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NO LIMIT HOLD'EM PLAYING STYLES



No - Limit Hold'em Playing Styles
Oct 24, 2005  
2005, Jason Kirk  

One of the things about no-limit hold'em that even the greenest players will pick up on quickly is that there is no one style that guarantees wins. If you play long enough, chances are you'll see variations on almost every style of play win with ease. So if one style isn't more correct than another, what's the best way to determine which style of poker you should play? Your psychological makeup plays a big part - you'll probably find that one style comes more naturally to you than others. Also, the more advanced your skills, the more you'll find yourself able to switch between different styles. Here's a look a few general style categories and an overview of their requirements, strengths, and weaknesses.

The tight-aggressive player

Requirements:

The tight-aggressive player wants only the most premium of cards before he's willing to put his money into the pot. These include the big pairs (A-A, K-K, Q-Q, and J-J), big suited cards (A-Ks, A-Qs, and A-Js), and big off-suit cards (A-K and A-Q), but given the right situation can also include high-card hands like K-Qs or pairs like T-T or 9-9. When he comes into the pot he's likely to be raising - whether there's a raise in front of him or not. While position is important to this player, the strength of the cards he plays often negates any positional disadvantage he may face. He must be patient enough to wait for good cards before getting involved in a hand.

Strengths:

From a statistical point of view, the tight-aggressive player has a much higher chance of winning any time he's involved in a hand simply because his cards tend to have a higher expected value than those his looser opponents play. He also benefits from being able to control the odds he gives his opponents, meaning he can induce big mistakes from opponents who fail to consider his style of play.

Weaknesses:

Tight-aggressive players can be prone to being slow-played by looser opponents who flop monsters. The tightest of these players can also be neutered if the deck goes cold on them. Finally, those who don't know how to switch gears can be very predictable, essentially giving up their statistical edge to opponents who read them easily.

The loose-aggressive player

Requirements:

The loose-aggressive player's requirements for a hand to play are almost non-existent. Any two suited cards, any two high cards, and even two random cards can be good enough to come in for a raise. A loose-aggressive player must be willing to throw a hand away after the flop when the situation dictates. He must also be good at reading his opponents in order to know when to let a hand go. It's very important for him to understand odds and the relationships between different hands so he know when to get away from a bad situation.

Strengths:

Because he plays so many hands, the loose-aggressive player is next to impossible to read. Not only can he take pots away from opponents without a made hand, but his big hands will tend to get paid off because his opponents will rarely believe he has good cards. When he can build a big chip stack, he can be the most dangerous player at the table.

Weaknesses:

If he ever finds himself short-stacked, the loose-aggressive player will usually not have enough ammunition to make the sorts of moves necessary to represent big hands. Also, he can maneuver himself into a corner if he doesn't pay enough attention to his opponents' tendencies - one badly timed move against the wrong player can decimate him.

The trapper

Requirements:

The trapper likes to play hands that may not win often, but which will will monster pots when they do develop into read hands. Suited aces, suited connectors, and medium-to-small pairs are some of his favorite hands. The most important factor for him is to see a lot of flops cheaply, so he can try to hit a big hand on the cheap. He must be willing to play passively enough to appear weak, patient enough to let his opponents hang themselves in situations when he makes a monster, make good use of position, and be calculating and cold-blooded enough to let his opponents harm themselves.

Strengths:

Those who play the part of the trapper well will often find themselves behind large stacks of chips built by luring opponents in. They can also make a lot of money from semi-bluffs, since their opponents will also often be drawing and will not be willing to continue when they miss and are faced with big bets. Trappers who build big stacks and can switch gears can be some of the scariest opponents to face.

Weaknesses:

Often times the trapper is dependent on his draws coming home; if they don't, he can find himself in big trouble. He can also fall victim to traps himself, especially if he ignores the importance of position. Because his passive style early in hands can allow others great odds to hit a big hand against him, he may sometimes make his hand and lose the pot anyway.


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