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Poker Essentials
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Updated: July 8, 2023
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Learn Poker Playing Styles

Poker Playing Styles is one of the cool things about poker, we all play the poker game slightly differently. You could say we each have our signature style.

Most of your profit and poker comes from identifying what style your opponent is playing, while at the same time preventing him from identifying the style that you play.

When you’re seated at a 9-max table though it’s a huge task to figure out the style of eight other opponents.

You need a tool – something which simplifies that process to generalize this endless diversity of style into something more manageable.

So let’s do that now, let’s talk about every style across two dimensions and the result will be 4 general styles, and 4 categories we can bucket all players into.

Let us break this into two parts

  • The two dimensions are how many hands you play in Poker?
  • How likely you are to bet when you play a hand in Poker?

So, the first dimension how many hands do you play in Poker?

If you play very few hands we call that TIGHT and the opposite of TIGHT is LOOSE playing a lot of hands.

Learn Poker Playing Styles - LAG, TAG, Calling Station, Rock
Learn Poker Playing Styles – LAG, TAG, Calling Station, Rock

Now the tightest you could be in Texas Hold’em Poker is just playing Pocket Aces one hand and the loosest you can be is playing all 169 starting hands.

What are these 169 starting hands in Poker?

There are 169 non-equivalent starting hands in Texas Holdem poker, which is the total sum of 13 pocket pairs, 13 Ă— 12 / 2 = 78 suited hands, and 78 unsuited hands (13 + 78 + 78 = 169).

Let’s say you’re in a hand how likely are you to bet? the vertical axis now!

If you’re very likely to bet versus check at Poker we call that AGGRESSIVE, so you’re an aggressive player.

The opposite of aggressive is PASSIVE. A passive player at the extreme won’t ever bet if even if he has a hand he’ll just check and call and of course, if he doesn’t have a hand he’s not bluffing, a passive player just checks and folds when they don’t have it.

Hopefully, you notice now we have four boxes, and one of them you might even have heard before TIGHT AGGRESSIVE at the top right abbreviated TAG

And maybe you even heard of its cousin to the left LOOSE AGGRESSIVE abbreviated LAG.

Now the box is at the bottom, they don’t have names because they’re losing style.

The first loose pass if we’re going to outline in red, stay away from a loose-passive style you’re gonna lose money and you’re gonna lose it fast because you’re playing a lot of hands and you’re not winning the pots so you’re not preventing opponents from outdrawing you when you are ahead, even if an opponent doesn’t outdraw you because of your passiveness the pots small by the river.

A loose-passive player will call a new player you might remember being a new player.

You probably thought poker was an action game and you wanted to see a lot of flops if you got any piece of it even a bottom pair with a bad kicker you wanted to see a showdown you were curious and of course, you didn’t have the patience to fold marginal hands pre-flop.

If you’re still a loose passive player, try to transition to a tight passive player, still a losing style it’s slightly better though than loose-passive so we’ll outline it in orange.

A tight passive player is really what we would call a thoughtful fish.

So thoughtful there is an improvement here you’re tight you have the patience and the knowledge now to fold most hands preflop maybe you’re only playing pocket tens plus an ace jack-off suit plus but your big downfall is that your passive! you’re too scared to bet when you have a hand for fear that you’ll push weaker hands out and you’re too willing to call when you have middle or bottom pair. 

If you’re a thoughtful fish we want to get you up into the Tag region.

A tagged player is what we would call a GOOD PLAYER most of the break-even and modest winning players in the game of poker are tags, they’re solid good players.

A tag is marked by playing up to about 20% of poker hands but no more than 20%.

As you get a good handle on the tag, you should start experimenting with the lag style the loose aggressive style.

We outlined it in yellow because we want you to use caution! when you start playing a lag style it’s probably not a destination, it’s a very volatile style you’re gonna win big pots and lose big pots you’re playing a lot of hands up to about 30%.

