Player Profiles and Game Selection
No matter how good one is at something in life, there will always be somebody somewhere who is better. In the case of poker there will probably be many people in many places who are better. How can one player win under these conditions? Fortunately there will also be many people, all over the world conveniently hooked up to the internet that will also be worse. Consider the following example; we have a fictional player by the name of Steve. Steve is the 10th best player in the entire world. Steve could sit down pretty much at any table and be a favorite to win. Unfortunately tonight Steve decided to sit down at a table that by some huge coincidence was made up of the only nine people in the world that are better than him. All of a sudden Steve is just another fish in the sea, and he’s about to get munched up by the sharks. An important poker maxim to remember is, ‘it doesn’t matter how good you are, as long as you’re better than everyone else at the table’. As you can see, game selection is a very important decision to be made every time one sits down to play poker.
How can a player decide what game is a good one to sit at? Well, as one gains more experience, they’ll find that most players will fit into certain categories. Once one identifies which types of players will be the most profitable for them, they can then look for games comprised mainly of these types of players.
Here is a list of the basic player types:
Loose players generally are unaware of the importance of pre-flop hand selection. Unfortunately for them, understanding that concept is one of the keys to becoming a good poker player. Loose players are usually inexperienced, playing too many hands, and playing them pretty much regardless of their position. They also tend to call too much with hands that don’t warrant it. One thing to watch out for with loose players is that they will occasionally hit ragged flops that would be safe against a tight player. Hands should usually be played straight up against a loose player, betting for value, raising with your premium hands, and not bluffing too much. Far too many solid players throw away money trying to bluff a loose player who will call if they have any part of the flop.
Tight players or ‘rocks’ are pretty much the exact opposite of loose players. They will only play good hands, when they are in a good position. Raises from a tight player must be respected, and you should consider throwing away marginal hands if a tight player limped in from an early position. The best way to play against an overly tight player is to wisely use bluffs and position raises against them. An overly tight player will often lay down anything less than the nuts when faced with a raise on the turn. If a rock re-raises however, one should seriously consider folding anything other than the absolute nuts, the rock is almost certainly winning.
Loose passive players are among the very worst players that can be found at the poker table. In addition to playing too many hands in bad positions, they will generally prefer to just check and call at every opportunity with anything less than the nuts. These types of players will rarely fold the flop regardless of what they have, and will often be happy calling to the river with bottom pair or even just ace high. Having position against this type of player give a sophisticated player many options, such as taking off a free card on the expensive street, although it is often right to hammer this type of player with value bets since they may just be calling with anything. Of course one should never, ever bluff this type of player as they are likely to call with almost anything.
Loose aggressive players will still be playing far too many hands, but as opposed to their passive counterparts will often be raising with hands that had no business being played in the first place, much less with a raise. They types of players will usually try to bluff far too much, and will treat many drawing hands or medium pairs just as if they had the nuts. There are many different strategies that can beat this type of player. If you are to the immediate left of a loose aggressive player, it is often right to try and isolate them with a 3-bet after they raise. One still needs a reasonably good hand to do this, but the standards for re-raising can be loosened a bit against this type of player. One must be careful when value betting against this type of player since they are apt to raise with all sorts of junk putting their opponents on difficult decisions. It is often right to just let the loose aggressive player bet, and call them down the whole way with any reasonable holding. When a hand that’s an absolute monster goes up against this type of player, the owner of that hand can expect a huge windfall against the maniac who is apt to raise and re-raise with a hand that doesn’t come close to warranting it.
Tight passive players not only sit there waiting for the very best hands, but unless they flop the nuts they will still prefer to check and call until their hands improve. It is rarely correct to value bet against this type of player, since they will only call if they are winning the hand. It is however right to often try and bluff tight passive players since they are unlikely to call with anything less than a strong holding. If they call, or god forbid re-raise it is time to give the hand up. If one is fortunate enough to have a tight passive player in one of the 2 seats to their left, then it would be advisable to often try and steal the blinds at every opportunity since they will be folding most mediocre hands to raises.
Tight aggressive players are generally the best poker players around, and this is the type of player that most players should aspire to be. Tight aggressive players are selective about what hands they play, but play very aggressively once they do enter the pot. For this reason it can be hard to get a read on a tight aggressive player since they are always pounding the pot whether they have a very strong hand, or are just running a semi-bluff. If one sees a table full of players who only enter hands if they are raising, then this is a table that should probably be avoided. After all, why go out of the way to play against very strong players, when there are so many other options available.