How To Play Against Passive Players
Given that it is generally correct to play aggressively, and it is generally a mistake to play too passively, then it should be easier to beat passive players.
This is generally true, although we do want to emphasize the word easier here, and that doesn't necessarily mean more profitable.
It certainly can, but I want to make clear that just because something is more difficult doesn't mean that it's less profitable, and there are indeed some aggressive players who make more mistakes than passive ones.
The difference here though is that playing against aggressive players carries more risk, and often a lot more risk, than against passive ones. This is because we are a lot more in control of things against passive opponents. This is definitely a good thing, and we need to ensure we are using pot control to our best advantage.
As is the case when looking to play against an aggressive player, we must realize that passiveness or aggressiveness is just one aspect of the equation, and really can't be considered separately from how loose or tight a player is.
As well, all of these characterizations may be manifest more in one type of situation and less in another, so while it's convenient to consider a player this or that generally, we must also be aware when and where these traits become more manifest.
So we do know that passive players like to bet and raise less than aggressive opponents do. By taking this line, they will tend to get less value from their hands, take advantage of fold equity a lot less, and also give their opponents a lot of free cards, where a bet would have folded them out, but they now get a free shot at drawing to a better hand.
So a lot of the main elements of why a passive opponent is easier to play against and often more profitable to play against aren't even things we need to create, as the passive player has created the disadvantages for themselves.
If you consider the advantages of having position on someone, and you examine them all closely, having more pot control in position is arguably the biggest one. We definitely tend to make more money in position, and this is due in large part to our position forcing our opponents into a more passive mode, and in fact playing more passively out of position is generally a wise choice.
So if we are playing against players who are naturally passive in the first place, then they are at an even bigger disadvantage against us. However, as is the case with exploiting players with position, the level of skill that we use will determine just how exploitive we can become here.
Another weakness that passive players tend to have is the fact that when they do bet or raise, it is telegraphed a lot more. This need not necessarily be the case, but passive players generally aren't very good and very rarely good enough to have the ability or even the know how to balance their ranges. This of course makes them significantly easier to play against.
On the other hand, with looser passive players, their calls are going to be more difficult to read, especially if they like to call a lot. However, once we determine what ranges they are aggressive with, for instance top pair or better, and what ranges they like to call with, for instance lesser pairs and any kind of decent draw, then we are equipped with the knowledge that we need to exploit their calls as well.
If our passive opponent is on the tighter side, then we will obviously have plenty of opportunity to take pots down against them without needing a hand, as is the case with all tight players. Their lack of playing back at us when they have a real hand does need to be accounted for, although in a lot of instances just being called will tell us all we need to know and we can then give up.
As mentioned, the opportunity to get free cards is one that we want to take advantage of when appropriate, which would be when we can't just take the pot down because our opponent isn't bluffed out of hands enough. So by checking, we often will see one or more cards without having to risk any more money on the hand.
So there really are two things we need to look for here, and that's whether an opponent is loose passive, in other words a calling station, or tight passive, or a rock. We should be able to get both forms to part with their money without too much trouble. Calling stations like to call too much so that's the mistake we will let them make, and rocks fold too much and don't bet much either so that's what we will let them do.
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