Playing Styles: Understanding Your Opponents
Often you will hear adjectives such as "loose," "tight," "passive," "aggressive," and other terms applied to poker players. These terms refer to the playing style of different players. Understanding the dominant playing style at your table, or the playing style of a certain opponent, are important factors in determining how to alter your strategy for maximum profitability.
"Loose" vs. "tight" refers to the player's starting hand requirements. It is usually quite obvious which style a player is using. Below are definitions of the two styles.
* Loose: A loose player plays a lot of hands, usually far too many. The typical loose player is a novice with an "any two cards can win" philosophy. They will see the flop a majority of the time, and will often play to the river with a marginal hand. Play money and low limit tables are notoriously loose. Loose players are not playing optimally, but at a loose table they will often profit from lucky draws. Loose tables can be quite profitable for good players, but excessively loose tables can be unprofitable for tight players, since they will often lose good hands to lucky draws by bad players. When playing at a loose table, loosen your starting hand requirements by playing more suited cards, connectors, and small pairs, but be prepared to fold if your hand doesn't improve.
* Tight: A tight player will play fewer starting hands. Tight players take advantage of starting hand selection to increase their chances of drawing to a winning hand. At no-limit and high-limit tables playing tight is crucial, but in any case you generally want to play tighter than the other players at your table. Tight tables are generally not as profitable as loose tables, since fewer players will see the flop, but tight players will play more rationally than loose players.
Poker players are also categorized as "passive" or "aggressive". These adjectives refer to a player's betting style. Passive players rarely raise, preferring instead to check or call. But when passive players do raise, they generally have the best hand. Passives are very predictable and consistent. On the other hand, aggressive players raise frequently, and are often unpredictable. The combination of starting hand requirements and betting styles create four commonly recognized categories of players, listed here from worst to best:
* Loose-passive: Often referred to as "calling stations," loose-passive players have a tendency to call any bet as long as they have a remote chance of winning. Loose-passives often will not raise when they have a good hand, but they often will not fold when they have a bad hand.
* Loose-aggressive: Loose-aggressive players will make often-inappropriate raises. They will not always have the best hand when they raise, and will even raise with poor hands. Due to their inconsistent and irrational play, loose-aggressives are often called "maniacs". Playing against maniacs can be profitable if you win heads-up against them, but they can also be expensive to play against, due to the number of raises you'll have to call.
* Tight-passive: Often referred to as "rocks," tight-passive players play few hands and play them cautiously. But if a tight-passive player starts raising all of a sudden, it is likely that they have the "nuts" (the best possible hand on the board). Playing tight-passive will keep you from losing money, but it won't make you much either.
* Tight-aggressive: Tight-aggressive players also play few hands, but will be much more varied in the way they play those hands. If a tight-aggressive player raises, they may have a very good hand... or they might be bluffing. Tight-aggressive players utilize selective aggression. They will "slow play" good hands only to trap players with lesser hands into betting later in the round. They will raise to "represent" hands they don't have in order to make other players fold. Tight-aggressive is the standard that you should aspire to. You won't find many tight-aggressive players in the lower limits, but playing tight and aggressive (sans bluffing) can make you a winning low-limit player
Poker Profit Tips
If you're like most players, you'd like to make a profit, however modest, playing online poker. While practice, knowledge and experience figure heavily into your bottom line, the following are a few important tips for maximizing your profit.
When it comes to making a profit in poker, table selection is one of the most important factors to consider. If you're sitting at a table that is too tight, too loose or too aggressive; or if the players are simply better than you, then it is not likely you will make a profit, regardless of your relative level of skill.
While different players prefer different styles of play, the general consensus is that the ideal table is loose-passive (Click here for an explanation of the different playing styles). That means lots of callers and few raises, especially before the flop. You will also want to play at tables where most, if not all of the players are worse than you. You will make most of your profit from other player's mistakes.
Lots of pre-flop raising reduces your potential profit. It also becomes more expensive to see the flop overall, which negatively affects your bankroll all those times when the flop doesn't hit you. It is always better to have six players calling one bet than three players calling two bets. Even though the pot size in both cases is the same, in the first situation you will make a profit of 5:1, whereas in the raising situation you will only make a profit of 2:1. Simply put, the more players there are putting money into the pot, the more profit there will be when you win.
A tighter game, where fewer players are calling before the flop and staying until the showdown, can also reduce your overall profit. But some players prefer a tight-passive table, since tight-passive opponents are rather predictable. A tight-passive table gives a player the opportunity to steal more pots, since you can often make other players fold with a well-timed raise.
