Poker Personality Types

Success in poker depends heavily on being able to choose which hands to play, reading the texture of the board, knowing when to fold strong pocket crads and understanding the odds involved in every action from calling to raising. While these technical aspects of play are endlessly analysed in various online forums, new players are often left short of information when it comes to one of the most crucial skills a poker player can develop – reading the opposition. Understanding the personality types of players at a poker table can have a profound impact on the outcome of any hand, and can be invaluable in developing the ability to take down pots while holding mathematically weaker hands.

Over the years poker players have developed a set of basic poker player archetypes that can help those willing to develop their player reading abilities to detect and cash-in on the various personality types that are most frequently found seated around a poker table:

The Calling Station

Coming up against a Calling Station can be one of the most frustrating experiences in poker. These players get their name by calling bets all the way to the river – irrespective of their hand strength. While this can be quite lucrative when they show rags, they also have an uncanny ability to hit the nuts on the river, taking down strong pocket cards. Where you find them: Calling Stations are generally unskilled players, and those learning the game. They are usually found at low stakes cash and tournament tables. Many players will adopt a Calling Station style of play in re-buy tournaments. How to beat them: Calling stations leave themselves open to traps. Play a tight game, and avoid calling to the river with marginal hands. Once you have the nuts bet aggressively to maximise your payout.

The Fish

A fish is a pejorative term used to describe unskilled poker players, particularly those with a loose, non-aggressive style of play.  Fish tend to be more unpredictable than calling stations and can cause headaches for experienced players by pulling off check raises and going all in with weak hands. Fish are most problematic when found in groups known as ‘schools’, where the loose play of several players can easily sink a tight, experienced player. Where you find them: While fish are more likely to be beginner and low stakes players, fish can be found playing at all stakes and tournament levels. How to beat them: Isolated fish are technically the easiest players to beat and can be a great source of money and chips. To keep a fish in check simply play a tight game and statistics will do the rest.

The Rock

It is not unusual for a fish who has been burnt once too often to become ossified in the process, resulting in the formation of a rock. The term rock is used to describe a player who plays conservatively, betting and calling only when holding premium hands. Rocks tend to be very strong at the showdown. Where you find them: Rocks can be found at virtually any level of poker. Many players will adopt a rock-like style when on the bubble in a tournament or short stacked. How to beat them: Rocks are great players to push around as they rarely speculate with weaker hands. This makes them ideal players to steal blinds from, as any call or raise immediately indicates a strong hand. Avoid taking Rocks on in a showdown unless holding the nuts.

The Maniac

A Maniac is one of the trickiest characters to take on in a poker game. Totally unpredictable, a Maniac will switch randomly between a tight and loose aggressive style of play, irrespective of pot size or odds. Maniacs are particularly difficult to deal with when short stacked or sitting on the bubble in a tournament. Where you find them: Maniacs are everywhere, but can be found in higher concentrations in freerolls, turbo tournaments and cheap scheduled tournaments. How to beat them: Play conservatively when playing a maniac, calling more often and raising less frequently.

The Skilled Player

Skilled players are the toughest opponents in poker. Sometimes described as Sharks or Pros, these players not only understand the mathematical and statistical side of the game, but they are also adept at using psychological pressure to win pots. These players are unpredictable, and can take on any personality type depending on the demands of the situation. Most importantly, they’ll read your poker persona long before you read theirs. Where you find them: Skilled players tend to look for opportunities to maximise their poker income, and can therefore be found in larger tournaments and high stakes cash games. How to beat them: Any poker player can be beaten, and skilled players are no exception. When the cards are running bad a skillful player can go to the rail as quickly as a fish. Your best bet is to vary your own play making it more difficult for them to get a read on your playing style.