In order to make the correct decisions against your opponents on the felt, a key element is knowing the type of player that they are. There are basically four distinct categories that players fall into. This article will define those categories to assist you in labeling other players. Once labeled, you can make the proper bets and decisions according to the situation as it confronts you at the poker table. Also, if you find your style of play to be one of the not-so-flattering categories, perhaps its time to adjust your game to a more winning style and become a successful poker player.
The first style we will examine is the loose-aggressive player. You’ve seen him at the tables. He is the player with a wide range of starting hands and is often betting and raising. It is hard to know what he may be holding as hole cards because he often plays starting hands that are far from what is recommended by poker strategists. The loose-aggressive player is often seen as a bully on the table, depending on other players folding in order to take down pots. In poker, an aggressive style can sometimes be a winning style if the player employing this approach is good at reading other players and uses his position properly.
Many top pros have used this style successfully, including Gus Hansen and Daniel Negreanu. In the right hands, it can be deadly. The way to combat the loose-aggressive player is to play tight and wait for premium starting hands. As they are often throwing big bets and raises into the pot to try to get you to fold, the proper strategy is to wait it out and play excellent starting hands and then not to back down against the loose and sometimes wild play of the loose-aggressive player. The idea is to let this player take his small pots, but nail him on the big pots when you have the cards to do so.
Loose-passive is the next style on our list. This is perhaps the worst type of player who will also tend to be labeled with the term “fish.” This is a losing style that embodies playing too many starting hands and playing them poorly by calling bets when the proper play would be to fold or raise. A loose-passive player needs luck to win and will sometimes get it. It is this luck and the fact that he wins sometimes that brings a loose-passive player back to the tables again and again, which is good for the more skillful players. When you have labeled a player at your table as loose-passive, it is like putting a target on his back, as this is the player who will be most responsible for increasing your bankroll.
On the other hand, tight-passive players do know the proper starting hands to play. Their excellent hand selection makes them good players pre-flop. Where they seem to make mistakes is not being aggressive enough after the flop. A tight-passive player will tend to check and call instead of putting away his opponents with a good-sized bet or raise. In so doing, other players will be getting the correct odds to chase the turn and river cards, sometimes hitting their draws and winning the hand against the passive bettor who should have scooped the pot post-flop. This style is easy to read, as the player will bet only with the best of hands. It should be pointed out that tight-passive players can be profitable at online poker sites, where an enormous amount of poor players can be found. Also, due to the timidness of this playing style, a tight-passive player would fare better at fixed-limit cash games instead of no-limit.
Last but certainly not least is the tight-aggressive playing style, which is typically the most profitable and successful style of play. This player uses sound judgment when selecting starting hands to play and will bet aggressively when the situation calls for it. It is crucial in poker to be betting and raising post-flop to eliminate other players who would like to draw to a possible good hand, but are kept from doing so by an aggressive player who plays his cards and position wisely. The tight-aggressive style tends to dominate more passive players and can also outplay loose players who choose too wide a range of starting hands. Over the long haul, you should be a profitable player by using this style of play, which leans on correct poker strategy by playing only the best hands and playing them aggressively.
As we have identified the four basic styles of Texas Hold’em poker players, there is one thing to keep in mind. It would be a mistake to play any one of the four styles exclusively at all times. Although tight-aggressive play is highly recommended the majority of the time, the most successful players are those who can mix up their playing styles to confuse and confound their opponents. You don’t want to be too predictable. By mixing up your game and employing different playing styles in particular situations as is called for, you will fare better because your opponents will find it harder to read you. After all, you don’t want to be labeled by others or they can and will adjust their play against you accordingly. You want to be the one doing the labeling of your opponents. Once you have established which of the four basic categories that your table rivals fall into, you can adapt to each of their playing styles and exploit their weaknesses, thereby becoming a successful poker player.