Elasticity and inelasticity – how to exploit

Elasticity and inelasticity

The elasticity and inelasticity of our opponents, in poker, usually refers to how sensitive our opponent is to our bet sizing when deciding whether to continue in the hand. An elastic opponent will be more sensitive (i.e. they will continue less often to larger bet sizes, and more often to smaller bet sizes), whilst an inelastic opponent will be less sensitive (i.e. they will continue more often to a wider range of bet sizes). It is important to note that elasticity-inelasticity is a spectrum – opponents can be excessively inelastic (e.g a calling station, who seems to call if they have any made hand, or draw even versus bet sizes they shouldn’t), or overly elastic (e.g. a player who won’t call big bets unless they have something big, but will call small bets with any piece), or somewhere in between.

Responses to elasticity and inelasticity

If you are playing an excessively inelastic opponent

  • You should almost never bluff this opponent, whilst his range is heavy with hands that beat you that won’t fold.
  • You should use a large bet size with all your value hands, even hands that are far from the nuts (when he has plenty of second best hands or draws to call you down with).

If you are playing an excessively elastic opponent

  • As you are looking to get folds, you should use a relatively large bet size with your bluff hands.
  • As you are looking to get your opponent to continue, you should use a relatively small bet size with your value hands.

In real life

At small stakes poker it is actually possible to sometimes encounter either of these types of opponents. However, the vast majority of your opponents (and almost all your opponents as you move up) will be somewhere in between these two extremes, and as such you would want to use a strategy somewhere in between.

Final thoughts on elasticity and inelasticity

It is also important to remember when you exploit your opponents like this you are veering away from GTO principles and are unbalanced, and could be exploited – however, if your line produces the greatest average profit you should have no qualms about doing it. However, do watch out to see if you are getting exploited. For example, against somewhat elastic but savvy opponents, they may catch on if you always bet bigger with bluffs and smaller with value hands (so you will have to mix it up slightly). As always considering how elastic or inelastic your opponent is, should only be one part of your strategy considerations – you need to combine this with other information to come up with your overall strategy. For example, we recommend you read UnfairPoker.com’s article on blockers and unblockers, and try and understand how you would combine what we recommend there with the information in this article.