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14

If you can nail down a player’s style then you can exploit his tendencies to either take chips off him or protect your own stack. And nothing defines the style of a poker player like their betting patterns.

Suggestive screen names, crazy hats, wild gestures and the myriad of other gimmicks some players use to make themselves stand out on the tables all come free of charge. You’d do well to remember that the information they give you about a player is probably worth about as much. Chips, on the other hand, don’t come for free – if you want to delve into the true character of a player then watch how they use them.

Players can be roughly categorized into four different types based on their betting patterns. These are extreme examples and you’ll probably start to see variations as you play more poker, but for now let’s keep it simple.

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Too loose

Too loose
Not a floozy but a player who consistently bets and calls marginal or poor hands. Lacks patience and can’t stand to be out of the action. Relies heavily on luck to win.

Be on the lookout for two types of loose player

Loose-passive

(Sometimes known as a ‘calling station’) characterized by habitual calling of poor and marginal hands which he then under-bets. Engages in little positive action and usually goes home early.

Loose-aggressive

Identified by wild raises, silly bluffs and over-bets – can’t stand to be out of the action and usually doesn’t stick around long as a result. Not to be confused with a SAG (see below).

Too loose should be your style if

You’re bored with roulette and are looking for a new game of chance. Money means nothing – action means everything.

Beat too loose with

Good hand selection, observation and patience. Pressurizing bets trap loose-passive players while slow-playing does the same to loose-aggressive types. Loose players are a welcome addition to any poker table – learn to play against them and they’ll provide you with an endless source of income.

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Too tight

The rock. The immoveable object. Holds on to his chips like a child clings to its mother. Only calls premium hands and is generally prepared to fold in the face of strong betting. Usually sticks around longer than the loose player, but has trouble winning on cash tables in the long-term and finds himself blinded out before the bubble in tourneys.

Too tight should be your style if

Poker is merely a light distraction from the real work of grinding an ass-groove into your new office chair.

Beat this style with

Good hand selection and strong, positive betting. The slow-play may be needed to draw them out, but avoid getting trapped. Big bets from this player are a sign of danger. A void calling unless you’re sure you’re winning.

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Tight-aggressive

Regarded by the mainstream poker world as the best, most successful style – though by no means the only one that works (see below). Characterized by patience and careful hand selection coupled with strong, decisive bets that turn the screws on opponents without undue exposure to risk.

Tight-aggressive should be your style if

You want to win more than you lose and enjoy taking chips off poorer players. You’re learning all aspects of the game and fine-tuning your bankroll management, hand selection, betting and even playing the odd bluff when the conditions are right. You’re in a happy place.

Beat this style with

Patience, observation, and good solid play. If you play tourneys you’ll usually find two kinds of players still in it after the bubble – tight- aggressive and maybe a SAG or two (see below). The best way to beat a strong tight-aggressive player is to make fewer mistakes than them, watch for weaknesses and look for opportunities to put them under pressure. Choose your hands carefully and only get mixed up in a big pot with a tight- aggressive player if you’re confident that you’ve got him beat.

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Super-aggressive

How to tell a good SAG from a loose-aggressive
It can be tough to tell the difference at first but look for these signs:

  • SAGs know how to ‘change gears’. A good SAG doesn’t go 100mph for an entire game – they look for favorable situations to set out their stall. After the blinds go up and just before the bubble in tourneys are popular with SAGs as are any other situations where players are feeling pressure.
  • SAGs hunt out the weak. SAGs tend to target chip stacks lower than their own because they know their bets will have even more impact. They also like very tight players and tight-aggressives who religiously play pot-odds.
  • You rarely see what a SAG is holding. Good SAGs have normally either won the hand or folded before the river, so you hardly ever see their cards. They don’t make dumb calls, so when you do see their cards it’s usually after they’ve called a big bet while holding the nuts – enhancing their table image.
  • SAGs wind people up. Some SAGs like to use provocation to rile up opponents and put them off their game, but even a non-obnoxious SAG is likely to be upsetting one or two players at the table – he keeps taking their chips away! Good SAGs take advantage of the frustration they create and like nothing better than dumb over-bets coming at them from aggravated opponents. Avoid the temptation.

SAG should be your style if…

People get nervous in your presence – and this pleases you. You cheer for the bad guys in Bond films and regularly find yourself alone on mountaintops, gazing down at the ant-like masses below thinking, ‘ human, all too human’ .

Beat this style with

Patience. It can be frustrating to sit and watch a SAG run a table while you fold hands that, well, just might turn into something. Don’t get sucked into the trap of overvaluing marginal hands against a SAG. If you’re playing a tight aggressive style, a good SAG will recognize this and try to use that temptation against you. Instead, be patient, look for slow-play opportunities and try to take one or two big pots off them rather than getting mixed up in a lot of smaller ones. Burn a SAG once and you’ll often find they leave you alone to go after easier pickings.

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What’s your style?

Which style you eventually choose to play is up to you – after all, it’s your time and your money. None will guarantee success and the best merely win more than they loose. As your game develops you’ll also discover situations where you’ll want to change your style, becoming more aggressive to take advantage of opportunities and tightening up to avoid danger.