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StrategyNo Limit Midstack

The 8 Player Types: How to Get Their Money

Video: Click here


In this article
  • How the types of opponents differ
  • The 8 types of players
  • How to beat them

When you are playing in the lower limits, you don't need to worry about getting very specific reads on your individual opponents at the table, since you will probably never see them again. The important thing is knowing what type of player your opponent is and how to adjust your game to counter his playing style.

How the types of opponents differ

There are two basic questions to ask yourself:

  • Does he play a lot of hands or only a few?
  • Does he play aggressively or passively?

Someone who likes to play a lot of hands is 'loose,' whereas someone who only play a very few carefully selected starting hands is 'tight.'

This clearly refers to a players' pre-flop style, but you can use the same terms to describe post-flop play. One term, for example, is 'loose fit or fold.' This refers to players who like to see a lot of flops, but always fold when they don't hit anything. This, of course, usually doesn't happen, which makes it easy to get them out of the pot.

The second question refers to how a player plays his hand. If he is aggressive, you can select a playing style that anticipates your opponent's aggression. This might be as simple as a check/raise (you check knowing he is likely to bet and give you the chance to raise). Of course, this can only work if your opponent does in fact bet.

You also might try inducing a bluff. You feign weakness to encourage your opponent to bluff. Once again, this only works if your opponent bets. A passive player probably won't fall for it, since bluffing is an aggressive move.

The best way to play against passive opponents is to make standard value bets. You have a good hand and know your opponent isn't going to put any money in the pot on his own initiative, so help him out.

No matter what type of opponent you are facing, the trick is to be the opposite. If he is loose, be tight. If he is tight, loosen up. If he likes to bluff, take the passive route and let him do it. If he is passive, take the initiative.

A typical mistake a lot of players make is thinking: "He is playing every hand he gets, so I should too." The exact opposite is the case.


Let's start with one of the more extreme player types: the rock.

Rocks are easy to spot, since they hardly ever play a hand. They sit there for hours and hours and do nothing. And they aren't waiting for good hands, they are waiting for the best.

If he starts creating a stir you can be pretty sure he has five aces (or better) and a guarantee signed by God that he will win the hand.

Adjusting your game to a rock is pretty easy, just:

  • Ignore him
  • Attack his blinds at every chance
  • If he calls your pre-flop raise, you can almost always take down the pot with a contibet.
  • Get out of the way if he starts rolling.

The rock can make a profit at the lower limits, even though his game is weak. He only needs one thing to succeed: an idiot. A rock's profit comes from players who choose the wrong moment to bluff, thinking: "He hasn't played a hand yet and now he's raising like a maniac; he must be bluffing!" Don't be the idiot paying him off.


A somewhat less extreme, but very prominent player type is the nit. They try to play good poker, but they just don't quite understand what tight play is.

The nits also love to fold. They've learned enough about poker to think they know what they are doing. They usually pick up a starting hands chart from somewhere and have a solid, aggressive pre-flop game.

They run into trouble after the flop when they usually realise they don't quite have things under control and end up regretting having gotten involved in the hand at all.

The same applies as to a rock. Playing aggressively against him isn't just good for your ego, it's good for your bankroll too. Nits are just looking for a reason to fold, so give it to them.

Nits rarely bluff, with contibets being the sole exception. Respect this and don't start calling because you think he might be bluffing. If a nit raises, contibets the flop and bets again on the turn, he is almost guaranteed to have the best hand.

Weak Tight Players

Moving along we come to the weak, tight players (rocks and nits are an extreme form of this player type).

The weak tight players' main problem is that they don't know how to react to aggression and are usually too scared to make the right decision.

You won't always notice right away, but after enough hands you will be able to spot who is folding too often when confronted with aggression.

Attack their blinds, make contibets and be (selectively) aggressive. Weak tight players aren't the poorest of players, but you can get your hands on their money fairly easily with the right dose of aggression.


TAG is the abbreviation for 'tight aggressive,' and presents you with trouble since you yourself are a TAG. The TAG style is the king of styles - if Bobby Fischer played poker, he would have been a TAG.  

There isn't much to say about TAGs. Once you've mastered the strategy, you just have to ask yourself where your game is weak. The same applies to such an opponent.

