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The Five Player Types
The first step when reading hands is to categorize your opponents into distinct player types based on his playing style. Assigning a certain player type to your opponent will help you narrow down his range.
This lesson will teach you how to differentiate between the five most common player types and their fundamental characteristics. This information will be useful when adjusting to their playing style.
The five most common player types are:
Calling Station, Maniac, Nit, TAG and LAG
Your Opponents' Characteristics
In order to categorize a particular opponent into a specific player type, you need to analyse the following properties of his playing style:
- Hand selection: Does he play many hands or few?
- Aggression: Does he play aggressively or passively?
- Number of tables: How many tables is he playing?
- Stack size: Does he prefer playing with a full stack?
- Erroneous Betting Patterns: limping, minbets, min-3-bets?
A player who plays a lot of hands pre-flop is defined as loose. Someone who plays only few hands before the flop is defined as tight.
If a player bets and raises often, he's aggressive. However, if he frequently calls and checks, he is considered passive.
With the help of these characteristics, the five player types can be identified.
The Calling Station
The calling station is a very loose opponent who plays his hands passively.
How do you recognize a calling station?
Calling stations play a lot of hands and are rarely aggressive, even with strong hands. They rarely play more than one or two tables and will often be sitting at the table with less than a full buy-in.
You can also recognize calling stations through their betting behaviour:
- Open limp pre-flop
- Min-3-bet pre-flop
- Call flop, call turn, bluff bet river when checked to
What range does a calling station play?
Calling stations play a wide and thus very weak range. They often limp pre-flop and even call against big raises with inferior hands like J8o.
How do you play against a calling station?
The correct strategy allows you to play very profitably against calling stations. All you need to do is to follow these ground rules:
- Never bluff a calling station and be very cautious with your semibluffs. This kind of opponent doesn't fold often enough for your bluff to be profitable.
- If you have a good hand, just bet. The calling station won't be bluffing often, so don't try to induce bluffs.
- Try to place thin value bets. The calling station will often find a reason to call with very weak hands, so even betting with medium-strength made hands is usually profitable.
- You will often get free cards from a calling station, so it's a good idea to play your draws passively.
- When a calling station is raising, you are usually up against a monster.
Even though calling stations might bluff the river from time to time, especially when their draws have missed, value betting to extract maximum value is generally the best approach against them.
With a hand such as top pair and a good kicker you should be looking to bet big on all three streets.
This kind of opponent plays a lot of hands and is often overly aggressive, even with weak holdings. His playing style leads to very high variance, but in the long term, maniacs will lose a lot of money.
How do you recognize a maniac?
The maniac is a loose and very aggressive opponent. You will often see him bet, raise and reraise. Similarly to the calling station, he will rarely be found sitting on more than one or two tables and will also frequently have less than a full stack of chips.
A maniac will often display the following betting patterns:
- Cold calling an open raise
- 4-betting when he has been 3-bet
- Frequent pre-flop all-ins, even with hands like 99 and AJs
- Many open raises and 3-bets pre-flop
- Frequent bluffs
- Frequently bets and raises very big, possibly bigger than pot size
What range does a maniac play?
Just like the calling station, the maniac plays a very wide and therefore weak range. The difference is that he plays his hands aggressively. He bets and raises a lot more than average and thus creates a great deal of variance and - more importantly over the long term - losses for himself.
How do you play against maniacs?
Against a maniac you should:
- Play tight.
- Try to induce bluffs.
- Try to avoid bluffing him.
- Lower your standards for a good hand.
- Be consistent and have a plan: call down or fold right away.
The maniac is especially weak to lines which induce bluffs. He likes bluffing, so give him the opportunity to do so. If there is any kind of player where slow playing makes sense at the lower limits, the maniac is that player.
A maniac frequently bluffs, and hands which you would consider weak against the vast majority of players may sometimes turn out to be the best hand. You should apply the concept of relative hand strength. Against a maniac, you will have many situations where you can go broke before the flop with hands such as 99+ and AQ+ without fear. Post-flop, top pair and top kicker is very often going to turn out to be the best hand.
