Profiling Your Opponents in Online Poker

We have talked in other articles about the benefits of profiling our opponents so that we can adjust our hand ranges against them, but we avoided discussing in detail how we can tell what kind of opponent we are facing. This might have been a mistake, because correctly profiling an opponent is as important as making the right adjustments to our strategy to increase our profits. Without both lessons under our belt, we will tend to make more mistakes when adjusting our play; if you haven’t read the Adjusting Your Hand Range article, read it next.

The first matter to discuss is whether or not we can stereotype players into a specific category. Many players use nothing more than a stereotyped player category as a profiling technique, but this is often not enough. To stereotype your opponents, ask a few simple questions. Is he tight or loose? Does he play a lot of hands or is he capable of folding big hands? If he is playing lots of pots or splashing around, our opponents is loose. Is he usually raising when he plays a hand, or does he often limp? If he is raising more than limping, he is usually aggressive. If he limps, he is usually passive. We can use these two descriptors to identify players as loose aggressive, loose passive, tight aggressive, or tight passive. This is sometimes enough information to improve our results against a player.

The fundamental problem with this approach is that people will surprise you. Many loose aggressive players are splashing around in a lot of pots but rarely put their money in as a dog. In this respect, playing against them like they are loose aggressive, often bluffing with their whole stack, would be a mistake. A better, though perhaps harder to categorize and adapt to, system is to note when players exhibit certain tendencies. Does this player go too far with top pair? How does he play busted draws? Many players make the same mistakes over and over, so highlighting these leaks in your notes can be an excellent way to profile players without resorting to stereotypes, which can be less effective.

Clearly, there is more than one way to categorize players. Each individual player has leaks that can be highlighted, and many players assume that because a player has one leak, like limping too often pre-flop, they will also have other leaks, like going too far with weak hands. Though this is often right, as you move up in stakes and players improve at poker, this becomes less true and can often lead to incorrect judgments about your opponents.

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