Saturday, November 17, 2007

Identifying and playing different types of players


One of the most important aspects of my evolving strategy for playing poker is to identify the different types of players at a table. Here's some insight into different playing styles, how to identify them, and how to play against them. In terms of how to play against them, it depends upon your own style. Currently, I am playing more 'small ball' poker which entails playing several hands and requires decent reading skills. It is the most effective strategy, but also the hardest to play as it requires you to make far more decisions. As well, it is can be very ineffective if you are at an aggressive table or especially ineffective at an aggressive table with turbo blinds since you will rarely get a cheap look at the flop.

The beginner:

You can usually spot a beginner from a mile away by these characteristics:

1. They play almost every hand.
2. They usually never make pre-flop raises or bet to protect their hand.
3. They are frequently calling stations.

How to play against them:

1. You can eat them alive by simple strategies like preflop raises as they will call these with any hand.
2. Always becareful not to try to bluff a beginner as they will usually not put you on the hand that you are trying to represent. They can be very difficult to bluff as they will call because they cannot tolerate not knowing what hand you have.
3. When you have a good hand, you can bet hard into the calling station and take a large portion of their stack.

The Rock

How to identify them:

1. They play very few hands.
2. They only play premium hands such has high pocket pairs or Aces with good kickers.

How to play against them:

1. Usually they aren't much to worry about as they spend most of the time out of the pot.
2. If you are in a pot with a rock, you can be pretty sure that they have AK/AQ/AJ or high pocket pair, so watch out for these hands if you are betting against them.
3. Rocks are usually easy to bluff, provided that there is a good flop texture. If you bet against a rock, be sure that there are no aces or high cards on the board, and they will likely fold as they are very tight with their chips.

The Calling Station:

How to identify them:

1. They have the same characteristics as the beginner, but they differ in that they will actually bet when they have a good hand.
2. They rarely bluff, so if they are betting, you can usually put them on at least some hand.

How to play against them:

1. Never bluff a calling station! I once bet into an open-ended draw as a semi bluff. Everyone folded except for the calling station. I bet again, this time even more chips at the turn to try to shake him off, and he simply called. At this point, I was confused and somewhat worried that he was slow playing me. He checked at the river in front of me. Worried, that he was looking to check raise, I also checked as I missed my straight. To my astonishment, he turned over king five off suit for the win! I couldn't believe that he kept calling me with high card king given that there was neither a str8 or a flush draw that he had. As well, he hadn't actually paired either of his cards.

The Chaser

How to identify them:

1. The chaser is the guy who will call any bet regardless of pot odds to chase down his flush or straight draw.
2. They rarely make preflop raises.
3. They play several hands.
4. They will usually bet once they've made their straight.

How to play against them.

1. If you catch a good hand on the flop and you bet to protect your hand and the chaser calls without re-raising you, you can be pretty sure they are chasing if their are two suited cards on flop or a possible straight.
2. Though the odds are in your favor that they will miss their straight, be careful of trying to bet them off their chase as they can make a big payout by catching it.
3. I especially don't like to go all in on the flop against them to protect my hand as they will call and may knock you out with the suck out.
4. My preference is to make a medium bet after the flop. This way if another suited card hits, I won't lose too many chips.
5. If suited card doesn't hit on the turn, I will make a larger bet after the turn as even a chaser will not always chase from the turn.
6. Rarely, if you flop a boat, you know that you can cash them out by betting large. To do this, you have to bet very big after the flop, not turn. Or you can try to slow play them and hope that they will catch their flush, but this is riskier as if they get a free look at the cards and miss, you will not get a payoff. Personally, I would rather bet large pretending that I am protecting a hand like top pair/top kicker and additionally hope that they catch the flush and bet hard.

The Maniac

How to identify:

1. The maniacs are the easiest to identify.
2. They often go all in preflop several times, strangely they seem to always win with junk cards.
3. They love to raise preflop with even an Ace with bad kicker to steal the blind.
4. They bad really hard after the flop to steal the pot, often overbetting a hand like mid pair to make it seem like they have a very good hand.

How to play against them:

1. You have to avoid calling preflop raises unless you have a hand like a pocket pair or an ace with a good kicker.
2. If you call a preflop raise with a hand like suited seven/eight and miss flop, they will eat you alive by making a large enough bet that you cannot call even if you have a decent draw.
3. Better maniacs will realize their table image and use it to their advantage. For example, you might be tempted to stand your ground against a maniac betting very large with your top pair/top kicker, and call only to get knocked out by a set that they hit.
4. Maniacs can be the hardest to play against as they are fearless.
5. They only effective way to counter one is to try to trap them. Let the other players battle the maniac until you have really good hole cards. If you manage to hit a really good flop, check and let them hang themselves trying to bluff you off.
6. The only other way to counter the manaic is to call them when they go all in preflop with a high pocket pair or a hand like AK/AQ.

