Nit Strategy

Is it +EV to play like a nit here?

Yes. Its not the most EV+ strategy but it is a winning one. “old man coffee” makes money.

Not as viable in tournaments, at least not past a certain point.

At some point, you have to stop waiting for a premium hand and start playing poker or the blinds will eat you alive.

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What’s the best strategy for MTT’s in your opinion?

There isn’t a single best strategy, in my opinion. I use several different strategies at different times, depending on the stage of the tournament, stack size, and other factors.

If I have an overall strategy, it’s to stay above the average stack size, no matter what it takes to do that. If you can stay above the average stack the whole tournament, you will win every one.

So if I’m well below average, I open up, play wider and more aggro. If I’m well ahead, I tighten up and play a little more passivly to protect my stack.

There’s obviously more to it than that, but that’s generally how I approach tournaments.


How do you play against a table (in a tourney) with multiple calling stations, making it hard to isolate?

When your fold equity is near zero, bluffing is suicide. You should still semi-bluff good draws, but otherwise, you want to be pushing your strong hands hard for max value.

Calling stations are also usually passive players. When one shows aggression, pay attention.

Preflop, I tend to play such tables passively. I limp behind with a lot of hands, including weaker hands that play well post flop, and if I hit, I lower the boom. There’s no point trying to play a balanced game against that kind of player… they won’t notice anyway for the most part.

This is something I think of as “normalization.” If I play a hand they same way they would normally play it, it seems normal to them so they won’t really notice what you are doing.

A lot of players will call any bet on the flop because they would c-bet most flops. They will also fold to a bet on the turn because they wouldn’t bet the turn (after being called on the flop) unless they had a big hand.

Most calling stations will chase any draw, so bet enough of the turn to make this a mistake. Fold most hands on the flop if you get raised, but you can get small bet bluffs through on the river if the obvious draws brick, but expect to get called by bottom pair type hands often, so make it cheap for yourself.

Again, there’s a lot more to it, but this is my general approach.

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I’ve seen them call a shove with a gutshot before :laughing:

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I’ve won lower level tournaments doing this (I never raised pre-flop, just limped then pounded them when I hit and they would still call).

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Nits minimize their losses, but also their opportunities, and thus their profits. It’s a profitable way to play, but not the most profitable. If you’re the type of person who hates ever being wrong, then it might be for you.

Interesting question.

My strategy for early in tournaments is to try to use leverage. For example I am in the BB with a fairly decent hand, maybe QT suited. This is a hand that could make the nuts, given a good flop, but by no means guaranteed. Anyway, you put in a good raise, and most likely all the limpers will call creating a huge pot of maybe 5x your raise. Then evaluate the flop and decide whether you have a good enough draw to go for it, otherwise fold on the flop.

So I will play hands that are essentially drawing hands like suited or unsuited broadway cards, suited aces, and will raise to create large pots at the flop, so that if I do get a good flop, then there is a large pot. So the philosophy is win big pots and lose small ones.

I find it better to limp in with hands like AK or AQ early on, or with small raises to build the pot, because if you put in a huge raise preflop calling stations will call with any small pocket pair, and your AK will be very vulnerable, since the odds are 2:1 that you will not make a pair on the flop, so a large continuation bet may just put you deeper in the doo-doo.

With premium pairs preflop, you want to raise very high to narrow down to one opponent. Or just shove preflop.

What you don’t want to do against these calling station merchants is keep on putting in large bets to try to pull down the pot at the flop and at the turn, because they will always call and too often they will hit two pairs on the river with their suited kings, and you will not know where you are. What I find is that they will usually bet the river if they make their hand, but check/fold if they miss. On the other hand, if you do make your draw, they by all means bet as much as you think they will call.

Their basic strategy is usually to keep calling for a flush draw, or if they make second or third pair on the flop, hoping to make trips on the turn or river, or perhaps 2 pairs. They will also call large flop bets with small pocket pairs, hoping for a set on a later street. They will often call raises preflop with Ace small hands, and continue to call post flop if the small card pairs.

It is a complete waste of time trying to bluff them, except if they check to you at the river, they are probably ready to fold, so you might pick up a pot when you miss a draw from position.

In theory you should bet large when you believe you are ahead with top pair, as it will be a mistake for them to call, but in these tournaments, because of small stack sizes, it is easy to get overextended and then lose a huge pot, so I would rather wait until you hit something like a set, or a straight versus a set to win a really big pot and to just keep the pots small after a big raise preflop.

The trouble with the calling stations is that they will pick up hands like AA and KK just as often as you, and most likely they will limp in preflop or limp/call preflop, and then check the flop, so they can be dangerous.

One notorious calling station I often play against in million chip tourneys will NEVER raise preflop, and will never bet the flop unless he has trips or better, so is fairly easy to read. He will often do quite well early on in tournaments and pick up some good pots when he has a good hand and opponent bluffs, but usually the “never raise preflop” strategy ceases to work so well in the later stages of tournaments as even if they limp/call preflop, they never have any fold equity and will always be vulnerable to a random hand in the blinds.

So, as I say, the biggest problem with playing against calling stations is that you never know what they have, and that they will gang up on you. Since they love to play suited cards, you would think that the chances of them hitting a flush draw are not good, but if you are playing against three or four of them, the chances of ONE of them hitting a flush draw are much better, and if a flush card falls on a later street and they show aggression, it is better to fold.

