There are many poker strategies and play-styles to choose from, and every player’s strategy will vary from the next. It’s entirely possible for all styles to win, but certain strategies produce more wins than others.
There are two factors that define a play style, and four main play styles made up of a combination of these factors.
Tight vs. Loose
This is less about how a player plays than the range of starting hands they play.
A tight player will be on a lookout for only the best hands, and fold if they don’t have it, while loose players will play a variety of hands for the challenge or rush of it.
Passive vs. Aggressive
This is about a player’s risk tolerance.
Passive players will avoid confrontation, playing cautiously rather than risking a loss. You can identify a passive player when they call and check more often than they raise or bet.
On the opposite side of the coin, aggressive players aren’t afraid to lose a few chips. They are likely to bet and raise more often than they call or check.
The Four Play Styles
The TAG – Tight Aggressive
This play-style has the highest win-rate of all the styles. These players will wait for only the perfect hands before entering the pot. When they do, they play with certainty and bet strongly. Most experienced players will avoid clashing with a TAG player for fear that they have a superior hand (which is usually the case) and often fold under the pressure. Some people refer to TAG players as sharks because it’s a highly effective play style in just about any scenario.
The LAG – Loose Aggressive
Although a very good LAG player can win more than a TAG player, the majority take major losses due to somewhat more careless play. These players use their chips to lay on the pressure, often bluffing. They are hard to read because they’ll play a wide variety of hands with little discernment.
An extreme LAG player is called a maniac. Maniacs place bets irrationally, making it likely you’ll land up making a profit against these players
The Calling Station – Loose Passive
These easy target players are most often beginners and are often found at low buy-in tables. They’ll play many hands, however poor, and call raises just to see a flop. They’ll stay in play despite marginal hits on their hands and are very easy to spot. Don’t even try bluffing a calling station, as they’ll forge right on, regardless of the risks. When you do have a good hand against them, milk it for all its value – they won’t see it coming.
The Rock or ‘Nit’ – Tight Passive
These are the tightest of players, so tight in fact that when they do play, most players will simply fold and get out of the way. Because of this, they hardly earn money when they do finally play. They act out of fear, often just calling even on hands that they like. They’re easy to bluff, and observant players will quickly identify their weakness and exploit it wherever possible.
With all of this in mind, you should have a good idea of what style you’d like to play, and what to look out for to turn the tables in your favour.