Types of Live Poker Players by Strategy
Whether you are new to live poker or a veteran of the game, one thing you'll inevitably notice is that there are a handful of different types of players. Online play tends to create many varied playing styles, and it will be difficult to pick up on them through play online alone. When you are playing in a brick and mortar casino, however, you are going to develop a better feel for the types of opponents that you are running into over and over again.
The aim of this article is to outline the various types of common live poker players. In addition to pinpointing their standard characteristics, it will also elaborate on how to play against them for maximum profitability. Maybe you have been told that stereotypes are bad, and perhaps that is true, but in poker they can be very valuable when it comes to your bottom line.
The different types of live poker players include wild/aggressive/loose/calling stations, the super tight player, and the conservative (generally good) player. Needless to say, there are virtually infinite types of players out there, but the purpose of this article is to categorize them into groups. When you start playing, chances are that you'll be able to identify any given player as belonging to one of these particular sets. It shouldn't take long to recognize how someone is playing, and you'll be able to utilize this information in an attempt to counter their strategies as effectively as possible.
This is the broadest category of live poker players. It essentially encompasses all of the bad players. These are the types of people who you really want in your game. Yea, they are going to cost you a lot of money from time to time, but in the end you'll benefit greatly from their presence. You may notice that some players seem to "transform" as the day or night goes on. This will usually be a product of tilt, frustration, or even alcohol. Even if a player wouldn't normally fall into this category of players, you'll need to adapt if they do start to play much more recklessly.
The loose players are who you should be getting involved in pots with, albeit carefully. You want to get into hands as cheaply as possible so that you can have a chance at hitting the flop and winning a sizable pot. The key is to reduce your risk as much as possible. Since these players tend to despise folding, you are going to need to rely on making a hand more than anything else. There are few mistakes in poker that are worse than trying to bluff out someone who rarely folds. Place strong value bets and play very straightforward, because this is about all that's needed to crush these loose players.
Super tight players are those people who only seem to play aces and kings. They might even fold AK to an open raise if they weren't feeling it. These players are going to be the easiest to spot because you'll notice that they are seldom involved in any pots. When they do get involved, however, you should watch your guard. Chances are that a super tight player has a very strong hand if they are deciding to play. To their credit, these types of players tend to have very strong discipline. They aren't prone to getting bored and stepping out of line. They are happy to simply fold their way through the night, time and time again. They aren't usually going to win a lot of money, but they don't tend to lose a lot either. This doesn't mean that they can't be beat though.
Beating very tight opponents is different than beating loose or aggressive opponents. Where you'll want to actually play in a lot of post-flop situations with someone who tends to mess around a lot, tight players are best defeated pre-flop. It's much more of a slow extraction process with tight players, whereas you'll be winning (or losing) sizable pots in rapid succession against looser players. The tighter your opponent, the less you are likely to win in one lump sum.
You are going to need to start making raises pre-flop. You should continuation bet flops where you were called, and so on and so forth. While it might seem like a good idea to 3-bet a tight opponent, or even to fire a double barrel, this isn't always the case. As backwards as it might sound, these tight players will sometimes end up transforming into calling stations. You can be tight and still be totally blind to the relative value of a hand. Tight players are notorious for falling in love with big pocket pairs once they finally get them.
Now, this isn't going to be the case with all tight players by any means, but it certainly is not all that rare. You should be able to tell whether a tight player turns into a calling station after just a few orbits. If they are capable of folding, see what kind of moves do and don't work. The less information that you have on a specific player, the more carefully you should be playing.
These are the most common type of players in online poker (good), but they also happen to be an extreme rarity in the live scene. Sure, a lot of players have self-anointed themselves as good at poker, but this doesn't mean that it's true. Never will you see more players who kid themselves than when you are in a poker room. Of course, this is what makes the games as profitable as they are. Truly good players, however, are going to wreak havoc on your win rate. You should avoid them as much as possible, but there are going to be inevitable confrontations along the way.
Unless you are a good player yourself, it might be a challenge to analyze someone's skills. In fact, if you are a weak player, you might totally misjudge a good player as below average. Tight and loose play is generally apparent to anyone, whereas "good" play is much more subjective. The way to beat good players is to quite simply be better than them. Since they are going to be aware of most of the tactics you would reasonably hope to implement, you can't pull things out of your hat that they won't be able to react to. Unless you are confident in your ability to beat strong, winning players, you should steer clear whenever possible.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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