You can be aggressive, but choose your spots carefully. You can also attack TAGs' blinds, but be careful there too.

In general, when playing against a TAG the best way of thinking is:

  • He isn't your opponent.
  • Concentrate on the real fish.
  • If there aren't any fish at the table, try your luck in other waters.

You can get in a lot of good practice by playing against TAGs, especially the weaker TAGs that you will find in the lower limits. This is a good way to find weak spots in your own game and plug up all the leaks before you reach the higher limits, where you will find a lot more TAGs at the tables. All in all however, they are not your ideal opponent when it comes to making money.


Maniacs are the exact opposite of what we've discussed so far. Maniacs are the James Deans at the poker table: wild and untamable. The difference is that they don't tend to be as cool as the real James Dean. They are more like a bunch of Rob Schneiders.

Maniacs are loose and extremely aggressive. A maniac doesn't see poker as a game of strategy, but as one of having the biggest balls. And he's sure his are the biggest.

Maniacs are easy to induce into bluffing. They like bluffing, so let them. Slowplaying won't take you far on the lower limits, but you can make an exception for the maniacs.

When facing a maniac, you should:

  • Play tight
  • Induce bluffs
  • Refrain from bluffing yourself

Wait for a good hand and play the innocent little girl in the forest, who is not afraid of the big bad wolf. Don't let him drag you into a number of senseless confrontations. Your friends might call you Captain Amazing, but playing poker is about making a profit by making the right decision at the right moment, not by being the captain at the table. You can't counter a maniac by becoming one yourself.

You're just a nickname and avatar as far as your opponent is concerned. You can't prove anything to him, no matter how hard you might want to. Keep cool and follow your strategy to get as much money out of him as you can.

Like the other extreme player types, maniacs have a gift for putting other players on tilt. If you catch yourself wanting to not only take your opponent's money, but also leave a lasting impression, you might want to look for another table with normal opponents. You may find these tables even more profitable.


LAG is the abbreviation for 'loose aggressive.' LAGs play a lot of hands, and they play them aggressively. They are like maniacs with a dose of self-control.

The LAG style was profitable at the higher limits for a time, but it outlived its time and the pendulum has since swung towards the TAG style. As far as the lower limits are concerned, there are no LAGs. There are maniacs (and near maniacs), as well as a lot of players that imitate the LAG style without really knowing what they are doing (especially at Full Tilt).

A good LAG makes his profit after the flop. This is where he makes the right decision in marginal situations to get the most out of his hands. His loose starting hand selection is what puts him in these marginal situations on and after the flop. His opponents often underestimate him thinking he is a maniac, but he knows what he is doing.

There's not much more to say in this article, since there aren't any LAGs to be found in the lower limits. If you see an opponent who somewhat fits the profile, you can adjust your game by tightening your hand selection, inducing bluffs and avoiding confrontations in marginal situations.

Calling stations

Calling stations have been dying out over the past few years. Some of the older players remember the good old days when the tables were full of players who didn't know what the fold button was for. They aren't so common nowadays, but you will still run into them from time to time.

Calling stations only know one move: call. They are in for the long haul and rarely show aggression, even when they have (very) good hands.

They don't even need a reason to call. If they call your raise before the flop, they will call your bet on the flop, even if they are holding a nine and a six and looking at three, an eight and a jack on the flop.

Don't waste your time trying to understand the method to their madness. Here is what you should do:

  • Never bluff a calling station. Don't overdo it with your semi-bluffs, either.
  • If you have a hand, bet.
  • Don't try to induce a bluff, since calling stations will rarely do so.
  • Make thinner value bets. This means you can bet with a medium made hand, since a calling station is likely to find some reason to call with an even worse hand.
  • Play draws passively; calling stations will give you free cards.
  • Remember, if a calling station shows aggression, he probably has a monster.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Calling stations do bluff now and then when they don't complete their draws on the river. Still, in general you should play for value. When you catch a decent hand, try to get as much for it as possible.

It's pretty easy poker, as long as you don't go on tilt. That can happen when a calling station gets a good run. They are the ones who are going to suckout and come from behind on the only card you didn't want to see on the river. If that is enough to cost you your nerves, you might want to find another table.


Donkey is a general term for poor players that stand out for making moves that make no sense at all.

