How To Play Poker – Texas Holdem Strategy Versus Different Opponents
How To Play Poker For Beginners
Let me say this – learning how to play poker when you are just starting is easy!
However, if you want to take it more seriously, learning how to play poker game can take some time, and you will need some structure to improve.
So before going deep into how to adjust versus different opponents, lets quickly cover these basic principles step-by-step.
Finding the best games
The difference between playing in an average game and one with weaker players could be devastating and either make or break you as the saying goes.
If you can pick more profitable games in the long run, on top of winning more money, you will be able to move up the stakes and improve faster, so clearly only good can come from it.
I already wrote an article on how to choose online poker sites, so you can check it if you want to get some ideas. All in all, try to find the best rooms available to you based on your location and you will be good!
Selecting what to play
For starters, you should be folding many weak hands and only playing reasonable holdings. This alone will help you gain an edge over many players because you will be playing stronger hands on average and if everything else is equal between you and him, you will end up winning more often just because of this reason alone.
Therefore, when learning how to play Texas Holdem in the right way, you should carefully select the hands which you play and for that, you can grab my free poker cheat sheet!
Choosing the right Texas Holdem strategy
When you know which hands to play, you should just concentrate on playing tight-aggressive poker strategy postflop and using your position. This means that instead of calling you should be raising most of your holdings when you decide to play.
This way you will put a lot of pressure back to your opponents and force them to make mistakes which is always good for you.
This does not mean that you should be raising every single time, but playing aggressively should be your standard approach.
On top of that, when learning how to play poker game, you should always take enough time and think through every decision. Therefore, starting with only one or two tables if you are playing online poker is a good idea. This will help you see more information and improve your poker strategy much faster.
These tips will not only show how to play poker for beginners but will also help you build a solid Texas Holdem strategy foundations for the future.
Getting help from the software
One more thing that is worth noticing before moving forward is poker software.
Using the right tools can drastically improve your chance of success.
You can get more information on your opponent's strategy by simply using tracking software like Holdem Manager or Poker Tracker, or even learn some of the advanced strategies from one of many available apps.
Therefore, I made a list of the best poker tools and software that I am using myself so check it out to learn more.
However, if you are still not sure where to start, take a free trial of Holdem Manager and see all the advantages yourself.
Also, you can take a looks at Upswing poker lab review, to see how you can learn all of the poker fundaments and even see where you should be concentrating your attention when starting.
Learning Advanced Texas Holdem Strategy
When you already know how to play poker, it is time to take things to the next level.
These days, games are getting tougher and tougher and poker strategies that worked a few years ago will not help you to crush the games at the higher stakes right now.
Therefore, the first thing you need to learn is how to balance your ranges and become unexploitable.
This may sound like fun, but in reality, it is a lot of work. Luckily, there are many tools that can help you out with this and Snowie is one of it (we will be using it through this article), so get a free trial and try it for yourself!
I will not go deep about game theory optimal play, because you can read how all of this works in my detailed article – GTO poker strategy vs. exploitative play. And if you are not sure what I am talking about, I highly recommend reading it now.
To keep things short, GTO shows you how you should be playing in any given situation that mathematically no one could win against you. This approach is ideal when you are up against tough opponents or unknown players, but definitely not perfect when you have some information on your opponent.
Thus, do not fall into the traps of always balancing your ranges just for the sake of doing it. Most of your money will come from knowing how to play Texas Holdem in even more profitable and adjusting your strategy versus different players.
If you want a shortcut for all of this, you can join one of many advanced poker training courses based on your game of choice and save some time and money on the way.
But for now, let's cover the essential part of any successful poker strategy – how to adjust versus different players!
How To Play Texas Holdem Poker Against Different Players
Learning how to play Texas Holdem against different types of players may take some time, but it is totally worth it cause can easily double or even triple your win rate.
Today, I will show you how to adjust your poker strategy versus recreational players who are very likely to be in one of three categories:
- maniacs (overly loose aggressive players);
- nits (very tight players who only plays premium holdings);
- calling stations (passive opponents who are not willing to fold).
If you learn how to play Texas Holdem against each of these player types, you will only need to group your opponents in one these categories and you will know what to do.
Obviously, there will always be solid players against which you should be looking to balance your range and play GTO approach, but against everyone else, you will make more money by adjusting your poker strategy and punishing them for mistakes.
How To Play Poker Game Against LAG (Loose Aggressive Opponents)
You've probably heard it repeated time and time: aggression is the key to success in Texas Hold'em. While the aggressive approach to the game has its positives and negatives, much like every other poker approach, there is no denying that players adhering to a more aggressive style have, in general, better results.
