Playing styles in poker

T9 spades"Playing the player" … what does it mean? It means that poker is a complex game and if you want to play in a sophisticated way you can’t be too simplistic in your approach. To learn how to "play the player" you must have some knowledge about different playing styles.

It’s time to present to you the four common categories of players. Here they are:

1. Tight-passive
2. Loose-passive
3. Tight-aggressive
4. Loose-aggressive

This is an appropriate way to list the different types of players you will meet in your games, all players belongs in one way or another to these categories.

Tight-passive (TP)

Let’s begin with the first, the tight-passive player. This playing style is on the top of the list, but hardly the biggest challenge for you to meet. Likely the opposite, since this player lets you be in charge, if you are doing your job. And your job is to be aggressive and often bluff since you easily can steal pots from this cautious player who often folds then you bet. Consequently: when this player finally bets it’s reasonable to think that he has a strong hand and you should in most cases quickly fold.


As a sub-category of the tight-passive player, the "nit" could be mentioned. A nit, or a "nut peddler", is a player type characterized by playing extremely tight and only betting strong hands.

Loose-passive (LP)

Neither the second type, the loose-passive player should be a big treat for you. But, against this player, bluffing is for no great use – he will just call you. Therefore, you must show patience until you get a strong hand. And when you get it, bet to build a pot, the loose-passive player will often call your bets, and there’s no easier way to be profitable.

Tight-aggressive (TAG)

The third type, the tight-aggressive player, is probably the style you want to take upon in some shape. This approach to the game results in a well-balance game and will give profit in the long run. To accomplish it you must choose the right starting hands to play and then make efficient decisions that affect the actions on the board to your advantage.

The tight-aggressive player is not playing hands by curiosity; he is selective about his proceedings, but also resolute with hands that he likes. He often folds pre flop or directly after the flop. When he continues in a hand he strives for information that he gets not by check/call but to bet/raise.

When you meet this player your mission is to learn him faster than he learns you. It’s also a good idea to partly avoid him and instead focus on the weaker players on the table. Knowing how to play the player includes knowing which players to play, or not to play. In poker, you want the money, not taking scalps.

Loose-aggressive (LAG)

Wheres the loose-passive playing type wouldn't play mind games with you, this type, however, is more problematic. The loose-aggressive player is like the rebel who doesn’t follow the rules. He doesn’t seem to bother with odds, and he plays almost every hand as it was a “monster”.

You have two choices against this player. One method is to try to put him over the edge straight away. This is very tempting, but then you’re playing in his arena. If you want to be a regular winner, you have to cut him out in a more surgical manner. This demands patience, but when you get the hand you have been waiting for – it doesn’t have to be a full house, but it’s got to be something more than the top pair with a low kicker – you just let him do his usual raises and after the last card you finally give him the deadly blow. Accept losing small pots to the loose-aggressive player and wait for the big ones you are going to win.


The hyper-aggressive style is one step up from loose-aggressive and have become popular among modern online players.

This style will definitely fail on tables with 8-10 players, but can be successful on shorthanded tables. The style is seemingly reckless, but since aggression often is very effective in poker it can lead to good results.   

To play hyper-aggressive, you have to play many hands, which can be hard to do since you must navigate in many hands with marginal hands (hands like K6 and Q7). And you must bet and raise often.

You will of course be called a lot and lose many hands, but the reasons that this style can succeed is that you also will win many hands to folding players and when you win to calling players the pot tends to be big.

The hyper-aggressive playing style can be combined with huge over-bets. For example, betting very big on the river, to make it look like you’re bluffing. Your table image will fool many players to believe you are bluffing and call these bets and by doing it with solid hands you can win many big pots.

To be a good hyper-aggressive player you must be good on bluffing, because you can’t rely on good cards in the same extent as the tight-aggressive player. You must also be prepared to big swings.

Written by Oscar Sand

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