How to Best Exploit Recreational Players When Deep Stacked?

exploit recreational players deep stacked

5 minutes

Last Updated: March 4, 2024

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In today’s article, we’ll look into a topic that many players are curious about, and that’s how to best navigate early levels of a tournament playing against a field of mostly recreational players.

These scenarios happen quite frequently in lower buy-in WSOP tournaments, for example, where during early stages, there will be many recreationals in the mix. So, how do you best take advantage of deep stacks and make the most out of it?

Of course, different players make different mistakes, and it will take some figuring out to categorize your opponents. That said, there are four large groups of mistakes that are common across the board, and those are the ones we’ll be focusing on in this article.

Overvaluing Premium Starting Hands

Premium poker hands are hard to come by. You don’t get dealt a starting hand like pocket aces or pocket kings all that often, which is why many recreational players have problems folding these hands after the flop.

Unless the board runs really bad, they’ll try and get these premium hands to the showdown, and this is a major exploit that you can profit from.

First of all, you want to call with hands that can crack these premiums, such as suited connectors and small pocket pairs. There is no reason to 3-bet and give them an opportunity to blow you out of the pot. Just call and see the flop.

When you manage to flop or turn a hand that is the effective nuts, don’t slow play – you want to pile in as many chips into the pot as possible, as early as possible.

When they bet, and you have a strong hand, go for a raise immediately and build the pot. The longer you wait, the more opportunities there will be for scare cards to come and slow them down. When you raise immediately, they’ll often put you on a draw and happily put their chips in the middle.

Of course, try to look as if you’re trying to be creative and put a play on them. I am not advocating for Hollywood-ing, but don’t get overly excited. Stay calm and collected, and don’t give off any tells that could help them get away.

Not Bluff Catching Enough

Recreational players want to play for a long time – they don’t want to bust on the first level. This may not apply fully in reentry tournaments, but even in these, not all recreational players will be reentering, especially if they had qualified via a satellite.

In these scenarios, you can apply immense pressure. These players will not call your check/raise on the flop, followed by a big turn barrel and an all-in on the river.

Often, you’ll encounter players who make it quite obvious that their tournament life is very important to them, where it is almost the point of pride not to bust out early on.

how to exploit recreational players with deep stacks

When you recognize such players, you can put a lot of pressure on them, knowing they will never call off their stack without an extremely strong hand.

In the same vein, you can make a very exploitative but effective adjustment, where you will reduce your bet sizes with hands that you want to get called with.

If you have a big hand and are trying to extract value, go for more moderate bets that they’ll be comfortable calling as they don’t put their tournament life in immediate jeopardy.

Trying to Win Too Many Multi-Way Pots

During early levels of tournaments with many recreational players, you can expect multiple callers when you raise. An important thing to understand here is that you don’t need to win many of these pots – just around 18% of them due to all the money that goes in.

A common mistake some recreational players will make is trying to win way too often in these scenarios. You’re not going to win 50% of five-way pots, and you don’t need to.

What’s important to understand is, being the preflop raiser and not getting 3-bet, we’ll have a range advantage in these spots and, quite often, the nut advantage as well.

Traditionally, you want to bet on the smaller side in multi-way pots, but against recreational players, you can use bigger sizing as well since they won’t adjust properly and take advantage of this strategic deviation.

Calling 3-Bets Too Often

Finally, during early levels, recreational players tend to call way too many 3-bets. If they open the action, they’ll call a 3-bet with almost anything they started with, and you can profit from this knowledge.

The main thing to figure out is how they play after the flop. Are they folding way too often to continuation bets, or do they stick around to see showdowns?

deep stack exploits vs recreational players

For the most part, you’ll encounter players who will over-fold on flops and turns, which allows you to ramp up your aggression and increase your 3-bet frequency. It will allow you to win a good number of decent-sized pots without much resistance.

When you encounter players who have a fairly solid post-flop game, you can adjust and use a more liner strategy with fewer bluffs and more value hands thrown into the mix.

It’s hard to predict these things ahead of time, but after spending a bit of time at the table, you should develop a pretty good idea about players’ tendencies and devise your 3-betting strategy accordingly.


Recreational players tend to make quite a few mistakes in deep-stacked scenarios during early tournament levels. In this article, I’ve covered the four most common, but there will be others that you’ll come across.

Adjusting your strategy to profit from these errors isn’t that difficult. Yet, these adjustments will help you significantly improve your results during the early stages and often significantly increase your chip stack without too many risks.

Like with all things in poker, sometimes your plans will be thwarted by a completely unexpected decision, which some recreational players are prone to. On the overall, however, taking advantage of these common mistakes will help boost your tournament results by quite a bit.

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