Playing online gives you a great amount of flexibility in choosing your tables. Most online poker rooms, such as Ultimate Bet, list the percentage of players who are seeing the flop. A higher percentage means a looser game. All online poker rooms also list the average pot size. You do not necessarily want to play at the table with the highest average pot size, since this may indicate a lot of raises going into the pot. For loose-passive games, choose a table with a relatively high flop percentage and a reasonably average pot size.
Another factor to consider is the number of players at the table. Most online tables are ten-handed, which means you'll have to play relatively tight. You should take position into account and call before the flop with premium cards or good drawing hands. More players means more competition, so you'll have to show down better hands. At a six-handed table, you can play considerably looser than you can at a ten-handed table. The side effect of this is that you'll experience more variance (the swings in your bankroll will be greater). Some players prefer short-handed tables because you get to see the flop more often, and thus have more chances at winning the pot.
It will take some experience to learn what type of table is best for you. While you can't go wrong with a loose-passive table full of mediocre players, you may find that a loose-aggressive or tight-passive table suits you best. If you find yourself at a table where you are struggling to make a profit, don't hesitate to leave and join another table.
Time Spent at the Table
If your game has progressed to the point that you're routinely making a profit when you play, then you'll probably get the urge to spend more time at the tables. Of course, if you're making money, then more time at the tables means more profit. But be sure that you're not spending so much time sitting in one session that your concentration wanes and your game starts to suffer.
While each player's individual concentration and stamina may differ, I've found that in my personal experience, spending more than an hour at a time playing poker adversely affects my profit, since my concentration tends to wane and I gradually get impatient, or even go on tilt. If you're making money during a session, you should easily realize your profit goal within an hour of play (At the lower limits, this could be as much as 10 big bets or more). If you're not making money at a particular table after an hour, then you won't make money after two hours. Even if you're winning, leave the table after an hour (or whatever length of time works for you) and take a break. After you're refreshed and focused, you can sit down for another session and continue making money.
Raises in Loose, Low Limit Hold'em Games
All new poker players will start out in loose, low limit games. While most experienced players prefer the sort of loose-passive play present at a low limit table, others may have difficulty playing against opponents who repeatedly "suck out" and win with garbage hands and bad plays. A common complaint among low limit players is that opponents will not always fold to appropriate raises, and occasionally, mediocre low limit players will make incorrect raises. Knowing when to raise, and how to interpret an opponents raise is covered below. The following information assumes that you have made an appropriate table selection, and are not playing at a table that is overly aggressive or tight.
* If you've got a great starting hand, especially a high pair (JJ or higher), don't hesitate to raise and reraise before the flop. One of the most common complaints among low-limit players is that opponents often suck out with inferior hands against a solid hand such as AA. The best way to win with these hands is to play them fast and aggressive. Raise before the flop, and keep on betting after the flop. Unless the game is ridiculously loose (and your opponents are ridiculously bad), almost all of your opponents will fold to your aggressive betting. You won't always win with AA or KK, but if you play them aggressively, the majority of the time you will.
* Since many low limit players will play incorrectly and call bets and raises with just about any half-decent hand, you need to make sure that you are raising when you think you have the best hand. If you do have what you believe is the best hand at that point, then you need to raise to get other players out of the pot, who may draw out on you with an inferior hand. If you are repeatedly winning and showing down the best hands, then other players will start to respect your raises and get out of your way.
* If you've flopped a decent hand (top pair with good kicker, two pair, etc.) and are betting on it, don't be scared off if someone raises it to two bets. Although you could very well be beaten, experience shows that bad players will sometimes raise with any decent pair, a draw or even overcards. Call the bet, and be prepared to call to the river unless the board looks scary or the action gets too intense. If you fold every time you get raised with a decent hand, then you'll lose out on some pots that you would have won, had you shown the hand down. Utilize pot odds to determine whether the payoff is big enough to justify putting in a few more bets, and observe your opponents play to determine whether the raise is valid.
* On the other hand, if an opponent re-raises it to three bets, be very concerned. Generally, a mediocre low limit player will not reraise unless they have a great hand. Take time to study the board to determine what your opponent might have. You might be tempted to follow the above advice and call him to the river, hoping that he is bluffing. But time and time again, they will turn up a superior hand. Don't reraise unless you have the nuts, and if you don't have the absolute nuts, be prepared to call to the river.
Every player experiences tilt at some point. For those new to the game, tilt is when you become frustrated and start playing recklessly. It is important to recognize when you're on tilt. Take a break, or get out of the game altogether before you lose more money. Remember, any money you lose can and will be won back later. Poker is a game of volatile, short-term ups and downs, and the important thing is winning over the long term.
* If you've been in the game too long and are getting tired or frustrated, STOP PLAYING!
* If you've lost a substantial amount of money (more than the typical variance for your game or limit), STOP PLAYING!
* If you get angry, STOP PLAYING !
* And most
importantly, HAVE FUN !
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