Knowing how the other players play is one of the keys to achieving success at Limit Hold'em. When sharp players know their opponents well, sharp players will know how their opponents act and think. Sharp players will be able to take advantage of their opponents' weaknesses and avoid their strengths. In order to understand how players play, sharp players will observe their opponents carefully. They will pay attention to their opponents' play, how often their opponents bet, call or raise in different situations. Pegging opponents with stereotypes is useful as a first pass, however, most players will show a combination of different type of stereotypes and their own particular quirks. So it is more useful to observe each player individually. It is rare to find a poker player in real life who fits into any one of these character molds perfectly. What I will show here is a spectrum of the types of characters at the poker table. The style of players will usually fall close to one of these stereotypes or mixes of two stereotypes. It is a matter of identifying what type of characteristics and personalities they have. Also keep in mind that is it possible for a player to play like one character but slowly morph into another character as the player plays longer. It may be that the player's personality has changed due to his mood, either because he is winning and having a good time, or he is losing and feeling frustrated. Or it could also be that you simply pegged the player incorrectly. Maybe his personality is closer to a different stereotype, and his play was more just a reflection of getting very good cards or very bad cards for a short period of time. After all, even the tightest, most conservative players would be raising every hand if they kept getting high pocket pairs. It could also be that the player tries to play solidly when he is first seated at the table, but reverts to his typical style after awhile.
If you are a sociable player, it may be advantageous to engage in conversations with the players next to you so you can expedite your learning process of their personality and characteristics. Often appearance alone may get you part of the way, but appearances can be deceiving at times. Drawing a player into discussion about his life, his work and a bit about the hands he has played may help you get to know him a lot quicker and speed up your own education.
Understanding how your opponents play is more useful when pots quickly become heads-up as opposed to being multi-way pots. This means it is more useful in shorthanded games and less useful in low limit games. In shorthanded games, pots will become heads-up on the Flop more often than in full games because there are fewer players who have to fold to make it heads-up. In low limit games, players will play looser in general, so more players will be seeing the Flop and beyond. When the opponents play looser, the tighter players can correctly expand their playable hands with good drawing type of hands. So the looseness in low limit games compounds upon itself. With many players, it becomes tougher to use any one player's tendencies to your advantage, since there are other players in the hand to consider as well. With that said, any player who knows how his opponents play will always be better off than a player who does not.
I will break down player stereotypes into two major categories, predictable players and unpredictable players. Both categories have their share of bad players and good players. Players can be predictable whether they play loose or tight, but generally predictable players are passive. Players can be unpredictable whether they play loose or tight, although generally the unpredictable players are more on the aggressive side. Sometimes certain players may become extremely predictable in certain situations when they are not normally.
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