‘If you haven’t picked out the worst player on the table within 5 minutes, it’s you’
Poker, of course, is a game of patience and psychology. Over the years my biggest weaknesses at the table have been twofold: playing too impatiently and when i’m up, thinking i’m untouchable. The first one was easy to fix…just be patient. I credit Ruth with bringing patience into my game. She can play for 14 hours straight without too much problem, whereas I had always played for like 4 hours, and hence too fast. Of late tho I’ve attempted to play more her style, which is to wait before getting too aggressive, and then be aggressive with a reason. It’s been working out.
I group poker players into 5 groups at the table 4 of which are easy to beat over the long term. Often you can tell what type of player they are just by their look; the dress, race, age group. This is obviously unsafe generalization, and I don’t hold 100% store to the looks, I wait until they play. These groups are of varying degrees of difficulty to play against, and with a bit of patience coupled with aggression all can be dominated. Although the one group makes it a challenge.
Group 1 are the gamblers. Typically they are middle aged asian men, but not all middle aged asian men sit here and not all the gamblers are that demographic. The gamblers will play any two suited cards, and most connected cards. They are dangerous, because they love the rush and will often call down a dominated hand and occassionally suck out. I generally won’t go up against one unless it’s a freeroll for me if I lose, or unless i’m quite shortstacked.. If we’re even stacked or he has me covered but it’s alot of chips, I’ll bet but I won’t force this guy to make a decision. Because if I force him to make a decision he’s liable to make the wrong one and one time out of 3 it will pay off for him. IF I have the chip strength I will make him pay big for his draw, but I won’t risk all my chips to do so. According to the books, this is probably the wrong way to play; always make a draw-er pay for his draw. But, the thing that the books never take into consideration is that we readers of these books are not playing 20 thousand dollar buy in games against other mostly solid players, we’re playing against mostly donkeys and luck is a much bigger factor at 1-2 no limit than it is at 300 600 no limit. Anyways, the gamblers. They have huge swings at the table, going from several hundred dollars up to several hundred dollars down in no time at all. These guys by nature are very dangerous to your variance, but they will pay you off alot if you know the odds of your made hand vs. their draw, and if you know that you’re up against one. Just tread cautiously, and don’t give them a free card, but also don’t give them all of your chips. Never try to bluff this guy; he will call with any pair or any draw.
Second is what I call the “Fishman wannabe”. Generally these are young men, often dressed the part with the ‘full tilt’ hat and the headphones. These guys are the easiest at the table, because they are obvious and readable. I call them Fishman wannabes because they all think that Scott Fishman style of over-aggressive play is smart. They don’t seem to realize that 1: in real life, Fishman is busted right now, and 2: he’s probably WAY smarter than they are. It’s easy to be super aggressive at the table and raise everything, but the problem is that anyone with an eyeball and a brain is just going to sit back and take your chips by letting you bet into their good hands. Most of the fishman wannabes get married to a hand, or don’t know when to stop. If I’m up against one I’ll let them bet for me and build my pot. IT works most of the time. Occasionally they’ll suck out, and if a draw shows up on the board and u have a set you need to force the action by raising or check raising them hard, but they aren’t as chase-y as the gamblers. Sit back, be patient, and use this guy to double you up or take him out when your hand hits. The fishman wannabe is fairly easy to bluff out if a scare card comes up, but make sure your read is right first. Also being young and cocky, don’t do it too much or they’ll call u just out of spite.
Next is the rock. Generally older caucasian men or ladies, but again not always. This guy never makes much money unless u do something stupid like bet your nut flush without noticing a pair on board, only to give him a ton of money for his full house (a mistake I’ve actually made!!). He only bets the nuts and only plays the second nuts. This guy is so easy to read, but he never seems to lose money, thanks to the gamblers and the fishman wannabe’s. If you want to bluff this person, pick your spot very very carefully.
Then we have the tourists. These guys are great, for profit. They maybe watched some poker on TV or maybe have played on the net for play money, but have no clue. Even better when they’re drunk! It’s not that they’re especially bad at poker, but they are extremely passive. This makes them easy to push around; they’re calling stations when they’re drawing or have a pair, and easily pushed out when they have nothing. The biggest risk with these guys is that they tend to attract more callers when they’re in a hand, so you have to watch for everyone else. Occasionally they get a hand too, so one can never be too sure of being ahead.
These first four tend to make up at least 5 seats on a 1-2 no limit table, sometimes more, sometimes a bit less, but most of the table. Most of the time these players will be who I make the most money off of. They are also the the players who will win huge pots off of me by sucking out; if I lost my whole stack it’s for one of two reasons: I made a dumb mistake (common; it happens more than I’d like to admit…) or I ran into one of these and they sucked out with a miracle river or something (more common).
For me there’s also one more commonly seen type of player at the hold em table. The good player. The good player is outnumbered by the other 4 types most of the time, but is still a concern. The good player will be aggressive when he needs to, passive when he needs to, and won’t let you get away with mistakes or loose plays. I find that good players make me play better, as I pay much more attention to them and am much more careful around them. Even though they often out-skill me, I lose much less to them than I do to the donks because I’m so careful around them. The good player can be taken off of a hand much easier than a bad player can as well, so bluffing these guys can work if you’re willing to push in a lot of chips for it. Occasionally a good player will take a bunch of my chips cuz I misread them or something, but generally I’m so careful around them I don’t lose much at all. Perhaps I should use that carefulness on the donks too, and maybe I could reduce my swings by a long ways…hmmm…
There are certainly other types of players, but these are the 5 i notice the most often, and within a few hands I try and figure out who at my table is which one of these. Sometimes I have to alter my opinions as a session goes on (people get drunker and stupider, or they lose some chips and get smarter, or perhaps even play a shifting style), there’s nothing wrong with doing so. At the end of it all knowing how a person plays and what kind of player they are makes a huge difference in how much you can win from or lose to an individual in any given hand. When concentration slips and I stop paying attention, that’s invariably when I lose a ton of chips to any one player.