Poker Playing Styles

As you practise playing poker, you will develop the poker playing style that suits you best. There are four typical styles attributed to players, which are defined as tight-aggressive, loose-aggressive, tight-passive and loose-passive.

This is related to the number of hands a player will take part in. Tight players will wait until they think they have a really strong chance of taking the pot before they bet, whereas loose players will enter all sorts of hands, even if they don’t necessarily have the best cards.

The Difference between Aggressive and Passive Styles

This refers to the way a player bets during a game. If they regularly bet and raise, they are deemed to be aggressive; if they check or call more often, they are seen as passive.

By working out which of the four possible styles your opponents fall into, you can formulate your strategy for playing against them, possibly gaining an insight into the nature of their hand from how they have played previously.

Playing Tight-Passive

This is a cautious style which is generally considered not to be particularly profitable. If a tight-passive player begins raising, you can be fairly sure they have a strong hand, so wise opponents will simply fold, leaving a fairly small pot for them to win. They rarely take full advantage of the best hands that fall their way because they tend to call when more aggressive players would raise.

Tight-passive players also have to rely on having the best hand to win, because their risk-averse nature prevents them forcing their opponent to fold the hand that would have otherwise been the winner by bluffing and betting themselves to victory.

Playing Loose-Passive

Many beginners fall into the loose-passive style of play, wanting to be in on the action as much as possible with whatever cards they have, but being too cautious to raise, even when they have a strong hand. This can mean they either take a weak hand into the showdown and are easily beaten, or win the hand, but receive an underwhelming pot.

Some experts think the reason beginners play in a loose-passive style is because they don’t have a solid enough knowledge of poker starting hands.

Playing Tight-Aggressive

A tight-aggressive player waits patiently for the right hand and then goes for it, betting and raising, knowing that they have a great chance of winning. They also know that by upping the bets, they are building up a decent pot at the same time. However, if opponents know them to be a tight-aggressive player, they might fold early on unless they also have a solid hand.

Playing Loose-Aggressive

It is difficult to know when you have a loose-aggressive player beaten because they will play a good deal of hands, both strong and weak, and will constantly raise the betting in addition to bluffing when they feel the need to do so. The tendency for more cautious players would be to fold to a loose-aggressive opponent, but taking them to the showdown could prove profitable if their cards don’t match their bluster.

Players don’t always fit neatly into these categories, but observing them at the table and getting to know their style will certainly help you get a handle on how they react to certain hands and situations. Mixing your style up can help conceal your hand and also makes you adaptable to different situations where a certain approach might be better suited. For example, on a table full of aggressive opponents, stepping back a little and being cautious could pay dividends as they might not expect you to suddenly pipe up with a world-beating hand against their bluffing.


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