How to Play against the World’s Worst Poker Players and Win

Poker Game Around Table

If you want to know what’s it like to play against the world’s worst poker players take a seat at one of the free money tables online. You see players chasing every kind of imaginable hand and pushing all in with terrible hands.

Bad poker players are impossible to predict. You can’t put them on a hand, and they’re more likely to give you a bad beat because it seems like every hand they play is a long shot. When they do have a strong hand, it’s impossible to recognize it because they play bad hands the same way, and it ends up costing you a big pot.

Playing against bad poker players can be so painful that I’ve heard many poker players state that they’d rather play against better players. This doesn’t make any sense, because if you know how to play against them, bad poker players are much more profitable for you than good ones.

I understand how frustrating it can be to get your pocket aces cracked by someone calling a pre-flop raise with five-six suited, but the truth is that you want that hand in the pot. In the long run, you make a great deal of money off players that do things like this, but sometimes it costs you in the short term.

When you know how to play against bad players, you can make a great deal of money. It might seem like you’re getting crushed in a short period of time, but in the long run, these are the players you want at your table. You can learn more about how to make the most profit from bad poker players below.

Never Bluff

The worst thing you can do in a game filled with bad players is bluff. Bad players call with just about any made hand and most drawing hands. Even on the river with a poor hand they often call because they only think about all the money they’ve already invested in the pot.

Even in games with better players, you should limit the percentage of times you bluff, but in games with bad players you should simply not do it. You should even avoid making semi-bluffs most of the time. Someone else is probably going to bet and you aren’t going to drive anyone with a draw out with a bet anyway, so a semi-bluff usually isn’t profitable.

Instead of semi-bluffing, wait for an opponent to bet and then look at the pot odds to make sure it’s profitable to call.

The good news is that the same things that make bluffing bad also make you more profit. I cover this in the next section.

Bet Your Best Hands

Remember in the last section where I said that there’s no reason to bluff because bad players call with any hand and any draw? This is great news because it also means that when you bet and raise with a good hand that bad players are more likely to call.

When you’re playing against bad players you need to bet your best hands every time. Don’t even consider trying to trap someone. If you have a true maniac in the hand with you it might seem like a good idea to let them lead the betting, but if they’re a true maniac they’re just going to raise your bet.

When you have a good hand you should bet and raise 100% of the time in these games. When you have a drawing hand, you should look at the pot odds and stay in the hand when it’s profitable. Don’t try to make fancy plays; just play straight ABC poker.

Always Use Pot Odds

I mention pot odds in some of the other sections, and you should always use them when you’re playing poker. The difference between using pot odds in a tight game and one filled with bad players is that in a game with poor players you can usually get paid more when you hit your hand.

In a tight game with good players, your opponent can often put you on a hand and get away from it when you hit your draw. In a game with bad players they’re not even trying to put you on a hand. This means that when you look at the pot odds in a wild game you can afford to stay in the hand more often than in a better game.

You can look at the stack sizes of your opponents and count on getting paid more when you hit your draws, because some of your opponents will usually stay with you after you improve. Just make sure that you’re drawing to the best possible hand, and not a second or third best hand.

Learn How to Play Multi-Player Pots

The higher you play in stakes, the fewer players see the flop. Most hands at the highest levels of poker are played heads up or with three players. The players at these games are tighter and they’re better at getting away from poor hands.

At the other end of the scale, a game filled with bad players often has four or five or more players seeing every flop. It doesn’t matter if there’s a pre-flop raise or not, they want to see if the flop can make them a big hand.

In the end, you still win the most money by entering the pot with better hands on average than your opponents. But when five or six players are seeing every flop, it makes it harder for the best hands to stand up. Even pocket aces aren’t a favorite against five or six random hands.

But the fact that more players see the flop makes up for good hands not standing up as often by the fact that you win more when they do stand up.

It’s impossible to determine your exact chances to win without knowing the exact cards your opponents hold, but consider two different situations.

