Poker is one of the most popular casino games in the world, and the expression ‘poker-faced’ is used far beyond the game to describe someone who does not readily betray their inner feelings. So perhaps it goes without saying that the best poker players are likely to be those who can play the game and remain in complete control at all times. But to secure the best chance of success, a good player must also be able to read and recognise the personality and mind-set of others at the table. So let’s look at the psychological aspects of the four basic styles of poker play.
A ‘tight’ poker player would generally be expected to opt to play only the most advantageous hands. And likewise, a ‘passive’ player would be inclined to dislike losing and can usually be expected to steer clear of confrontation. So combining these traits, a tight-passive gambler will generally play only a few hands and is likely to call pre-flop only with a hand they fancy. Predictably, this type of player is susceptible to bluffs and can easily become paralyzed by their fear of losing. Aggressive players will look to exploit these weaknesses.
A ‘loose’ poker player is generally far less selective than a tight player, and thus may play on a broad range of hands. But it’s how these players then perform on each hand they play which determines the best strategies to employ against them. So loose-passive types will rarely take a chance – in fact, their whole approach is based on ‘wait and see’ tactics and letting others take the risks. You can’t bluff them like tight-passive players because they will just keep calling. But they are there for the taking if you happen to have a strong hand.
In general, aggressive players are much happier to tolerate risk. Thus they can be expected to raise more often than to call and won’t worry much about exposing their chips to risk. So a tight-aggressive poker player is choosy about which hands to play. But if they are dealt a great starting hand, they will then play forcefully. With the very best tight-aggressive players – often known as ‘sharks’ – their behaviour could be likened to a forensic strike, and their betting can be fearless. It’s common for opponents to avoid challenging a tight-aggressive player on the assumption they hold a great hand – a pressure which then induces them to fold.
A loose-aggressive poker player indulges in behaviour such as raising, and then re-raising, many kinds of hands pre-flop. They will bet on many flops too, and the sheer variety of hands in which they show an interest can make them a tough prospect to read. Loose-aggressive gamblers are good at pressurizing other players, and the fact they bluff on many plays can make them awkward opponents. Nevertheless, extreme loose-aggressive types can be very reckless indeed, which gives a more measured player an advantage in the long run.
Classifying types of poker behaviour can help players to understand what goes on at the table. However, it’s also important to remember that all players are individuals whose characteristic traits are not rigidly fixed. So, as mentioned above, one loose-aggressive player may skillfully apply pressure while another player at the opposite end of the behaviour continuum may just be an impulsive tearaway. Some other interesting psychological types to observe at the table include:
Mr. ABC Poker
This is an expression used to describe a player who does everything according to the manual, but the implication is that this type of poker player lacks any sophisticated understanding of poker plays. As such, it’s generally assumed someone with this kind of personality can be easily manipulated by an opponent prepared to adopt an aggressive approach. While it’s important to add there’s nothing much wrong with playing ABC poker, it’s only likely to give you break-even returns at best.
The Lucky Lou or Lucky Louise
One to watch out for: This is a player who appears to enjoy an almost endless lucky streak. Regardless of what strategy you might deploy, this lucky individual still seems to emerge with a winning hand. It’s an interesting debate as to whether this is really all down to luck, or whether there are other factors at work. But more importantly, you should find a way to leave their table before it starts to cost you money you can’t afford to lose!
The Ringer is an arch-deceiver whose strategy relies upon being perceived as a bad player. Once a Ringer is off everyone’s radar, they then waste no time reading all the other players at the table. Then, when the time is right and all have let their guard down, the Ringer morphs into a Shark and wipes the table clean – all the while protesting their success is just down to a sudden stroke of luck. This type of individual is a good illustration of just why you should never take any other player for granted, no matter how incompetent they might look at first glance.