Being a Nit Is Making You a Bad Poker Player


Being a Nit Is Making You a Bad Poker Player


Casino chips and two aces on a poker table.

Being a Nit Is Making You a Bad Poker Player


Casino chips and two aces on a poker table.

In both live and online poker, it’s not enough to know how to play the game. You also have to know how to read the other player. Good players who’ve been taking useful poker notes throughout their careers vary their frequencies by modifying their betting patterns depending on who they’re playing with. Nits are just the opposite.

Unlike experienced players who know how to gauge the quality and frequency of their opponents, tight-passive players (or nits) display the same frequencies from one game to the next, making it all too easy for more experienced players to exploit them. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to be a nit, why it’s a bad idea and some tips on how to stop being one.

What Does It Mean To Be a Nit?

To qualify as a nit, you’ll have an extremely tight-passive style of play. Preflop, you’ll play very few of your starting hole hands — as little as 5% to 12% — and will only engage with the very strongest cards (9-pair or better, ace-jack suited, king-jack suited, ace-king suited.) Even then, you’ll limp into pots, always calling, never raising. Postflop, you’ll most likely fold if you don’t connect with the board and you’ll hardly ever bluff. What’s the reason for these frequencies? In one word: fear. Nits are simply afraid to lose money, so they play in the most risk-averse way possible.

Why Being a Nit Is a Problem

A person holding poker cards in one hand moves red casino chips with the other.

So why is it so bad to be a nit, exactly? Here are five good reasons.

1. It Puts a Target on Your Back

Nits are easy to spot because of their imbalanced ranges. This makes them a target for stronger players who know how to exploit those. Nits who play poker online are especially vulnerable because their very low VPIP (Voluntarily Put In Preflop,) PFR (Preflop Raise) and AF (Aggression Factor) stats are dead give-aways to opponents who use HUDs (Head Up Displays.)

2. They’ll Exploit Your Position

An opponent who identifies you as a nit will exploit your position. This is simply a fact of life. Say the cards are dealt and you think you have the strongest hand. If you’re in position and raise, your opponent will immediately put you on a very strong range because they know you only raise with the nuts. As a result, you won’t be able to leverage your hand strength. Sad. Postflop, if you don’t connect with the board and are out of position, your opponent will expect you to check and let them see the next card for free.

3. They’ll Mess With Your Mind

Players who study nit psychology know that nits limp into pots so they can fold without feeling the sting of losing too much. To exploit this mindset, stronger players will force tight-passive opponents to pay more to see the flop. This builds the pot and nudges the nit to commit because it’s harder for them to fold once they’ve put the money in. Once a nit has taken the bait, an experienced opponent can reel them into the pot by making the type of smaller bets that nits just can’t resist calling.

4. They’ll Crush You on the River

The river is a bad place to be for a nit who’s been reeled into a big pot. If your opponent is brave, knows you dislike playing big pots without the nuts and wants you to fold, they’ll often bet big on the river. This will likely make a true nit go crazy with fear, especially on a scary wet board. Only the very strongest hand makes a nit feel safe!

5. They’ll Never Pay You Off

One of the biggest reasons not to be a nit is that your opponents very seldom pay you off. If they’ve read you correctly, they’ll know that the only reason you keep playing in the face of aggression is because you’re holding a monster hand and the board’s texture looks good to you. This is a clear signal for your opponents to tread lightly and avoid building the pot in your favor by bluffing. “Never pay off a nit” is the rule. If you want to be paid off, don’t be one.

Are There Advantages to Being a Nit?

 A person wearing a black waistcoat over a white shirt throws casino chips while holding playing cards.

No, there are no advantages to being a nit. It’s an inflexible style of play that relies on luck almost as much as chance-based online casino games. That said, there are situations where tight-passive play can be advantageous if you’re playing online poker for real money. Recall that nit strategy revolves around being paid big when a monster hand comes your way. We’ve already discussed how experienced players can see this from a mile away, so you’ll want opponents who don’t pay too much attention and won’t put you on a range. A live poker game with many casual players is a good place for this. Players who are mainly in it for fun will tend to call when you raise off a big hand, giving you the opportunity to make them pay. The downside is that you’ll have to play many hands while waiting for those big hands to show up.

How Not To Be a Nit When Playing Poker Online

If you’re one of nature’s nits, but your ambition is greater than taking money off recreational online poker players, you’re simply going to have to loosen up. Start by expanding your preflop ranges. This will make you less predictable and give you more options in various scenarios. You may want to look at opening hand charts that good players recommend.

Postflop, be prepared to mix it up and play more aggressively. Make continuation bets even when you miss the flop and work some check-raises into your strategy. Don’t be afraid to call or raise with more draws — your opponents will miss the flop just as often as you. They’ll even fold to your aggression, which can be a great confidence booster. Speaking of confidence, a great way for players to overcome fear is to enter free-roll or low-stakes online poker tournaments. With little to no money at stake, you can experiment at no risk to your bankroll.

If you already have a reputation as a nit, don’t worry. As with everything in poker, you can use it to your advantage. For example, if your opponents expect you to be very tight-aggressive, you’ll be able to beat them with hands they don’t expect.

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