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Player Types
Webmistress "Troi" 10.24.2006

If you have played in casinos at all, I am sure that you have spotted these player types already. I won't go into personality types since, well, there are a near-infinite number of those. I'll just discuss the types of players you'll see at the table, why they play like that, and ways to exploit them.

You have probably also heard the terms "tight" and "loose" and have a good idea what they mean at a poker table. Tight = plays few hands, loose = plays many hands. And you've probably also heard the terms "passive" and "aggressive". Passive = calls and folds often, agressive = raises often. Right?

Well I find it convenient to group player styles into four general categories:
  • loose-passive
  • loose-aggressive
  • tight-passive
  • tight-aggressive
The loose-passive player is usually the big donor at the table. Plays too many poor hands. Plays them too meekly to win. Might fold even though he's getting correct drawing odds to call. Some poker room terms for the subtle sub-classes of the loose-passive player type are "calling station", "chaser", "got his track shoes on", and "sherriff".

The loose-aggressive player plays a lot of hands and bets and raises them a lot. Especially when she has a big stack. She can be a big winner or a big loser, depending on how others react to her and how lucky she gets. If the loose-aggressive player is a good people and card reader and also knows about hand odds, she can be extremely dangerous. She fires up the action by forcing people to play for more money in order to build big pots. Also known as "bully", "table captain", "action player", and in extreme cases, "maniac".

The tight-passive player plays very few hands because he waits for big pairs. He never bluffs, which makes him predictable. If he's in, he's got a big hand, period. AKA "rock", "squeezer", and in extreme cases "nit".

The tight-aggressive player plays fewer hands than most players but will play them fiercely. Playing fewer hands establishes him as "tight", meaning he's probably waiting for good hands. But this tight image allows him to bluff successfully if he hasn't played a hand in a while. This is a classic winning style for both tournaments and cash games. Not too many nicknames for this player type other than "stone killer".

OK. So why do these players play they way they do? Understanding that will help us to exploit their playing styles. I am no psychologist, but other FlopTechers here say that I can read them better than anyone else here. Can I really? Who knows? It's enough to just let them think that.

Anyway, I'd guess that the loose-passive player is more of a "social player", a regular. Knows all the dealers by name, the dealers all know him by name, they chit chat and catch up on the latest news between hands. He's not there because he needs to earn his rent money or because he needs to release pent-up aggression. If he does have a winning session, it usually won't be very big. And he doesn't push his chips around enough to push other players around in kind. He's thinking "The flop paired my 8 so I'll just call. If I lose, oh well, that's poker."

So be his buddy: don't antagonize him or make him uncomfortable. Let him enjoy his pastime of distributing chips among his friends at the table. If you have a good hand against him, to ahead and take his chips because he's likely to call you. If you don't someone else will. And do it with a smile! Make it fun for him to lose!

Just be aware that once in a while he will have a big hand. But since he plays so many hands, you'll have plenty of opportunities to observe him and know when you're beat.

The loose-aggressive player either wants to dominate others because of some deep psychological need, or he wants to have fun and literally "throw a party" at the table. For whatever reason, that person needs to be the center of attention. Raising big all the time is the way to do it at the poker table. Guaranteed.

He's thinking "I'm gonna push these suckers around. Get 'em outta their comfort zone, bluff them on the turn or build a huge pot when I've got a monster". You may or may not want to shut down this guy. If he's a true maniac, he doesn't care that he's losing big. He'll just keep on ramming and jamming, on the blind faith that he'll win it back eventually. So you can't shut him down. He'll force you to have a real hand to get his chips because you'll probably go to a showdown every time against him. Other more "normal" bullies may slow down a bit if they get caught bluffing or if someone else stands up to them and wins a big pot off them.

Be careful: the bully plays all his hands strong, even his monster hands. The word "trap" isn't in his poker vocabulary. Just try to get into a situation where he's betting into you when you're sure you have the best hand. Being to his left helps here. If you're lucky he's fired up the table and you can trap one or more callers between him and you for a big pot.

The tight-weak player is probably also a social player, a regular who likes to hang out and chat with his buddies and play an occasional hand. And because the people at the table are his buddies, he won't play against them very hard. Just like the tight-passive player. So when he's in a hand, you're probably up against a big pair. He's thinking "No, my pocket tens can't be good now. A jack flopped, so ace-jack, king-jack, queen-jack, and jack-ten all beat me. Better fold and save my chips." So you can usually bluff him if there are scare cards on the flop or turn. Show down some big hands first so he'll respect your bets. But if he plays back at you, don't get into a raising war without a huge hand. Let him have fun winning his small pots.

The tight-aggressive player is usually the toughest player type. His key psychological trait is "control". He can control his emotions, he can control his urge to gamble, he can control his tilt after a bad beat, and he can maintain focus on every person and every action at the table. This guy or gal is there to win money. Not to hang out with his buddies, necessarily, or to act out his power fantasies. Nope. He's thinking "I can bluff seats 2, 3 and 7 since they're tight-weak. Seat 8 is loose-aggressive so it's good that I'm in seat 9: I can trap him. Seats 4 and 10 are rocks. Not sure about seats 1, 5, and 6: gotta watch how they play."

There's not much you can do against this guy. If you're a super people reader, you might be able to tell when he's bluffing and snap him off. Otherwise he'll play big hands for big pots if he can build them. He isn't exploitable. But he'll be exploiting everyone at the table because he'll have identified how everyone plays. You will need a big hand to beat him. And maybe only for small pots since he'll figure out he's beat and not pay you off.

Tight-aggressive is how you want to play, more or less. There ARE tight-aggressive players who are also social players. Maybe that's the best player type to be.