Poker is a people game – Winning poker is about playing the players not just your cards.
Most poker players can be usefully placed into one of 4 distinctive playing styles. Once you have sussed out what type of players your up against suddenly poker becomes a game of personalities and not just about the cards you hold in your hand.
Poker Playing Style
Below are descriptions of the styles to try and spot and you should adjust your game accordingly – some things will work a treat against one player and be utterly useless or down right dangerous against another. At this point you need to take a good look at yourself – what kind of player are you ?
Tight Aggressive (TAG)
Make this your default style, solid hand selection, strong position play, aggressive no prisoners raising. Tight aggressive players pick strong hands and will go all the way and put the difficult decisions onto the other players every step of the way. Players like this do not fall in love with AA they play it hard, hope for one caller pre-flop and they’re happy to take a good profit from one – not risk trying to get a little from a lot.
If your at a table with a lot of tight aggressive players (ie. check % to see flop) – simple look at another game.
Tight Weak (Rocks)
They make the same solid hand selection as the tight aggressive player but have no balls. They call when they should raise, they put in a small raise when they should be going for big raises. They fail to cut out drawing hands, chancers and suffer too many bad beats. They adhere far to closely to what they think are the laws of poker and in fact they wouldn’t last 5 minutes against a tough table of good poker players.
If your at a table with a lot of tight weak players they will easily be fazed by hefty raises that put them off what they think are their odds. Figuring their hand should be more straight forward – Scare cards are you friend. But if they suddenly get some balls and are raising big you can be sure – they’ve got a damn good hand and they might be a tight aggressive who’s changed gears who will also have a damn good hand.
Loose Aggressive (LAG)
The nutter, plays just about any hand and plays it aggressively. They are gamblers and love the buzz of the game. You may find them intimidating as they always seem to come back at you with a raise no matter what – so long as your playing solid hands against them and don’t getting carried along you will make money from them. As soon as you turn to the dark side and play like them you will loose.
If your at a table with a couple of nutters think of them as aggressive calling stations – they will be there when you have a nuts hand eager to give you all their cash – so wait and watch, don’t play until you have the nuts, then take all their chips. If the table is rammed full of nutters personally I give it up – 9 lucky idiots against you – don’t take it on.
Loose Weak (Passive Calling Stations)
Clueless, fishy Mcfishy. The worst combination of a player you could be – Passive calling stations – They call and check to stay in any hand and don’t like folding, they like to see all the cards but don’t take control of any of the hands. In their head any kind of a hand that works with the board is a hand worth playing, with a fondness for long shot draws.
If your at a table with a load of fish – get the net out. Easy money – they will be putty in your hands you can guide them into calling when your drawing, letting you see cheap cards they shouldn’t. But you must make them pay to play – always. Don’t let bad beats happen you only have yourself to blame if you let 5 chancers stay in til the river and get beat by 72off. Better to get a lot from one or two players in a hand than risk getting greedy keeping in several players.
What Sort Of Poker Style Should I Play ?
Generally as a fall back position or as a new player you should aim to be just tight aggressive sometimes called selectively aggressive.
Once you become more advanced you can start to mix your play between different styles known as changing gears. This is what the truly successful bricks and mortar (B&M) poker pro does. But online you really shouldn’t get too carried away with clever moves – stick with selectively aggressive and only when you really have a read on a players decision making should you deviate.
As always with poker turning things on its head can and will throw players – remember you want to lead them by the nose and take control. If you set your stall out at the start of an SnG as a nutter ie. loose aggressive then that is how they will treat you – they will fear you early on and then they will look you up figuring you have stolen one too many pots with a big raise out of position – hopefully you’ve seen this coming you’ve already changed gears back to tight aggressive and you’ve landed a very solid hand to go all the way with. On the other hand if you’ve played the first couple of hands reasonably aggressive with whatever you got dealt and the deck has gone cold – back off. The idea is to look like a nutter not be a nutter.
Many players will advise against this approach – but think about it – if your sat at a table and the guy next to you hasn’t played the first 10 hands and then comes in with a raise – what are you going to think ? Yep he’s tight but only moderately aggressive – and you fold – his AA doesn’t make him much of a pot and everyone at the table knows he will only play premium hands.
Conversely being marked as a tight aggressive player early doors give you the advantage of respect – later in the game you can bluff or semi bluff more on marginal hands – they will give you respect because you’ve earned it and fold a better hand.
Know your players, understand how important position is and the cards you get dealt will be less important – it’s what you make everyone else think you have that counts. And remember rarely will you sit at a table that is full of only one type of player, you will have to weight up even with a good hand if your up against too many other factors and vice-versa if a weaker hand has become playable because of who your up against.
Mixing Up Your Game & Playing Style
In the beginning stages of your poker career, you may not have a specific style of play yet. It takes many hours of experience before you can develop into a specific type of player. There are a variety of different types of players in poker, and they all have their advantages.
The truly good players have a style of play that combines them all together. They mix up their game and keep people guessing non-stop. The truly good poker players can play any style of poker on any given day, changing gears and adapting for specific opponents and situations.
One reason, that is not as commonly thought about is because of how the other players play. What your opponents are doing at the table, should make a big difference in the style you play with. You need to be able to adjust your game accordingly.
If you are at a weak table with a lot of tight straight forward players who do not want to take a chance … you are going to want to be more aggressive and crazy with your bets. When people do decide to play with you, you will know they have a huge hand. The majority of the time they will not have those types of hands which will enable you to win with your bets.
In general you may be a very aggressive player who plays many hands and takes many chances. In some games you might run into a table filled with maniacs and crazy big betters who raise every single hand. This is one of those instances where you really need to mix up your game. You do not want to be your usual aggressive self here, because you do not need to. There is no point battling it out with other players the same as you. In this case, you just sit back and wait for the right hand then attack these players with their stupid actions. You know that you are going to get paid off huge, with your big hand no matter what.
If you are going to play in lots of different poker games with different people it is crucial to mix up your game. Even if you are playing in the same game with the same people, you still have to mix up your game. It is funny how it works, because for the opposite reasons, you need to change up your game.
If you do not know your players you need to mix up your game to effectively play against their game. If you do know the players, you need to mix up your game to effectively stop them from knowing your style of play.
No matter how you look at it, you must mix up your poker game.