Knowing how to play against aggressive players when you encounter them at a cash table or in a tournament is one of the most important things you need to learn to advance your poker career. Although these players are usually harder to outplay than their more passive counterparts, there are still various tweaks and adjustments that will go a long way against them.
If you want to learn how to crush aggressive players and adjust your poker strategy against them – keep on reading.
I will list a number of suggestions and ideas that you should introduce into your game-plan when faced with an aggro opponent. While this text may not answer every question you might have about dealing with loose aggressive players, it will shed some light on several important concepts that come into play in these situations.
Identifying Aggressive Players
If you’re an online poker player, you’ll probably have no problems recognizing aggressive players, or LAGs as they are often referred to. Their poker statistics for things such as PFR and 3-bet will usually be on the higher side. This also applies to other aggressive stats, such as continuation betting, raise c-bet, etc. Conversely, these players are less likely to put chips in the pot by just calling.
In the live environment, it is hard to miss aggressive players, because they will usually be the ones driving the action and involved in all big pots. Recognizing these players is the first step as you need to make sure your strategy adjustments are appropriate, i.e., they work best against players who are genuinely aggressive and don’t give up easily.
Preflop Texas Holdem Strategy Against LAG's
Aggressive players will usually drive action before the flop, meaning they’ll come in with frequent raises and 3-bets, especially in position. This approach tends to do very well against many opponents because it allows them to take control of the hand and win pots by purely staying aggressive on various boards.
To effectively counter this approach, you’ll need to adjust to these players’ tendencies and incorporate specific changes such as:
- Expanding your 3 & 4-bet range against them
- Trapping them with big hands before the flop
- Playing fewer speculative hands yourself.
These adjustments should help you improve your win-rate against agro players quite significantly. We’ll now take a look at some PokerSnowie examples and discuss these points in light of particular hands illustrating actual situations that are likely to occur at the table.
With a hand like AhKh, PokerSnowie suggests 4-betting about 14% of the time. Given the fact we’ve raised from UTG+1, the big blind player should know we are representing a pretty strong range, which should weigh their 3-betting range more towards value hands.
However, against aggressive players, you should increase the 4-betting frequency in these spots. You’ll often be able to win the pot right then and there as they’ll have more bluffs than an average TAG. If you’re up against a competent LAG, you don’t even have to make your 4-bet too big. These players like being in control and aren’t the ones who’ll call you lightly to try and hit the flop.
This also means that you can introduce some 4-bet bluffs in your range, especially hands with blockers such as small suited Aces. Given the fact these players are light 3-bettors and that your hand blocks a fair number of their value combos, you should definitely have more 4-bet bluffs in your range.
With all of this in mind, you should also be less inclined to get involved against aggressive players with speculative hands. For example, suited connectors can be very powerful against a passive opponent, but the loose aggressive player will not let you see free cards, and you will almost always face a continuation bet on the flop so will not be able to realize your equity as easily.
Simply put, if they 3-bet wide, their plan is to continuation bet on the flop and continue barreling on good run outs. Every time you miss, you’ll likely have to give up, and you will rarely have good odds to draw if you have such holding.
Those times you do make your hand, you might get one or two bets out of them, but since their hand range is pretty wide, they aren’t as likely to get stacked in these spots.
If we take the same situation, but we have a hand like pocket Aces, we see that PokerSnowie suggests 4-betting a really high percentage. However, against an aggressive player, your 4-bets lose value for the very reasons described in the previous paragraphs. Namely, they’ll often get out of dodge, and you won’t get any more money out of them.
So, you should be more inclined to only call with hands like Aces and let them see the flop. Since they have the initiative, you can expect they’ll continue on many boards, trying to represent a really strong range of hands. Because your hand is really well disguised, you’ll sometimes be able to get them to commit a lot of chips trying to represent the kind of hand you’re holding.
Handling Aggressive Players After the Flop
Your approach to dealing with aggressive players after the flop will depend significantly on their particular poker strategy. You’ll need figure out if they know how to play poker in a balanced way, are they are likely to give up after the flop if they miss, or if they’re someone willing to fire all three streets on a pure bluff.
In general, you should be more inclined to bluff-raise the flops against aggressive players. If you have a hand with over-cards and some backdoor equity against an aggressive opponent who’s likely to fire on the flop, raising gives you a chance to win the pot immediately or at least give you a better idea of where you’re at, i.e., are they on a pure bluff or their hand has some equity.