Try to be consistent and have a plan: either call down on all three streets or fold right away. Your opponent isn't known for suddenly giving up along the way so do not play as if he will.
Maniacs are very talented at provoking tilt from other players. If you start losing your temper and letting it affect your play, you should leave the table.
This type of player is only active with very strong hands and folds a great deal of the time.
How do you recognize a nit?
Nits play regularly and will often be playing several tables at a time. They almost always sit at the table with at least 100BB. You can identify them through their tendency to play very few hands and to only show up with very strong hands at showdown, especailly when there has been a lot of action.
What range does a nit play?
The nit plays a small, tight and strong range.
How do you play against nits?
When playing against nits, you can focus on the following points:
- Attack their blinds whenever possible.
- Be very careful when they wake up and give you action.
- The value of hands with implied odds, especially pocket pairs, goes up against this opponent, because his stronger than usual range is more likely to pay you off when you make a monster hand.
Continuation bets on the flop are often the only form of bluffing that a nit will commit to. If a nit bets the turn, you can almost always expect a strong hand. You should, therefore, get out of the way unless you have a very strong hand.
After betting the flop and turn, you usually cannot bet a hand like top pair top kicker for value on the river as you will very rarely be getting called by worse hands.
As soon as a nit raises you, you should only stick around and go broke with very strong hands, such as sets or better.
This opponent type plays few hands and uses controlled aggression.
How do you recognize a TAG?
TAG stands for tight aggressive. A tag plays frequently and is usually to be found on several tables. He almost always has a stack of at least 100BB on each table. Considering that they play a similar style to you, you should think about how you would go about identifying yourself on the tables. A TAG rarely bluffs and when he does, it's usually a semibluff.
What range does a TAG play?
A player of this type open raises a very tight range from the early positions and opens up his range as he moves closer to the button.
How do you play against a TAG?
You can answer the TAGs playing style with an aggressive approach, but you should be selective with how you proceed. You can attack their blinds, but you shouldn't go overboard.
In general, you should keep this in mind:
- The TAG is not your targeted opponent: concentrate on the other players at the table.
This player type is looser than the TAG, but not quite as extreme as the maniac. He usually plays his hands aggressively.
How do you recognize a LAG?
LAG stands for loose aggressive. A LAG is looser than a TAG in his pre-flop game, but also plays aggressively. It's hard to categorize a LAG at first sight. Early in a session a LAG may look similiar to either a maniac or a slightly loose TAG.
What range does a LAG play?
LAGs open raise wider ranges from all positions than TAGs and 3-bet more frequently when in position. They give up on their blinds less frequently and will generally be playing more hands from the big blind.
How do you play against a LAG?
Very few LAGs at the lower limits are really good players. Most of them are just maniacs with slightly tighter tendencies. They don't throw their money out of the window, but due to their wider hand selection, they will still have a weaker hand than you on average. However, you should remain careful, as not all LAGs are losing players and a lot of them are familiar with the basic principles of poker.
Against LAGs, you should:
- Play a tighter preflop game than against TAGs.
- Steal the blinds less often when a LAG is left to act.
- Avoid giving up too easily post-flop, especially on the flop. When you have to make a tough decision, you should often lean towards calling rather than folding, as the LAGs range is often weaker than yours.
Don't get involved in pointless rivalries. On average, you will come out with the stronger hand more often and your profits will come on their own if you keep up a solid game.
You can identify and categorize your opponents by analysing the following characteristics:
- Hand selection
- Number of tables
- Stack size
- Erroneous betting patterns
The five most common player types have the following characteristics:
- Calling station: Plays a very large amount of hands pre-flop - Passive
- Maniac: Plays a very large amount of hands pre-flop - Aggressive
- Nit: Plays very few hands pre-flop - Aggressive
- TAG: Plays few hands pre-flop - Aggressive
- LAG: Plays a large amount of hands pre-flop - Aggressive
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