You would think poker players can be simply be divided into two types of players – winners and losers, but defining poker players is a little more complex than that.
There are several different basic styles of playing poker and many types of player. Some will play tight or loose, some play aggressively and some passive.
Being a winning player is about being able to spot what type of players are at your table and adjust your game strategy to beat each of type of player. It is also vital to adjust your game so other players are unable to easily categorize your style of play, making your play less predictable at the poker table – this is known as changing gears.
There are four main types and styles of poker players – which are you?
1) TAG – Tight Aggressive
This is generally regarded as the best default strategy for playing poker, combining the two key elements to being a TAG player.
a) Playing tight with very solid pre-flop hand selection, playing premium hands in early position and only considering more risky speculative hands in late position or on the button.
b) Playing aggressively with hands that you have committed your self to play if where the balls and strength comes in, having reduced the risk of getting beaten you bet and bet hard.
2) LAG – Loose Aggressive
This used to be regarded as one of the worse styles for playing poker, combining two of the riskiest elements leading to very dramatic swings in bankroll. However, if you can master the style and it’s totally unpredictable nature means you can win big if you know when to play like a loose cannon on a mission and when to rein it in a bit.
a) Playing loose means playing lots and lots of hands, ruling out only the very least playable hands pre-flop, playing hands in early position when others would fold. Hoping to hit monster flops with hidden hands that nobody would have expected like low pairs making tips or unconnected cards making long shot straights.
b) Playing aggressively regardless of your hand means LAG players will tend to bluff more and bully the table with air (no hand), and generally rely on their aggression to steam roll over players who are scared by this style and don’t know how or when to fight back.
While playing loose aggressive might appear to be a bad style of play, due to it’s unpredictable and aggressive style its can be one of the better approaches to the modern poker game, playing passively is generally a bad style of play.
LAG players are often seen as either donkey players and degenerate gamblers, loosing fortunes and their bankrolls on a whim or poker geniuses if they are winning and making the “right” decisions against all the odds.
3) Tight Passive
This is one of the easier styles to spot and one of the easiest to play against, tight passive players tend to fold a lot of hands in the first place and can then be forced to fold a lot of the hands they do play when the board cards look scary or you show moderate aggression.
a) Playing tight doesn’t always mean making the best pre-flop selections it often means players fail to consider table position, ignoring hands that could be playable in later position, sticking only with a few premium hands regardless of any leverage they have.
b) Passive players don’t take the initiative, they are scared to bet first, cautious to bet big and rarely bluff unless they have the nuts or the second best hand. They will also bail on even strong hands if scare cards hit the board and may have beaten their hand.
Known as “Rocks” or “Nits” these passive and nitty tight players use only one half of the puzzle making them very easy to exploit. They will often blind themselves away and complain of being card dead when in reality they fail to take calculated risk, relying far too much on both good cards and good flops and then they wonder why nobody calls their first pre-flop raise in 40 hands that clearly screams only aces or kings.
4) Loose Passive
This is the worst way to play poker, being neither aggressive nor tight means these players are playing many hands, calling a lot of the time, rarely feeling strong enough to raise or take control of the game.
a) Playing loose, seeing lots of flops and paying to see just another card generally creates a lot more problems and difficult decisions than it solves. It’s a sure fire way to donk off chips at the table.
b) Playing passively is also a cardinal sin unless you are trying to trap players which should only be done selectively IF you have the nuts or a monster hand and then if you play too passively you can find you have let too many players get ahead of you.
Known as “calling stations” loose passive players are the fish at the table who hate to fold but rarely show strength either and they will add to your chip stack time and time again calling your value bets, just don’t try to bluff them.
What Is The Best Poker Style?
Tight Aggressive Poker or TAG is the solid and seeming simple style that most players aim to play because it’s easy to learn the best poker starting hands combined with position, and it still remains consistently profitable default or base style against most other styles of play.
Solid hand selection + position + aggression = profit
However many players who think they are playing a solid TAG game tend to either be playing more like Rocks or more like Calling Stations than they realize.
The two main faults are failing to mix up your game and not adjusting to the community cards.
Failing to ever mix it up or change gears even briefly makes you very easy to read often referred to as being an ABC player which can be easily exploited by more experienced players who have a default TAG style but will often play different styles at different players to mix up their game.
Failing to re-assess the strength of your hand at all streets and adjust how much you value your hand when the community cards or your opponents betting suggests you are no longer in control or ahead of the game.
Scrawnybob is a recreational poker player, blogger and webmaster.