When you sit down at a poker table in a casino, chances are you have never seen any of those players before. So what do you know about them? Absolutely nothing. Or do you?
It’s natural to stereotype players who we know nothing about. If you know nothing about them, you immediate look at their appearance. Are they male or female? Young or old? What are they wearing? Are they in a suit, or do they have a hoodie and sunglasses on? Are they wearing sponsored poker apparel? Do they have expensive jewelry on? Are they ranting like Phil Hellmuth or running their mouth like Mike Matusow? Are the completely silent? Drinking? Flirting with the cocktail waitress?
Like it or not, you are being judged by the other players in the same way. For instance, if you’re a young, attractive woman, chances are that you can bluff more often and get guys to fold, simply because women in poker are sometimes stereotyped as weak and predictable.
In order to improve your game, it is important that you understand what type of poker player you are and what type of players your opponents are. If you know how others view you at the table, you can use this information to your advantage. Poker player types fall into four basic categories. Which one are you? Better yet, which one are you most of the time?
There are plenty of oxy-morons when it comes to labeling poker players, so stay with me. A tight-aggressive player (TAG) plays quality starting hands aggressively and often makes pre-flop raises and continuation bets. This style of play is optimal online, where many loose-passive players (often called fish or donkeys) try to see as many cards for cheap as they can.
A TAG generally plays quality starting hands out of good position. Position is defined as when you get to act at a poker table in relation to the blinds. If you “have position” at a table, it means you are one of the last players to act. This is a good thing because you get to see what moves other players make before acting. Whether they hit the flop or not, a TAG will often make a continuation bet on the flop. A continuation bet is a bet regardless of whether or not you connected with any of the community cards.
A passive player will have a tough time against a TAG because they will be under constant pressure. Tight aggressive players get in trouble when they try to bluff a loose player. It is hard to know what a loose player has, so if you are a TAG and are involved in a hand with one, choose your continuation bets and bluffs wisely. You should be paying close attention to how many hands each player plays. If you do this, you should know when you are up against a loose player.
If you get into multiple situations where you are forced to fold your bluffs after a re-raise, you might be seen as a bluffer and attract more players into hands with you in the future. This is a problem because it can thwart your aggressive style. It can also make picking up smaller pots with bluffs very difficult.
A TAG can be somewhat predictable because they play mostly good hands. Pay close attention to their hands and the position they play from.
Loose-aggressive players (LAGs) are the kind of players that tend to be shown on WSOP TV events. Why? They make loose raises in bad position and then catch huge hands to win big pots. Don’t get caught up in the hype. Winning on a long-term basis with this style is difficult, although it can be done. Gus Hansen is a poker pro who many typecast as a loose-aggressive player, although his aggression is more calculated…sometimes.
If you love to gamble and don’t give a damn about what position you are in or what two cards you are holding, then a loose-aggressive style of play might suit you.
A LAG does best against a tight-passive player (TAP). When going against a TAP, beware the slow play. You can out-muscle them most of the time, but if you are too persistent with a bluff, you stand to lose a lot of money.
A LAG is the most difficult player to put on a specific hand. They’ll play the same hand two completely different ways, play rags like Aces, and chase a gut-shot draw to the end. These are the players that poker “pros” tend to go off on after taking a bad beat. More than any other player type, A LAG lives by the motto “play the player and not the cards.” They’re like the playground bully, ready to pounce at the slightest sign of weakness. Luckily, for all you tight-passive players, you might get beaten up on early, but when you wait for the perfect moment and the right cards, you can turn a LAG’s loose play against them.
You are going to have to call more often when playing against them in order to exploit their overly aggressive style. If you think you have the best hand, don’t get frightened away by the size and frequency of their bets. Decide early on how you are going to play your hand and stick with that decision. Pay close attention to how A LAG bets in big pots so you know when to make that big call.
Tight-passive players (TP) are often newbies or low-bankroll players, but they don’t have to be. Either way, they wait for high-quality hands and then play them passively. They are often referred to as rocks because it takes an action on another player’s part to get them to react. Quite simply, these players are the easiest to bluff. They are very defensive in nature, preferring to check and call instead of raising.
Bully them around and watch them fold. If you see them making a raise from early position, especially if it’s a large raise and especially if they are the first person to act (also called being “under the gun”), you should only call with a premium hand. Also, be careful if they make a re-raise, especially if there are flush or straight possibilities on the board. More often than not, they have it.
Unlike a loose-aggressive player, a TP can be relatively predictable. That is, you can usually put them on a hand based on their play.
In order to get a TP to fold, bluff when the board shows the possibility for a very good hand. If there isn’t the possibility for a good hand, your bluff will be less effective. If a TP makes a pre-flop raise, bets the flop, and then checks the turn after seeing flush or straight possibilities on the board, a big bet might scaring them into throwing away their top pair (or better).
This player’s M.O. is all about trying to catch big hands by calling. If Lady Luck is your mistress and you love to play hands until the end, you just might be a loose-passive player.
The biggest advantage of playing against a loose-passive player is that their style is extremely predictable. They quickly call your bets without hesitation, and they rarely bluff. They are as one-dimensional as they come.
The LP doesn’t really care about the strength of their hands, pot odds, or any damn odds for that matter. They like to get lucky (who doesn’t?) and make big hands.
Since they like to call and see cards, they can be difficult to bluff against. If you are a loose-aggressive player, be careful when trying to bluff a loose-passive player. A LP will call with you with nothing and then suck out on the river.
It’s important to change up your style to counteract the other styles at the table. For instance, the best counterpunch to a loose-aggressive player might be a slow play that extracts the most chips. The best NL Hold’em players wear many hats during the course of a poker session. Know thyself, and you will know your opponents better.
So what type of poker player are you?