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One of my favorite things about poker, and one of the reasons I was so drawn to it early on when I was first introduced to it, is the fact that you are playing against other people and not against a casino or the house. As a competitive person, putting my skills up against someone else’s and being challenged is something I embrace. Poker is considered gambling, and yes, to a certain extent it is, but much like a game of chess, dominoes, and even DFS, there is a lot of skill involved. As you start playing in a cash game, sit-n-go, or tournament, you begin to gather information about your opponents, betting patterns, and the table dynamics. This information allows you to make decisions later down the line.
The cards you are dealt have a lot to do with your decision making, but how you play those cards could come down to who you are playing your cards against. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “play your opponent, not your cards.” This is true at times, which is why it is important to identify the type of players that are sitting at your table. The more information you have on a player, the easier it is to play hands against them. When you play live poker, physical tells, betting patterns, and body language can tell you a lot about a player. In online poker, betting patterns and observing how active a player is or is not, are usually the ways to gain information. Something I do online once I have played enough hands with a player and have identified a consistent part of his/her game, is write a note on the players profile with my observation. This will help you exploit weaknesses in their game and put yourself in a position to be profitable long term against this player.
Types of Players
Tight: Tight players generally wait around for good hands, folding a lot of hands preflop. When they call preflop, it is usually with a strong hand or a hand they like and when they raise preflop they are often holding premium hands. These types of players are usually referred to as “nits.” They are not hard to bluff, especially on scary boards. Tight players typically do not take a lot of risks or make big bluffs, they tend to play scared and very predictable. Once you have identified a tight player at your table, it is very easy to play against them because of how straight forward they tend to play.
Loose: Opposite of tight are the loose players. These types of players like to see a lot of flops, calling preflop and calling raises with a wide range of hands just to see a flop. If they catch a piece of the flop, this type of player tends to stick around. Loose players are not necessarily three-betting often or raising a ton preflop, instead they call, call, call. When you encounter a loose player at your table, trying to bluff this type of player is not ideal because their calling ranges are wide and a lot of the time they will call you down with just one pair. I like to refer to these players as calling stations.
Tight-aggressive: Tight-aggressive players are like tight players, however, the biggest difference between the two is that tight-aggressive players play their hands more aggressively. These types of players are not afraid to bet and get involved in big pots when holding good hands. They are patient, but not afraid of losing. Three-betting is part of their game, but tight-aggressive players are generally not three-betting light. They are capable of bluffing, but do not bluff a lot of the time. These are tough players to play against, which is why I avoid butting heads with tight-aggressive players at my table if I can.
Loose-aggressive: Unlike loose players, loose-aggressive are willing to raise and three-bet a lot more. These players are not only calling with a wide range, but they are also raising with a wide variety of hands. These players are consistently applying pressure and putting their opponents in uncomfortable situations. They are not afraid to play big pots or make big bluffs. Some of the best players in the world play with this style, but those who try to take the loose-aggressive approach without reason will often overplay their hands, and in the long run are easy to play against. The good loose-aggressive players are very tough to play against because it can be hard to put them on a hand.
I consider myself a good balance between tight-aggressive and loose-aggressive, leaning more towards the tight-aggressive side. However, it normally depends on the table I am at. Like anything in life, adapting is important, especially at a poker table. The table you are at should determine how you approach your opponents.
When you are facing tight players, you should be willing to open up your game a little more because you are playing against straightforward players. They are easy to read and easy to put on a range of hands. This information allows you to bet your opponent off their mediocre hands and put you in a situation where you can throw some more bluffs in. You are also able to get away from good hands if a tight player is showing aggression, because by now, we know that tight players only bluff an extremely low percentage of the time. Playing against a tight player is ABC because they bet when they have it and they check when they don’t. Once you have recognized this player at your table, you can pick your spots wisely against them and win some uncontested pots.
Against loose players, you want to take the opposite approach as you would with a tight player. Not that you want to avoid a loose player all together, in fact, I advise you to play against them, but you generally do not want to bluff versus this type of player. The reason why you don’t want to bluff a loose player is because they are calling light a lot of the time. Once you have identified a loose player, you want to play your made hands or strong hands aggressively against them because they are not afraid to pay you off. Let a pot build and on the river, a sizeable bet will usually get a call from a loose player holding something other than air. These players will suck out on you, they will get lucky, but in the long-term, good players will almost always be profitable against loose players. Don’t be a calling station!
Playing against tight-aggressive players is tough because they are calculated and are generally playing their best hands strong, making it difficult to call. Generally, a tight-aggressive player will force their opponents to fold under pressure because the perception is that the tight-aggressive player has a strong hand. Against this type of player, you want to play strong hands and you do not want to inflate a pot with a weak hand. Normally they are betting with the goods, so there is no need to try to bluff these players off their hand unless you are absolutely sure that they are not overly strong in the hand you are playing against them. Against these players, I like to tighten up and play my strong hands aggressively while avoiding huge pots, unless I know that I have the best possible hand.
Loose-aggressive players might be the toughest players to play against, unless it’s against a maniac who does not really think about what he is doing and is just betting, betting, betting with no reason. However, a smart loose-aggressive player knows how to put his opponents in uncomfortable situations and is willing to play big pots, as well as make big bluffs. This player has a wide range and it is typically tough to put them on a hand. Against this type of player, you want to play strong hands and play them very aggressively. Remember, they are willing to play big pots and have a lot of bluffs in their arsenal, so you want to try to control the pot by leading with your strong hands and putting in some blocker bets so that they cannot bet you out of your hand. Pot control and bet sizing is huge against this type of player because an oversized pot can put you in a very tough situation against a loose-aggressive player.
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