In a spot such as this, where we called a 3-bet in position with a decent hand, we’re faced with a decision on the flop. Against tighter players, merely calling and seeing what develops on the turn is the safer and better approach. Against an aggressive player whose 3-bet range is rather broad, you should be willing to raise more often.
With a board such as this, they aren’t likely to have connected, while your range still contains enough hands that could have hit this board. Furthermore, even if they’ve paired up, your raise on the flop will slow them down. Of course, we’re talking about thinking LAG players here, not someone who’ll just mindlessly put their chips in the middle with the third pair.
So, if you raise and get called, you’ll be able to re-evaluate on the turn and decide whether to continue betting if you pick up additional equity or check back and take the free river. Additionally, some agro players will try to retake the betting lead when a scare card hits, and many of those actually help improve your hand.
If you have the read that someone is often just firing one bullet and giving up, you can take a similar spot and just call in position. Once they check to you on the turn, though, you’ll need to seize control of the hand immediately on almost all turns. Otherwise, they might sense weakness and fire away on many rivers, where you’ll only be able to call if you improve.
We have a similar situation but decide to call with our open-ended draw on the flop. The player checks to us. We must take this opportunity to bet out and take control of the hand. Sometimes, checking back here is better, but against an aggressive opponent who seems to have given up, you must take an opportunity to bet and maximize your EV.
Otherwise, if we miss, we might face a big river bet and won't have many options. They might be on a pure bluff, but the only way to win would be to shove over their bet, which is a high-variance approach and can make your life much more complicated than it needs to be.
Summing Up Poker Strategy Against Loose Aggressive Players
No matter how experienced you might be, no one likes dealing with aggression at the tables. It can be fun for a while but, at the end of the day, we’d all prefer having passive calling stations all over the place, allowing us to win pots without breaking a sweat.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality of the game. You’re usually faced with a mix of players, and some of them tend to be aggressive. This isn’t something to be afraid of; like everything else, you need to adjust your Texas Holdem strategy to their playing style, and you’ll be just fine.
That being said, learning how to play poker efficiently against these players is a must. To put it in short:
Trap these players more often and let them bluff.
Be ready to bluff catch on scary runouts.
Try to put the pressure on them when they show weakness.
Texas Holdem Strategy Against Nits
Tight is right! This poker saying has been around for almost as long as the game itself and is an opposite approach of previously mentioned LAG.
It is founded on the idea that if you play tight and only get involved with good hands, other players won't be able to take your money. After all, if you always have the goods when you get involved, how can anyone effectively counter that?
The whole „tight is right“ approach may have been the winning style years ago when most players in the game knew very little about strategy and many of them were there to gamble. These days, however, players who stick to a very tight strategy don't tend to fare too well against other strong players. You can see it in one of the many available poker quizzes.
Although it is worth noticing that even Nits have a pretty good understanding of how to play Texas Holdem poker, but will have certain common flaws that you can take advantage of.
We'll touch upon some ideas that should help you develop an effective and efficient strategy to take the nits out of their comfort zone and take advantage of their overly predictive and easy-to-exploit tendencies.
Before the Flop: Range Adjustments across the Board
When we talk about nitty players, the term is used to define a player that plays too tight, meaning their range doesn’t include nearly enough hands in any particular aspect of the preflop game, be it:
- Raising to steal the blinds
- Calling in the big blind
- Using 3-bet and especially 4-bet bluffs
There are adjustments you can and should make against this type of players in every segment because these adjustments will help you win more and more often against them.
Dealing with raises
One aspect that nits are right about is the fact that you can’t do much against someone who only opens 10%-12% of their hands. If they only have premium hands when they open, however, you can adjust by simply folding and giving up your blind unless you have a good hand yourself. It is, in fact, the most effective strategy against these preflop raises as you’ll be minimizing their gains whenever they do pick up a good hand.
As you can see, PokerSnowie suggests an extensive range of hands to open on the button, because it is profitable regardless of what type of players you’re dealing with. Of course, some adjustments may be required, but cutting this range to under 15% can never be good. To compare, this is what a 12% opening range looks like.
So, if your Hold’em Manager tells you you’re up against this type of a player, the best thing you can do is tighten your calling and adjust your value 3-betting range. You can adapt by only 3-betting premium hands for value (QQ+, AK) and also include some more suited Aces as your bluffs since you’ll be blocking some of their strongest potential holdings. Hands like KQ suited or AJ suited, which would be good value bets against some opponents make for better flat calls against nits because you’ll be able to realize your equity more often.
Attacking their big blind
If you’re up against a really tight player, they’re more likely to give up their big blind in the spots where most other players would defend. It means there is free money for the taking and you should take advantage of the opportunity whenever you can. This is especially true when you’re late positions or on the button as you should be expanding your standard range and going after the easy money.
