Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The 4 basic villain types you face at small stakes games-- and how to play against them.

Today's post is a 15-minute audio on classifying--and exploiting--villain types at the low-stakes tables:

Some key takeaways and additional points not raised in the podcast:
  • Most of the opponents you face at low-stakes games will have big leaks and weaknesses.
  • Finding these weaknesses—and learning to hand read—begins with stereotyping and classifying the villains.
  • The most basic and important classification looks at two related aspects of the villain's preflop hand selection: a) how loose (or tight) the player is; and b) aggressive (or passive) the player is with their two starting cards. These are represented by "VPIP" and "PFR" statistics, respectively.
  • We can plot these two factors on a two-dimensional “PATL” grid.
  • There are four basic, broad categories of villains you'll play against at the low-stakes poker tables. They can be categorized by which quadrant of the PATL grid they land in.
  • The quadrant of the PATL chart that the villain resides in will give a big clue as to the types of mistakes (if any) they make.
  • Tight-Aggressive Villains. Good players can be found in the upper left quadrant of the chart. These players are known as tight-aggressive, TAgs, regs, and/or pros. 
    • TAgs play a tight, selective preflop style, playing only a fraction of the hands dealt to them, but doing so very aggressively. This is the recommended preflop style of play for beating most low-stakes games.
    • You can spot a TAg by the fact that on average they're playing about one in five or six hands dealt to them, and doing so with serious aggression. They're also playing a very positionally-aware style, being much tighter in EP, and looser in LP. They're often taking control of hands, and will raise draws on the flop as semi-bluffs, and will bet-fold rivers.
    • TAgs are the trickiest of players to counter. They don't make many mistakes, but it's still generally best to play straightforward against them. In general, your profit is going to come from other players--not these guys; you'll mostly just trade chips back and forth with other TAgs at the table if you're a good player, too.
    • If you can, sit to the left of these players to help minimize the damage.
  • Tight-Passive Villains. Players in the lower left corner of the chart are know as tight-passive, weak-tight, nittish, timids, or rock-like. 
    • These players play few hands, but unlike TAgs, they mostly just call when involved in a hand, with very little raising in general, even post-flop.They often make a small profit or are marginally break-even, primarily because they stay out of trouble and make few big pot mistakes. They generally value position, but they don't open up as much in LP as a TAg.
    • These players generally fold too much preflop, and give up on pots too easily after the flop is dealt unless this hit it very hard (TPTK or better). If they hit moderatly hard, they'll sometimes call a single bet, sometimes with strong draws, but then will give up on the turn if they don't improve.
    • These players can be bluffed relatively easily, both preflop (steals) and postflop with c-bets on flop and turn. On the other hand, it's hard to get a lot of value from these players, as their tendency is to fold if bet into.
    • If one of these players bets and/or raises, it's probable they have a very strong hand. Proceed cautiously and only with strong made hands that can withstand a showdown. These players rarely if ever bluff.
  • Loose-Passive Villains. Players in the lower right corner of the chart are known as loose-passive, LAps, calling stations, no fold'em hold'em players, sheriffs, fish, and/or ATMs. Almost all LAps at low-stakes tables are long-term losers.
    • These LAps play a lot of hands and call a lot-- far too much, both preflop and postflop. They're poor players in general and make a lot of "let's see a flop and make a hand" mistakes. They don't usually understand position, or if they do, they don't employ it very strongly in their preflop starting hand strategy. Often any two suited cards are good enough for them to play. A common saying you'll hear from them is, "you can't win if you don't play."
    • You should not usually try to bluff these players; they won’t fold even their weakest hands to aggression.
    • Against these players, you should bet your medium and strong value hands on all three streets to build a pot and get paid off. Value is the name of the game to beating these guys, and in fact the majority of your profit at small-stakes tables will come from LAps.
    • You will occasionally get bad-beaten by these players because they stick around with crazy stuff that a normal player would have smartly folded two streets early. When you take a bad beat by one of these guys, remind yourself that results don't matter; decisions do; and, if you don't want to play against bad players, who do you want to play against? Over time, you will make a lot more value money from these guys than you lose to them on bad beats.
  • Loose-Aggressive Villains. Players in the upper right of the PATL grid are said to be loose-aggressive, or LAgs. Some professional and semi-professional players employ this style with good results (but also with high variance); this Bug is one of them. Extreme players in this quadrant are known as maniacs. Aside from the pro's, most LAgs at small stakes are losing players.
    • These players play a lot of hands and raise most of them. Because of this, they often put too much money into the pot with their weak holdings and then have trouble getting off the hand, even when they know they're beat. They like love to bluff, often with multiple barrels on multiple streets.
    • Open up your game a bit against bad LAgs, and try to do so in position. By definition, they're playing too many hands, which means weak holdings. If possible, seat change to be on their left. They usually undervalue position in their own play, and isolating them with your big hands can be very profitable.
    • Don’t over-committ against these players with your weakest holdings. If you do have a medium or strong hand, however, you should be willing to play a big pot with them, often for stacks. Variance is something you'll have to get used to when playing against a LAg.
    • Be wary of the professional LAg, as they will be hand reading well and will not pay you off.
Hope this helps you focus your game. Learning to classify players is the first step in the hand-reading process, and if you make even small adjustments based on the tendencies and style of play of the villains at your table, you'll be way ahead of most of the other players competing for pots.

All-in for now...


  1. Hmm that’s so pleasing; carry on the excellent work I’ll again visit your blogs to learn more.
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  2. Hi Bug

    Thanks for another helpful post. Would you have an example PATL chart for discussion?