POKER TIPS & STRATEGY

What Types of Poker Players Are You Facing?

By Sky Matsuhashi
December 07, 2023

Your opponent must be a major consideration in every hand you play and your actions should be adjusted accordingly. In other words, there are many different types of poker players and you need to be prepared to face off against each of them accordingly; there’s no “one-size-fits-all solution.

Example: You’re dealt AA in the BB. The CO opens and it’s folded to you. The CO player folds to 3bets almost all the time. What should you do? Calling is fine to see the flop with your top hand. If you’re going to 3bet, maybe go smaller to entice him to call.

But what if your opponent was a crazy maniac who hates folding to 3bets? Well, 3bet larger for value. He hates folding, so let’s build the pot!

With the same hand in the same positions, but against different player types, we should play our hands differently to maximize our winnings. It’s critical that you learn the various poker player types and the signs for each.

poker player types

The Different Types of Poker Players and Signs For Each

Poker Player Type: TAG (Tight-aggressive)

These are the “regs” at the table. They probably study poker, use a HUD (like the Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4) and you play with them all the time. They always buy in for a full stack and they auto- top off. The “tight” part means that they play few hands in order to avoid “bad” spots or to give themselves a mathematical preflop advantage with their stronger ranges. This tightness also leads to them exiting hands early, mostly preflop or on the flop. They generally stay beyond the turn with very good hands.

The “aggressive” part means they make bets and raises more than they do checks and calls. They know that aggression wins in poker, so they’re opening, 3betting and cbetting to build pots and pressure opponents.

For online players, a key indicator for TAG status is VPIP < 20% (voluntarily put $ in the pot) with a PFR (preflop raise) slightly less. You’ll see 20/16, 15/12 and even 12/9 TAGs. Need help learning HUD stats? This article will prime your stat learning.

At showdown, their hand often makes sense. “Yep, he 3bet preflop and then barreled all 3 streets for 3/4-pot with top set. I put him on that.”

Poker Player Type: LAG (Loose-aggressive)

These are often the toughest players to play against. They’re loose so they play a lot of hands, but not so loose like fish and gamblers. You might see their VPIP between 25 to 30%. And they’re definitely aggressive with PFR > 20%.

They open-raise and 3bet a ton, and when they get to showdown, you’ll see obvious preflop bluffing hands like J9s, 55, A5s and 76s. They also seem to use their position against players so they love playing from the HJ, CO and BTN. They also call in these positions to bet when you check post-flop. They 3bet bluff from the blinds because it looks so strong, and they target TAG and other LAG players with 3bets because they understand their opponents.

These players are capable of barreling through the streets, betting when you check and even raising your bets on scary boards. They live the motto, “Aggression wins”.

At showdown, their aggressive nature will stand out. “Wow, he 3bet with KJs and then double-barrel bluffed the flush draw and overbet his flush on the river. He’s a tough nut to crack.”

Poker Player Type: Fish (Loose-passive)

These are your #1 targets at the table. They play way too many hands and prefer passive play versus aggressive play. They’ll limp with hands like 22, J9o and K7s. And post-flop, they’ll call with any pair and overpay with weak draws (“calling stations”). They don’t like folding, so go for max value against them.

They often buy in for the minimum and hover at ~30bb’s and never top off. If they lose their stack, they’ll min-rebuy.

They mostly don’t care about you or your range; just their hole cards, the board and making big hands. They see the magic in J9s for its straight and flush potential; in A5s for the same plus the Ace potential; and in any pocket pair for its set and full house potential.

At showdown, you’ll often be amazed at their hand. “He called the TAG’s cbet on the flop with 2nd pair, weak kicker AND again when the turn weakened his hand to 3rd pair with no draw? Calling station indeed.”

Poker Player Types: Maniacs, Whales and Gamblers

These are the loosest players at the table and I break them down this way:

  • Maniacs – Super loose and incredibly aggressive.
  • Whales – Super loose and very passive.
  • Gamblers – Super loose and unpredictable.

They all love seeing flops, making strong hands and cracking your big hand.

I saw this the other day:

3 gamblers online poker

  • Villain 2 open-shoved UTG for 29bb’s with A8s.
  • Villain 4 on the BTN called with 98s and two players still to act.
  • I folded in the SB but kept watching because I had to know what they had.
  • Villain 23 in the BB shoved all-in for 34.8bb’s and Villain 4 called for the side pot.
  • Yep, all 3 are maniacs or whales or gamblers, take your pick.

You can spot these players by just the sheer number of hands they play and the crazy weakness you’ll see at showdown, regardless of playing them aggressively with bets/raises or passively with checks/calls.

They do loads of limping and calling preflop, and even cold calling 3bets in the blinds with marginal hands. When you 3bet bluff 10bb on the button with A5s, don’t be surprised when the whale snap-calls in the BB even with the open-raiser or any limpers still to act.

Be prepared for wild showdowns. “He min 3bet with A6o from the BB, then check-called all 3 streets with a busted gutshot draw on the 437KQ board?!”

Tagging By Types of Poker Player

If playing live, use a poker notes live app to track seat numbers with player name and player type. “Seat 1, Bob, Fish”.

If you’re playing online like I do, color code their player box or HUD panel. Some sites even allow you to assign a symbol. Here are the color codes I use for the different player types along with symbols when available:

  • Tag – Yellow; a rock symbol.
  • Lag – Orange; a die symbol.
  • Fish – Green; a fish symbol.
  • Maniacs/Whales/Gamblers – Purple; a fish or a die symbol, depending on their level of aggression.

The next time you play, pay attention to your opponents’ actions and as soon as you get a feel for what types of players they are, tag ‘em! This is going to help you make better reads and exploitative plays.

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Sky Matsuhashi poker author
Written By.

Sky Matsuhashi

Sky Matsuhashi is the creator of the Smart Poker Study Podcast. He has authored 4 poker books including ‘How to Study Poker Volumes 1 & 2’, ‘Preflop Online Poker’ and ‘Post-flop Online Poker’. As a poker coach, Sky is dedicated to helping his students play more effectively, earn more money and be 1% better every […]

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