We’ve already seen the standard PokerSnowie range for opening the button. However, against a nit, you should further expand this range to include many hands you might not consider against a non-nitty opponent, going even as low as 72s. The reason for this is these players will fold more often before the flop and they’ll only 3-bet with the top of their range, so even if they do defend, they’ll mostly do so by calling giving you additional excepted value for your weak holdings.
Of course, you should always keep in mind there is the small blind player in there as well, and if they’re someone competent and capable of picking up on what you’re doing, you should be more careful. If the SB player figures out you’re going after the nit’s big blind every time you get the chance, they might start 3-betting light and putting you in tough spots with weak hands.
But either way, trying to attack tight players blinds as often as possible is a winning poker strategy, and you should stick to it.
How To Play Poker Against Nits Postflop
Nits are usually heavily oriented towards value, which makes them fairly easy to play postflop. Their philosophy is usually that they don’t need to do much when they miss as they can wait for good hands and then stack their opponents when they hit, making up for their small losses from before. However, against competent Texas Hold’em players, this won’t work.
There are several areas you should recognize and take advantage of when playing very tight players after the flop, depending on whether you’re the aggressor or they are the ones with the initiative.
Continuing the aggression
If you’re the preflop aggressor and go to the flop against a nit, you should be c-betting almost always. These players tend to play a fit-or-fold style, so when they check to you, there is very little reason for you to check back with a hand that has any type of potential to improve or even your air holdings. If they don’t have a good holding, they’ll give up and let you have the pot without much resistance.
You can see that in the situation such as the one in the picture, PokerSnowie slightly prefers checking back your AK, because you have a lot of backdoor equity and you don’t want to get raised out of the pot. Against a nit, however, this isn’t a concern, as they’ll never check-raise you on a semi-bluff and they’ll only call with hands like 89-suited, allowing you to re-evaluate on the turn and fully realize your equity.
When they do happen to find a hand and call you, you can re-evaluate the turn and also check out how often they fold to a double barrel. In general, though, against a player who routinely folds to c-bets, you should be very careful when they finally find a hand they’re interested in.
On the rare occasion, they go for a check-raise, you can safely fold your hand and let them have the pot. There is no point in getting into bluffing wars with these types of players because when they raise you on the flop, they have it and they aren’t going anywhere. A lot of aggression may occasionally convince them their hand is not good enough but, overall, the best way to proceed when faced with a check-raise is to fold everything but the strongest hands in your range.
Against the aggression
Every now and then, you’ll get to play a hand against a nit in a position after calling their raise. Because of the general tendencies of these players, you should once again have no problems finding the best way to maximize your profits.
For example, many of these players tend only to fire a c-bet when they connect with the flop and will check to you when they miss. You can fire a bet yourself with pretty much any two cards and take the pot. They won’t put up much resistance as they are happy to wait for a “better spot.”
A more common scenario is where they’ll fire one barrel on the flop and then give up pretty much 100% of the time when they don’t improve on the turn. This is another area where your poker tools can come in handy as they can tell you about players’ tendencies if you have a large enough sample.
In live games, you’ll quickly pick up which players rock this particular style, and you’ll be able to make a lot of money off of them.
Not Every Tight Player is a Nit
These tips and strategies should help you make more money when playing against nits. While you can’t do much about the fact they only tend to play the very top of the range before the flop, you can certainly account for that fact when planning your moves and take full advantage of their simplistic approach to the game.
However, keep in mind that not every tight player is a nit. Some players who are on the tighter side will still pick their spots to play against you and put you to a decision. While these players can also be exploited, they aren’t the nits we’re talking about in this article.
Real nits tend to be weak, fit-or-fold players, who only have one gear. So, in a nutshell, your Texas Holdem strategy against them should be simple – don’t pay them anything when they have the goods and take all other pots.
Steal as many pots as you can preflop
Do not defend your blinds too wide
Continuation bet most of your holdings to steal small pots
Fold if they show a lot of aggression postflop
Poker Strategy Against Passive Calling Stations
Learning how to play Texas Holdem poker against sticky players who hate folding can be a bit tricky. These players, that we often refer to as calling stations, are the type to „keep you honest“ and look you up with all sorts of hands that manage to connect with the board in any way. They'll call down your three barrels with something like the fourth pair, and they'll proudly turn over their hand on a showdown.
Your average calling station won't put you to any tough decisions as they'll rarely raise or bet themselves. For the most part, they are content to check and let other players do the betting. At the same time, though, they will call all sorts of bets with weak hands, regardless of how much strength you're trying to project.
