These days, tournaments are more jam-packed with recreational players than ever. Playing against these “recreationals” requires a lot of exploitative adjustments depending on what kind of player they are, but there are some general rules that should hold true in most situations where you’re up against a weaker opponent. Here we’ll look at three easily implemented tips that will help you improve your game when playing against recreational players.
ISO 3-bet Recreationals Very Wide
ISO 3-betting simply means that if a recreational player raises preflop, we want to try and isolate them with a wider range in order to play more pots against them. We should be very aggressive and active in these spots in order to fold out stronger players and get heads up against a weaker opponent. Adding in more hands that would typically be called preflop will really allow you to push your edge against these opponents. The worst thing that can really happen when ISO 3-betting is that your opponent may 4-bet you, but recreational players are rarely ever 4-betting unless they have the stone cold nuts anyway, so it obviously makes sense to be 3-betting them more often! If your opponents are mainly calling or folding and only raising with the absolute nuts, there is so much EV to be gained by 3-betting.
Remember that at the end of the day, you ideally always want to be playing pots against recreational players and players who are weaker than you. This isn’t a pissing contest, there is no reason to try and constantly battle with the best players. Constantly be looking for spots where you can play with weaker players, and only get involved with stronger opponents if you’ve really got something. Look to push thin edges against recreationals, not against strong opponents.
C-bet Wider Against Recreationals
One of the most consistent patterns across all types of recreational opponents is that they tend to never check-raise flops enough. They’ll almost never check-raise weaker hands for protection and their draws will call more frequently, meaning that they’ll only really be check-raising with strong hands and strong draws. This means that we can c-bet more aggressively across a wide range of flops, without having to fear check-raises as much as usual. Even on boards where GTO only c-bets 70% or so you can go ahead and just c-bet your range for a small 1/4 or 1/3 pot sizing. Go ahead and fire away on the flop, but be careful not to over-bluff on turns and rivers.
A big mistake that some players will make against recreationals is over-bluffing on later streets, instead of on the flop where it’s probably fine. When a recreational player calls flop and turn, don’t get really fancy on the river and try to bluff with crazy GTO bluffs like naked overcards that technically block overpairs. Instead look to value bet a little thinner on the river and let go of your more optimistic bluffing combos, since you should see more frequent call downs from these players.
Play the Big Blind Aggressively Against Hijack, Cutoff and Button Raises
It’s important to clarify that this rule applies more to the mid and late stages of tournament play, during the early stages recreationals won’t be folding to 3-bets nearly as often. When defending your big blind, you really want to start putting the pressure on during late stages where your opponents may be opening at a similar frequency from late position, but are less inclined to call a 3-bet because they are too scared to get involved in a big pot with more marginal holdings. Especially close to the money or big pay jumps recreationals will tend to play more timid and fold more often than they should be.
The frequency of 4-bet jams that you’ll face against recreationals is a lot lower than when facing stronger opponents as well. Recreationals are already not aggressive enough preflop, and that rule is only amplified during the later stages of tournament play. Prey upon the weak and force your opponents into uncomfortable situations where they can have weaker holdings that won’t want to face a raise.