The main strength of the lag style is your table image is so loose and aggressive that when you do hit the nuts, a straight, a flush, or a strong two pair you’re probably gonna get paid off.

So, let’s read about four different possible combinations of play in detail. Here are the 4 basic types of playing styles in poker, which can be displayed in a 2×2 matrix-

  • Tight-Passive: The Rock
  • Tight-Aggressive: The TAG
  • Loose-Passive: The Calling Station
  • Loose-Aggressive: The LAG

Loose Passive (Calling Station)

Loose Aggressive (LAG)

Tight Passive (Rock)

Tight Aggressive (TAG)

1. Loose-Passive: The Calling Station

  • Play passively (makes few bets, but more calls)
  • Plays a lot of hands (greater than 25-40%)
  • Minimal share of winning players

Strategy: Playing against a Calling Station (Loose-Passive Players)-

  • Bet with good hands only.
  • Do not try to bluff a Calling Station as they will end up calling/raising you anyway
  • Make higher than usual pre-flop raises from a late position if they are sitting in the blinds
  • Don’t play medium-strength hands, fold and live to win another day

Even though not impossible, it is highly impractical to play in a loose-passive style and make a profit in online poker. The result is almost always the same – the calling station gets bust.

2. Tight-Passive: The Rock

  • Play passively (makes few bets, but more calls)
  • Plays a few hands (less than 15-20%)
  • Minimal share of winning players

Strategy: Playing against a Rock (Tight-Passive Players)-

  • Go for the player’s blinds with a 3BB raise from a late position
  • Play the very best starting hands, don’t raise with weak hole cards
  • Since such players rarely bet, check instead of calling on the flop to see the next board card without staking more money.

A tight-passive player can significantly reduce his/her losses as they refrain from calling often. But, by playing this way, a player cannot get maximum profits in his/her good hands.

3. Loose-Aggressive: The LAG

  • Plays aggressively (makes many bets, but few calls)
  • Plays a lot of hands (greater than 25-40%)
  • The average share of winning players – high winnings, high losses

Strategy: Playing against a LAG (Loose-Aggressive Players)-

  • Play more hands than usual against a LAG
  • Raise with strong hands on the flop against a LAG, if he/she bets before the flop
  • Wait for the LAG to raise his bets when he/she is sitting in a later position than you

The LAG style of play is most used by professionals while playing poker tournaments. It is important to note that LAG is a high-risk strategy play and should not be played by just about anyone.

4. Tight-Aggressive: The TAG

  • Plays aggressively (makes many bets, but few calls)
  • Plays a few hands (less than 15-20%)
  • The high share of winning players

Strategy: Playing against a TAG (tight-aggressive Players)-

  • You can steal a TAG player’s blinds if you are sitting in a late position
  • On pre-flop raises, play only with the very best of hands
  • Re-raise only with the strongest cards (AA, KK, QQ, etc.)

Since TAG players bet with only the best hands, they have the highest chance to win the pot when they do play a hand. Most poker pundits agree that the tight-aggressive strategy (TAG) in poker is the most profitable one. There are also two other types of poker players who have the following playing styles-

The Nit:

almost always fold the very few (<15%) starting hands he/she plays. Many Rocks and some TAGs are Nits. Nits only call or bet if they have a very strong hand

The Maniac:

plays very loosely and very aggressive player. Don’t go on tilt if the maniac wins with weak cards. But, in the end, the maniac will always go bust.

It’s only by knowing how to master the basics do you become a poker player who is taken very seriously by his/her opponents.

So these are the four poker playing styles where should you play.

Well, we recommend TAG as you’re learning, and once you’re a break-even or slight winning player we want you to your destination to be a mix of all four styles heavily weighted though towards the aggressive style.

Almost every pro in the world does this they’re a mix of all the styles and they adjust they shift their game based on the tendency of the players at their table and you can imagine sometimes it’s okay to become passive play one of the bottom two style and give your opponent if he’s very aggressive some room to hang himself let him continue betting even all three streets in some cases when you’re almost certain you have the better hand.

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