At some point in your poker journey, you will hear the phrase “tight is right.” A nit takes this phrase to an extreme, utilizing a strategy that is about tight as you can get without folding literally every hand. Most players hate nits because they do nothing but fill a seat that could otherwise be filled by a fish. But in the event you are a nit, I’m going to try to persuade to you stop this behavior today.
What Is A Nit In Poker?
What is a nit in poker? A nit is a poker player who uses an extremely tight strategy, who plays very few hands, and who aims to only get involved in big pots with monster hands.
I run ThePokerBank’s YouTube channel (over 90K subs & 11M+ views), and as you can imagine, the comments on these free poker videos range from really solid players to results-oriented players to fish to ultra-nits. A while back I got into a quick back-n-forth with a player who said we should fold an overpair + flush draw getting 4:1 against our opponent’s all-in. He then went on to make the comment that:
No reads, fold all day in 1/2 or 2/5. Nothing wrong being a nit.
Now, many of my students have been nits. I used to be quite nitty myself. Heck, you can even find some old videos of mine where I offer very nitty advice. But in today’s games, a nitty style just doesn’t cut it. So here are 5 very simple reasons why there IS something wrong with being a nit, and what you can do to fix any nitty habits you may have picked up along the way.
Being A Nit Messes Up Your Frequencies
Whether you know it or not, you have frequencies in your own strategy. So if you only open a range of 22+/AJ+/KQ from middle position, that is a 10% poker range. This means that your open-raising frequency from MP is 10%. And due to this fact – it means if it folds to you in MP there is a 90% chance you fold your hand.
That’s easy enough to understand – but the frequency issue is more prominent postflop for nits. Take a common situation where a nit considers folding. The nit raises preflop with AA, gets 1 caller from the blinds, and ends up facing a huge CR on a flop of J♠ 8♣ 3♥. Let’s explore the frequency issue.
Say the nit actually raised preflop with 22+/AJ+/KQ and then decided to CB 64% of the time (with any pair nines or better and whiffed AK/AQ). If, after facing a CR, the nit would only continue with 2pair+, they would only continue 11% of the time. That’s right, by only continuing with the effective nuts, the nit is folding 89% of the time and anybody can bluff them with impunity.
Even if you tighten the CB range (and take out the AK/AQ combos) AND loosen up the continuance range to overpairs + sets, the nit is still folding 48% of the time.
This same situation comes up again and again. Nits face aggression, and they only want to give action with 2pair+. Why? Because 2pair+ is a pretty strong absolute hand strength. Nits fail to think about hands in a relative sense and as such end up making huge folds because they fear monster hands that may or may not exist. Heck, think back to the J83 hand from a moment ago and think about how many monster combos villain could have – and if you say villain could have two pair then think about all the other possible combos they are playing too…
Being A Nit Makes You A Target
When nits mess up their frequencies and end up having huge gaps between their ranges – anyone who is paying the slightest bit of attention will notice. And once people start noticing, they will start taking advantage by raising the nit more and more. (This is even easier to pick up when playing online poker (although in Finland they are all online casinos or kaikki netticasinot in the local language))
Now I can already hear a nit saying “well, there are no good players in my game and nobody would ever notice my frequencies.” Maybe that’s true, but more often than not it’s actually quite false. There are players who pay a lot of attention AND use that information against you that you would never realize are doing so. So to reduce the entire player pool to a lump of dolts that has no ability to gather or use information is insane in 99% of situations.
The issue with being a nit is that everyone can take advantage of you easily. If you double barrel with 60 combos but only continue against a CR with 12 combos, you are folding a ton and it’s easy to fight you. Think about it – it’s extremely easy to crush anybody who folds too much, right? And would you rather play against someone who folds a ton that you can steamroll over? Or would you rather play against someone who is going to force you to fire that third barrel more often?
I know which one I’d rather play against…
Nits Miss Too Many Bets
Given the overly-tight nature of nits, they tend to miss value betting opportunities. This means the pots are too small by the time the nit is finally ready to try and value bet on the river. It also means they allow their opponents to actually their equity too easily.
Here is a great example of some bets that tighter live cash game players miss on a regular basis through the lens of a hand from my $1/$2 poker vlog.
