I consider this post a synopsis of my current understanding of overcards and passive opponents, I fully expect to look back and laugh at this in a few days... :)
FACT #1: when a micro limit online player limps into a pot, they will automatically call one raise simply because they already have money in the pot
FACT #2: passive players play like they are always behind unless they hold the absolute nuts.
Last night I was faced with an interesting situation. While 4-tabling, the players were extremely passive post-flop and were prone to fold at the turn or river if they did not hit. That is not to say that ALL of the players were weak, but I knew the TAG's so stayed clear when they were in.
Faced with weak opponents who WILL fold, a bluff of sorts (no i have not read the semi-bluff work by sklansky yet -- its on order) in showing strong agression regardless of your overcard holding on a low scattered board seems to be profitable. Typically, this means leading out flop betting in the blinds or UTG, or raising a bet in late position.
First, we'll examine the lead out bet. 4-5 players to the flop, all low/mid scattered board with passive opponents and I'm holding a solid overcard hand in broadway. I lead out under the gun with a bet, typically only one or two opponents will call since the others realized their 8-4o didnt hit and might not win now. Usually a call here means the proven-passive micro player is holding an ace. It seems that any ace will do. If another blank falls at the turn, I bet again and usually get the pot on the turn or the river given up. Of course, if a high card falls and my passive opponent wakes up, i fold quickly, but even when they call me down i'm a decent shot to win with my respectable starting hand (yes, i play respectable starting hands per SSHE).
The second situation is faced when holding overcards on a ragged flop. If checked around to 2-3 players, often someone will hit a card -- lets say 2-7-9 and throw in a bet. UTG, your raise will often clean out the pack unless they're holding something good, which gives you valuable information. If the bettor 3-bets, then you have to consider whether they have hit 2-pair or a set, as a typical passive player will not 3-bet unless they have the goods making your decision easy. Either way, being informed as to someones likely holdings by chipping in another small bet is considerably better than calling bets against many opponents with your overcards hoping your card will hit and be good.
It is better to put someone on a hand -- especially an un-tricky passive player -- than call down with my A-Jo against a set or two pair.
Of course, this all depends on reading your opponent as weak/passive who WILL fold to agression which is where PokerTracker or just paying attention at your table for 20 minutes will help.
In other news, I spent some money yesterday! Caro's Book Of Poker Tells and Super System II are currently on order from Chapters (yes i'm Canadian). Also made a bit 4-tabling on Stars as well as 3rd in a SNG where the 2nd place finisher drew out on me 4-times all-in with the far-worse hand. Sometimes poker does that though.