#4 Adjusting to Certain Player Types
Poker is not an easy game. There are so many variables that a lot of the time it could be classified as a glorified guessing game. We are presented with many different opponents, all who have different ideas on optimal plays. To become a better poker player we must begin to understand these player types and how to properly adjust.
Let’s first classify 5 key player types:
These are your five main poker players. Generally the two best will be the TAGG and the LAGG with the nit a close 3rd. Most of your money will come from the fish and the maniac as they play too many hands and get a lot of money in the pot with mediocre holdings.
To begin to adjust to each player type we’ll need to assess their capabilities.
This player plays a very strong range of hands before the flop, generally leaving them with a strong holding postflop. The nit differs from the TAGG in its aggressiveness. The nit tends to be much more passive, missing easy value-bets and never bluffing.
This player also plays a very strong range before the flop but does so much more aggressively. He/she can bluff in good spots to do so and will value-bet their hands much more properly than the nit. The TAGG is not as good of a hand-reader as the LAGG which does not allow them to play weaker holdings profitably.
This player plays a strong to wide range PF and plays it very aggressively. This player can bluff at will and will also value-bet with mediocre hands properly. A good LAGG tends to be a very good hand-reader. There are both good and bad LAGGs, and playing against a good LAGG can be difficult.
This player plays a much wider range than the LAGG all the while maintaining high levels of aggression. This player bluffs way too much for the amount of hands they are dealt and will generally lose a lot of chips if given the chance.
This player plays way too many hands, but usually somewhat passively. They take their mediocre hands too far in big pots. This player is the biggest loser because not only do they stack-off light they also never value-bet their hands profitably. It becomes extremely easy to play someone who calls a lot and only bets with very good hands.
Now that we understand the five player types it is time to talk about adjustments. There are many adjustments we can make at a poker table. Some are as easy as moving seats, other include playing more/less hands PF, bluffing more/less postflop, and value-betting more/less as well.
Adjusting to the Nit
The nit is the player who it is the easiest to adjust to; however, these adjustments will show the least profit out of the five player types. Against a player playing a tight range passively we would love to play on their right. We can use our aggressive to steal their blinds a lot PF and also to take away position. If we are in the seat to the right of the nit we can still open a very wide range because we do not have to worry about the nit playing back at us at all. This player will surrender his/her blinds with out a fight and will generally let us know when they have a strong hand.
Against nits you should be more inclined to give their bets/raises credit. They play a very strong holding PF and usually bet/raise only with the best hand. Because of this calls that generally would be correct against LAGGs or fish now become incorrect.
You can also bluff the nit with much more regularity than a fish or maniac. This player tends to give others the benefit of the doubt when being bet into. Representing scare cards works easily against the nit as they tend to believe everyone is drawing against them. Mixing in bluffs can also help you get more value off of your bigger hands as nits tend to be quite smug with their money.
Adjusting to the TAGG
The TAGG is a player who is difficult to adjust to. He/she generally plays a tight range and plays it aggressively, making this one of the most popular styles of a winning poker player. This player does tend to play too straightforward and because of this there are adjustments that can be made.
TAGGs tend to play in a comfort zone; they’ve read poker books or articles and possibly watched many instructional videos or received coaching. They tend to take very ABC lines and get annoyed with players who do otherwise. Therefore, the best way to adjust against a TAGG is to play a little “goofy”. These players tend to not take pressure as well as a LAGG and do not have a strong enough range like the nit does. Therefore putting pressure on these players to make tougher decisions will generally lead to more profitable spots.
The reason the TAGG does not play a looser style PF is because they are not great at reading hands and making difficult decisions postflop. Therefore, the more difficult spots you can put them in the more apt they will be to make poor decisions. There are many ways to do this.
1. 3-betting them a lot PF in position. These players tend to call 3bets too much OOP, leaving them in difficult spots postflop. They either do this or fold too much, allowing you to pick up a large amount of small pots before the flop.
2. Flat-calling their raises PF with strong hands and putting pressure on them postflop. Once again, the more difficult spots you can place them in postflop, the more profitable you will become against this opponent.
3. Sitting on their left. It is generally in correct to give position to a TAGG unless you can gain position on a LAGG, maniac, or fish. These players are aggressive which can make life difficult if you sit on their right.
4. Playing weird. Mix up your bet-sizes, 3bet them smaller IP, minraise flops, and overbet shove in spots are all ways to throw a normal TAGG off of their game. One of the best ways to adjust to a TAGG is to think about what you hate happening to yourself at the table and then employing those tactics on your opponents.