Notice how that missed flop bet, a very common mistake, would likely allow everyone to see the turn card for free. And no matter how the flop and turn are played, a very tight would never consider an overbet on the river. Even though this particular river bet didn’t get called, the EV of the overbet is almost certainly higher than a more “normal” $40 bet in softer games.
Nits Never Get Information
Here is what happened to make a nit and nit. A nit made a play, many years ago. They got it all-in on the flop with their shiny-overpair and to their surprise, their opponent flopped a set and the nit lost the pot. It stung, but the nit moved on. But this happened many times over the next few months, and even though the nit won a few of these pots, the nit’s brain focused on the negative outcomes and created a new rule:
So the obvious adjustment was that the nit was going to fold more. Since it’s tough to have the nuts (as we spoke about in the previous points) – the nit ends up folding quite a bit. But whenever the nit makes these folds their brain rewards them by convincing them that villain HAD to have a set that time. Villain had to have turned two pair and there is NO way they would be bluffing. The brain gets a bite of cheese and the nits smiles smugly at their genius fold.
But let’s zoom out a bit. Poker is a game of information. The more information we have, the better decisions we can make. And when we have more high-quality information than our opponents we can create huge edges. The real issue with the nit is that they don’t get legitimate information. Because where does a lot of information happen in poker? It happens at showdown when we actually see what villain had. Nits don’t get to showdown because they folded on previous streets because they didn’t have the nuts.
Nits then don’t get information. They create a story in their head that allows them to believe that their fold was correct and that their opponent just HAD to have a monster hand. But because the nit rarely ever has the nuts, and they only go to showdown with the nuts, they end up mucking their hands on an earlier street and their opponent does the same – only their opponent is simultaneously dragging the pot.
The benefit of being someone who isn’t afraid to put money in without the nuts is that you get to see more showdowns and confirm your assumptions – all while not becoming a target because you fold too much.
Nits Leave Money On The Table
Nits hate losing pots. That’s understandable, but at the end of the day poker is gambling. If you want a steady ROI with no fear of loss – go put your money in a savings account. Sure, nits can make money. And in really soft games nits can make a decent hourly. But in a game with any decent players you cannot just nit it up and hide. Your hourly rate will diminish and you will never grow as a poker player.
I cannot stress that last point enough. You cannot grow as a nit. Because a nit has such a tight preflop range there is no wiggle-room postflop for bluffing at a much different frequency. The only thing a nit can do is try to value bet a little thinner and stop relinquishing equity everytime they face a raise. But to really grow you need to expand your ranges beyond a nit’s preflop range – which means you inherently have to get into being AT LEAST a TAG.
There are other ways that nits can leave money on the table, especially when playing in private games (nobody wants to have the nit in a seat that could otherwise be filled with fresh blood) – but remember, if a nit keeps folding forever and is always forced to have a huge hand and/or cooler somebody to make money – are they really playing poker? Or are they just playing Keno and hoping their numbers get called?
I don’t say any of this to bash a nit. Rather, my major goal is to inspire somebody who is nitty today to take the first step in improving their game. Understanding that a nitty approach worked once, but to thrive in today’s games it’s not the style you want to use. Sure, there are specific games where you can be a nit a do quite well – but those games will change in time, and having a deeper skillset will serve you well into the future.
Crushing Tight Poker Players
With your newfound knowledge, here’s a video to help you crush all of your nitty opponents.
In it I talk about 3 plays I use at the table to capitalize on my opponents weaknesses as a nit. These simple additions are built around basic logic that exploits the frequency issues in their strategy.
And I can already hear some nits saying “well, if we never fold an non-nut hand, won’t we become really spewy?” Yes, there are times to fold. But the main point is that nits fold too often as-is. In fact, I didn’t really realize how often I was folding until I read Ed Miller’s Poker’s 1% and really wrapped my head around the frequency side of this game.
It’s not that you should never fold, it’s just that if you are folding more than 70% of the time in almost all situations – you are doing yourself a massive disservice.
Not sure if your ranges are too nitty? The first 10 exercises in any of these poker workbooks will help you see if that’s the case. These exercises guide you through your own ranges, both preflop and postflop, and highlight spots where your ranges are too tight. And don’t worry, the rest of the book will help you see if your opponent’s ranges are too nitty as well – a win/win!
To start these exercises, grab the poker workbook that’s right for you and good luck!