Handling Poker Player Types
Online poker is as much about your opponents as it is about the cards on the table, the psychology, and the odds. Knowing who you can bluff, who you can bluff, and who you should avoid is a crucial skill you will need to master if you're going to dominate the Internet game.
Of course, whenever it comes to people, there isn't a "one-size-fits-all" strategy. But with a few basics concepts, the process of handling player types at the poker table becomes a lot easier.
So, with this in mind, here are three common types of poker player you'll face online:
Poker Player Types
To illustrate each player type and their general tendencies, we've assumed they will be sitting in the big blind with a relatively healthy chip stack.
After facing a raise from a player on the button, we've outlined how each poker player type will probably react to the situation. Moreover, because the dynamics of a hand post-flop will always be different, it's always best to consider how you would tackle each player type pre-flop and then work from this base as a hand develops.
These are the players you most want on your left because they can't wait to fold. The rock is acutely aware that they will be playing a hand out of position and, therefore, will only play strong starting hands such as big pairs and aces.
Using PokerStove (a free downloadable poker calculator) we can say that if we think our opponent is only likely to play pocket pairs, tens and above, as well as A-Q and A-K (both suited and unsuited) then they are playing roughly the top 5 percent of hands out of position.
This is obviously a very small percentage of hands and would suggest the following action: raise.
What to Do
Any time you come up against a rock, whether they're in position or out of it, the best course of action is to bet. More often than not they will fold and give you the pot (which is always nice). The time a rock does decide to play back at you is the time you should fold as it's highly likely they have a strong hand.
The grinder is the type of player who is a half way house between the tight rock and the loose maniac. The majority of the time the grinder is sensible and intelligent enough to not play too many hands out of position. However, they still like to mix up their game by playing a wider range than normal.
This player is likely to play all pairs, looking for set value, and any two broadway cards. Again, if we use PokerStove we can see that with a hand range of 22+, JT+, QT+, KT+ and AT+ this player will be playing roughly 18 percent of all the possible hands which can be dealt in Hold'em.
What To Do
If you're facing a grinder in position then mixing up your raises and your folds is a good idea.
Grinders might not be the best players in the world but they are good enough to realise when someone is raising too much. Because of this you can't continually make bets as you would against the rock. As a very loose rule, consider a 70/30 raise-to-fold ratio against a grinder pre-flop.
This type of player will play virtually any two cards in any position. The range of hands that this player will play is likely to be very wide and this makes defining their holding difficult.
However, there is one positive in this situation: post-flop. Because the maniac is likely to play almost anything pre-flop, it means they are much less likely to make a strong enough hand on the flop to call a continuation bet with.
What To Do
For example, if we assume that this player loves pretty colours and plays any two suited cards, any aces and any pairs then they will playing roughly 46 percent of hands. However, the equity that's lost pre-flop by trying to force a fold from this player can be clawed back post-flop by you continuing to bet.
Identifying Poker Player Types
In order to help identify and categorise the players to your left, it's crucial to use all the information at your disposal. This means paying attention to how often they call or re-raise pre-flop, how aggressive they are with their weak/strong hands, and what hands they are taking all the way to a showdown.
In addition to good old-fashioned observation skills, it's also useful to use a program such as Pokertracker or Holdem Manager if you're serious enough.
Both of these bits of kit have integrated HUDs (Heads Up Displays) which tell you important statistics such as how often they: fold to steal in the small blind and big blind, fold to c-bet, 3-bet.
Using these % stats in conjunction with your own reads will help you quickly identify if a player is loose or tight, as well as how aggressive they are. From there you can begin determining the average range of hands they like to play from the blinds and then use this information to help characterise them as a Rock, a Grinder or a Maniac.
Identifying which player types are on your left is crucial; however, it's also important to understand your own image. If you're raising a lot then players are going to adjust and play differently against you. Therefore, you should constantly be looking into the future and setting up your opponents for future moves based on their tendencies and your own.
Piecing it all Together
There is no exact science in online poker, but for the average player playing casually, we have highlighted the most common types of opponent you'll come up against online.
Although the way you handle them will change throughout a session, the general strategies outlined on this page should give you a good base to work from.
Using this knowledge, plus you own observation skills, should serve you well in the virtual arena and allow you to handle virtually any online poker player.