The live player is a more interesting specimen to study than his online counterpart because we can make reads based on more human demographics such as age, behaviours, poker chat, emotional control, and more. In this article I will describe some of the main live poker personalities, how we should expect them to play on average, and what we should do about it. I will be using live tells such as personality and appearance to derive reads. Betting pattern reads have already been covered with respect to online players here. While I will use the male pronoun throughout this article simply for convenience, all player types discussed below, of course, exist in both genders.
This player sits down and immediately starts entering pots. You can identify the business-man from his aloof confidence, inflated ego, and fearless nature. Very often, this player will have no idea how to play poker but will appear very self-assured due to his success in business or in his career. Bragging, impatience for slow action, and a disregard for losing money are all clues that you are encountering the reckless business person. The correct adjustment here is to expect a lot of non-sensical, loose plays and tailor your ranges so that you favour big cards which can flop good top pairs. These hands come around often and will allow you to win big pots from overplayed second pairs and poor draws. Expect a high degree of variance but also a lot of profitability.
Here, I use ‘kid’ more in the American way, meaning someone looks like they are probably under 30 than the British way, meaning, literally a child or teenager, who would not be allowed in a casino. This twenty-something might wear a hoodie and look very serious and focussed on what he is doing. He relishes taking aggressive lines and avoiding being seen as one of the weak limping players who he sees as ‘fish’ (these days the term ‘recreationals’ is used as we hop on the politically correct bandwagon!) The Aggro Kid is pretty much the only player at the £1/£2 live cash table who 3-Bets non-premium hands or check/raises the flop on a regular basis. Most Aggro Kids are too aggressive and in poor situations. While even the bad ones will perform better than the reckless business man and his fellow terrible player types, it is the Aggro Kid who is educated in poker that you should avoid. This player will chew up and spit out someone who learned poker in 2002 and has barely adapted since. Look to fold less to the Aggro Kid’s 3-Bets than you would others and do not let this player run you over. After you fight back in few well-timed places, most Aggro Kids will back off. They are here to pick on the easy prey and would rather not have a fight. The aggro kid and the high-school bully are quite analogous in that respect.
Stereotypes are not always true, but this one is very accurate as stereotypes go. The retired gentleman is quite unlikely to be loose aggressive and will usually wait around for good hands before making big investments. This player might read the newspaper, wear a tie, or shake his head and tut when the aggro kid makes yet another 3-Bet. The tight old man is unwilling to accept that fold equity is a valuable thing to have on your side and prefers to stick to the outdated belief that ‘tight is right.’ Steal this player’s blinds, run bluffs when they show weakness and get out of the way fast when they take an unusually aggressive action. This player loses very gradually and very definitely.
This guy could just as easily be playing roulette or slot machines and be equally engaged in the strategy of the game. The Apathetic Gambler believes that the skill element in poker is over-rated and that he loses due to terrible luck that follows him around like a magnetic cloud of cursed. He is easily identifiable from his incessant moaning and his disgust when any pot does not go exactly to plan. He will make terrible self-destructive calls because he believes that losing is inevitable due to his poker hex. You will sometimes see this player on the blackjack table or in the sports-betting lounge looking equally disgruntled. When it comes, to exploitation, avoid bluffing in big pots as these opponents suffer massively from pot attachment tilt. Moreover, try to isolate this player with a reasonably strong range that you can often value bet post-flop and limp into pots that he is in with implied odds type hands such as small pairs.
Some players are not at the table to gamble it up but to play some cards in a low risk way. This player is often talkative and obviously uninformed about the game. He will play a lot of hands but in more of a bingo fashion, trying to see many flops and hit things before making significant investments. His friends will come over from the craps table with curiosity for this poker thingy and ask him how he’s doing. He will buy in short and handle his cards and chips with the grace of a chimpanzee. He might be a little drunk, and who can blame him? He is in the casino for fun, after all. This player will be far too loose and timid. The best way to adjust is to frequently isolate with a very wide range and then continuation-bet at a high frequency, if called. This guy will limp AQo and fold every flop that does not hit him hard. The antidote is simply to build it up and take it down, if the rest of the table allows us the freedom to do so.
These opponents constitute far from an exhaustive list of the players types that you will encounter at the casino. These are perhaps the most extreme characters that you will find; and many players fall somewhere in between. Player type, after all, is a spectrum, hence why the stereotypes are not always accurate. Your own observation is equally important. It is your job to spot the tight kid in the hoodie and the aggressive old man. These people exist too.