $2/$4 to $10/$20. On Full Tilt Poker he had similar success playing under the handle of “durrrr”.

Players realised that the loose-aggressive style, when backed up with solid fundamentals and a well-honed ability to dissect hand ranges, was excellent at exploiting the metric tonnes of fold equity that you had bluffing against a tight-aggressive opponent who put pressure on but often folded to a return of the heat. Now any regular winner at any stakes worth his salt knows that he can’t just sit around and wait for the best starting hands in order to win. Or can he?

Fashions come and go – is tight-aggressive play making a retro return? We see constantly that players are complaining about short-stacking opponents. The best short-stackers are mercilessly good at patiently waiting for the ideal spots to get their chips in and using their 20BB stacks to outplay their opponents. Take that patience and understanding, apply to it a healthy dose of post-flop technique for 100BB+ games and you have the poker player of the future.

The old adage, dated though it may be, states that “when your table is playing loose, you play tight; when your table is playing tight, you play loose”. So, when the world is playing loose... don’t get me wrong, I’m far more an advocate of the loose-aggressive style because I believe that if you study your play it will improve far more quickly than if you simply wait for easy spots, and also because it’s just way more fun.

However, I thought I’d give you both sides of the coin. My current article in Bluff Europe (the magazine, not this site dummies) doesn’t say the TAG style is bad, per se – I just prefer the opposite.

Really, it depends how much patience you have. I started playing loose-aggressive after a phase of entering live games a lot and getting bored waiting for hours to play a hand. Bluffing is fun.

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