Poker Playing Styles
Poker players can generally be classified under 4 categories of playing styles which are defined by the frequency of play and how they bet.
When you hear people talk about how poker players play, you often hear terms like tight or loose, aggressive or passive. Let's go thru what each of these terms means.
A tight player plays few hands and folds alot. Conversely, a loose player is a player who plays more hands and you often see them in action.
Aggressive players bet or raise alot and almost never check or call. Conversely, a passive player usually checks and calls. They usually react to bets and raises by calling and seldom raise or re-raise.
"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat." - Sun Tzu
The four playing styles
By combining the above traits, we obtain the four playing styles:
Loose/passive players are generally agreed to be the worst kind of poker players. Beginners often fall into this category.
These players play too many hands, perhaps due to lack of fundamental knowledge of starting hands. By playing weaker starting hands, they often get clobbered in showdowns.
Being passive, they bet modestly and seldom raise and so when they do have good hands, they fail to maximize their winnings.
As a result of all the abovementioned weaknesses, they are often labeled as fish or marks - tasty fodder for the card sharks.
Tight/passive poker players plays only with good starting hands and thus plays much fewer hands. However, they are not aggressive when betting, often calling or checking even with good hands.
This style of playing will be disadvantageous in the long run as it does not maximize winnings when hands are good. Furthermore, tight/passive players are sometimes pressured to fold their good hands by more aggressive poker players.
Often called maniacs, these players play many hands and are very aggressive when betting. As a result, they are the most visible players on the table and always seems to be in action.
Although they may play with weak starting hands, they often win because they tend to bluff often and back up their bluffs with very aggressive betting, causing other players to fold good hands.
Simply because they play so loosely and aggressively, loose/aggressive players are difficult to bluff.
Tight and aggressive players play much fewer hands and bets aggressively, almost never check or call. Tight/aggressive playing style is generally considered the most effective playing style in poker.
With a tight starting hand selection, these players increase their chances of drawing a winner on the flop. Betting and raising aggressively also maximizes winnings while simultaneously having the effect of inducing opponents to make mistakes.
"When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of momentum. When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing. Thus, the momentum of one skilled in war is overwhelming, and his attack precisely regulated. His potential is that of a fully drawn crossbow; his timing, the release of the trigger." - Sun Tzu
The tight/aggressive poker playing style is difficult to master because it requires a great deal of patience, discipline and guts.