We're all aware that there is a lot of time in poker when you're not involved in the hand. It's probably the main part of the game that people will find the least fun. We've all been card dead at one time or another, no one likes sitting around for ages doing nothing. Long periods of inactivity are proven to reduce your attentiveness and if you're not paying attention your game is likely to suffer. Multi-tabling can help to alleviate the boredom but I also like to indulge myself in little mini-games of my own divising to help keep me alert and ready.

One of these games is building little character profiles for each of my fellow opponents at the table that exceed the normal TAG, LAG etc. labels. I want to burrow down into the subtle nuances of my opponents game. Figure out what makes them tick, work out if they're devious and subtle or aggressive and straightforward. Knowing if your up against a true mastermind or lowly henchman will help dictate the line you will take in future pots.


I started by just adding to the basic notes that my poker tracker software provided everytime I felt something occurred that was interesting or 'not normal'. Looking back on my notes after a session however resulted in a lot of the items proving to be pretty useless or at worse confusing. So I went back to the drawing board and tried to put together a better method of thinking about my opponents behaviours that would provide a framework to build useful profiles.

Now I'm no fan of reinventing the wheel so I decided to adopt and adapt a tried and proven method of investigation. Offender Profiling is a techinique used by crime scene investigators to build a picture about an unknown offender in order to try and predict their next move. I won't go into a huge amount of detail but I've linked to the Wikipedia entry above for those who are interested in a deeper read.

What is convenient however is that the process can be distilled into 5 essential steps:

1. A thorough analysis of the type/nature of the criminal act is made and it is then compared to the types of people who have committed similar crimes in the past
2. An in depth analysis of the actual crime scene is made
3. The victim’s background and activities are analyzed, to look for possible motives and connections
4. The possible factors for the motivation of the crime are analyzed
5. The description of the possible offender is developed, founded on the detected characteristics, which can be compared to with previous cases

This is great, each of the steps leads nicely into the next building layers of detail which is exactly what I wanted to achieve with my opponents. Obviously some of these don't apply directly so I set about attempting to adapt each item into a more poker related school of thought.

1. Estimate villains line. Blind steal, Semi-bluff, value bet etc. Compare to similar attempts both during current game and previous play-throughs with similar characters (stereotyping).

Ok so the villain made a play, lets build an educated guess as to what he was trying to achieve. Did he open raise in a late position indicating an attempting to steal the blinds? Or was he raising big UTG with a low-middle pocket pair? Have they performed this move before or is the first time since they've been sitting at the table? Note it down, don't discount anything at this stage.

2. How did the play go down? Pre-flop action, Pot size, Flop texture, Post flop action, Final cards at showdown etc?

This is a bit more straight forward, especially if you got to see cards at showdown. Add this information to your guesses made in Step 1. Does it corrolate with what you would expect or is there some inconsistency that might prove to be a weakness you can look to exploit in later hands?

3. Previous behaviour both at the table and in previous sessions if available. Frequent blind stealer, tight opening range, chases draws against odds, open limps big pocket pairs etc.

Now that the hand has played out how does this relate to villains previous behaviour during the session. Is he mixing his play up? Has he suddenly turned up the aggression factor?

4. Position, Tilt, Stack size

Try to estimate the factors that may have motivated the play. Had he just got sucked out on a big pot previously and is tilting? Have you been harrassing his blinds for the last 5 orbits and he finally fought back? Is he short stacking? Again keep building on the guesses from the previous steps.

5. Finalise villain profile, use information to enhance future reads, use future information to further enhance villain profile

Finally put everything together and build a concise note about the play. Compare this note to any previous ones you have made. Does it fit the profile? If it's simply occurred again you can just emphasize villains preference for a certain play in a particular situation.

Over time I managed to build 3 - 4 short notes on most of my villains that I felt were beneficial in helping me decide on my line. In addition when it came to reviewing my hands at a later date, they made sense.

Finally it helped to make 'downtime' fun for me and kept me alert, when previously I would sit down, label everyone up and almost switch off from that point on.

Until next time, enjoy your poker and good luck defeating the super-villains!