Player Stereotypes What is a stereotype?
The Oxford English dictionary definition of a stereotype is as follows: "noun: a preconceived and over-simplified idea of the characteristics which typify a person or thing". Why is it important to categorize your opponents under the various player stereotypes? Well, being a winning poker player is all about recognising weaknesses and mistakes, and exploiting these for maximum financial gain. When it comes to beating your opponents the first step must therefore be recognising these weaknesses and mistakes. You must continually gain whatever information you can on your opponents, this means remaining observant throughout every hand played whilst you're at the table. Watching and learning your opponents behaviour whether you are involved in the hand or not is critical. We'll start by introducing you to the various player stereotypes, then we'll show you what sort of information you'll need to gather to classify your opponents according to each stereotype. Generally we can classify all players along two scales: Passive-Aggressive and Loose-Tight.
The Passive-Aggressive scale
Someone who raises and re-raises a lot we call aggressive, someone who checks and calls a lot but rarely raises we call passive.
The Loose-Tight scale
Someone who plays a lot of hands we call loose, someone who folds a lot and only plays premium hands we call tight. So, if we notice a player who plays a lot of hands and raises with a lot of them, we say this player is Loose-Aggressive (or LAG for short). If we notice a player who plays very few hands and doesn't bet or raise with them very often, we label this player Tight-Passive. Tight-Aggressive (TAG) players are generally easier to read than Loose-Aggressive ones. We can also add two further scales to categorize your opponents: the Weak-Tough scale, and the Straightforward-Complex scale.
The Weak-Tough scale
A weak player is one who always fears the worst, if the board pairs (e.g flop A77) he'll convince himself you have made 3-of-a-kind. Even if he has the best hand he won't raise because of his fears, he may check if given the chance to do so, he may even fold to a bet or raise in the situation above. A tough player is one who will adjust his behaviour to fit the hand he believes you have. He's smart, if he believes his top pair has you beaten even with a possible flush showing on the board he'll raise you. Weak players are relatively easy to read, tough players are much harder to read.
The Straightforward-Complex scale
Some players will always fold their weak hands, bet/raise their strong hands and check/call their good drawing hands. A pretty sensible strategy all in all! However, it does mean you can get a pretty good idea of what hand this type of player has based on his behaviour when he's contesting a pot. Complex players 'mix it up'. They will often slow-play their very big hands, check-raising for example, or limping preflop with monster hands such as AA. This sort of player tends to be a little harder to read but they do often make exploitable mistakes. It's important that you watch all your opponents and categorize them according to the above scales as this will help you enormously when trying to figure out what cards they are holding when you get involved in a fight for the pot with them. So now you know the various stereotypes what sort of information do you need to collect in order to classify your opponents?
The following list acts as a guide:
- Frequency the player see's the flop. If a player is seeing a lot of flops (greater than 50% for example) over a 30 minute to 1 hour period, you can be pretty sure he fits the loose category. If and when you get to see his cards at showdown you can confirm your suspicions. Did he just win a pot with J-8 off suit playing from early position?!
- How often does the player open-raise, re-raise or cold call a raise and with what two cards? This is a good indication of how aggressive the player is, noting what he raises and reraises with will also help you classify this player further.
- How often does a player call your bets all the way to the river only to fold his hand at the last round of betting? How often will he call you down with a middle pair?
- How often will the player attempt to steal the blinds from the button when everyone else has folded, and what cards did he attempt to steal with?
- How often does your opponent defend his blinds from a raise, and with what cards?
- Does the player wait until the turn or river before becoming aggressive, or raise immediately when he flops a monster?
- Does your opponent frequently fold to a bet on a ragged flop?
All the information you can gather on your opponents playing habits is valuable and will help you decide on the correct way to play when you come up against them in future hands. Playing online makes recording this information quite easy. Most pokerooms now have a great feature that allows you to take and store notes on your opponents. Simply right-clicking anywhere on the players icon is usually enough to open up a note-taking box.
SCREENSHOT GOES HERE. Whenever you see a players cards at showdown, note them. An example of the sort of thing you should be recording would be: 'K7s UTG fished', this tells me the player played K7 suited from under-the-gun and mistakenly called bets from other players hoping to make the best hand. How does knowing all this help you become a winning player? Let's give you an example: You've been watching a player closely for an hour, he has played very few hands before the flop and has folded a lot after the flop when he has played. This time he's called from early position and the flop comes Ks 7c 4h. If he starts betting/raising you should assume he has at least top pair, almost certainly with a very strong kicker (Ace or Queen). What else might a tight player call with preflop from early postion? 77 is a possibility. 44 is another but much more unlikely possibility. You can all but rule out hands such as K7, K4 and 74 as you know this player to be tight, he has been folding hands like these for the last hour! This is just one example of how you need to be thinking when trying to get a read on your opponents. Remain observant throughout your time at the table, categorize your opponents according to the scales, and use the note feature provided by the online pokerrooms.
Remember, you can't exploit a weakness if you don't know it exists in the first place! Our next step to helping you become a profitable player is to discuss the style of play you'll need to adopt to become a winner. We'll guide you through starting hand selection and, if you've subscribed to our free tutorial package via the Contact Us page or Message Board, we'll even provide you with an easy-to-use downloadable spreadsheet…completely free. SCREENSHOT