Tight is right.  Ever remember hearing that phrase?  Back in the day it was like a mantra for some.  Most players were inexperienced, lacked sound strategy and knowledge, and were just in general bad at poker.  That often manifested in playing too many hands and going too far with those hands.  An easy way to exploit this was to simply tighten up.  By playing stronger ranges, you had an inherent advantage over your opponents built in, and they were ill equipped to counter that mismatch.

But times change, and the game evolves.  With more and more "good" players taking a tight and straightforward style as their mode of attack, the way to exploit them increasingly became more loose-aggressive play and a pressure oriented strategy that they were ill equipt to match in both hand strength and wits.  As with all pioneers on the front lines of these changes, those who adapted first thrived.  Think Stu Unger.  Someone 3-betting lite was unheard of, but Stuey didn't need QQ+ to reraise before the flop. 

Fast forward to the modern day.  Much like fashions come in and out of style in a bit of a cyclical nature, sometimes so too may poker evolution I speculate. What had me thinking about this recently was a $215 tournament I was playing and the general observations I was seeing in action.  A number of the really strong players were playing pretty tight preflop, while a number of players I classified as "bad regs" were using a more loose-aggressive strategy that has become more commonplace these days. 

So what's really going on here?  The modern day "Stu's" were playing more hands, opening wider ranges, doing things like 3/4/5-betting light, floating flops, balancing bluff ranges on later streets, calling down 3rd pair in appropriate spots, etc, and having a lot of success.  Other players trying to improve their games began modeling this behavior, be it from study materials, training videos, or railing and observing them.  The sticky part is that it's very difficult to play this style well... it requires in depth knowledge and a reasonable level of experience to get good at playing loose-aggressive in a profitable way.  So we've arrived at a place where we have a large number of people trying to emulate this style of play without the knowledge or experience yet to actually do it right, and that amounts to a lot of players spewing too much. 

What's a good strategy to exploit someone who plays too many hands and plays aggressively?   Play tighter ranges than them and allow them to keep blasting chips in bad.  Tight may just be right again against this legion of players.

A couple of important points.  The above is an over simplification of what the poker tournament landscape looks like... the purpose here is to get you thinking about some of these ideas and how they may apply to your own game.  Also, and this is critical so I can't stress it enough... the optimal strategy in any given situation will be dependant on your opponents and what they are doing.  The top players do, and always will, identify quickly how their opponents are playing and adjust effectively to exploit that.  A term you may be familiar with for this is "shifting gears".  As a very basic example, in that $215 tournament I referenced above, I played a very tight style in the early stages of the event.  The play in general at my tables was a mix of loose-passive and loose-aggressive.  That's not to say I didn't do anything lite and just waited for premium hands, I had a few positive situations come up... but in general my over all numbers were on the tight side of "TAG" to be sure.  However as the money bubble approached I had chipped up nicely to be the table chip leader, and had 5 stacks between 15-25 big blinds on my left who all appeared to be tighening up in an effort to lock up a cash before gambling their stacks.  I adjusted by raising much more frequently, in fact 5 hands in a row and 8 out of 10 at one point, shifting gears into hyper-lag mode to exploit the table dynamic and how they were playing.  I was able to chip up my stack from about under 80K to over 100K before the bubble burst as a result.  After we were in the money, I dialed it back down a bit as now the shorter stacks, assured of getting paid, loosened up and gambled more to try and grow a stack for a final table run where the pay jumps would be significant.

I hope you find this blog entry thought provoking.  If you're the type that regards the phrase "tight is right" in a negative light, reserved for nits and old school players, I'd encourage you to think about it again with an open mind.  The truth is, exploitative is right, and in some situations and table dynamics exploitative does in fact dictate some measure of "tight".