Poker is a brilliant combination of mathematics and psychology. To be a solid player, you need to understand the underlying math of odds, equity, etc., but, to be a great player, you need to understand how people think and why they think the way that they do.
While there’s a lot of grey area and other factors to consider as you dive deeper into this subject, we’ll start with the four basic player types and the two axes on which they exist.
As you play, try to fit your opponents into these categories. You should also try to look within, analyze your own game, and figure out what type of player you are.
The first axis is passive to aggressive. A passive player waits and responds to action, whereas an aggressive player initiates action and forces other to respond.
The second is the tight to loose spectrum. A loose player plays a lot of hands, and a tight player plays few. This means that a loose player has a much wider range than a tight player.
Now, let’s dig into the four combinations of these types.
The Nit: Tight-Passive
A tight passive player rarely opens pots, doesn’t bluff very often, and folds more than they should. Basically, this is a risk-adverse player who is usually scared to lose.
There are a few ways we can exploit the nit. Because their range is so heavily focused on value, we can fold more often when they bet unless we have an extremely nutted hand. Further, we can relentlessly fire at them, steal their blinds, and take advantage of the fact that they fold so much.
The Calling-Station: Loose-Passive
A calling-station loves to call. This player is easily bored when not playing, will call with hands ranging from marginal to garbage, and yet they rarely raise or apply pressure of their own.
Exploit the calling-station by aggressively betting your value hands and folding your bluffs. Since they’ll call no matter what, your bluffs become worthless and you should try to extract as many chips as possible when you’ve got them beat. This also lets you bet thinner value than you would against many other players.
The Maniac: Loose-Aggressive
Maniacs can’t get enough of that crazy action. This player will bet—sometimes a lot—with even the most marginal of holdings. Maniacs need the rush and excitement of putting their chips on the line. Having players like this at the table increases variance.
We can exploit maniacs by opening up our calling range. It can be hard to know when they have a good hand because they’ll bet big on their trash and nuts alike, but we can still take advantage of all of that trash by calling more.
The Stone-Cold-Killer: Tight-Aggressive
This player type is where we usually find the winners. They are disciplined, know when to play, but they also aren’t afraid to put their chips on the line.
The killer is hardest to exploit, but we can still often find leaks in their game. For instance, if they’re too tight, we can exploit their aggressive opening range by 3-betting wider.