So last week we discussed the different thought levels of players, which got me to thinking about the different playing styles of players. If you are observant at the tables, you should be able to categorize players according to their different playing styles. This will help you determine how you should respond when it is your action. Now you will read in plenty of books about the aggressive, passive, tight or loose player, so I thought I’d give you a few more categories that you can put people in. Just remember, these are JP’s categories, and should never be used outside of the confines of this article. It would just be wrong to use many of these out loud at a poker table.
Let’s start with the easiest one to figure out, and that would be:
The Clueless Player.
The title of this player is not a slam on them, or on their intellect. Instead, it is just a reflection of their awareness of the poker game going on around them. Most Level 0 (read last week’s article if you don’t know what that is) players can be categorized as Clueless. They see only what they hold in their hand, and occasionally how it fits into the board as it develops, and they then play that hand.
DANGER: Although they rarely win any money themselves, a clueless player can be a dangerous player, because they tend to knock out good players who never see their bad play coming. Obviously, since a clueless player can’t be bluffed (since they have no clue they are being bluffed), they simply call bets. Many an aggressive player has been sent home early by a clueless player simply because the clueless player didn’t know he should fold.
Spends his game criticizing the play of others, and telling them everything they did wrong in the game. The seminar usually starts after the other player beats The Professor in a hand. The Professor will then go into a litany of reasons why the other player shouldn’t have even been in the hand in the first place. Most Professors do have a strong academic understanding of the game; but they have very little practical application ability. Perhaps they even write weekly blogs about the game.
DANGER: The Professor can be dangerous, because he does indeed know the odds of hitting his draw, along with the pot odds he is receiving. He can play, and he can win, but the experience of his teachings during a game doesn’t make him very fun to be around a lot of the time. For example: Clueless people hate playing with Professors.
Many people believe that any poker player is a gambler, and this is probably true. However, to be categorized as The Gambler, a player needs to step up the risk and throw his chips in the pot even when he knows he is beat. Only then can he qualify for this title.
Many people try to categorize Gamblers as Clueless, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Gambler knows what he is doing and where he stands, and puts the chips in there anyway.
DANGER: The Gambler is an extremely dangerous player, because he will take a chance with even the slightest of drawing odds. I have discussed before that a 90% chance to win equals a 10% chance to lose. If you ever lose a pot on the river, where you are all in with a 90% chance of winning, I can guarantee you that you lost it to The Gambler.
The Caller is different from The Gambler or The Clueless Player, because he simply doesn’t care. Unlike The Clueless Player, The Caller is well aware of what is happening. He is still going to make the call, usually because he tends to believe he is being bluffed. After all, poker is a game of bluffing, isn’t it?
The Caller also tends to call down a hand in the hopes of sucking out with a small pair or suited connectors on the turn or river. The chance to hand someone a bad beat is often more important to The Caller than actually playing a good hand and winning.
DANGER: The Caller can be dangerous simply because he isn’t out to win the tournament. His goal is to win each and every hand. So if you see a draw possibility developing on the board, be very concerned if The Caller is still in the hand.
This person is easy to identify. If his favorite player on TV usually wears sunglasses and a hockey jersey, you can be assured that this person will too. You can also identify The TV Pro by the things he says. Most every comment out of his mouth during a game is a quote of something his favorite player has said during a televised game.
DANGER: The TV Pro can be dangerous because….I’m just kidding. He isn’t. If he’s learning the game by watching someone play on TV, he is missing 95% of the action, and therefore isn’t learning. Never fear The TV Pro.
Want to identify The Actor at the table? Here is a handy-dandy checklist for you to use whenever you sit at a new table. If a player at the table fits most of the list, you can guarantee he is The Actor.
Hat, usually with a poker related patch? Check.
Poker endorsement shirt? Check.
iPod connected to both ears? Check.
Unusual card marker that everyone will notice and comment on? Check.
Ability to shuffle chips with either hand, or some other chip trick that is constantly being shown off? Check.
DANGER: The only thing most Actors lack is the ability to win. But man, do they ever look the part.
And finally, I bring you to the final category of player for you to be aware of. Let’s call this player:
You will almost never identify The Shark when you first sit down. Sure, some of the players may have large stacks of chips, but that doesn’t mean much to begin with. They might be The Gambler, and they just sucked out a monster win. They might have just sat down, and like any good Actor, immediately bought in for a massive amount of chips so as to impress the other players.
Instead of trying to identify The Shark in the beginning, let The Shark identify himself to you during the game.
– A Shark doesn’t play very many hands.
– A Shark rarely loses a hand that goes to showdown.
– A Shark’s chip stack doesn’t double and triple up. Instead, it shows a slow and steady growth as the game progresses.
– A Shark doesn’t tilt….often. Everybody tilts as some point or another. If a Shark loses to a suck out, he simply taps the table and says “nice hand”. If he wins a big pot, he simply shrugs his shoulders and stacks his chips.
– A Shark rarely plays any hands from early position. The old saying goes “Beware the minraise under the gun”. I guarantee you that a Shark inspired this old saying.
– Finally, The Shark is usually cashing out with a profit at the end of a session, even though you hardly noticed him at the table during the game.
So those are some of my categories I use to identify who I am playing with. When I go to Las Vegas, I normally have everyone else at the table in one of these categories within the first hour. Don’t make the mistake of keeping them there though. A good Shark has no problem dressing the part of The Actor, and playing his first few hands like The Gambler. That’s what makes him so good. In the end, the best way to figure out how to play against somebody is to ignore his clothing, words, and demeanor, and concentrate on his play. In the end, that is the only important thing.
Now, with all that being said, what do I do with the information I’ve gathered in the past two articles? If I’ve played with you more than once, I’ve written it down. I keep a notebook at home with the playing characteristics of all the players I routinely play against. Most of the games I play in around town publish the player list of those that have confirmed well before the event takes place. This allows me to look up my notes on each player prior to the game. I then update that list during the game. So if you’re playing against me one night, and after you win a big hand I am writing something down on a piece of paper or napkin, you can be assured that you just did something that needs to be updated in my book. Many of my regular playing friends ask to see the book, but they never will. That is my study material for games. Giving away the information would be the same as giving them the PIN to my ATM card.
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