Often times at a poker table you will happen to run into players who are afraid to lose. Instead of concentrating on winning and maximizing profits, their mindset will gravitate more towards avoiding losing. They will be playing much too cautiously, which has a tendency to keep them from making correct plays. This is known as playing scared. Having a fear that certain decisions or plays won’t work. This is almost a guaranteed way of losing, as a common adage around poker circles is that scared money never wins.
Part of the reason that some players fall into the bad habit of playing scared is because one wrong move at no-limit Texas Hold’em could cause you to lose every dollar or chip in front of you. Nobody wants to get knocked out of a tournament or go broke at a cash table. Unfortunately, playing scared is not the solution and will cause players to make huge mistakes that end up losing more money over the long haul. The purpose of this article is to help you to identify players who are playing scared and take advantage of the situation in order to pile chip stacks or dollars in front of you. Scared money should be targeted and exploited at every possible opportunity.
You have probably seen players playing scared if you have spent any time at all playing poker, but let’s go over some of the tell-tale signs to look for. First of all, players who play much too tight are often scared to select starting hands that are not the absolute best. We all know that proper starting hand selection is key to success at the poker table. However, when you spot an opponent who constantly mucks his hole cards unless they happen to look like this or this , it may be an indication that he is scared to get involved in hands in which he is not a huge favorite pre-flop. Of course it’s good to play premium hands, but a player who waits for a big pocket pair and plays nothing else can be discovered easily and will tend to never get any action from other players when he does happen to get involved in a hand. Pre-flop raises will knock a scared player out of contention unless he has a hand that’s incredibly solid.
Another indicator of scared play is when players fail to protect their hand. This doesn’t necessarily mean players who give up their blind easily, although you should be stealing blinds from scared players because they will normally let you have their posted blinds unless their holding is of premium quality. Failing to protect a hand means that scared players won’t bet their good hands like top pair with a good kicker on the flop. They tend to play passively out of fear of losing and allow other players the opportunity to catch a draw and beat them. In a situation that calls for making a value bet to build the pot with the winning hand at that stage of the hand, a scared player will not bet or will offer a bet that is too small and affords other players the proper odds to continue. Betting for value is one of the necessary skills of profitable poker players. Not doing so is a huge mistake. The way to take advantage in this scenario is to go along with the lack of betting and take a free card if you are sure you’re behind and hope to outdraw the scared money. On the other hand, if you know a good-sized bet will cause your scared-playing opponent to fold, then that is also a consideration. Remember that fear of losing will keep scared players from entering pots in which they are unsure of winning. Exploit that in the situation that confronts you by either inducing the scared player to fold or continuing to draw cheaply to make your hand on the turn or river.
Scared players are afraid to call bets – especially big ones. Along with passivity in making proper sized bets when acting first, they also don’t want to risk money versus a player who shows aggression and may have a good hand. Since their thinking is on not losing as opposed to winning, the first thought that comes to mind when another player bets is that their hand is beat. For this reason, it pays to be very aggressive against scared players even if you may be holding a weak hand. Scared players are looking for reasons to fold instead of concentrating on ways to win. You will be more successful in the long run playing aggressively versus scared money regardless of the hand you are holding. If you should run up against a call or raise from a player scared to lose, you can rest assured that he will undoubtedly have a good hand. Which leads us to our final tip on identifying a player scared to lose.
Bluffing will normally not be in the game plan of a scared player. The fear of getting called and being exposed with an inferior hand will keep scared money from attempting such maneuvers. Bluffing is an integral part of poker. It may be a bit overrated and stone cold bluffs don’t happen as often as you think or in the way that movies or televised poker tournaments tend to glamorize them. However, the bluffing aspect of poker should not be overlooked and a scared player will tend to do just that. Players who don’t bluff or fail to do so enough become highly predictable and easy to read. Such is the case with a scared player, who tends to wait until his hand is a solid winner before risking throwing money into the pot. A player scared to lose won’t be bluffing and is highly susceptible to being bluffed out of many a pot. Remember this and make your bets accordingly.
Its plain to see that the fear of being beaten causes scared players to play poorly and make mistakes that will cause them to lose over the test of time. There are any number of ways in which the passive play of players scared to lose can be taken advantage of. The main way is through aggressive play of your own that will force scared players to fold. If they happen not to fold, then you can re-evaluate the situation with the likelihood that your hand may be beaten. A big part of poker is scaring or making players believe that you have a strong hand. Since players who play scared are the easiest to scare, their passivity should be exploited and capitalized on. Once you have identified a scared player at your table, do your best to continue scaring him right out of pots that he may otherwise have won if not for being afraid to lose.