Luckily, this is not the case. In fact, a large number of those joining almost any tournament or sitting down for a few hands of cash game action belong to the group of recreational players.
By a wide definition, a recreational player is someone who plays poker for fun and relaxation and isn't overly concerned with the results.
Once upon a time, the line between serious and recreational poker players was quite clear. Some studied the game and constantly improved; then, there were those who pretty much knew the basic rules of Texas Hold'em and not much else.
So, a player with solid fundamentals could expect to make decent money playing poker without working on his game.
These days, the line between recreational and professional or semi-professional players has been blurred. There are many players who, by the above definition, can be categorized as recreational, but have a pretty good idea of what they're doing.
Even still, there are strategies experienced players employ to exploit recreational opponents who may not be as bad as they once were but still have some serious leaks in their game.
Recognizing Common Recreational Player's Leaks
There are many ways how to boost your win rate. You can table select to find better games, improve your strategy, learn GTO, or even get an online poker bonus that suits your game and increase the rake back. But along all of this, you should do one more thing.
Although it is no longer as easy to define recreational players, those who truly belong to this group will usually display certain common flaws that you can exploit, and categorizing these players can massively boost your results.
Recognizing these leaks can take some time and observation, but after playing a bit together, you should usually be able to put them in one of four general groups:
- Players who like calling too much (calling stations)
- Timid players who play way too tight (nits)
- Splashy/aggressive players who love the adrenaline
- Players always looking to outplay others (bluffers)
Of course, like anything else in poker, the line usually isn’t as clear-cut as some recreational players will fit into two categories.
For example, you can have a splashy player who also enjoys trying to outplay you whenever they get an opportunity. Then, there are tight/timid players who don’t get involved often but have a hard time folding their hands when they do enter a pot.
Your job is to use your insight, experience, and any stats provided by programs like Hold’em Manager or Poker Tracker to figure out where to place a particular player.
Once you do this, you can effectively adapt your strategy against that player to maximize your profits and reduce your losses when involved in a pot with him.
Playing Against Recs Who Hate Folding
Many recreational players play poker to get away from their daily obligations and relax. They want to stay busy while at the table and get their money worth.
So, once they enter a pot, they don’t like giving up and folding.
If they happen to connect in any way, they’ll often “see you at the river,” and no amount of betting will be enough to dissuade them from their original plan.
These players are quite easy to exploit once you get over the initial frustration of playing against someone who never folds. Instead of trying to (magically) change their behavior, you should accept the fact and adjust accordingly, which means:
- Reducing your bluffing frequency against these players
- Going for thin value in non-standard spots
- Making big bets with big hands and charging them for their stubbornness
In the picture, we have a somewhat non-standard value spot. The action on the flop went check-check. We bet half the pot on the turn, got called, and a King hit the river. Against most players, this is a fairly easy check back, and PokerSnowie suggests the EV of checking back is greater than that of betting.
However, if you’re up against a player you know is a calling station rec, you should mix in some value bets as well.
Even though their pair can hardly ever be good, they’ll have a hard time finding a fold and will end up paying you. The fact they didn’t bet out on either turn or river is also a pretty good indication that our hand is good here a fair amount of time.
Basically, you want to play pretty straightforward against this type of players. They’ll have a hard time adjusting to what you’re doing and will often end up paying you in spots where they shouldn’t. On the other hand, you’ll save a lot of money by scaling down on your bluffs.
Exploiting Tight Recreational Players
On the other side of the spectrum are recreational players who play way too tight. Like the rest, these players also play for entertainment and aren’t overly concerned with the money involved.
However, for some reason, they find it hard to open up their game and widen their hand ranges.
Due to the fact these players don’t get involved often, you won’t be able to make much money against them with your made hands.
However, these players respond poorly to aggression, which means you’ll be able to win many non-showdown pots against them by seizing the initiative, especially when in position.
You can 3-bet these players quite liberally as they’ll rarely put you in a tough spot. With their very strong hands, they’ll usually put in another raise, allowing you to get away.
In the rest of the cases, they’ll either fold right then and there or proceed to see the flop. If they fail to connect, you’ll be able to usually just bet and take it without much resistance.
In this particular scenario, PokerSnowie suggests that 3-betting has the same EV as calling so you can mix up between the two. But since you are not looking to play GTO poker strategy against recreational players, you can choose a more profitable line against each particular opponent.
Your hand contains an Ace blocker, and it also plays pretty well in position when you get called.
By 3-betting, you’ll define your opponent’s range much better, as they’ll 4-bet their very strongest hands and then either call or fold with the rest.
Get PokerSnowie FREE Trial and try it yourself!
If you do get called and then the opponent checks to you, you can fire a continuation bet almost 100% of the time, even on a wet board such as this, where PokerSnowie suggests checking back is a better option.
You can be pretty sure this board didn’t hit their range very well, so you are only concerned about sets and potential flush draws.
Either way, by betting, you’ll often get to win the pot. If you get called, you can shut down if unimproved. If this type of player raises, you can safely fold and avoid any future complications.
Of course, one thing you should always be observant of is the other players left to act behind you.
The approach only works if you don’t have another competent player who is capable of figuring out your strategy and then 4-betting you fairly wide, knowing you can’t take much heat.
Dealing With Splashy Recreational Players
A certain number of recs come to play with one simple idea – they want to gamble it up and have fun.
Arguably, they can be the hardest ones to play against because, unlike the other two, these guys (and girls) will constantly put you to a decision.
Their wild and untamed style is usually not profitable, but you need to find the right approach to take advantage of their overly aggressive tendencies.
Getting into raising wars with marginal hands against these players isn’t a good idea in general. In cash games, you can afford to go for thin value, but in tournaments, you’re probably better off waiting for really strong hands and trying to get your chips in as a significant favorite.
“Tricky” Recs Looking to Outplay You
These are players who don’t belong to any particular group but are usually more aggressive and “stickier.”
They enjoy the meta-game aspect of poker and try to out-bluff you or call down your bluffs simply because they want to prove they’ve got the game.
Although their initial motivation may be different, these players often end up in one of two large categories, i.e., calling too much or being overly aggressive. So, you can adjust your strategy to fit whatever approach they take and can quickly identify with the right poker tools or by observing the action.
In general, you shouldn’t be too keen to try and bluff these players. On the other hand, you might widen your bluff catching range if they’re someone who gets stubborn in the pots and wants to outplay you at all costs.
They’ll often show up with bluffs that don’t make sense, and you’ll be able to pick up some easy chips.
Don’t Get Mad – Get Better
Many players get upset when a recreational player calls down their massive bluff with a third pair or continues to splash the pot with bets and raises without any clear method behind their madness. They’ll often say these players spoil the game and turn it into bingo.
However, recreational players are called “recreational” for a reason. For them, playing poker is just another form of entertainment like shooting pool or playing darts.
I’m sure many of us play pool but aren’t particularly good at the game. We don’t care because we’re having fun.
So, don’t try to prevent recs from having fun at the table. Let them do their thing and enjoy it.
Instead of getting upset about it, change your own strategy to correspond with their playing style, and you’ll be putting cash in your pockets. To make this process faster, It could be a good idea to join one of the training sites to get better at your game.
Of course, this won’t protect you from an occasional bad beat here and there, but that’s just the nature of the beast. Shake it off and do your thing!