It’s a new year, and with it is coming a new collection of poker titles from D & B Publishing. First up on the schedule is a new one from longtime poker author and player Ashley Adams, Winning Poker in 30 Minutes a Day.
The question gets asked a lot — what is a good book for new poker players looking to get started learning strategy? For many, Winning Poker in 30 Minutes Day will be a great title to recommend in response.
Designed for social or recreational poker players looking to improve their games but having little spare time to do so, Adams’ book keeps the advice simple and direct. Over the course of 10 clear and concise chapters and more than 30 creative exercises, the book helps readers quickly learn the basics of winning at no-limit hold’em.
The book does not intend to make already good poker players into experts. Rather the idea is to help a typical Joe or Jane become good enough to beat social and recreational games. Poker becomes a lot more fun when you’re winning, and Winning Poker in 30 Minutes a day certainly gives players the tools to enable them to do just that.
The following excerpt from Winning Poker in 30 Minutes a Day comes from the chapter “Player Types: Know Your Villains.” Here Ashley gives players some handy, easy-to-remember guidelines to follow when profiling opponents by their playing styles.
One simple way of thinking of opponents is to plot them on a graph. One axis represents their relative tightness/looseness. The other plots their aggressiveness/passivity.
If you look closely, every single poker player is his or her own unique type. One could spend an entire lifetime of poker and still be creating different categories to describe players — an exercise that would be so overwhelming as to be impossible. We might even miss the bigger picture as a result. And it’s the bigger picture that we need to inform most of our decisions against players at the table. Toward that end, we need to place our opponents into a few — and only a few — categories.
I’m reminded of the plane spotters in England during the Second World War. They were trained by the British government to recognize planes flying over its airspace. But they weren’t trained by focusing on the minute detail of each plane. Rather they were given a guidebook that had the basic outline. This general image of the plane was much more effective in helping citizens identify whether the plane was an Allied or an Axis aircraft.
As “poker type” spotters, we need to be aware of the broad outlines of player types, not their finer points. Those finer points may come later. But for our day-to-day, bread-and-butter poker playing, think broad categories.
Specifically, let’s focus on four, and then work on a strategy to beat them:
Loose-Aggressive Players (LAGs)
Typically, LAGs are pretty good players who are in a lot of hands. They are dangerous insofar as they will be hard to read since they may be playing a very wide range of hands early on.
First, try and sit to their left. If possible, you want to see their action before you decide whether and how you will play your hand. This will give you an advantage over them. While it’s true that you would have this advantage over any player to your right, it’s especially useful when the player is aggressive and in many hands.
Second, narrow the range of hands you play against them. If your range is always at least a little tighter than theirs, you will have a better time of it after the flop.
Third, if you find a LAG’s play too distracting — you may be worried about being stacked by guessing wrong or getting caught against the top of their range — consider moving to another table or leaving the game for a while. There is no prize for losing to the best players in the room. You may be better off playing against softer players, or at least players whom you feel more comfortable playing against.
Loose-Passive Players (LAPs)
You may have heard the term “calling station”. That’s a LAP. In their extreme form they are known as “fish”, “guppies”, “suckers”, and losers. These are ideal opponents. They tend to check and call rather than bet and raise. They play many substandard hands for a call pre-flop, often continuing on the flop, turn, and river — even in the face of aggression. They are often relatively new players who don’t know or understand the typically selective starting standards of public poker room players. They are also sometimes just habitual gamblers who like to see how things turn out, and will pay for that privilege.
Since their calling standards are so low, you should not attempt to bluff a LAP. They will call and you will lose (unless they are calling with a hand so bad that it can’t beat your bluff). LAPs are ideal candidates for a value bet, though. They have a hard time folding. On the other hand, their raises are rare, so when they do get aggressive, expect them to have a very strong hand — unless it appears to just be a fatalistic and desperate attempt to bluff or spew a few remaining chips.
Since they are generally bad players, and rarely raise, you are happy to have them on your left. You don’t fear raises. You don’t fear that they will outplay you once you have committed to a hand.
You will win their money by being aggressive with your strong hands, not by trying to deceive them with slow-plays or bluffs. They will outdraw you sometimes because they play so loosely. But you will make sure that they pay for the privilege, ensuring that when they call they are not getting the right price to do so.
Tight-Aggressive Players (TAGs)
TAGs will play a narrower range than most, and play it aggressively. They will occasionally mix up their play — including some bluff hands in their raising range. And they’ll have a few (sometimes very few) marginal hands that they’ll raise with in position.
TAGs are often among your tougher opponents as they tend to play well when they are in a hand. Even so, there are general weaknesses that you can exploit. Some TAGs find it hard to get off their hand, once they initiate the action, since they don’t play many of them to begin with. They don’t want to fold once they’re in — and they can be so focused on extracting maximum value that they miss the signs of strength that their opponents demonstrate. You can sometimes use that trait to your advantage, taking chances on moderately long-shot draws on the flop, knowing that if the draw comes in, you may well stack your sticky opponent. (It’s less effective on the turn, since they tend to make drawing expensive.) You must be careful with this strategy, however, as you and your TAG opponent will need to be deep enough to make such a play worthwhile, and you’ll need to find a good way to extract the full stack from your solid opponent. That’s not always an easy feat.
You can also exploit a TAG by avoiding confrontations with them if you’re not very strong — and by playing aggressively against them when you are. The good thing is that TAGs don’t play many hands. They are highly selective. They are not as tight as a rock, and are more aggressive, but they are very tight nevertheless. You can avoid them while still playing a good percentage of your strong hands. Depending on how tight they are, you might not mind them on your left. They won’t be in that many hands against you, since they’re not in that many hands to begin with.
As thinking players, you can sometimes fool them into making mistakes by representing a hand with your betting action. They are good candidates for the well-timed bluff or semi-bluff, and they may be trapped if you show passivity with a very strong hand. Don’t overdo the trickery, as they are generally perceptive and have good memories for such actions, and are unlikely to be taken in by it consistently.
Tight-Passive Players (TAPs)
These are also known as weak-tight or timid players. They play few hands, and they fold them readily to any pressure. They are often just passing time in the poker room, playing for the comps, the companionship, and maybe because they just enjoy being there. They exert little pressure unless they are really loaded, and they can often be backed off their hand if you are aggressive.
How to Exploit TAPs
You’re going to increase your percentage of bluffs against TAPs as they’ll be more likely to back down. On the other hand, if they resist folding, or come out raising, expect them to be loaded. They’re not likely to do this without a very strong hand. If that’s the case, just give them no action at all.
Winning Poker in 30 Minutes a Day by Ashley Adams will be published in February 2020. It is available now for preorder in paperback or as an e-book at D&B Poker.
D&B Publishing (using the imprint D&B Poker) was created by Dan Addelman and Byron Jacobs 15 years ago. Since then it has become one of the leading publishers of poker books with titles by Phil Hellmuth, Jonathan Little, Mike Sexton, Chris Moorman, Dr. Patricia Cardner, Lance Bradley, Greg Raymer, Dylan Linde, Martin Harris and more, all of which are available at D&B Poker.