The 4 Poker Playing Styles You’ll See at the Table

Strategy is the cornerstone of poker. Still, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the game. As you gain more experience, you’ll quickly recognize different poker playing styles and learn to spot them in players you meet at the table. Reading “poker personas” this way is an invaluable skill that can significantly improve your game. It will help you devise the best strategy to outwit your opponents and boost your chances of taking down the pot.

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You’ll adopt personas of your own as you learn the game and develop strategies that suit your technique. Knowing the telltale signs and subtleties of the most common playing styles can help you manage your tells and keep your opponents from guessing your strategy.

To help you on your poker journey, let’s look at the four playing styles you’ll encounter at the poker table. Read up and take notes to use this knowledge to your advantage.

Playing style #1: TAG (tight-aggressive)

TAG poker players are often considered the gold standard for poker strategy. They play fewer hands than their opponents but make sure to bet aggressively when they do. Patience is a hallmark of their poker persona, and they know how to wait for the right opportunity to make a calculated move.

Signature moves

You’ll see a player is a TAG when they:

Playing against them

Because TAG poker players wait for the best hands, they tend to play offense pre-flop. You can outwit them at this point in the game by making a strong raise and taking the pot. They’re also known to c-bet a lot, even with marginal hands. If you call them at this point, they may be forced to fold if their poker hand has no strength.

Be a little more careful when playing against them post-flop. If you see them betting from this point beyond, you can almost be sure they have the cards to support it. Unless you can make a more substantial poker hand, it may be better to fold than risk a more considerable loss.

Playing style #2: Loose-passive

Loose-passive is the exact opposite of tight-aggressive play. This playing style is characterized by more card play and pots entered, although these players usually bet more conservatively, opting to check or call more often than raise.

One advantage of this playing style is that it can help you disguise the strength of your poker hands. Loose-passive players rarely bluff, so opponents may find it challenging to make a strong read on them.

Additionally, it’s good for staying in games longer and going after small wins.

Signature moves

You can easily spot a loose-passive poker player when they:

Playing against them

Loose-passive players tend to be unconstrained with their hands and often will not easily fold, so forcing them out of the game may prove difficult or unproductive. To defeat these opponents, value bet with strong hands when you have them.

Alternatively, you can bluff on the flop and bet again on the turn. If a loose-passive opponent calls your flop bet, they’ll likely call you on the turn, too. This will help you accumulate a bigger pot for the showdown.

Don’t go against loose-passive players when you have a marginal hand. These players won’t hesitate to call your bets, which can cost you more.

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Playing style #3: LAG (loose-aggressive)

Like loose-passive players, loose-aggressive or LAGs play more hands but with a higher level of aggression. LAG poker players are comfortable placing big bets and know how to use their poker hands to close out games. These players are often the most dreaded opponent on the field, as they are known to be risk-takers. Their unpredictability makes them difficult to read.

Signature moves

LAGs are typically easy to spot because of their propensity for risk. Pay attention when they:

Playing against them

LAG poker players will often make their move with any poker hand. They’re in it to win, so you can expect them to raise pre-flop. With that in mind, it’s best to fold when holding marginal poker hands.

Alternatively, you can play their game and use their aggression against them. Try bluff-catching or calling them with cards that may not be strong enough to make value bets but still better than many of the cards in their range.

You can also raise or re-raise their bluffs to intimidate them. LAGs are prone to c-betting, increasing the stakes, and re-raising if they consider their opponents vulnerable. Whether real or not, strategic betting will help you assert control of the pot and make them think twice about their strategy.

Playing style #4: Rocks (tight-passive)

Rocks are notoriously conservative bettors who play only their best hand and rarely take risks. However, it would be a mistake to view them as weak players. With the right strategies in place, they can exploit the other types of players at the table and come out on top.

Signature moves

The best way to identify rocks is by their poker hand selection. You’ll know your opponent’s a Rock when they:

Playing against them

Aggressive betting can help you gain the upper hand against Rocks. When they only play the best poker hands, bluffing can be effective in getting them to fold.

Additionally, if you have a strong poker hand and it’s checked on the river, don’t hesitate to bet big. Even if they call your bet, they won’t risk too much with marginal poker hands.

Lastly, think twice before calling a Rock’s raise. When they start betting actively, they likely have something good in their poker hand. Unless you have a stronger combination you’re confident in, it’s best to fold.

Final thoughts

With poker playing styles like these, you now have the knowledge and tactics to spot your opponents’ strategies and use them to your advantage in every poker game. Knowing these different tendencies can help you know when to fold, raise, call, or bluff. With practice and experience, you’ll soon be able to read fellow players like a book and stay two steps ahead of the competition.