You have probably been told, at some point in your life, that
you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. While this may very
well be sage advice in other dynamics, it’s not always
applicable at the poker table. This isn’t to say that general
perceptions aren’t defied from time to time, but poker is still
all about playing the odds. Playing the odds doesn’t pertain
exclusively to calling with flush draws in the right spot or
calling a re-raise to set mine, it also means using broad
judgments to make the best decision possible.
If you are treating an 80 year old white male with a hat and cane in the
same way as you are treating a 23 year old with head phones, you
are only going to be hurting yourself. Stereo types are
difficult to implement because they vary so wildly within
themselves, but poker tends to have its own unique groups of
players that tend to fall into one playing style or another.
There are a handful of different factors that come into play
when attempting to assess a player’s style at the table. The
first and most primary is definitely age. There’s not a single
characteristic that’s more important when you are trying to
assign a playing style to a player than age. Beyond age, most
other identifying features are going to be very secondary. These
include clothing, race, and even general cleanliness.
Though things like race are very difficult to use on a repeated basis
(I would venture to say that someone’s skin color is the worst
gauge of their playing style among these few factors), they are
still usable. As with anything else in poker, your goal is to
use as many context clues as possible to paint one complete
picture. You are going to be wrong on occasion, but you should
have a beat on the table as soon as you sit down once you get a
fair amount of experience in live play.
Age is the easiest way to guess how someone is likely to
play. Even if you are new to live poker, you probably already
know that younger players tend to be more bold and aggressive
while older players lean more towards the passive side of
things. This is exactly where you need to start, but the ages in
between are what tend to give players the most trouble. For the
sake of this article and even for accuracy, we are going to look
at three different main age sets: young, middle age, and older.
Each tends to have its own unique characteristics that separate
one from the next, making these groupings a solid metric in
which to work with.
Young players are usually the biggest winners in most games,
and this goes for both online and offline play. While you should
be keeping this in mind, it’s worth noting that there are
plenty of young players who don’t have a clue what they are
doing. The setting will tell a lot about the likelihood of a
young player being truly skilled.
If you are in Atlantic City or
Las Vegas, for example, there’s a very real possibility that a
younger player is simply on vacation and doesn’t really play a
lot of live poker. In this case, you are going to want them in
your game. These types of players are known for their calling
station tendencies in addition to their propensity for bluffing.
A young player usually falls into one of two different extremes:
very good or very bad. Though you’ll notice it from time to
time, average players don’t normally come in the form of 21-29
Middle aged players are usually the people who games are
built around. If you spot a table that’s full of guys wearing
golf shirts with an average age of 40-50, you should get into
the game as soon as possible. There are a number of reasons why
middle aged players are the best types of opponents. First and
foremost, they usually have the disposable income available.
Younger players either have less money to play with (on average)
or they will be good. Older players have money but are very
tight with it. Middle age players also love the action. They are
often times pure gamblers at heart, meaning that they like to
see a lot of flops, turns, rivers, and all in pots.
Because of this, these players are also usually pretty easy to play
against. You can comfortably sit back until one of them donates
their chips with a sub-par hand. Middle aged players should be
noted for their hatred towards ever folding, their dramatic
betting, and their inability to implement basic poker
fundamentals like an understanding of hand strength and bet
Old players, as in 70s+, are middle of the line when it comes
to choosing the ideal opponent. On one hand, they aren’t good.
On the other hand, they aren’t very bad or likely to give
action. Middle aged players are perfect because they give a lot
of action and aren’t afraid to put their money in the pot. With
an older player you are going to need to
be aggressive in order to capitalize on their passiveness.
This is the polar opposite of what you’ll do with a middle aged
player who you can allow to fall into their own mistakes.
Odds are that you’ll make more money from an older player with
simple steals and continuation bets than you will in big pots. A
lot of the times an older player will only be willing to play an
all in pot if they have an exceptionally strong hand. Knowing
this, you shouldn’t be engaging in hands against these players
unless you too have a strong hand. Take advantage of an older
player’s passiveness, but be careful not to become a victim of
As mentioned earlier, age is undoubtedly the easiest way to
gauge how someone is likely to play. If you were going to look
at clothing, this too can give you some insight. Generally, a
sloppily dressed player is going to match his play with his
attire. The more careless someone is with their appearance, be
it clothing, hygiene, or both, the more careless they will
usually be with their chips. The reason why this isn’t a very
reliable piece of information is because some of these people
are the tightest nits in the world. You don’t usually find a lot
of middle ground when it comes to these players as they are
usually either awful or very, very tight.
Now, we should note that this next section is the farthest
thing from racist (in a bad way). What is worth mentioning,
though, is that black, Asian, and Indian live poker players are
prone to giving lots of action. They love calling bets and they
love making raises (but calling off bets is usually more common
than raising). These players should be treated in the same way
as middle aged players.
Now, if you have a middle aged player
who also fits into this category of ethnicity, watch out. Though
some of them certainly fall out of this category, most are
explosive in every sense of the word. You want these types of
players at your table, because aside from creating lots of
action, they also happen to generally be the more fun and
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