Not all poker players are created equal. Some are good, some are bad, and some play timidly, some play aggressively. You'll encounter all different types of poker players when you sit at a table and this article will help you identify them and counter their strategies.
Types of Poker Players
Poker players can be classified into types based on the range of hands they play and how aggressively (or not) they play them. Position at the table is also key in measuring how risky a strategy is. This is because a player's position determines how much information their decision is based on.
The most common four groups of players can be broken down as follows:
|Loose Passive||enters many pots||bets and folds often|
|Loose Aggressive||enters many pots||bets often and raises by a lot|
|Tight Passive||enters few pots||bets and folds often|
|Tight Agressive||enters few pots||bets often and raises by a lot|
There is no silver bullet, though. If you never enter pots, people will exit when you do. And when you enter many, players may only jump in with strong hands. It's important not be easily read by other players.
This is the player profile of your average fish/recreational player. They play a lot of hands because they don't like to fold and when they do play them they're often limping or calling a raise rather than coming in raising themselves.
They play a very wide range of hands from every position, not realizing that you need to be tighter from early position and looser from late position. Their most common play preflop is to limp in with a weak hand and either fold to/call versus a raise.
Due to these players having a very wide range of hands, they will sometimes show up with funky hands that will crack your strong pairs. However, the number of times they'll have to fold facing postflop aggression because they've completely missed the board will way outnumber the times they beat you.
There are different kinds of loose-passive players. Some will call a lot of hands preflop in the pre-flop making a big hand and will fold if they don't (these are fit or fold players), and those that will call down with any piece of the board/any draw hoping they win (these are calling stations).The best strategy to take against these players is to play aggressively. Raising pre-flop if they limp and betting into them aggressively postflop. If you're playing against one of the fit or fold players then you can expect your postflop bet to work the majority of the time and if it doesn't then you know that they have a strong hand. Against a calling station, your bets are less likely to work but this means you can value bet thinner and win more money that way.
While pretty much all loose-passive players are recreational players, a loose-aggressive player can be a fish or a pro depending on how well they play this style. Arguably the loose aggressive playing style is the hardest to play well as it's harder to keep ranges balanced when you play a lot of hands.
These players also play a wide range of hands from every position but instead of the passive limping/calling strategy, they play a very aggressive strategy of raising and 3betting. This puts pressure on opponents and these players win a lot of money by making their opponents fold by the river.
The good loose aggressive players will have a wide range compared to most players but won't play a lot of complete trash, instead choosing hands with good blockers and good connectivity to play. They also know when to give up on a bluff and when to apply max pressure.
A bad loose-aggressive player will play random hands and don't give much thought to what kinds of weak hands they should include in their range. They also don't know how to give up once they start bluffing and are liable to blast off three streets even if the board doesn't run out in favor of the preflop aggressor.
Against a good loose-aggressive player the best way to beat them is to try and identify when their ranges are at their weakest and when they're skewed towards having too many bluffs or too many value bets in a particular spot. Against the bad loose aggressive players who can't give up on a bluff, the best thing to do is to make a pair and hold on tight - knowing that they'll be bluffing far too often.
Most players who play a tight passive strategy are recreational players who are afraid to lose too much money in the game so they don't play very many hands, however, some winning players play a tight passive strategy if the game conditions make this the most profitable strategy.
These players don't play very many hands at all, even from late position, and when they do play they don't come in with a raise they either limp along or call a raise from another opponent. Instead of trying to win the pot with aggression, they rely on the fact they often have a strong hand when they enter the pot and try to win at showdown.
While this style is often used by recreational players, if the game is incredibly wild and aggressive it could become the most profitable strategy to take. If you play in a game where most of the table is playing incredibly loose and aggressive, the way to win against these players is to play a strong range and let them bluff into you with their wide range, making the tight passive strategy very profitable.
However, if you're playing against a recreational tight passive player then the best way to beat them is with tempered aggression. Most of the time if they don't make a hand postflop or have a marginal hand preflop, they'll fold to your aggression. However, if you see them make an aggressive action or continue against aggression postflop then they likely have a very strong hand so you should give up on any bluff you're trying to run and play very cautiously unless you have a strong hand yourself.
The majority of the money to be made against these types of players is in making them fold so keep on the aggression until they give you a reason to stop.
Tight aggressive players are what make up the bulk of the professional players. These players play a selective range of hands preflop, but when they do play they play aggressively - both preflop and postflop.