A typical donkey in the lower limits likes looking at the flop and doesn't know why you would want to raise before the flop...after all, you don't know what's going to come.

He loves to bluff thinking, "He's got nothing," and is willing to call with even less.

He likes to play his draws passively and then bluff when he doesn't complete on the river. He bets and raises for no reason. He bluffs when he should know he's beaten, and he calls with nothing to back it up. He's a great player as far as your bankroll is concerned.

Donkeys tend to be too loose and too passive. They love to slowplay when they do have a hand and are willing to bet it all when they get that itch to bluff. They also tend to suffer from heavy mood swings and can go from calling station to maniac mode, depending on whether they are winning or losing. Pay attention to these things. Most donkeys change their style several times through the course of a session.

Donkeys do have one talent: tilt. The problem is they don't just go on tilt themselves, they bring others down with them with their completely unexamined style of play. Donkeys like playing gutshots and sometimes they hit on the river. Not everyone can handle that kind of a suckout.

If you have a donkey at the table, just stick to your standard ABC poker. Keep him under observation. How does he play his monsters? When does he fold? Not all donkeys are the same, but they are all easy enough to spot and offer you plenty of opportunities to attack.

Once you've got him in your sights, you can start taking his money bit by bit (assuming he doesn't hit gutshots three times in a row on the river). If he does get that lucky, keep your cool and avoid going on tilt. If you feel your temper heating up, go find a new table.


You don't make money in poker because you get a better hand than your opponent once in a while. Everyone gets good hands. If you want to make money, you have to play your good hands better than your opponent plays his. This counts for your bad hands too.

There is no sense in pitting yourself against the best when you are building up your bankroll in the lower limits. Look for the calling stations, nits and weak tight opponents and, if you have steady nerves, the maniacs.

You'll run into enough good opponents in the mid stakes. The lower limits are full of donkeys; singling them out and taking their money is the secret to working your way up.

The most important thing when you first start playing poker is increasing your bankroll. This is done by carefully choosing your opponents. Now you know who to look for, so go get 'em.


Comments (21)

#1 xponentx, 08 Jul 09 22:12

Good article, been hoping for something like this for a while.

#2 Reptile16, 12 Jul 09 18:54

The print function doesn't work. Good article though.

#3 trucmuche04, 04 Aug 09 03:13

I like the article but it's very condescending towards weaker players. Don't we all-start as one of these types? I wouldn't say they're "idiots" or "stupid" but rather that they're inexperienced, uneducated towards poker or lack discipline.

I prefer to see poker as any other competitive sport where your opponents are simply either stronger or weaker than you are. Have some good sportsmanship!

#4 PornStar444, 08 Aug 09 13:02

I must say I agree with trucmuche04 to a certain extent, but at the same time I have to say I also find that sometimes you have to call it what it is.

I play on Piggs Peak Poker (based in Swaziland), and the way some of the players in the low limits play is just amazing.

Aside from the odd monster hand with people calling my all-ins, I make the most money out of these "inexperienced" players. Often times I find myself sitting there thinking: "What on earth were thinking, you moron?"

Great set of articles though. Thanks to the writers for all the effort.

#5 cimbonda, 19 Aug 09 01:00

the donkey has a nice picture!:)))

#6 orennz, 16 Sep 09 01:31

I have been accuseed many times of playing "donkey" poker because I raise on the blinds with reasonably weak hands (eg.6,9os) only to hit a made hand on the flop (trips,full house etc). I raised for a few reasons:
1. Everybody limped in.
2. Pot odds were good.
3. I was a big stack.
4. Wanted to see where the big hands were
5. Setting up for possible bluff.
6. Play was discounted
After hitting the monster and betting out large no one believes and keep calling and raising bets with AK and other huge preflop hands. When they see the result they are outraged that someone would raise preflop on such weak cards and the chat comments begin to get very nasty. Often that player will be out in the next few hands due to tilt enduced actions even though I watched them play a very good game before hand.
I guess what I am trying to say is that putting players into catogories like this because they make off text book moves is stupid. I make alot of moves like this when I feel the sitation is right and are amazed at the previously TAG players who just wont stop calling your bets based on the board cards and are outraged when beat that you would play such hands. I am just a newbee player myself having only played poker for just under a year but these so called TAG players are often turned into calling stations and easily beat purely because they ego trip into believing text book poker (eg. raising only on strong starting hands) is how everyone has to play otherwise the are a donkey. I have tried to develop my own style and not stick to the norms of what is "correct" play and have been reasonably successful in growing and maintaining my bankroll at PS. Remember that poker is not just about good starting hands luck is also a huge factor so when you TAGs suckout because you kept calling on A high you have to really think about who is the real donk.

