Having played NLHE and LHE for some time, I am very aware of all the aspects that go into "playing the game".

I am fairly good at the NLHE as my online and casino stacks often show, recently (as seen in another question) I've been playing with a few new players from work and classes and they are very new to the game. Now they are smart people, so rules questions aren't so prevalent, but I find that my usual reads and hand estimations are wildly inaccurate. One hand I'll expect him to have a high board pair / high pocket pair and he'll have nothing. Another I'll see him bet big on the turn with all clubs showing, and I'll fold out only to see that he had a mediocre pair. Later in the night I lost a big pot because I expected a pair or maybe trips and he drops a full house on me for a big loss.

I've resorted to playing strict percentages (as if I'm playing online) and removing most of the items that I usually take into account (player position, bet size in relation to pot/own stack/my stack, past hand betting) and only playing my cards.

What strategies do other veteran players take when dealing with the sometimes chaotic playing patterns of novice or rookie players?

RELATED: How to deal with people who randomly go all-in?

In a private live game, how do you deal with severe violations of table etiquette?

  • See my answer here. It might help a bit (or at least give you a few ideas). Jul 12, 2012 at 6:17
  • Learn to accept variance and play tight.
    – paparazzo
    Sep 1, 2017 at 20:16

4 Answers 4


Firstly, you should realize that when you're playing against novice players you're in a good situation because it'll be easier to capitalize on their mistakes (since they'll tend to make more of them than experienced players).

Secondly, their playing styles are very important - not all novice players play the same (in fact, not all novice players online with the same VPIP/PFR play the same, but that's off-topic).

Regardless of who you're playing against, whenever you're in a hand you should be putting your opponents on a range on hands (i.e. a set of possible hands they may have based on their previous actions). The more you play, the more accurately you'll be able to solidify their range of hands and sometimes you can narrow it down to a single holding. Novice players tend to have wider ranges of hands, so you need to account for that while you play. The best way to learn "how to account for that" is to post hand examples and have people who are better poker players than you explain what they would do. But, some general advice:

  • You can oftentimes value bet more thinly. Novice opponents oftentimes have a tough time folding weak made hands, and will overplay hands like top-pair top kicker. Exploit these plays by making more value-bets with hands that you might check back with versus better players.

  • Charge heavily for draws. Novice players often will call big bets with a draw when they aren't getting the proper (direct or implied) odds.

  • Raise their limps and take advantage of position. If they like to call and see flops, make sure you're the one benefiting from all of the times they call preflop and c/f when they miss.

Again, if you ask me, specific hands are the best way to learn how to play against these guys, but hopefully this post helps.


Subs rules are generally good, but i strongly disagree with few points.

2)play tight - Playing tight is surely great strategy to crush them, but if you call their allins with just premiums, you will get runed over by their agression.(Seems like they are agressive from your description.) If opponent goes all-in every hand, you should call whenever you have above-average hand.(Q7o and Q2s are 50% hance vs random hand) If you have small BR then you can fold some close situation when your hand has 50-60% win chance. Constantly folding and so passing by those extremly +EV calls will not help you at all!

4)Be ready to play for hours - Yes be ready for that, but not to make them tired(they already play badly) but to play with them because they are free money for you. Take poker as entertainment business, entertain your bad opponents(customers) and they will stay longer and pay you off. Sometimes, when you are overly tight, villains dont get the "big poker pros, big pots, big bluffs, big party time" and feel bored and escape the game.

Play your cards, valuebet them to dead and don bluff. Good luck


There are two rules that I observe with novice players.

The first is, almost always CALL when you have a hand, because they usually don't know how good or bad a hand they have. Some fraction of the time, they'll have the "nuts" e.g. a full house, and sometimes they'll have top pair, and honestly think it's good.

The second, is that you can loosen up a bit to accommodate their level, but play better hands of the SAME KIND. For instance, when I see most people playing j-8 offsuit (two random medium cards, double "gapped"), I might play j-8 or J-9 SUITED, or else play Q-J offsuit. I want a better hand "expectation" that my opponents, even if they are weaker.


@SoboLAN comment suggestions are good. This is how I would deal with unpredictable players.

Do you play 1/2 NL Live? If you are good at 1/2, then you should all those directions in play.

1)Never Bluff or bluff only to minimum - If they see you win with nuts whenever you raise they will think twice later on calling you.

2)Play tight - If they go all in pre - if you don't have AA then think about whether you can afford to lose when an A shows on the flop. Study them each time they move all in and if they show their hand study again their expression - pick up tells. On the flop if you have nuts then think about backdoor draws that they might push all in with or else trap them up.

3)Be patient - these new aggressive guys can be beat only after you fold lot of hands. Then they will have to play slowly and it becomes more poker than bingo.

4)Be ready to play for hours - they will eventually get tired and you can easily read them.

5)Don't tilt and stick to these rules.

I played against a newbie maniac who went allin every other time with any two cards. Patience and timing pays off big time. All this applies only to NL, I don't play Limit. Guess, in Limit, you should fold more / call instead of re-raising unless you have nuts.


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