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Poker Player Classification

Classifying Your Opponents is Often the First Step You Need to Take In Order To Have a Winning Session

There have been several books that address the issue of player classification. That is, how do you identify the types of players you face in a given game? I will tell you the guidelines I use to help me classify my opponents. It is definitely helpful to know what type of opponent you are up against as this is one of the major factors that should affect your strategy. For instance, a weak player will typically check and call-never considering that even though his hand may be weak, at a certain point in the hand, it may be the best hand at the moment or provide the best drawing opportunity.

When an opponent checks and calls frequently and stares intently at his own hand only, without considering the hands of his opponents, he is typically a weak player. As such, you may be able to capitalize on his weakness by entering more pots against him, since he will not know how to make these pots unprofitable for you. You should be able to get several free cards against this type of player, as well. The major drawback against playing someone who is very weak is that you often do not know exactly what he or she may be holding and may surprise you with some incredible, gut shot draw to win a hand occasionally. This type of player is also impossible to bluff so you must be prepared to show down some type of hand, even though it does not necessarily need to be very strong.

An average player will typically check and call when he is on a draw. He will normally not consider whether the number of "outs" he has to complete his drawing hand makes his hand "superior" and, thus, worth a raise. He also does not consider the possibility of attempting to get a free card for his drawing hand in a later round, when the limit increases, by playing it aggressively in an early round (i.e. raising or check-raising on fourth street in Stud or on the flop in Hold Em).

A good player will typically make the two aforementioned strategy plays, always consider what his opponents hold, and play aggressively when he thinks he has the best of it. He will also make his opponents pay an unfavorable price for their drawing hands.

An expert player will assess the play of his opponents and is usually capable of tailoring his game accordingly. If he realizes that he is against the typical good player, the expert player may check-raise on an earlier round and then check when the limits go up, thereby representing a drawing hand. This could be used to disguise a made hand or extract some additional profit from a marginal holding. The expert could play in this fashion when the board represents straight or flush possibilities. This could have the additional benefit of freezing his opponents when the "likely" straight or flush card happens to fall and provide some additional believability if the expert attempts a bluff should he not make his hand. The additional benefit to this deceptive play is that the expert still may get called because his opponent figures that the drawing hand being represented by the expert never improved and the expert may surprise him with the winning hand.

The world-class player is someone who plays expertly and can quickly discern the style of each of his opponents, thereby maximizing the profit he can extract from them. He can easily distinguish when his opponent is playing in one of the fashions described above and never let him get away with it. The world-class player does not always play in a conventional manner. He can play all variations of poker well and is astute enough to understand when he should NOT employ any of his expert strategies because his current situation makes them unprofitable.

Now, these guidelines are general, but they should provide a framework into which you can place your opponents. This should help you determine the optimum strategy for that particular day or game. But always remember to be flexible in your classification of your opponents and always continue to refine these classifications as more information about your opponents becomes available to you throughout a given session.

For more excellent poker related articles and content, please visit Card Player Magazine.

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