Adjusting to the LAGG
The toughest player to adjust to is the LAGG. This is typically because a good LAGG will try and adjust to you while the other four player types typically will not. There are a few ways to beat the LAGG:
1. Position, position, position. Being OOP against his player is a death-warrant, they are far too aggressive and too good of hand-readers to play profitably against. In order to decrease their edge you must have position on them. This will force them to tighten their range PF making is marginally easier to play against them postflop
2. Inducing bluffs from these players can be a profitable move. These opponents pounce on weakness, so showing some passivity with medium-strength hands can become profitable. Instead of betting these hands checking behind flops and turns to snap-off bluffs can do two things. For one it may maximize value on your hands, but it also helps to slow the LAGG down, which once again tightens his range in spots. If he fails to adjust, just keep owning him by playing pots in position and dictating the size of the pot.
3. Play chicken. This player type is one that is very aggressive but also plays a range a bit too wide to stand a lot of aggression. Learn to 4bet bluff (either small 4bets or shove), 3bet light in position, take away pots postflop, and bluff a player who has too wide of a betting range. This adjustment will get you into very marginal spots, so if you are not a fan of variance see the next bullet point.
4. Tighten up. Against someone playing aggressively and with a wide range it would behoove you to tighten up significantly and use the edge you gain from starting-hand values to beat them. Be careful though, against an aware LAGG who notices you tightening up you will have to re-adjust and begin playing looser when he starts giving you too much credit.
Adjusting to the Maniac
My favorite player type to own is the maniac. This player has a huge range PF and plays it way too aggressively. These players can go on big rushes and accumulate large amounts of chips but generally it always ends in the same results, bustoville. Let’s look at ways to adjust for the maniac:
1. Patience, patience, patience. Against this player we are looking for a big hand to take against their wide range. We do not need to battle with this player, when we have a good hand they will be more than willing to donate chips to us. Tighten up a bit PF especially if you are OOP against this player and use your hand-equity advantage to own them
2. Trap them. This player loves to bet/raise/bluff so let them!! Do not blow them out of pots, allow them to continue to build them and you will be able to get a lot of money in the middle with the best hand regularly. Try to analyze their bet-sizing, some maniacs bet huge as bluffs, others bet small. Having a good read on this can help you significantly in bigger pots.
3. Call down lighter. This brings a lot more variance into your game but these players have such a high bluffing frequency that it is correct to make calls with hands you normally would not. Of course if you play tighter PF you will not be put in as a marginal of spots. Calling down 3 bets with 2nd pair is not out of the question against a maniac as they typically will be bluffing enough to make these plays profitable. Use reads on bet-sizing and timing tells to help you better understand when they are betting for value and when they are bluffing.
Adjusting to the Fish
The fish is the easiest of the five player types to defeat. Plain and simple this player loves to slowplay, rarely bets for value, and calls way too much with weak holdings. Adjusting to this player is very simple however I’ve found most still do so incorrectly.
1. Do NOT berate the fish. A pet peeve of a lot of good poker players is others who try to “coach” the fish or perhaps even talk derogatorily to them. In poker most of your winnings will come from the fish, do not upset them or make them believe there are better ways to play. Keep the atmosphere light and encourage them to keep playing the way they are. This could be a simple “nh” after a suck out or even complimenting the way they played a winning hand. Be nice to these people, they are your bread and butter.
2. Do NOT bluff the fish. It’s as easy as this. These players call way too much.
3. Value-bet relentlessly. Not used to betting 2nd pair for 3 streets? Against the fish it’s certainly a possibility. The same players who complain about the fish being “calling-station’s” never adjust and value-bet properly against them. They keep banging their head’s into the wall trying to bluff them when all they have to do is value-bet. Protect your hands as fish tend to draw to all types of hands. Betting enough to reduce implied odds is significant, as we will generally be playing big pots against this player.
4. Tend to give a passive fish credit. Unlike the maniac the fish tend to only bet with the goods. They enjoy to slowplay, so a c/r and/or min-raise generally means a strong holding. These players typically bluff in poor spots where they have little hope of gaining a fold. Recognize if your fish likes to bluff, and if his bluffs and value-bets are the same size.
Being able to adjust to all player types is an extremely critical part in becoming a winning player. Analyze your opponent’s weaknesses and then employ tactics to exploit them.
Be sure to see the other parts of this article, which is a 5 part series!