Tip No 1: Categorize Your Opponents in Texas Holdem Poker

Tue, May 11, 2010


The greatest tip in Texas Holdem poker is to be ready to adapt. Poker strategy should change to adapt to the table and the players you’re up against. In this article, we explain how to identify the different kinds of opponents you’ll face. They can be put into some general categories.

First, try to classify the attitude of the whole table. Is it a loose game you’re in, or a tight one?

Playing “loose” means you are playing lots of hands, not folding them. A “loose game” has lots of loose players — lots of players staying in each hand, and lots of postflop action.

To play “tight” means to play conservatively — defensively — and that means being very choosy about your starting hands. A “tight game” is one with lots of conservative players. Not that many bet to see the flop; most will fold because their starting hands are non-premium ones.

Just doing the opposite of what the table is doing — that is, playing looser in a tight game, or tighter in a loose game — is not a good idea. It’s not enough. Loose Holdem players fall into a couple of different types, as do tight players. The way to respond to each is different.

And now, we can look at the players individually.

When you begin to recognize what type of player a person is, at that time you’ll also know what possible hands he might have at that moment. Because they’re the same thing: We categorize a person by the actions he takes with particular hands. When you can categorize an opponent, you’re telling yourself how your hand probably stacks up against his.

These are some of the general types of Holdem players:

1. “The Calling Station” : This is a player who cannot or will not choose to play only good hands; he plays them all, whether someone has raised before him or not. This type is also often called a Loose-Passive player. He plays unaggressively, calling all the way to the turn and even the river, as if he were just curious about how it would turn out. When there’s 3 cards on the flop all of one suit, he will often call even if he doesn’t have any of that suit, and likewise if there’s 3 of a straight on the board. So you really can’t tell what cards this player is holding because he acts about the same no matter if he has good cards or bad. This shows he is an extremely unskilled person, and unwilling to learn which hands should be bet on. Since he’ll have bad hands much of the time, you too can enter the hand with lesser hands, because he isn’t going to raise you. As soon as you tip to the fact that he calls so much of the time, you should see what you can do relative to this player. You can often stay in the hand longer and try to catch the cards you need.

2. “The Rock” : This player is the exact opposite of the Calling Station. He plays so tight, he will be playing the fewest hands at the poker table. He tips everyone off pretty quickly that he is a tight player and that he’s got a good hand. This is because he’ll play only the monster hands he gets dealt — so you know anytime he sees the flop, he’s got AA, KK, AK or something very very strong. And they’ll enter the hand with a raise, trying to force others out. If it’s a low limit holdem game, however, this doesn’t work the way they probably had in mind. The bets and raises are limited; if more than 3 or so people stay in, there is a greater chance of someone completing a big hand that will beat his AA or whatever it is. He is depending upon his starting hands way too much, and he might not even get any cards which improve his pocket hand. So if there are a good number of people in the hand with you and this rock, you can feel freer to stay in with a straight or flush draw.

3. Loose/Aggressive : This person plays almost as many Holdem hands as a Calling Station (playing loose) but then raises and reraises (plays aggressive) with marginal hands as if they were monsters. He isn’t apparently attempting a bluff; he seems to think these lesser hands can win so long as you force your way to the River with them. Well, this is as indiscriminate as being a Calling Station and is another money loser strategy. You can spot a Loose Aggressive player when you notice this is the 3rd or 4th hand in a row where he’s raising from the beginning. It is extremely unlikely that he has been dealt a premium hand four hands in a row. Consider that he may be a Loose-Aggressive player, playing a marginal hand as if it were premium.

4. Weak/Tight :  A player who is selective about his starting hands but folds easily even with the best hand is Weak-Tight. He seldom raises and can be bluffed easily because he knows what hands could beat his but doesn’t trust his own skills of reading other players. He can be pushed around and forced to fold. You can play more loosely against him.

5. Tight/Aggressive : The best Texas Holdem players, these guys know what to do with a good starting hand. They bluff and slowplay successfully; they play few hands but when they do, they seem to be able to control the action of the table. They raise aggressively often. When they have good position on the table, they will play lesser hands because they know they can. All you can probably do against them is tighten up. And that’s the only texas holdem tip concerning them, so concentrate on averting their aggressive moves.

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