If you’ve spent enough time playing low-stake live cash-games you likely know that after a while, all your opponents begin resembling one another, most fitting nicely into one of a handful of live poker players stereotype that can be seen whether playing 1/2 at the WSOP or grinding 2/5 at the local poker establishment of your choice. For those who may be experiencing the joys of $20/hour grinding for the first time, I thought I’d share some of the common player-types you might encounter at the tables, as well as their defining characteristics, back-stories, and the best way for you to to maximize your edge against each one.
Poker Idol: White Lightning
Unfortunately, probably the most frequent poker players you’ll encounter at the table is Bud-Light Barry, a general accountant from the big city who should have gotten a divorce 10 years and 2 kids ago but a fragile sense of self-worth continues preventing him from admitting failure in lieu of a slow descent to death. However, as his depressing day-to-day meekness gets washed away alongside the bottomless Bud Light he orders by snapping his fingers at the waitress – whom he obsessively calls ‘sweetheart’ – the man he wishes he could be begins to emerge bringing with him unbridled aggression and jaw-dropping spewiness. After he’s kicked back enough of the silver & blue back, Bud Light Barry, whose favorite player is always Phil Hellmuth, will be the first to let you know how poorly you played your hand and, more generally speaking, why you’re just an all-around terrible human-being.
Auditory clues of his presence at the table
“CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS IDIOT??”
My strategy for dealing with BLB is to act as his therapist, summarizing and parroting his pain-points in a totally genuine and unsarcastic manner (“Yes, I bet it’s real tough trying to watch 12 hours of football every Sunday while your wife and kids fight to squeeze an ounce of love and attention out of you”). And when he looks at me for moral support after getting caught bluffing for a fourth straight time, I like to give him a facial expression that says ‘tough break man, I feel you’ so that the next time I bluff him, I can use that same look to let him know that his bad luck is about to continue.
Execute this well and you’ll find yourself stacking his chips while nodding reassuringly to his condescending justification that “you’re too smart to try to bluff me.”
The worst thing you can do against Bud-Light Barry is letting him bully you with his ceaseless chip flinging. With such a desperate need to exert his masculinity even for just one hand, BLB is a prime candidate for light call-downs, heavy value-bets, and reduced bluffing frequencies.
If you ever notice Bud-Light Barry going uncharacteristically quiet during a big hand, perhaps contorting his body into a turtle-like formation, remember who his idol is and muck your holdings face-up so he can lose his mind like Teddy KGB getting shown top-two.
Good Time Gary
Poker Idol: That guy married to Jennifer Tilly
Although Good Time Gary is, on the surface, somewhat similar to Bud Light Barry, the main differences between the two poker players are that, for one, GTG is drinking Coronas (also known as Mexican Bud Light), and more importantly, sees his time at the table as a holiday away from the day-to-day grind and is committed to enjoying it as best he can, poker profitability be damned.
“There’s NO WAY Survivor would still be going without Jeff Probst!”
Proper strategy against Good Time Gary requires assessing whether the length of his poker vacation is predicated on the size of the stack he has on the table or whether he’s willing to rebuy his way to a good time. If it’s the former, cranking up the pressure while assuring him you got him this time and don’t want to see him go will often be the optimal approach, while if it’s the latter, employing a combination of light value-bets and saying ‘friendly check’ every time you’re trying to peel free equity is likely to show strong results.
Poker Idol: Doyle, obviously.
While I get that it might be a little ageist to call the white-haired lady wearing more perfume than all 48 Kardashians combined ‘Granny’, in my defense her card-protector IS a picture of Jesus AND she’s already offered Bud-light Barry a handful of Werther’s Candies to help ‘settle him down’.
“I was worried he had a royal flush.”
Pretty simple really: anytime you need information from Granny Annie, just ask her. She’ll likely just straight-up give you the answer you’re looking for because “that’s how good Christians are raised!” I’m also a big fan of showing Granny Annie all my big hands while asking to see pictures of her grandchildren to build the image of an ‘honest young man’ before I bully the kids’ inheritance away from their beloved Gammy. Hashtag sorrynotsorry.
When Granny Annie – a certifiable nit – enters a pot, particularly against (or with) a raise – assign her a top-heavy range and turn the pressure up on boards that will put the fear of the card-protector in her. Conversely, when she’s acting strong, rest assured she’s most definitely not acting and run for cover. Bud Light Barry will pay her off anyways.
Poker Idol: Doug Polk, but she’ll tell you it’s some online Czech pro you’ve never heard of.
Faux-pro Fanny is a solid small-stakes online player who subscribes to Upswing Poker Lab and knows all the latest poker trends and buzzwords. However, for all her prowess in the technical analysis side of the game, Faux-Pro Fanny is missing a critical element of the live-game: adjusting to the table. So rather than seeing Bud-light Barry for the station he is, she continues making “intelligent” triple-barrel bluffs and rolling her eyes off her face when he calls her down with a weak top-pair on a 4-flush board.
None. Her oversized headphones do a great job of removing speech-play from the repertoire of weapons to use against her, as does the look she gives anyone who forces her to move them half an inch off her ear.
Tap the table in her direction anytime she makes a good play to let her know that you know that she knows that you know that she knows….
Although the safest play is to simply play Faux-Pro Fanny “by the book” and focus on the easier marks at the table, one of my favorite plays against potentially weak regulars is to increase my bluffing frequency against them early in the session – which is usually the best time to get one through against them since they’re the only ones intelligent enough to fold a made hand without reads – until they finally catch me red-handed once or twice. At that point I like to reduce my bluffing frequency significantly and watch them psych themselves into calling down light for hours trying to avoid being shown up again. Ego is one hell of a drug.
For a little special moment of happiness that will keep you warm inside through the barrage of donk-outs that are inevitable when being a professional 15 hands-per-hour specialist, make sure to stick around long enough to watch the poor idiot who dares try to hit on Faux-Pro Fanny, as one will inevitably do, most likely within the first 15 minutes of her sitting at the table. Not only will the look on her face when she realizes what she took her headphones off for make you laugh for days to come, you’ll also instantly find the least empathetic player at the table; giving false tells against this socially-clueless meathead (whose favorite hand is always Q5) will likely be a fruitless endeavour.
DLMs (aka Donks Like Me)
Poker Idol: Vojtech Ruzicka
Grownassmen still spending half their lives acting like children, true legends in their own minds only. These idiots think they can soul-read their opponents based on shallow generalizations and meaningless sample-sizes, but have a unique ability to pwn themselves right into the nuts. DLMs often talk themselves into a crying-call because they’re ‘at the top of my range’, which is strange considering their Went To Showdown When Saw Flop percentage is bordering on the insane.
Placate DLMs by engaging in their contrived table-friendliness and when you catch one trying to peer into your soul during a big hand, project the look you gave when your mom caught you checking out your cousin and say thank you for the 2 racks they ship your way with a naked third pair.
A prime candidate for the classic Rope A Dope strategy. Play up the idiot-tourist angle and watch the meltdown deep inside the DLMs eyes as they wonder how they could possibly keep losing to ‘a guy who couldn’t tell a big hand from that trashbag of a TV show that made Bob Saget famous.’
Now that you’re well versed in classic live-poker character-study, go out there, make friends with the table-mates who are open to it, and the do absolutely everything in your power to steal each and every last one of their dollars.
Because, at the end of the day, that is the name of the game, isn’t it?