How to exploit 5 common leaks in opponents

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Not everyone studies optimal poker theory, so the purpose of today's article is to show you how to take advantage of some specific situations and crush your opponents.

I should add, that having a solid foundation of optimal game theory will help you identify these leaks in your opponents, and to take advantage of them more often.  So get learning :)

#1: Limping too often preflop

At live games, and even more specifically lower limit live games, the most common mistake you'll find players making is limping preflop far, far too often.

You can take advantage of these week players by raising with higher frequency and a wider range.  The end goal, is to isolate the weaker player so you can play the flop and later streets heads up against a weaker opponent.

Your range should adjust to how your opponents are playing, and you should in turn adjust as your session unfolds.  You should memorize the following 7 strategies:

  1. As they limp-fold more, you should raise with a wider range, and vise versa.
  2. As they limp-3-bet more, you should raise with a tighter range, and vise versa.
  3. As their limping range gets wider, you should raise wider, and vise versa.
  4. When you are in position, you should raise wider than when out of position.
  5. The more players to act behind you, you should tighten your range, and vise versa.
  6. As players get looser and more aggressive, you should raise tighter, and vise versa.
  7. As the limper players more aggressive post flop, you should raise tighter, and vise versa.

Go back, and read those seven points again.  Memorize them.  It's like printing money.

It's also important to consider bet sizing when raising a weaker player who limps.  As a general rule, you'll want to be raising to 4bbs (and add one big blind for each extra player who limped) when you're in position, and 5bbs (also adding one big blind for every extra player who limped) when you're out of position.

#2: Raising too often preflop

This is the second most common leak, but it's equally as important because this mistake tends to cost players (or in our case, win) more money.

Players that raise with too many hands preflop are almost guaranteed to have larger than average losses, regardless of how well they play after the flop.  It's a horrible strategy because a weaker player who is building larger pots is going to be exploited by better players.

The optimal strategy for dealing with players who raise too much preflop is to widen your three bet range.  There's an argument for also widening your calling range, but because three betting is the more effective method, let's forcus on that.

The two ways you want to widen your three bet range are:

  1. A merged range: with an equity driven range that will generally include your strong to medium strength holdings
  2. A polarized range: a more balanced section of your very strong and weaker hands as well as your high equity semi bluffs

But, how do you decide which range to use?

Your opponent will do that for you.  If your opponent folds more than 50% of the time, you're better off using a polarized range.  If your opponent is calling a lot of your three bets, you'll want to be using a merged range strategy.

#3: Not Three Betting Enough Preflop

This mistake is common across almost all levels of play.  From high stakes to low stakes, most players who three bet preflop trend towards a value only range of JJ+ and AQs+.  This is a huge mistake because it's very easy for other players to pick up on, and then exploit.

In order to expolit a player who only raises their strongest hands preflop, try the following:

  1. Tighten your calling range to QQ+ and AK+
  2. Tighten your four bet range to only AA and KK

While you should normally be including some bluffs in your four bet range, when it comes to players who rarely three bet preflop just stick to your super premium hands.


As mentioned earlyer, you don't need to have a full understanding to poker theory to apply these plays, and they will help you identify and exploit a weaker player at your table.  So keep your eyes open for these tendancies in your opponents and take advantage of them!