Observe Poker Playing Styles

Lesson 10:

Why observing playing style of opponents is important?

Focus is one of the most important attributes a poker player must have. Not only on the cards, keeping a close eye on the tendencies and playing pattern of opponents is crucial to understand their strategies and predict their next moves.

In this lesson, you will learn about how to classify your opponents into various categories to choose the best strategy to play against them. To determine the playing style of your opponent, you need to find answers of following questions -.

  • How many hands your opponent plays in a session (lots of hands or few)?
  • How he plays (aggressively or passively)?

The playing style and betting pattern says a lot about the strength of a player’s hand.

A player is a “tight” player if he plays only with carefully selected starting hands. A player who plays a wide range of hands is known as a “loose” player. A “passive” player is easier-to-read as he rarely raises and enters the pot only by calling the bets. An “aggressive” player bets and raises often and calls rarely.

These are the basic categories of playing styles you can observe on a poker table.

Loose passive (The calling station) - These players love to call and limp into the pot. Regardless of the strength of their in-hand cards, they enter the pot but rarely raise the bets. For them, calling is a strategy to stay in the game without investing anything into the pot. They play with any suited cards, Broadways, or any hand which contains an Ace. If they hit the flop, they rarely show aggression because they believe that their raising will scare the opponents into folding and limit the size of the pot. If they miss the flop, they still call with the expectation of hitting the turn or river. As a calling station calls most of the time, your bluff will most likely fail, so throw this idea out of the window. You can play with average hands as there is a possibility that the calling station is holding weaker cards than you. If your bet size is large enough, you can play aggressively to make a calling station with marginal hand fold.

Loose aggressive (LAG) - The player who jumps into every pot and raises consistently before and after the flop. They call rarely but bet and raise aggressively with any two cards dealt to them to make opponents leave the table by folding their strong hands. As they play with all type of starting hands, it is difficult to spot their bluff. The best strategy to play against a LAG player is to raise with a strong hand from the position. Their game-play relies on their aggression so don’t show any sign of weakness. If you have strong hands such as Aces, Kings, or Queens, you can let them create a bigger pot size by their raises and re-raises before and after the flop. It is a risky strategy but can benefit you greatly if you play with patience.

Tight passive (The Rock) - The easy-to-spot players who are very selective about the hands they play. They take as much time as possible before making a bet. They check in most situations and raise only with the top premium hands such as Aces, Kings, or Queens. They bluff very rarely and re-raises only if they have really strong cards. If they play aggressively pre-flop, it is not advisable to limp and act scared. Play aggressive with a good hand and raise the pot as there is a high possibility that they will fold if they even have the slightest doubt about the strength of their hand.  

Tight aggressive (TAG) - The strongest type of players. TAG players play aggressively but only with the best starting hands, which makes them easily recognizable on the tables. These type of player knows the importance of showing strength at the right time. They play by the pot odds and enters the pot only with premium cards. They rarely limp and makes continuation bets after the flop. They take their sweet time to understand the table and then aggressively bet, raise, and re-raise against players whom they believe can fold their better hands. Because of their image of a tight player who plays only with premium hands, most players fold to their raises and continuation bets. It is tough to predict what hands they are holding so the best way to combat them is fold whenever they enter the pot. It is possible that the TAG player overestimated the strength of his cards so if you are in position and are confident with your hand, you can play loose-aggressive against him and make him increase the size of the pot for you. Always stay cautious while playing against them and if they re-raise even your big bets, fold your cards.  

One should keep in mind that these are strategic approaches and not a sure shot way to win. Once a player experiences different situations they tend to create their own strategic moves. While playing online poker assessing a player becomes more challenging but one should constantly keep mental notes on how the others are playing.Other than observing others one should also keep changing their your own playing style & not be predictable.


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