"Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand."
-- Leo Durocher
In another column I raked over the coals someone's
weak-tight play. A reader, Chris, subsequently sent me an email encouraging me to devote a column to "weak-tight disease",
that horrible affliction that curses many fairly sensible poker players who prevent themselves from becoming... well, from becoming the
type of player who feasts on weak-tight players!
At first I thought that I've devoted tons of column inches to weak-tighties already, but I suppose it is true that I don't have anything
specifically focused only on the disease. Then I thought, "a column on weak-tight disease, kinda like a column on watching paint dry",
but it's not THAT bad.
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The first thing we need to do is examine the term itself: "weak tight". When we compare the term to "strong tight"
or "weak loose", we can see that the "tight" part isn't the key part of the problem. "Weak" is the problem.
Tight-ish, aggressive play is often the best approach to take in a poker game (though aggressive-loose will sometimes make sense). While
the problems with weak-loose play are self-evident -- like playing every hand but always folding before the showdown -- the same can not
be said about weak-tight play. The problems are more subtle, and thus a more difficult disease to treat.
There are a few fundamental aspects of weak-tight play, but here are two examples. One reflects a misunderstanding of the basics of
poker; the other shows a lack of understanding of the basics of succeeding in life.
The first aspect is
an inability to grasp that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. You have to
risk loss in order to win. In order to win bets,
you have to be in pots making bets. In order to sometimes win, you must often lose. Losing a pot is nothing at all to be concerned
about. Playing mathematically correctly is what counts. You must continually mix losing along with winning. They are joined at the
A baseball player doesn't hit a home run every time he comes to bat. You can be Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth, and you will strike out
plenty of times. But this does not mean that you shouldn't go up to the plate again and again. "Once more into the breach"
is the call of a successful player in any competitive enterprise.
The second aspect, the life lesson one, is that you should very seldom let others dictate the tempo of your life. Weak-tight players
are constantly reacting to others, rather than making everyone react to their lead. Weak-tight players
constantly fight battles on turf chosen by the enemy.
Speaking about Omaha HiLo, Chris wrote this defense of weak-tightism:
From the perspective of someone who plays just like these guys, maybe it would help if you knew why we play this way. Basically we
are scared of being outdrawn or counterfeited on the turn and river. And in the case of many low AND high hands, such as TJQKA, always
feel like we're going to be quartered anyway (so what's the point in raising?).
These are all fears at ANY limit right? But here's the thing: it's a bigger risk in low limit games, because people are more willing
to call all the way to the river with less than the best. So throwing a bunch of money into a hand is a risky proposition because
there's a higher chance of suckouts.
And it's really hard to see the "long run" forest-for-the-trees perspective when you've just been leading the betting all the
way through the last few hands only to be dashed on the river every time and see the great pot that YOU built go to people who were just
passively calling the whole time. It happens often enough to discourage you from ever raising at all... You can't scare these people
out no matter what you do, and they WILL outdraw you. Again and again.
Eventually I personally came to a place where I decided that it's better to check and call with a good hand that ends up winning than
it is to bet out or raise with a good hand that ends up losing. You'll still win hands just checking and calling, but you can lose a
lot of money very quickly by being aggressive and getting sucked out on the river or quartered hand after hand. [end Chris]
In a nutshell, this is why so many online games, especially Omaha HiLo ones, are so easy to beat. People don't charge you when they
have the best hand; people are concerned about useless ideas like having lost previous pots after driving the betting; people don't
want to accept the long run of mathematics (even though they know it exists).
If Babe Ruth quit baseball because the pitcher sucked out on him two out of three times he came to bat, that would have been a very
poor choice. Just because the Babe struck out in his last at-bat doesn't mean he should passively stand there and not swing the next
time he came up, letting the pitcher dictate the tempo, hoping to be given a walk. Poker is the same way. If you drive the betting
with the best of it but end up losing a hand, just chalk it up as a strikeout "K" on Babe Ruth's scorecard.
See also Poker Rocks and
Down in Value