Get a clear understanding of the all in bluff.
One of the key elements that all successful poker players need is the ability to recognize and adjust their strategy according to the playing styles of their opponents. There are four main styles of play that can be categorized. Knowing the tendencies of each style can allow you to adjust your play to counter their style, whether it is a cash game or a tournament. Knowing the style your opponent is using helps greatly in making reads on your opponent, as it gives you an idea of what they have been playing, and limits the ranges of hands you have to choose from as possibilities. It is important to note, that you should recognize each style, but also know that players have the ability to change gears. Often, good players mix up their styles quickly in a short period of time, going from tight aggressive to loose aggressive. This is done an effort to keep from becoming too predictable. The rest of the players are left wondering, Did I just fold to pocket Aces, or to 7-2 offsuit?
This player is generally the most feared player at the table. His percentage of flops seen is low (15%-20% at most). Typically, when the tight aggressive player is the first in the pot, he does so with a raise, and plays the hand aggressively. He tries to limit the number of opponents he has to play through in the hand. He plays a solid positional game. He generally understands the mathematics of the game, and plays accordingly. He will play based off pot odds. As such, he can be moved off of a hand by a good bluff. He will also bluff in turn, but usually picks the best situations for bluffing. This is the worst player to try to slow play. He can recognize a trap, as most tight aggressive players tend to trap very well themselves. The correct play against a tight aggressive player is just solid play, mixed in with a well timed bluff. He only plays in good situations, or with good hands. If a tight aggressive player is in the hand, you need to increase your calling/raising standards before getting involved. When facing a tight aggressive player, ensure that you do not give correct pot odds for him to chase you down. Take him out of his comfort zone by making half the pot, and pot sized bets. The key is that if he calls down to the river, he generally has a hand. If you have marginal holdings, it is best to just try to show it down cheaply on the end. In general, value bet a tight aggressive player much less than you would against average players, but you can bluff this player more on earlier streets. Chris Ferguson is widely respected as a tight aggressive player.
The tight passive player is known for very rarely getting involved in the hand. Extremely easy to play against, you value bet good hands or good opportunities. He will call you down only if he has a great hand. His percentage of flops seen is very low, and he very rarely raises. A very timid player, he can be moved off of hands, but he will occasionally win a pot or two. He will fall for traps, but the problem with this player is that he doesn't put a lot of money into the pots. He seldom bluffs, and only plays the very best draws. Against the tight passive player, you can lessen your calling and raising standards pre-flop as you can generally expect to outplay this player post flop. Players who get stuck in this style of play are generally dead money. Occasionally they will last into the money in a tournament, but never win the big money. They just lack the aggression and heart that it takes to win big. Tight passive players do not last long in the poker world.
Categorized as the maniac. Playing an ATC (any two cards) style, they see an extreme number of flops (35% and higher is nothing unusual). They quite often raise, regardless of position preflop and don't have to have a good hand to do it. They make huge bluffs, and have extreme bankroll and stack fluctuations. They will chase quite often. They generally play on hunches, and lucky hands. They may know what pot odds are, but play more off of implied odds, not worrying about how much they may lose this hand, but how much can they gain. This player trusts his post flop play. This player has to be feared if he is able to amass a large chip stack. He will gamble much more than the average player, and is often either in the top few or bottom few of the tournaments. He knows how to wield his big stack, pushing around the smaller stacks. This is the ideal opponent to slow play, as he will build the pot for you. When against the loose aggressive player, value bet more, but bluff less. They will call you down, but often with lesser holdings. One of the best loose aggressive players in the world is Gus Hansen.
The calling station. This player is generally the beginner. Often intimidated by the other players, he plays far too many hands, and plays them too far. Rarely raising, he never protects his hands, and is often drawn out against. These players hardly ever make it into the money. He doesn't understand pot odds, much less play by them. He will call with the worst of draws, and sometimes hit. He sees the game as totally a game of luck, not skill, and is usually outplayed quickly. You must not even attempt to bluff this type of player, he will call more often than not. But value bet much more than normal. If he has anything, he will pay you off.
Using this Information
The two most commonly employed styles are tight aggressive and loose aggressive. Poker is a bettor's game. Passive players just don't last long in poker. The best players are able to take pieces of each of these styles, and play at certain times in each style. For example, early in a tournament, most players choose to play a tight aggressive style, in a survival mode. They will try to risk the least number of chips possible while waiting on the dead money to lose. Loose aggressive players recognize this as the time to start taking a lot of small pots. They will bluff more, and try to accumulate a large stack early on. This large stack is then used for true gambling situations later on when they are freerolling on coin flips or good draws. As about half of the field has busted out in a tournament, the tight players from earlier start to loosen up to try to accumulate a larger stack. As the tournament gets close to the money, there is a tendency for the players to tighten up again, to ensure they don't go out on the bubble. The more aggressive players take this time to again loosen up, make more bluffs, and pick up more chips to use as weapons at the later tables.
Our suggestion early in a session is to observe the first few hands, whether it is a cash game, or a tournament. Only get involved with premium hands at first. Take the time to observe what styles each of the players is using, regardless of your own style. See which players are tight or loose, and pick out the players you do want to go up against, versus which ones you know you probably shouldn't. Watch for the showdowns and see how they play their hands, taking mental notes of who is betting their good hands, or calling with weaker ones. These observations of styles, and knowing how to counter them can mean the difference between a big pay off, and a even bigger disappointment.