Thursday, June 24, 2010

Know your enemy

To play Texas Hold'em well means consistently making the correct decision: Check, Fold, Call or Raise. To know which option to choose you need to take in to account the following:
  • Your hand strength
  • Your opponents hand strength
Yes, poker is that simple. I assume you already know how to calculate your own hand strength, if not - read this first. To calculate your opponents hand strength you need to take in to account the following variables:
  • Position
  • Previous betting patterns
  • Your table image (advanced)
  • Your opponents table image
  • Your stack size
  • Your opponents stack size
This post will focus on identifying your opponents table image and how to exploit that image.

There are four main types of players that you are likely to encounter in the average  low to mid stakes single table Sit and Go tournament:

The Tight Aggressive

The rock. The mouse. The A-B-C player. These are by far the most common opponents you will come up against. They play based solely on their hand strength and are unable to adapt their style to the situation. This is the easiest player to spot at the table - they don't play many hands but when they do, they play them aggressively. It's unlikely to see this player coming in to a pot with out raising or re-raising first. They often play from position and almost always have the hand that they are representing.

While this player might seem daunting, the truth is that they aren't difficult to play against at all. The fact that they play such a straight forward game makes them the easiest player to read because their hand range is always so narrow and they never bluff. Their tight play also makes them the perfect target for blind stealing. I've won many tournaments off the back of repeatedly stealing blinds from tight players, the one time they play back at you is easy to let go because you know they are holding the goods. In the most extreme cases I've seen a tight player fold himself right out of the game by folding until all he has left is enough to cover the big blind.

While this is a solid style of play and an effective method of cleaning up the donkeys early on in a tournament, a successful player needs to be able to change between styles as the situation requires.

The Tight Passive

This player is similar to the tight aggressive but has looser starting hand requirements and lesser aggression. You will find them often calling raises from Tight Aggressive players out of position with hands like QHeartsJSpades. Their post flop game isn't any better; they will check/fold with nothing, check/call with a draw or a pair and check/raise with a straight or two pair. Their weaknesses are essentially the same as the Tight aggressive except this player will lose chips to lose calls and is rarely ever around long enough to bother worrying about.

The Loose Passive

The loose passive players are the real donkeys at the table - the genuine fish who seem like they have no idea of how to play poker. They'll play more pots then they don't and can be hard to read due to their wide hand range. Often the only way to win a pot against such a player is to actually have the best hand, there's no bluffing these guys as their calling standards are so low that more often than not you'll be looked up by mid-pair and made to look foolish.

A Tight Aggressive style is extremely effective against Loose Passive players.

The Loose Aggressive

The maniac. By far the most dangerous player to be in a pot against. What makes these players dangerous is that their hand ranges are as wide as the Loose Passive players, making them hard to read, and they combine this with aggression making the pots they play large - one wrong move and your stack can take a large dent.

There is a fine line between genius and madness and it can often be hard (and costly) to tell which side of it the players in this category fall in to. More often than not they tend to self destruct at some stage over the course of a Sit and Go when they try one too many crazy bluffs, but on the odd occasion they can end up gathering a large stack and running the table - this style is extremely effective against the tighter styles - especially when the number of players gets low and the blinds get high.

The general composition of a 9 handed $20 + $2 SnG is on average this:

The Tight Aggressive - 6
The Tight Passive - 1
The Loose Passive - 1
The Loose Aggressive - 1

Games Played - 11
ROI - 33.88%
Winnings -
$82 USD

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