You have probably heard of the term nit in poker at some point in your poker career, and you may already have an idea of what it means, but this is the first thing I want to talk about.
So what is a nit in poker? A poker nit, by definition, is a player who likes to play it safe. This means that they will play tight before the flop and continue to play cautiously throughout the hand.
A poker nit will do their best to avoid getting involved in big pots without the absolute nuts and will usually make conservative and defensive plays until they have a monster poker hand.
This makes playing against poker nits quite easy, as you can make many exploitative plays to get the wanted results.
But before we can understand how to play against the nit poker strategy, we need to understand what it is and how to play and think like a nit.
How to Play Nit Poker
Before we can get into how we can crush poker nits, we should learn how exactly they play and what we can expect from them.
On a most basic level, a nit plays poker very tight, without getting out of line too much. At a full ring table, a nit will probably get involved in 10 to 12% of all hands. In a 6-max game, they may enter some 15 to 20% of all pots.
What is even more, a poker nit will not want to get too involved in hands unless he has a very powerful hand. While they may open the button with A7s, they will not continue if someone puts in a 3-bet.
The nit’s strategy is to wait for big hands and try to see some cheap flops with speculative hands, trying to make monsters.
This strategy actually works pretty well in live poker games, where players don’t have access to online poker stats and are often oblivious to the way others are playing.
Because of this, they are willing to give action even to a very tight poker nit.
If you have been playing poker for a while, you have probably played with some nits, and you have surely noticed how tight they were playing, but perhaps you were not thinking about how to best exploit them.
I will give you a number of strategies that you can use against poker nits to crush them at the table and maximize your profits when they are in your games.
Tip #1 – Stealing the Blinds in Nits’ Games
The most obvious exploit you can use against poker nits, especially in tournament poker, is to steal their blinds relentlessly.
If you are sitting in one of the seats to the right of a poker nit, you will often be one of the last players to act before them when they are in the big blind.
In such scenarios, it is usually worth opening up your range and playing more hands for a raise than you normally would.
The logic here, of course, is that the nit will fold the vast majority of hands in the blind, not wanting the get involved with marginal holdings.
When the nit does defend against your raise, you will be in position, and you will have the option to steal the pot away from them on the flop, turn, or river.
Remember, the nit will not want to play back at you when they flop draws or speculative one pair hands, but will rather call one bet or fold right away, depending on the strength of their particular holdings.
Tip #2 – Keep Barreling Against a Poker Nit
The next thing you should do when facing nits in poker is barrel them relentlessly in hands where they do cautiously defend against your continuation bets.
What I mean by this is that a nit will not be too happy to make calls with marginal hands, even if they are actually great bluff catchers.
A good example of this is when overcards such as ace or king hit the turn or river or when flush and straight cards come in after they bet the flop and check the turn.
In both of these scenarios, the likelihood is that the nit will be scared that the new card has improved your hand. Thus, they will prefer to fold to your bet instead of calling and putting themselves in a potentially dangerous and marginal situation.
Remember that the poker nit is looking to avoid playing big pots without huge hands. If they’re holding the top pair on the flop and an overcard comes, they will not be looking to call two big bets unless they improved to two pair.
If you can find situations where you believe the opponent’s range to be capped to one pair, getting them to fold their cards should not be too difficult.
Tip #3 – Re-Steal Often Against the Nit
The next thing we can do to crush nits games is to play back against their raises often and with force, not allowing them to utilize their strategy effectively.
A nit will not open much from early poker positions but will still play a relatively wide range from the button or the small blind, as they understand they only need to get past one or two players to win the blinds.
When a nit does open from a later position, most players’ reaction will be to overfold against them because they see them as tight and having a strong hand.
The nit will, indeed, have a relatively strong hand, but that does not mean they will play it correctly. Many nits will fold hands like QJs to re-raises, fearing to get involved in a big pot against a hand that potentially has them dominated like AJ or AQ.
This is why you can absolutely play back against late position raises from a poker nit a lot. You will be able to win many pots before the flop and often get them off their hand on the flop when they do call your re-raise and miss.
