Understanding the Three Player Types

piechartIn poker, and most other games, there tend to be three types of players. In this article, I am going to tell you how to give each of them what they want so they will eventually give you what you want.

One type plays mostly because they enjoy the social interactions. The second type likes to test the boundaries of the game. In poker, these players enjoy running insane bluffs or making huge folds that most players would never consider. The third player type loves to win. While you are almost certainly a blend of the three player types, it is important to realize who you are playing against in order to extract the maximum amount of profit in the long run.

anonymous-poker-player-number-2_miniThe first type of player, who plays the game mostly for the social interactions, makes up the majority of the player pool, especially at the small and middle stake games. While these players say they care about winning, they actually do not care if they win or lose, as long as they don’t lose too much. They tend to develop a simple strategy and follow it religiously. While most of these players lose relatively small amounts, they provide much of the money that eventually trickles up to the high stake games.

(As a side note, it is important to understand that players who beat the small stakes occasionally move up, only to get crushed at the middle stakes before returning back to the small stake games. That process repeats itself at all levels until most of the money ends up either in the hands of the casinos, which they take in the form of rake, or in the hands of the best players in the world.)

house-of-cards_largeWhen you encounter the players who crave entertainment, make a point to show them a good time at the table. Feel free to chat with them and be sure to congratulate them on their winning hands. It is mandatory that you do not sit like a statue and ignore them. Ideally, you want to make these players as happy as possible while they play in a game they can’t beat.

The second type of player gets a thrill out of pushing the boundaries of the game. While these players can be either loose or tight, they are usually polarized to one extreme or the other. Some of these players take great pride in folding powerful hands when they suspect they are beat. On the other end of the spectrum, some of these players frequently run insane bluffs whenever they think their opponent does not have the nuts. While most of these players study the game and try their best to win, they get so far out of line that they become greatly unprofitable.

dwan-eg-gr_miniThese players are fairly easy to play against once you figure out their tendencies. If they fold when you apply a lot of pressure, apply pressure. If they bluff off their stack any time they sense weakness, try to look as weak as possible when you have a strong hand and don’t fold. All you have to do is set a trap and let them fall in. When one of these players shows their “amazing” play, make sure you congratulate them and reconfirm that they should be looking to make these ridiculous plays as often as possible. These players tend to make up the majority of the middle stake players because they are thinking enough to beat a player using a simple system but are not capable of playing a fundamentally sound game that is required to crush the high stakes.

The third type of player plays purely to win. They are not looking for social interactions and tend to not get excited over the outcome of any individual hand. They make a point to play their best every day. They go home happy whenever they play well, regardless of the outcome. These players make up the vast majority of the high stake players, even though they make up only a tiny percentage of the entire player pool. You will find most of these players are thinking at a high level and generally don’t make too many mistakes. Obviously these are the players you want to avoid whenever possible.

I am  the third type of player. I am not looking to hang out and have a good time at the poker table and I certainly do not get a thrill out of bluffing someone out of their seat. Unfortunately, there have been times where I was overly quiet at the table, providing little to no interaction. This flaw is something I have to work on. It is important to recognize what you do incorrectly so you can work to improve it.

In general, you will find most excellent players are primarily the third player type with a little bit of the second player type mixed in. Very rarely will you find someone who is playing purely for social reasons in the high stake games and for that reason, I have relatively little experience playing against that type of player. Most of the negative expectation players at the high stake games are the second player type.

In order to keep your game profitable, you must be nice and make the experience of playing poker enjoyable for the other players at the table. While you may not want to talk at the table or be congratulated when you run a wild bluff, you must recognize that your opponents crave those things.  If you give your opponents what they want, they will continue to play the game and eventually give you what you want.

A similar article initially appeared in Ante Up Magazine.

So, what type of player are you? Did this article help you understand the motivations of some of your opponents? Let me know in the comments section.

Thank you for reading!

17 Comments

  • David Vaughn says:

    Well said Jonathan. By the way…I saw you on the WSOP telecast for Day 4 of the ME, but you weren’t wearing your typical glasses. Maybe you were coming back from a break or something, but you were sporting a red t-shirt. Good luck Down Under!

  • Eli says:

    Thank you for the insight! I totally agree with your assessment. What I’d be interested in learning is something along the lines of the following: How do other players see me? How do I “think” other players see me? Where I think some players will put themselves into one of these 3 categories, obviously we might think we’re in one category, but really we’re in another. Is there some kind of tool, or assessment questionnaire that can determine the type of player you are based on your answers or decisions at the poker table, or by answering questions that are scenario based? Thanks again!

    • I am sure there is some sort of self-assessment quiz out there but I don’t know of it. I imagine you are the type of player you think you are. Most likely the players see you as you present yourself. If you are joking around, limping every pot, and playing poorly, your opponents are going to assume you are there to have fun. If you are generally TAG or LAG and are paying attention to the action, your opponents will assume you are actually trying to win.

  • Tony Trombetta says:

    Hey Johnathan.. Just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed your video blog’s in Australia! Thanks for Always Keeping it Real man!.. Now Ship the main!

  • Steve Phipps says:

    Well, you never had the problem of being too quite playing online sng’s 🙂

  • Steven Teba says:

    Thatsa great article. I tend to be a little of 1 and 3 type. I’m usually quiet like outside the hands but very social when out of the hand. I stop being social whenver I enter the pot.

    I think we must also see what money means to us too plus our opponents. Some see it as income and some has a trip for a thrill. Being social helps me know my opponent. When I play students atnow when a timed bluff works. I hate when I do it at times. But knowing if your opponent is low on funds, the significant other gonna get mad with a lost, this is how they pay there tution. I believe that helps you know when to get their stack or how to get them to fold.

    I recently play and @help the woman I love. Money dictates my plays.I help make extra money playing. So acknowledging how my fear affects play at times. I play my game. I sometimes fold when I know protecting my profit. But being player One can help learn players motivation and what money nmeans to them. Knowing this knowledge can help you learn bet sizing to.maximize money and get folds. Invoking fear and leveling help me play most my players.

  • Mr Kim Wilson says:

    Do you sell anymore stuff besides your secret or can l keep intouch with you on Facebook.ty for your time.

  • Thomas H Weight says:

    I would add a forth group (that includes me): people who are primarily concerned with learning the game. In temperament theory these people are the NT (iNtuitive Thinkers) who love to learn and who eventually become good players. I suspect that Jonathan Little started out as this type and as he became good enough to turn professional he became more focused on winning.

    • While I agree with the assessment, I disagree that these players make up a distinct fourth type because I think most people who really want to get good at the game do so through study. There was an unscientific poll on 2+2 a while back that found that almost everyone on the forum (people who are somewhat into studying) was INTJ in that personality profile. I was INTJ as well.

  • criston jones says:

    well im a low limit player now because of my bank roll i used to play about ten years ago but discontinued playing because my wife hated my play that is was a higher stakes then but now i am back in the saddle again and although its going to take a while to build a bank roll i still believe i play to win also and tend to be more like a high stakes i plan and will return to that level of play i do have plenty to learn but i do believe you are correct in your assumptions on the type of players

  • Bruce says:

    Speaking of sunglasses, is there an optimal strategy? Like wear them 83% of the time?

    Oh and nice writeup!

    • Thanks! I now tend to only wear sunglasses when the game is very serious and adding sunglasses will not make the game more series. For example, I believe I wore them at the WSOP two times in two months because most of the tables had a few amateurs who I wanted to keep relaxed. If I find myself in a random $25,000 buy-in event, I will wear my sunglasses.

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