Adjusting to Different Playing Styles

You will find many different styles of poker player while you play. These range from the tightest ‘rock’ to the wildest and craziest players around. By putting your opponents into broad categories based on how loose or tight they are and whether they like to bet out or to call – you can make your own poker play more profitable. This article goes though the main opponent types, and shows you what type of adjustments to make.

First you will find a detailed examination of how players are categorized based on the 2 main ‘axis’ and the addition of a ‘tricky / straightforward’ dimension. After that you can see the 4-main types of Tight-Aggressive, Tight-Passive, Loose-Aggressive and Loose-Passive – along with instructions on how to adjust to each of them. After that I have revisited the trickiness aspect and added a word of warning about players capable of switching between styles.


How We Measure Poker Playing Styles

Imagine a cross, on the vertical line we have the number of hands a player chooses to play, on the horizontal axis we have whether they like to bet a lot, or prefer to check and call.

This would give you 4 squares. 2 for players who play a lot of hands, one for ‘bets a lot’ (is aggressive) and one for calls a lot (is passive) – along with the same 2 squares for tight players. This gives us the 4 broad types of player you will find online, ranging from loose and aggressive, through to tight and passive.

I like to add another dimension to this based on whether an individual player is straightforward or tricky. A tricky player would be deliberately deceptive, liking the bluff and check-raise a lot. A straightforward player would mostly play true to the strength of their hand, preferring to bet out when holding a strong hand.


Adjusting To Different Poker Opponents –Types

Loose-Aggressive: These opponents can be tricky to play against. They will bet with a lot of hands and will try hard to push you out of the pot post-flop. You can often let this kind of player build a pot for you, then come in with a re-raise when the pot is already too big to justify a fold. Remember that a good loose-aggressive (LAG) player will play fast and loose with chips while the pot is small, and will often have the goods when the pot is big. Bad LAG players will not do this and can often be fooled into building big pots when vulnerable.

Loose-Passive: This is a common beginner error, playing too many hands then calling with weak holdings on the flop. These types sometimes bet big when they do have a hand, tipping off opponents that something is awry. Known as ‘calling stations’, loose-passive players hate to fold. You can use this to your advantage by betting your good hands for value on every betting round and cutting down on your bluffs.

Tight-Aggressive: Known as ‘TAG’ this is a more difficult style to play against. These players are careful with their hand selection and will bet and raise big when they do have the goods. At one extreme of this style you will find ‘nits’ – who only play the best possible hands. You will often find that nits hate to let these precious hands they have waited so long for go. If an extra-tight player suddenly raises – you can often call with speculative hands, knowing that if you hit the flop hard you will have the opportunity to win a big pot.

Tight-Passive Players: This opponent type will be reasonably selective with starting hands, and will often play ‘fit or fold’ on the flop. If they hit then they’ll bet out, if not then it is check and fold time. Some tight-passives will call with any draw or pair, allowing you to build a pot against them. Look out for those times the draw gets there and a big river bet arrives, you’ll usually be beaten.


Tricky Or Straightforward?

Players who show tricky behavior like check-raising, slow playing and running big bluffs will often have this ‘backward to their real strength’ as a core part of their style. Once you spot this then adjusting involves taking a free card when they check more often, and discounting their big raises a little more often too.

When a straightforward player starts betting, they are much more likely to have a hand.


Switching Styles and Your Table Image

As I mentioned in the introduction to this page, the best players can switch up their styles depending on their opponents and the game situation. You need to be on the lookout for people who can adjust and make a note of this for future reference. If you see people adjusting to a 3rd parties characteristics, you should note them as a thinking player and avoid playing too many pots with them. After all, the more predictable types are far easier to win money from.

Finally, it can pay to be aware of what your opponents think of your style. If they think you are a tight-aggressive player who only raises good hands, and are still re-raising you – then it might give you a clue that they have flopped a monster hand.