The Shark

How to identify them:

1. The shark is the experienced player who is often quite street smart.
2. The shark plays more on how other people bet/react, than on their own actual cards.
3. The shark has a wide array of tools like check raising/ effective bluffing/ trapping /slow playing/ overbetting hands to steal/ raising to steal blinds / rarely makes a bad call.

How to play against them:

1. The biggest weakness of a shark is simply the card run that they have. If they are getting bad hole cards and missing flops, you can take advantage of this.
2. Be wary of folding agains them as they often will bet to represent a better hand than they actually have. If you think you have the best hand, but are not certain, stick to calling them out rather than pushing all in as they might be trapping you.
3. If you are a beginner, the only effective way to counter a cagey shark is to play 'big bat' poker looking to make home-runs instead of out playing them.
4. To do this, stick to playing pocket pairs looking to make sets or hands like AK/AQ/AJ.
5. The best way to bet against a shark is all-in. If they think they are beat, they will have to fold.
6. Pre-flop raises are not a good idea because if you miss the flop, they will smell blood and bluff to make you fold.

The Tight Player

How to identify them:

1. They don't play very many hands.
2. They almost never bluff.
3. They almost never make a call when they are beat.
4. They always bet when they have a good hand.

How to play against them:

1. Tight players are very easy to play against as their strategy is rarely effective. Though they don't hand out many of their chips, they generally don't accumulate very many chips either unless they are having a good run of cards. As well, most players can easily put them on a good a hand and immediately fold to them.
2. Tight players get absolutely abused by maniacs and loose aggressive players who steal their blinds and bluff them off of hands.
3. The easiest way to abuse a tight-aggressive player is by a combination of bluffing and overbetting your hand when you are in a pot against them. They will often fold top-pair/kicker if you bet representing a flush that may have hit on the turn, for example.
4. Eventually, most tight players will get frustrated by a comination of constantly getting bluffed and by their diminishing chip stack. At this point, you have to trap them when you have a really good hand. Instead of their usual fold, they may simply call you out or try to fight back by re-raising you, even all in sometimes.
5. Never be afraid of bluffing an tight player by representing or pretending that you just hit a flush on river or something like that. Early game, if they call or re-raise, simply fold to them because they likely will have a very good hand and will not fold.

The Loose-aggressive Player

How to identify them:

1. In a nutshell, think 'gus hansen.'
2. The loose-aggressive player is often the most difficult to play against.
3. They will raise action preflop and bluff the pot after everyone misses flop or overbet out of position to scare off other players.
4. They absolutely love to steal blinds late game by raising preflop.
5. They can be extremely dangerous as they are not afraid to gamble. For example, you might go all with pocket QQ short stacked late game. They will call you with a hand like K7 suited and knock you out when they catch a king.

How to play against them:

1. There is no easy answer to this question. You're ultimate results playing a loose-aggressive player are going to depend more on luck than anything.
2. If you call their preflop raises and miss the flop, you are pretty much in a double bind. If you try to bluff them, they will call if they caught anything on the flop or re-raise you. If you hit a flop and they tried to bluff out of position, they are often smart enough to fold to a bet if they don't have a hand or any outs.
3. If you try to steal blinds by raising, they will protect their blind by calling.
4. If you try to steal blinds with going all-in, they will call you with a marginal hand and seemingly perpertually get lucky and flop two pair to beat your high pocket pair or suited ace king.
5. In a nutshell, I like to play pretty tight vs a loose-aggressive player. Knowing that they want nothing more than turning the game into a coin toss--except maybe running you over with aggression, I try not to give them what they want.
6. I am willing to call pre-flop raises with a good hand or better yet, call all in preflop if I know they've been raising to steal quite frequently.
7. At the core of an effective loose-aggressive player, you will not find a complete idiot. They will fold to bluffs and generally not call if you push back against them if they think they are beat.
8. Loose-aggressive players are also susceptible to smart bluffs. For example, if they bet hard on the flop and you simply call. Then a third suited card hits and they check, if you bet representing the flush and they don't have it, they will likely fold.
9. Though they seemingly play wild, they are usually pretty smart and try to put you on hand. You have to represent a better hand to bluff them back or simply trap them with a very good hand.

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