But if you’re raising big pre-flop and miss, aren’t you just blowing your chips away? Because if you’re at a table full of stations and half the table calls your pre-flop raise, there’s no way you can bluff at it - the only way you win is if you hit the flop big. Wouldn’t it be better to just limp then bet when you hit like SPG suggested because they’ll pay you off anyways and you’re getting in cheap?

The upside of the nit poker strategy is that such players get to extract maximum value with big hands from very bad players.

I’m a nit. Here are the advantages and disadvantages, in my view:


  • It’s profitable. A nit will never lose money over the course of a month, very rarely in the course of a week, sometimes in the course of a day - but not very often. My profit/loss ratio is about 4 days to 1 on average.
  • Nits pay close attention to what’s going on - the community cards and player behaviour. That seems very basic, but clearly a lot of people don’t.
  • Nits understand good and bad pocket cards. Personally, I will play 25% of off-suit hands and 50% of suited hands. That’s a lot of pre-flop folding. A lot of folding means a lot of chips saved.
  • Tilt: everyone experiences tilt, but while a lot of players will react by going on a pre-flop shoving rampage, I’ve never done this and never will. Perhaps self-discipline is the nit’s best trait.


  • You will not set the poker world on fire with your profit level. Overall, I’m up about 40%. The best I can say is that I don’t suck, but I would never describe myself as good, because my skill level is too basic. Fear of losing is a handicap.
  • Nits are unable to handle long periods of card death.
  • As already mentioned, it’s difficult to see how a nit could play in a tournament. I’ve never played a RP tournament but I have in real life (an informal one between friends) and I just got junk cards every hand.
  • Experiments with higher stakes do not end well. 50/100 is the highest I can tolerate at the moment. That means I don’t have enough years left on the planet to enter the top 1000 players.
  • Bluffing a nit is very simple.
  • Players are often reluctant to call my bets because I’ve given myself away as a nit. Funny that.

You will have a range advantage, which means you should take down that raised pot more than they will.

I think you can play a nit strategy profitably at most low and medium stakes ring games. Play at these stakes is so loose that you just have to wait for good hands to win. Since it’s a fun site with nothing at stake I feel most people at those tables are primarily looking for action and excitement over long term winning. While not always true as you progress to higher stakes the skill level will increase. Such players are observant and take note of other players tendencies. If you’re marked as a nit you won’t get action when you make hands.

In tournaments not really. Early in a tournament there is an argument for it depending on the player types at your table. But as the stacks get shallower you’re forced to make riskier plays. A tournament nit will be blinded down very quickly, especially in RPP where the stakes increase quickly.

I’ve actually had a lot of luck over the years playing very nitty in the early stages of tournaments, while stacks are deeper, and only gradually opening up with wider ranges. If blinds climb really quickly, I prefer being very aggro right from the beginning, but in slower paced tournaments, I think playing a very tight style can be very effective. I think Dan Harrington is a good example of this kind of style.

I agree that in general, you can be more consistently nitty in cash games and still be very effective. Tournaments force you to open up eventually if you have any interest in improving your chances for finishing in the top places. (Disclaimer: I’ve been getting thrashed in tournaments for a pretty good spell now, LOL).

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I think in tournaments there is a lot to be said for actively seeking the early double up, which obviously takes some risk, because the most common way of doubling up is to make a straight or flush on later streets, making a set on the flop when you have a pocket pair, or taking on a hand like AK that misses the flop versus a pocket pair, but decides to bluff anyway and misses its outs.

Alternatively you can flop top pair and then shove and trust the the caller with a draw misses.

An early double up is a huge advantage, and an early treble up is even better.

One you have the double up, or large pot, you can slow down and wait for big starting hands. While the blinds are low, this will cost you almost nothing, so you can be very selective.

If you are the largest stack on the table, then you cannot double up again until there is a stack bigger than yours.

The problem with playing very tight from the beginning in tournaments is that when you do eventually pick up AA, AK, or KK, or QQ when you have a diminishing stack then there is a lot of pressure on you to double up and a lot of the time everyone will fold preflop and you win a tiny pot.

Of course there are no rights and wrongs and whichever strategy you adopt will, to some extent, fail or succeed depending on how the cards fall on later streets on a very small number of hands that you are involved in. It will also depend on the strategies of your opponents.

Just a couple of days ago I picked up AA on the very first hand of a tournament and put in a meaty raise preflop. I had one caller who was a well-known player who is renowned/hated/feared/admired for his loose calling and wild bluffing. The flop came 98x and I checked, he bet, I reraised all-in, and he called and showed JT and made a straight on the turn, and I was eliminated. But I would still play the same way next time, because two times out of three I would double my stack on the first hand of the tournament against the same opponent. You could play it differently, but if he missed the straight, you would not get all his chips in.

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I think blind and ante pressure is the key. Especially in active environments, where others are raising pre-flop, it gives you a time limit of sorts, a number of hands within which you must double up or be consumed by this escalation.

In general, early in most tournaments you have quite a bit of time, though there are of course faster paced tournaments where this is not true. Playing a lot of speculative hands has a down side: you’re not going to hit anything a very large majority of the time, and so, unless you play with a lot of post flop aggression and your opponents over fold to that aggression, this usually just draws your stack down so that when you do double up, you may only be getting back to where you started.

It’s a balancing act, of course. What I call playing it safe may look wildly active and aggressive to many. But in general, especially in slow tournaments, I feel I’ve had the most success when I tighten my opening ranges somewhat in the early stages with a somewhat more nitty approach, and gradually turn up the heat as the tournament progresses.

At low limits, the best strategy.