Here’s the first example:

You make a raise with pocket aces and have one caller. You both end up all in after the flop and you win the hand. You started the hand with $200 and your opponent had you covered, so after the rake took the blinds you end up with a profit of $200 and you get back your $200 that you risked. This is a good result, and whatever hand your opponent started with made you a big favorite.

Assume that you were an 80% favorite to win a heads up battle before the flop. This means that your average return, or profit, in this situation is $120. You determine this by running the same situation 10 times with you winning eight times.

Here’s the second example:

You’re playing in a wild game filled with terrible players and you know that you can simply move all in and get some callers. You get pocket aces and move all in for $200. You get four callers, so the pot is $1,000. Let’s say that you only win this hand 40% of the time. This is half as often as you win the heads up battle, but you end up making more money in the long run.

Your average profit in this situation is $200, which is considerably higher than the $120 average profit in the first example. You win the hand half as many times, but your overall profit is much higher.

This shows why you want more people in the pot with your best hands, even if it reduces your chance to win the hand.

You need to learn which hands give you the best chance to profit in multi-way pots. The best hands are still the most profitable, but you can also identify other hands that you can play that are profitable that you can’t play in tighter games. I cover more about this in the next section.

Tight and Aggressive

Tight and aggressive play is a great way to profit from games filled with bad players. As you learned in the last section, you don’t win as many pots, but when you do win you win a great deal more.

If you’re not a great poker player, you should stick with a tight and aggressive style in these games. But if you’re a good player, you can add some hands to your starting hand selections that you normally don’t play.

In a tight game, you should usually fold a hand like queen jack suited before the flop when you face a raise. In a wild game filled with bad players, you can usually play this hand for a profit if you can get away from it when you improve on the flop, but don’t improve enough.

Here’s an example:

You enter the pot with five other payers by calling a small raise with queen-jack suited. You flop a flush and face a bet and a raise. You have to fold this hand at this point. The odds of it standing up are almost nonexistent.

On the other hand, if you flop an open-end straight draw that’s going to be the nuts if you hit it, the best play might be to call. At this point, you have to look at the pot odds to determine the profitability of calling.

Suited connectors with one or two gaps are worth less because they don’t usually produce a nut hand, even when you hit them. No gap suited connectors are more valuable, but you have to be careful with drawing to a non-nut flush.

As your skills improve and you get more experience playing against bad players you figure out which hands you can play for a profit and which ones you can’t. If you start playing too many hands, revert back to tight and aggressive play to get back on track.

Understand Short Term Variance

I’ve mentioned short term variance a couple times in the previous sections; I just didn’t call it by name. Short term variance is what many poker players call luck. The problem with the belief in luck at the poker table is that it doesn’t exist. But short term variance does exist.

Every poker hand you play in your entire life is based on mathematical concepts and facts. The facts you deal with playing poker include the rules of the game you’re playing, the number of cards in the deck, the cards you know the value of and the location of, and the value of the cards you don’t know the location of.

Every decision you make during a poker hand is a variable that can change the outcome of the hand. This actually starts before you play a hand. When you choose where to play and who to play against it changes the potential profit. When you receive your starting hand you decide if you want to fold, call, or raise the pot.

Some starting hands are profitable, and some aren’t. The starting hands between profitable and unprofitable are profitable in some games and positions, and some are unprofitable in some games and positions.

The point is that even though it can be difficult to determine the best play in a given situation, the outcome is always dictated by math. Once you learn this and learn how to use it, you can make great strides in your poker play.

When you use pot odds and expected value, you’re using the power of math to determine if a situation is profitable.

Here’s an example:

You’re playing no limit Texas holdem and have an open-end straight draw after the turn. Based on the board, if you hit the straight you’re going to win the hand. The pot has $750 in it and your opponent moves all in for their last $150, making the total pot size $900.

At this point in the hand you know the value of your two cards and four on the board. This leaves 46 unseen cards, and eight of them complete your straight. You have to call a bet of $150 for the chance to hit your hand on the river. Since your opponent has no more money in their stack, you can’t win more than the $900 in the pot.