It is very important, however, to keep in mind that a nit will be extremely tight if they do 4-bet you. You should consider folding even strong hands like TT or AQ in such situations. It is very unlikely that you are actually ahead of their range.
Tip #4 – Float the Poker Nit’s C-bets
The continuation bet is one of the plays that nearly every player in the world knows how to use on some level, and even it is a part of even the nit poker strategy.
When a nit raises before the flop, and you call their raise with a speculative hand, you won’t always hit a very favorable board.
However, if you do have some equity, such as a gutshot straight draw or a backdoor flush draw with an overcard, you will want to make the call against their c-bet regardless.
It is true that the nit will often have a big hand, in which case they will probably continue betting, and you will end up folding unless you improve.
However, if the nit has a hand like AK and the board did not give them a pair, they are very unlikely to fire further barrels on later streets.
For that reason, you will often be able to steal the pot away from the poker nit on the turn or the river by firing a bet once they check to you.
If you improve to even more equity on the turn, you may actually end up with a big hand yourself, but even if you don’t, you will get to win many pots, with additional juice in there.
I would recommend not floating against the nit’s bets on ace or king-high boards that are likely to hit their range, but rather on boards like 578 or J67, where the likelihood of their tight range to improve is relatively low.
Tip #5 – Fold Too Much to the Poker Nit
I have talked a lot about how you can get a nit to fold their cards and win pots against them that you would not win against your average player.
However, now it is time to talk about another very important concept: denying the nit their value when they do make a big hand.
Making big hands in Texas Hold’em is not easy, but it does happen. When a nit does make a big hand, they will play it fairly straightforwardly and try to get the maximum value for it.
It is very important to recognize that, unlike your average or aggressive player, a nit will not balance their value bets with bluffs. Instead, they will only bet big when they have the goods, and this gives you a massive advantage.
When a nit is betting big into you, you can calmly fold all but the best hands on a particular board and only continue with really big draws.
Don’t level yourself into thinking that the nit may be bluffing or that your top pair with a medium kicker is enough to beat them.
Instead, simply fold your cards and wait for a better situation that is very likely to come up, where you will be able to beat the nit with ease.
Tip #6 – Don’t Try Leveling
When playing poker, we can all be prone to making all sorts of conclusions, which won’t always be correct.
One thing that I have often found myself guilty of is thinking that there is just no way a particular player is getting dealt as many big hands as they are representing.
In the case of your average opponent, this can be true. If an aggressive player keeps 3-betting you pre-flop, it is likely that they don’t always have the goods, and they are often bluffing.
Poker nits, on the other hand, tend to play a very straightforward strategy without much bluffing. If a nit has 3-bet you three times in a matter of five hands, they were likely just dealt three big hands.
The same goes for their play on the flop and later streets. Regardless of how much they seem to be eager to put poker chips in the pot, it is more likely they are getting dealt big hands than that they started bluffing all of a sudden.
If you have a very good read that a particular player is a proper poker nit, don’t level yourself and don’t make any special adjustments to your play. When they bet big, fold everything but strong hands, as the nit will almost always have you beat.
Tip #7 – Bluff on the River vs. a Poker NIt
As I already said, nits feel very uncomfortable playing in big pots, and the pots are the biggest once they reach the river. This gives you a chance to exploit their insecurity and try to win some extra pots.
Instances of situations where you should bluff the river include mostly those in which the river card brings a big scare, such as completing an obvious flush or straight draw.
Regardless of what kind of drawing hand you actually had, you can always represent that you hit the nuts against the nit. They will be very likely to believe that you do have it.
Nits also like to use the so-called “blocker bet” on the river to try and see the showdown on their own terms.
This means that, once the scare card does hit, the nit will often fire out a small bet, continuing on their previous aggression, but with less flare than they did on the earlier streets.
More often than not, this will mean that they have a hand like top pair or two pair at best and that the scare card that just came is of big concern.
Making a big raise against a river blocker bet will work more often than not, and I have seen the nits’ snap hit the poker muck on the rivers after getting raised so many times that this play is equivalent to straight-up printing money!