Poker games bring in an eclectic mix of players, from old timers who have always played and will always play the same way, to young online pros who bring unpredictable strategies to the table. Knowing your opponents, their personalities and their thought processes is one of the key elements of success in poker. Aside from knowing basics like starting ranges and hand strengths, it’s all about the read.
Obviously, this works a little differently when competing online than when playing in a land-based casino, where physical tells can give clues to hand strength. Online it’s all about reading betting patterns to determine what types of players you are up against, or using an HUD to gain information.
You can also expect to find different types of players, depending on the type of game you are playing. A fast-paced Spin N Go at PokerStars will play out differently than a slow-structured casino tournament. However, regardless of where you play, the same poker personalities always show up.
Some of you will already be familiar with the basic types of players, defined by how loose, tight, passive and aggressive they are. A ‘tight’ player doesn’t enter many pots to begin with, whereas a ‘loose’ player generally has a wide opening range. A ‘passive’ player tends to check and call rather than bet and raise, whereas ‘aggressive’ players tend to play hands like they mean it.
Using these four terms, you can break down players into four rough categories: tight-passive, loose-passive, tight-aggressive (TAG), and loose aggressive (LAG). It never pays to be passive in poker, so, of the four strategies, only TAG and LAG are really implemented; the tight-passive or loose-passive player is nearly always exploitable.
All of that helps, but let’s go a little deeper and look at poker personalities and tendencies more specifically. Once you have identified a player as fitting roughly into one of the above categories, you can take a look at how their perception of the game (and themselves as a player) affects their actions.
The Nit – This is a classic type of poker player. They always fold too much and are not willing to take risks or make or call large bets, even when they have decent hands. As a result, the Nit will not play enough and will fold too often. When they do bet big, you can be pretty sure that they have the goods. Bluff them, steal blinds, and price them out of pots to win. If they resist, they probably have a hand.
ABC Player – Not quite a Nit, the ABC player knows a bit about poker, but is unwilling to show flexibility when betting, so he or she becomes pretty much entirely predictable. ABC players often think there is a “certain way to play” a hand and may become very vocal about what they would have done in a certain situation, revealing precious information in the process. Expect a basic TAG style.
The Pro – Some players are excellent at the game. They have studied, they have experience, and they know how to adapt to the styles of each player at the table. Many people think they should simply avoid conflict with the pro, but it’s better to avoid sticky, marginal situations with a player who knows how to exploit them. Instead, play solid poker, and only work to shut down the pro if they are dominating the table with regular raises.
Take A Look – ‘Take a look’ players like to play as many hands as possible, but only if they can get in cheap. A limped pot is the ideal situation for ‘Take a Look’ players to see the flop. They might pay over the odds to draw for flushes and straights, but they will avoid large pots like the plague and don’t like to be all-in. Raise pre-flop and bet larger pot percentages on draw-heavy boards.
The Ego Tripper – There’s always one! This is the loudest person in the casino and the biggest better online. The Ego Tripper likes attention, and they like to create action that is centred around them. They might think they are good at poker. They usually aren’t, as they will be prone to big bluffs, over-bets, and pointlessly-dramatic pot-building. They may try fancy plays to ‘outwit’ opponents. Wait for a spot and make them pay!
The Maniac – Slightly different to the Ego Tripper, the Maniac still likes to make big, crazy bets, but mostly because they enjoy the thrill of the wager and the rush of dopamine that comes with it. They don’t claim to be good and are not trying to be. They just want to have a good time! Trap them with a big hand to take all of their chips in one swoop!
Continuation Betters – Betting the flop after being checked to when in position is known as a continuation bet, which is often a good poker move to take down small, uncontested pots. If you find a player who bets every flop, there are several strategies you can employ. You can check-raise bluff, check call for value, or re-raise pre-flop.
The Donkey – Everyone’s favorite type of poker player, the donkey is new to the game or hasn’t bothered learning and improving. They don’t know what they are doing and might continue playing simply based on how they ‘feel’ about a hand. Don’t read too much into their actions, and don’t bluff them too often. Instead, play solid poker and extract chips with value bets when you have the best of it.