While they don't play many hands, especially from early position, when they do they come out raising and 3betting, putting pressure on their opponents. They don't do as much calling preflop as the passive players as they want to have the betting lead going into the flop.
The good thing about the tight aggressive strategy is that it's easier to play than the loose aggressive strategy (due to the lower number of bluff to value combos you need to balance), and it allows you to put pressure on your opponents and win pots by making them fold.
If you find yourself playing against a tight-aggressive player, it's important to pay attention to their showdowns and see just how tight of a game they're playing. While loose aggressive players tend to end up with more bluffs than value bets, tight-aggressive players tend to end up with more value bets than bluffs due to the fact their hand is stronger on average.
The way to exploit this is to over-fold when you think their range has too many value bets and look for spots where they're likely playing a wider range than normal, such as in late position. No player plays perfectly, so look for where your opponent is weakest and try to exploit those parts of their game.
Extreme Poker Players
We've covered the most common poker player types you'll see, but some players take those styles to such an extreme they deserve a label of their own.
A maniac is a hyper-loose aggressive player. These players don't even know the meaning of the word fold and will play almost every hand from every position. While a good loose-aggressive player could play 28-35% of hands, these players will play well above 70% - and in the most extreme cases never folding a hand preflop!
Not only do they play a lot of hands pre-flop, but they also don't like to give up on a hand postflop because hey, you can't win if you fold! They will barrel three streets regularly in an attempt to bully people off their hand and can show up with any number of wacky two-pair hands.
If you get one of these players at your table, it's like finding a cash machine that dispenses free money! Due to the fact they play such a wide range of hands as well as the fact they will barrel without discretion, these players are going to be bluffing nearly all of the time.
Against players who are bluffing at such a high frequency, all you need to do to profit is find a small piece of the board (even ace high is good enough sometimes) and hold on for dear life. While sometimes they may go on rushes or hot runs where they constantly outdraw you and make strong hands, in the long run, they're going to bluff all their money away so you need to be there to catch it.
A nit, however, is the polar opposite of a maniac. They take playing tight to a new level. These players barely play any hands preflop and even when they do, they require a strong hand to continue against a bet postflop. If the average player plays around 18-24% of hands, these players are lucky if they break double digits.
The best thing about playing against these types of players is that your win percentage versus them is going to be insanely high due to the amount they fold. If you see one of them in the blinds, it's almost like playing without someone sat in that seat. You can widen your range with these players in the blinds as you're more likely to get your raise through and pick up the blinds.
While you're going to win the majority of the hands you play against these players, some players will end up losing money against them because they forget that when they play such a tight range they're likely to have a very strong postflop hand. If you do come up against resistance when playing against a nit, give up immediately unless you also have a strong hand as you're likely to be up against a monster.
These are the types of players you consider folding KK preflop for - so be very cautious when facing aggression from them.
Poker Player Types: FAQ
We've collected and answered the most common questions surrounding poker player types.
What are loose poker players?
Loose poker players are players who play a wide range of hands preflop, either calling or raising. The average VPIP (voluntarily put chips in preflop) at a full ring table is between 18-24%, anyone playing significantly over that can be considered a loose player.
What are tight poker players?
Tight poker players are players who play a narrow range of hands preflop, either calling or raising. The average VPIP (voluntarily put chips in preflop) at a full ring table is between 18-24%, anyone playing significantly under that can be considered a tight player.
Why are loose-aggressive Texas Hold'em players a threat?
A good loose-aggressive player in Texas Hold'em is very hard to play against as they are very hard to read and are constantly applying pressure to their opponents by making large bets.
Should I be an aggressive poker player?
In the majority of poker games, playing aggressively is a winning strategy. By being aggressive you give yourself the chance to win the pot by making your opponents fold as well as by having the best hand at showdown. If you just rely on having the best hand at showdown you either have to play very tight or be a very lucky player in order to win over the long run.
Why are nit Texas Hold'em players considered weak?
Extremely tight Texas Hold'em players or "nits" are considered weak because they fold so often against a bet. They play an incredibly tight range preflop so will fold over 90% of their hands, then postflop they will only continue if they make a strong hand so will fold a lot versus a bet.
While there are several different types of poker players out there, the most profitable ones are often the aggressive ones. Learning how to play and counter different playing styles will make you a better-rounded poker player.