Knowing Your Opponent - Types Of Poker Tournament PlayersThe popularity of poker tournaments means that you will face a very wide selection of opponents at the tables. These will range from the experienced 'online pro' to the first timer whose only experience is watching televised final tables. There is also a wide range of playing styles within each type of player - ranging from the ultra-loose to the 'rock' who folds almost every hand. Recognizing and adjusting your own play to specific opponents can be a very profitable poker strategy. This article will look at types of tournament players in various ways to help you make the right adjustments.
We will start by looking at how to assess the playing styles of opponents based on the 2 common 'axis' - tight / loose and aggressive / passive. Next the level of experience of players is taken into account, including how to spot players at each extreme. Finally some other characteristics, such as trickiness and the ability to fold are taken into account.
Loose players are usually divided further into loose + aggressive or loose + passive. Loose / Passive players are easy to play against, they will call a lot of bets but rarely raise without a strong hand. Do not bluff these players as they will call with a wide range of hands, instead wait until you hit a hand and value bet them as much as possible. Loose aggressive players come in two types. Some experienced players raise with a lot of hands, but will only commit big money when they have the goods. Others play loosely and aggressively because they are inexperienced and over-value their hands. Make sure you watch closely to make sure you know which player is which!
Tight + passive players will wait for good starting hands but will often fear that 'the nuts' is out there, preferring to call rather than raise pots. Bet often into a tight and passive opponent, particularly to steal their blinds. When this player type does bet you can safely fold, sure that you are beaten. Tight and aggressive players play few hands but play them strongly. You will need a solid hand yourself (or good implied odds) to become involved with this type of tournament opponent.
Levels of experience differ widely at a tournament table. A good way to spot an inexperienced opponent is to look at the hands that they play, particularly out of position, and their bet sizing. Over-valuing hands such as weak aces is common among opponents whose experience is limited to watching TV final tables - where stacks are shallow and all-in moves are common. Once you spot this type of player you can adjust your own starting hand selection downwards a little when in position against them. Bet sizes are usually in proportion to the pot after the flop has been dealt, watch for players who habitually mini-bet or over-bet the pot - this is a common sign of inexperience at the tables.
An opponent's motivation for playing a tournament will often affect their play. Some people play tournaments only for profit, while others play for relaxation or a mental challenge. The bubble is a good time to profit from those players who see making the money as important - here raising will often win the pot uncontested.
The final distinction in tournament opponent types is between tricky and straightforward. Some players will always check when they have a strong hand, hoping to check-raise. While for others their bets will mean they are strong. Taking notes on who is being tricky with hands can help you adjust when playing pots with them. For example when someone always limps with aces and then raises before the flop you can actually rule out this hand - potentially valuable information for making later decisions.
To summarize, there are a large range of opponent types to be found in poker tournaments. Major differences exist in the level of poker experience, the looseness of hand selection and amount of aggression used while playing, and in both motivation for playing and the 'trickiness' during the play of hands.
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