#7 dic267, 19 Sep 09 12:18

I would have to agree with orennz tho i would argue that a true TAG player would know that if his/hers A K suited missed the flop he/she should get out the way unless the situation is right for a bluff. Players that play a TAG game and then become a calling station in the above situation i would say, although on their way to becoming a true TAG player, they are still developing their game and are not quite true TAG players yet. Also i would have to disagree with luck being a huge factor. In some cases this true but luck is only as big a factor as the players at the table allow it to become. Remember you are always in control of how you play your hands and can always do something different to prevent donkey plays from becoming lucky. I dont suggest you can prevent them from winning the hand, but you can control how much of your stack they win. Unless of course you hit a monster on the flop just for them to hit a bigger monster by the river. In that situation it is important to remember that it is profitable to pay off fish every now and then. For if the fish always lost they wouldn't come back.

#8 larsra, 15 Nov 09 12:42

Great read, thx :)

#9 tankfly, 04 Dec 09 16:35

useful article, cheers

#10 1z2x3y, 04 Feb 10 14:32

Posted by ORENNZ above - (poker is not just about good starting hands luck is also a huge factor)
This is a huge misconception due to the fact of in the long term play and making only profitable calls (whether on a draw or a made hand etc) luck has a exact recurring factor that is mathmatically correct & proven and is 7.4%.
So i suggest to all new players, go on your experiences and what is proven.
Because only you know your experiences and the other has been tested over time I.E. proven

#11 Jaime001254, 05 Feb 10 05:53

lol at LUCK as a factor...

@ orenzz:

well, your play is called "metagame", but technically raising 69o to a bunch of limpers is -EV, even if you hit a monster hand...
you will be behind a lot of times, you wont get paid often with your full house, and you will lose lots of money with 2 pair vs sets for example (limped/called PF).
if a "tag" player tilts after one hand, then its rather a rock or a weak tight player

#12 popadixon, 20 Feb 10 22:23

omg... i started learning poker here and in one week i felt like my poker game got better... until i found this article and found myself in one of the "lower" types :)...

probably the best article so far... keep it up

#13 farbwenz, 15 Mar 10 02:00

nice articel, but I had a hard time finding it. why is it under SSS and not under psychology? should be important for all types of game

#14 rammem, 04 Jun 10 10:21

Good article.

#15 inczezoltan, 04 Jun 10 21:39

It's the best article I've read! Congratulations for the author. It has some very funny ang intresting thoughts like: "he has five aces (or better) and a guarantee signed by God that he will win the hand." and "If there aren't any fish at the table, try your luck in other waters. " I really enjoyed reading it and I found out a big mistake that I was usually making.

#16 Caja71, 05 Jul 10 13:09


#17 poketnines, 25 Oct 10 10:11

´´´´´´´´nit(post)´´´´´´´´´´´´|´´´´´´Calling station/Donkey

#18 TomBoleh, 18 Feb 11 10:59

Great article; I've been called a donkey many times before. And it feels great to take a hand like that; But I have to agree that my bankroll is doing better since I changed from total donkey to somewhat TAG. Sure you can add some added inteligence to the game to outsmart the others but my experience so far is that if you just stick to the SSS system on the mirco limits it pays off. Just don't stick to it too strict because it makes you too easy to read.

#19 tchan28, 24 Apr 11 06:53

@Orennz : Keep in mind that this is a bronze level article so I don't think the author would discuss the advantages of position yet.

#20 CRI4BRA, 30 Apr 11 19:35

poker will evolve though

the most common bad player will not be the donk but the nit.

be happy with what you have now and dont call them donks because they will start looking for improvement , as few past donks arrived at this website and admit they were the donks

#21 soapy27, 09 Aug 11 04:30

brilliant article very useful.