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Know Your Opponent! Basic Poker Playing Styles

Every poker player has their own distinct psychology, strategy and decision making style, but essentially you will encounter four main categories of poker player types. Knowing the style your opponents play is a key element of playing great poker. This article discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the four main styles so that you can 1) identify and play against them effectively, and 2) avoid being labeled consistently as any one type. You should seek to adjust your playing style to fit the appropriate opponents and context.

A basic framework for understanding the four main styles consists of two attributes. First, how many hands does the player play – is the player is tight (plays very few hands) or loose (plays a lot of hands)? Second, how aggressive is the player? If the player is aggressive, he or she will raise and bluff more frequently, while a passive player tends to call other players’ bets.


The Tight-Passive style constitutes a conservative approach, playing few, high-quality hands and avoiding all-in moves unless confident the hand has a high chance of winning a showdown.

The biggest weakness of a Tight-Passive player is that they are easily read by their opponents, as they bluff infrequently and tend to call or make small bets with a decent hand or a lot of outs. If they feel that they are behind, these players tend to fold.
For beginners, this is the recommended style since decision-making is much less complicated. Furthermore, when there are many loose players at a table or you feel you are about to go on tilt, this can be a preferred style to adopt. Also, this style has the potential to win money playing online against loose player that fail to observe the conservative nature of this play.


Loose-Passive players typically will simply call the bets of the other players, without regard for pot odds or hand-strength. Beginners typically make the error of assuming that any two cards have the potential to win and therefore play them.

Loose-Passive players generally have to depend on luck. Hence, this is a particularly weak style of play.


A more aggressive style of play would include playing more hands and making more bets and raises. Hence, a Tight-Aggressive player, while still judiciously choosing his or her spots, would typically open with more hands than a Tight-Passive player – including pairs, face cards, one ace, and suited connectors – and have less concern for table position.
Aggressive play allows you to steal more pots and it makes it much harder to put a player on a hand or to tell if the flop helped or not. An aggressive player is much more likely to get paid off on his or her monster hands, as opponents are more likely to put you on a bluff.

However, playing aggressively is more likely to get you into sticky situations and potential traps. You will more likely experience big swings in your stack size. Hence, aggressive play requires a well-developed feel for the table and a good read of opponents.


Loose-Aggressive players play many hands and constantly raise pre and post-flop. These players tend to go broke quickly and attract sharks, making this a difficult style to employ for long periods unless you are a world-class player with an excellent read on your opponents.

The main advantage of such a style is that it gives you a chance to win a lot of pots. At a table of weak players, simply getting in the pot can be advantageous. Beware, though, since this style courts danger by putting yourself to tough decisions while typically holding weak cards.

In conclusion, it is critical to read the style your opponents are playing and adjust your own playing style accordingly. For example, if you are in a pot with a Tight-Passive player, a bet or raise will indicate to you where you stand, since that player will typically fold with a weak hand and call with a strong one. If you are in a pot with a super aggressive player, you may prefer to let them lead the betting if you hold a strong hand. Great players adopt a combination of styles, navigating accordingly to the appropriate situation.

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