You can use expected value or pot odds to determine if you should call. I like to use expected value, but pot odds work the same way.

To determine the expected value you run the hand 46 times, because the unseen cards total 46. If you ran the hand 46 times and each of the possible cards landed on the river once, you can see if the call is profitable.

In this example, you have to invest $150 46 times, for a total of $6,900. Eight times you win, and 38 times you lose. When you lose you don’t get any money back. When you win you get back your $150 call and the $900 in the pot, for a total of $1,050.

Multiply $1,050 times the eight times you win and if the total is higher than your total investment the call is profitable. $1,050 times eight is $8,400 so you should call. You can take this another step and divide the profit by 46 hands to get the average expected value of calling.

$8,400 minus $6,900 is $1,500. $1,500 divided by 46 is an average profit per hand, or expected value, of $32.61. This means that every time you play this exact situation it’s worth $32.61 profit. In the short run of one hand you either get back $1,050 or get back nothing, but no matter what happens the situation is profitable.

What does all of this have to do with short term variance?

The answer is everything. Remember the example earlier about having pocket aces and several opponents. You know that starting the hand with pocket aces is profitable. You also expect to win when you enter the pot with pocket aces.

But even though pocket aces are profitable to play, you still lose sometimes with them. Yet you still understand that they’re profitable to play. So why would you get upset when you lose with pocket aces? You know you don’t win every time you have them and you know it’s profitable to play them, so there’s no need to get upset. Yet most players are upset, even if they don’t show it, when their aces get cracked.

If you get all in with aces heads up and have an 80% chance of winning, you win four out of five times. When you lose the one out of five times, this is short term variance. It might look like you were unlucky, but luck had nothing to do with it. It just so happens that this is the 20% of the time that you didn’t win.

The fact is that if you get in this situation as many times as possible that the percentages, which are based on facts, will play out in the long run. You can lose two times in a row with aces and it’s still short term variance.

It’s important to understand short term variance, especially when you’re playing against the world’s worst poker players. When you have three or four maniacs chasing every possible draw you’re going to be subjected to a great deal of short term variance. It’s going to seem at times like you take a bad beat every other hand.

But you aren’t taking a bad beat; you’re just on the wrong end of short term variance. All you need to do is keep putting yourself in profitable situations and the profit will follow. Never deviate from profitable strategy because of short term variance.

Don’t Try to Help Them Get Better

I cringe every time I see a decent poker player saying something about how bad a poor player is playing. I’ve seen players berate bad players over and over again, and it never helps. It either makes the bad player leave, which is bad for everyone else at the table because bad players are profitable for me, or it eventually makes the bad player improve their game.

If you want to be a profitable poker player you want to find as many bad poker players as you can, and you want to do everything in your power to help them stay bad poker players. Your job as a poker player is to make as much money as you can.

When a bad player makes a terrible play and beats me in a hand I put on a smile and tell them “good hand”. I want them to think that they made some genius play so that they make it again. The last thing I want to do is make them feel like they made a mistake and won anyway.

This is different if you’re actually trying to teach someone to play better. If you have a protégé or friend you’re trying to help improve their game, you should do what you can to help them. But most of your instruction should be done away from the table because you don’t want to make anyone else better that you might play against in the future.

The other reason you shouldn’t try to help your opponents get better is that most of them don’t want to get better. They might say they want to be better poker players, but their actions say something different.

Anyone can become a better poker player by reading about poker, studying other players, and putting in the required work to improve. It’s not like there are secrets that can’t be found. If they want to get better they have the same opportunity to improve that you and I have.


Playing poker against bad players can be challenging, but it’s a great deal better than playing against good players. Once you learn how to make the most money using their bad play against them, you end up making more money than against any other group of opponents.

In the short-term you might have to deal with quite a bit of variance, but if you keep making the best plays, your profits will go up. The basic strategy against bad poker players is to play straightforward poker. Bet and raise your best hands, never bluff, and use pot odds and expected value to make as many playing decisions as possible.

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.