Having played in hundreds of online no-limit hold’em tournaments over the last couple of years, I have experienced both extremely fast tables, where the players seem to be pushing their stacks in on every hand, and extremely slow, passive tables, where there are seldom any raises before the flop. It seems clear that there must be at least some adjustments or “gear shifting” required to play the optimum strategy for each of these two extremes.
To start with, there is definitely some truth to the old poker adage that states: “Play tight in a loose game, and loose in a tight game.” If everyone is playing close-to-the-vest tight, you can afford to play some mediocre hands and can often pick up “unwanted” pots with merely a small bet. But when the stacks are flying, you are often well-advised to sit back and wait for a good hand, which will usually be paid off well.
In a slow game, any good player rates to have a big edge, especially if he is the only player who frequently raises before the flop or does most of the Bola88 betting. But in some slow games, it is even better to let one or two of the other players be the “designated bettor.” For example, if you are playing in a game in which most players are just plodding along and calling, and then along comes some hotshot who starts raising frequently, you can almost feel that everyone else at the table hates this guy and would like to “get him.” So, they will strain to call him down and perhaps pick off some of his frequent bluffs — which often creates lucrative opportunities for you. And it is often sound to speculate (with lesser starting hands) by getting into these pots from late position.
Another big advantage of playing in a slow game is that there are fewer critical big-money situations in which the likelihood of error is high. In any game in which there are very few big bets thrown at you (and those big bets can be safely folded), you can just sit back and build your stack by making high-percentage plays. When you encounter fewer dangerous situations, you lose less money by guessing wrong or making a big mistake.
A poker expert playing in a slow game is somewhat analogous to an expert tennis player standing on the base line and volleying with a lesser opponent who is much more likely to miss a shot. Thus, the expert tennis player is a huge favorite to win any given point unless his opponent charges the net and threatens to slam or angle the ball. In poker, the occurrence of big bets often creates pressure and big problems for all players, including the experts.
Although an expert at no-limit hold’em undoubtedly has an edge in big-money pressure situations (knowledge, experience, and perhaps the ability to pick up tells), when stacks are flying, the luck factor goes way up.
At fast tables where the blinds are still relatively small, there is much to be said for sitting back and trapping with very big starting hands such as pocket aces or kings, and A-K. If someone else dares to raise before the flop (which is quite likely at a fast table), you can either make a big reraise or perhaps simply call and wait (especially if you have position on the raiser).
Toward the end of a tournament, when the blinds are very high, the luck factor increases dramatically. Since every hand is significant, bluffing and pressing small advantages becomes a major factor. It is clearly optimum strategy for the better players to slow the game down by making smaller, skillful bets, and try to let the event be decided by a number of hands. Thus, a less skillful player should try to win the event as quickly as possible by going all in. In no-limit hold’em, all the skill in the world is much less important than having one good card at the right time.
Although most hold’em players seem to be set in their ways and have their own individual styles and strategies, it is clearly wise to make appropriate adjustments to the speed of the table.