Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Key to Winning at Poker: Identifying Player Types and Tendencies (and a Poker Experiment)

Key to Winning at Poker: Identifying Player Types and Tendencies (and a Poker Experiment)

Mad scientistImage by BWJones via Flickr

Let me share with you some key player types and tendencies I have found while playing at the 9 handed, limit hold'em ring games online and how that effects your play. Note that this information relates to players at the $3-$6 tables and under. The players get tougher at the $5-$10 and up levels.

1. Predictable/ABC player.

I would say that at least 80% of the players at these levels are predictable. They raise with premium hands pre-flop and make a continuation bet regardless of what flops.

-How to take advantage of these players?

Let's say that this ABC player raised pre-flop and you called.

If you call him in position and he checks the turn, after you called his flop bet, just bet.
If you are heads up in a blind position, and the flop is all rags, when he bets the flop, check-raise. If he just calls, you keep betting. If he raises you, he has you beat.

Let's say that you raised pre-flop with A-K, and he called you in early position.
The flop is A-9-5 rainbow. You bet and he calls. The turn is a 2. You bet and he check raises you. You are beat. You can call and hope to improve, but even then your ABC opponent may have a set. If you don't improve, fold!

2. Aggressive pre-flop, but predictable starting at the turn.

This may be the next largest group of players. They know they are suppose to be aggressive so they raise pre-flop more than their cards dictate. They follow up with a bet on the flop. If they get called on the flop, they tell you what they have by what they do on the turn and river.

-How to take advantage of these players?

Let's say this player raises pre-flop and you call with pocket 7's. The flop is A-6-2. Your opponent bets and you call. The turn is a J. You check. If your opponent bets, fold. If your opponent checks, he doesn't have the Ace. On the river, if you don't improve, don't bet. But, if your opponent bets, you will be forced to call unless the river card could have completed his hand--example, a 10 hits making his straight.

3. Predictable and passive players

These players are predictable pre-flop: limping with calling hands and raising with premium hands. On the flop if they don't improve, they check their hand. When this happens just bet.

4. Aggressive heads-up players

These players are aggressive when they are heads-up. If this player is on the big blind, and you raise pre-flop, he will tend to call your bet. When you bet the flop, he likes to check-raise. If you have a good hand, you can re-raise him here or on the turn. If you may be beat, just call. In fact, since this kind of player may be on a draw, you can call him down with any pair and even Ace high.

Other player tendencies:

A few players like to go for the check-raise bluff on the turn against one or two opponents. Identify this player, and call his bluff. However, in most cases, a player who check raises you on the turn in these middle/lower level games is not bluffing. If you can't improve enough to win, it is okay to fold.

Players who raise on the river are usually not bluffing. Your river value bet has now become a bad play. When you bet the river and it is clear that a player may have hit his flush, it is okay to check behind your opponent. Or be forced to check-call. (By the way, I am not suggesting you fold your hand to this raise. I am suggesting that you put you should always put your opponent on a range of hands--especially drawing hands--so when the river card hits, you can check if it appears he got there.)

There are a few crazy players who like to re-raise and cap pre-flop with less than premium hands. By capping the pot pre-flop, it allows you to see the turn for one more bet. For example, let's say you raised pre-flop in late position with pocket 5's. The button re-raised and now the big blind caps it. If your set doesn't come on the flop, it is okay to call for one more bet to see if you can get lucky and hit the 5 on the flop. It won't happen often, but when it does you win a huge pot.

The players in these games often do not understand the concept of "dead money." Simply, when the blinds fold, the chips in the pot are dead money. You want to raise in late position to get these players to fold. It usually allow you to have position on your opponents. Most players fold in the blinds to a raise. Only a few defend their blinds--although, they are usually making a mistake in calling a raise.

My Poker Experiment:

Last night, I was at a $3-$6 table. For about 15 minutes, I didn't play any hands since the cards were ugly. Most of my opponents were ABC players so I decided that I would try an experiment:

I would raise pre-flop with any two cards for the next 10 hands. The only exception would be if a player raised before me. In that case, I would fold and not include that hand in my count of 10.

What happened?

Since my image was tight, my first two pre-flop raises were not called. My third raise was called in the big blind. I won on my continuation bet.

The fourth hand was 10-2 and I raised in middle position. The flop was 10 high, and I bet. When the river was an Ace my opponent bet and I was beat. He had A-Q. (I'm no Doyle Brunson.)

In middle position, I was dealt pocket Kings. A player raised, another player re-raised, and I capped it. Both players checked called my bet on the flop. On the turn they both folded to my bet. I thought that was strange.

I raised with 6-5 offsuit up front and the flop was Q-6-5. I was called in two places on the flop. The turn was a 9. I bet and got check raised. Not good. I lost to Q-9.

In the small blind I raised with QQ. The big blind called me. The flop came Ace high. I checked. My opponent checked. The turn was a King, and gave me a nut flush draw. I bet and my opponent check raised me. I called and the flush didn't come.

I raised on the button and won.

I raised on the cut-off and got re-raised by the small blind. I folded on the flop. I had 7-3.

I got pocket Aces and raised in the power position. I was called in 4 places. The flop was 10-9-8 and I knew I was dead. I checked. When the turn was a 7, a raising war began. I folded.

The net: at one point +$70, but ended down about -$40.

My experiment is similar to what Daniel Negreanu calls "NutBar." He recommends "NutBar" as a way to improve your game. Sit down and try to win every hand by being more aggressive than your opponents. You will lose your stack but you will learn a lot from the experience.
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Gary Sartori said...

You can tell what kind of player I am because of the style my favorites players play. Dan Harrington, Paul Wasicka, Guy Laliberte are the players I admire. Never been a Durrrr fan, or a Gus Hansen fan, but I can't argue with their success.

I am a tight-aggressive player. I don't care who I'm playing against, I rarely commit my chips unless I have a good starting hand. Most of the players I play against online are not like that. Most are super aggressive, throwing chips around with reckless abandon. It's not their chips, so it really doesn't matter to them if they lose them or not.

I do not play low pocket pairs, (2-2 3-3,4-4) most of the time since it's likely at least part of the flop will have cards that are bigger than yours.

I'm also a "feel player" I'm not a David Skalansky type who calculate pot odds. If I feel I have the best hand, I go with it.

If I have one problem with my game, (I have many more, but this one tops the list), it's that I fold too much. When I'm playing with my friends, or online, I see a lot less flops than anyone else at the table. I want to play more hands, but then my brain reverts back to my tight play, and I end up folding it anyways. I guess I lack the confidence to shove in my chips.

Anyway, I'm glad I found this article. gave me some good tips on how to play better.

Take care.

Mitchell Cogert said...



It's not a question of how many hands you play, but how much money you are winning.

To help your game, read Negreanu's article on NutBar-from 2001:

Good luck!

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