In the modern poker environment, much emphasis is placed on understanding the impact of game theory on our decisions at the table. This however, does not change the fact that having a strong awareness regarding our opponents’ tendencies is still the number one way to generate a high winrate.
With that in mind, here is a brief overview of the different types of players we are likely to run in to at the poker tables.
The Player Profiles
Tight Aggressive – Often referred to using the acronym TAG. These players enter the pot with a tight range and proceed to play aggressively postflop. These opponents are the most likely to be winning out of all the opponents we meet.
Loose Aggressive – Often referred to using the acronym LAG. LAGs enter the pot with a wide range and proceed to play aggressively postflop. Similar to TAGs, LAGs have a decent chance at being tough winning players.
Maniac – Maniacs play an extremely wide range of holdings preflop (perhaps 40% or more) and play hyper-aggressively postflop. They often make use of unorthodox bet-sizings such as overbets. The best counter involves using their own aggression against them, perhaps by setting traps when we are strong. Most maniacs are big losing players, although there have been one or two notable exceptions throughout history.
Nit – Nits play a very tight style and only get involved when they have the nuts (or very close to it). The best response is simply to steal a lot of pots and not pay out when the nit starts playing aggressively.
Loose Passive – Loose passives play a similar number of hands to a LAG, but mostly enter the pot by limping or calling. Loose passives are nearly always bad poker players. Aggression is important in poker, and loose passives are unlikely to win since they lack the required aggression. Loose passives are sometimes colloquially referred to as “wet noodles”.
Weak-Tight – At first glance weak-tights might look like TAGs, but with one key difference. Weak-tights fold far too much both preflop and postflop earning them the description “weak”. They also don’t bluff postflop as much as TAGs/LAGs and pick poor spots in general. Most players at the table that look like TAGs are actually weak-tights.
Tight Passive – Tight passives play a similar number of hands to a TAG but mostly enter the pot by limping or calling. Like loose-passives, tight-passives are usually not aggressive enough to be winning players.
Calling Station – Calling stations are players who struggle to fold hands, regardless of how weak. They simply have to know whether their opponent has it or is bluffing. Bluffing against a calling station is hence a bad idea. For more details on playing against calling stations check out this article on calling stations.
Fish – An umbrella term for a weak player at the table. Can encompass loose passives, tight passives, weak-tights, nits etc etc.
Donk – Although sometimes used interchangeably with the word “fish”, most professionals use the term “donk” to denote a player who is significantly worse than a fish. The term “donk” would hence be more likely to cover villain profiles such as “loose passive” “calling station”, “maniac” and “completely clueless” (a self explanatory player profile). A weak regular could hence be described as a “fish” while the term “donk” refers to a player with serious strategy issues.
When sitting down at the tables, it makes sense to spend a few orbits attempting to classify our opponents into their respective profiles. As the adage alludes to, poker is not a game of cards played with people, but rather – a game of people, played with cards.