When you sit down at the poker table, the first thing you should be thinking about is your competition. Knowing the playing styles of your opponents gives you an edge when it comes to making decisions. If you can predict a player’s actions, you can use the information against them, and in turn control their decisions for them. No two players are the same, but most can be fit into a few categories that generally play the same way, or have similar strategies for playing the game.
You should be able to group most opponents into a tight-aggressive, loose-passive, or loose-aggressive style. The exception is a player who can play any style by adjusting to their settings. You determine what style they play by watching every hand and going over their movements in your head after the showdown. Once you have determined what style each player has, you can adjust your actions to each one.
Loose players play too many hands and call too many bets. They love to play poker so much that they get involved too often. A sure sign of this type of player is one who wins hands with two pair, often rags, and they play mediocre hands from poor positions. They believe that any two cards can be winners, and will call pre-flop raises with just about anything in their hand.
Tight aggressive players are by-the-book who will usually have big cards or a pocket pair when they play a hand. They bet their leads aggressively and rarely give opponents favorable pot odds on any draws. They don’t play a lot of hands, unless they’re in a late position or on the button. You’ll need to have a big hand to go to showdown against this type of player.
The other type of player you’ll encounter are the experienced players who can adjust their game and present any style they want to. This is the most dangerous opponent you’ll find, and therefore the one you want to recognize the most. This is the type of player you want to be. They play the best style that will work against the table they’re sitting at. They also size up their competition and play hands differently against each opponent. This player is recognizable because you’ll often be surprised by the cards they’ll show at showdown, and they’ll usually have most of the chips.
The style that your opponent plays is only a portion of the information you can get from sizing them up. Many players will display tells that provide you with enough information to make an important decision. Some players will show disinterest before it’s their turn to play, allowing you make a move because you can tell they will get out of the way if you do. Some players will look down at their chips every time they get dealt a good hand. These types of tells are up to you to recognize.
It doesn’t matter how good your opponents are as much as it does that you can recognize their abilities. As long as you can predict their moves, you’ll be able to counter their style and take advantage of the situation.