Clearly, this isn't a winning style and, in the long run, these players are destined to lose.
Threfore, if you are able to make a few adjustments to your poker strategy, you will end up crushing these players and taking their chips.
How to Identify a Calling Station?
Recognizing calling stations at the table usually doesn’t take much effort.
Their stats will usually tell you everything you need to know. These players will have a very high VPIP and WTSD percentage, while their aggressive stats, like preflop raise and 3-bet, will usually be very low.
In a live setting, keep an eye out for the player(s) that are involved in almost all the pots. More importantly, keep track of types of hands they take to a showdown. Regardless of the results, if someone continually turns over weak hands in big pots, they’re likely a calling station.
Of course, they could soul-reading everyone, but that’s just highly unlikely. If they’re winning, they’re probably running good, or other players at the table are failing to adjust to their tendencies.
Know Your Customer: Severely Reduce Your Bluffing Frequency
Bluffing is an essential part of poker and mixing in some bluffs into your overall game-plan is very important for balancing your poker hand range. However, this all goes out of the window when you’re playing against someone you believe is a passive calling station. These players will look you up so much more often than an average player that trying to bluff them doesn’t make much sense.
When we’re talking about a calling station here, we aren’t talking about a player who occasionally makes a loose call with a weak second pair. These players will routinely call you down with a pocket pair of 4s with the board reading A 9 7 6 2. If there is any chance, no matter how remote, their hand is good, they’ll try to take it to a showdown.
In this spot, PokerSnowie suggests that betting big on the river as a bluff is a correct play, i.e., it has a much higher EV than just checking and giving up. The bet puts a lot of heat on the opponent, and since the scare card hit the river, you can credibly represent a hand like a nut flush draw that turned into a pair of Aces.
Against a passive calling station, however, you should carefully consider this play. Even if you took the bet-bet line, giving up on the river some percentage of the time is perfectly fine against a player who is likely to look you up with the hand as weak as a pair of 6s.
Of course, this isn’t an exact science, as it is hard to know just how wide the other player is ready to go. In general, you should be much more conservative in the spots that seem to offer a natural bluffing opportunity. While the play might work against a tight or even a standard, solid player, calling stations hate giving up and are way more likely to look you up.
Take Them to Value Town
The very thing that makes calling stations “difficult” to play against is also what makes them great to have at the table if you adjust correctly. Knowing that these players will call down with anything and everything means that you have to go for thin value bets in some spots where you’d usually be content to check the hand down.
Against an average player, there are certain situations where going for three streets of value with an average holding doesn’t make sense. These are spots where you can’t expect to get called by a weaker hand after being called on the flop and the turn. Against a player who goes to a showdown with almost their entire range, you should go for the max value as often as you can.
For example, in the above spot, where we bet on the flop and checked back on the turn, the standard play facing a small bet in this spot is to call. Against a solid player, we can’t raise for value here, as we can’t expect to be called by worse.
However, if we have the player in the big blind pegged as the calling station, we can definitely consider a value raise here. They’ll often pay off, thinking you’re trying to move them off a chop or that you might have a weaker hand, like a smaller flush draw or a straight draw, which both missed.
Of course, to get involved in these spots, you need to be pretty sure you’re up against a proper calling station, either based on your reads or your poker stats.
It is a very thin value, but if the big blind player fits the profile of someone unlikely to fold a hand that has any showdown value, you should go for it.
Improving Texas Holdem Strategy: Size Your Bets Accordingly
We’ve pretty much digested that calling stations love to call – hence the nickname. If you know this for a fact and know a particular player is a station, you should size your value bets accordingly.
The fact of the matter is, these players usually don’t care too much about the sizing and will either fold or call purely based on their hand.
This opens the door to an exploitative approach where you can go very big with your value hands. While in general, you might try to size your bets in a way to get paid off by weaker hands, you can go a bit crazy and creative against these players.
In this hand, we raise over the UTG limp and isolate the calling station in position. We hit pretty much the dream flop and proceed to bet – bet on both flop and turn, betting half pot. The river card comes 2h, which is a dream card for us as it completes no draws and it opens up some exciting possibilities.
If we consider the fact we got called twice already, it is safe to assume this player has something. They could have had a flush draw which missed, in which case they’ll probably be folding regardless of the bet size. However, if they have a made hand, they liked on the flop and the turn, the river changes nothing.
This is a great spot to go for a huge value bet against a calling station. As we can see, betting 2x the pot isn’t suggested by PokerSnowie, simply because we can’t realistically expect to get called by many worse hands, so we’re either losing value or getting ourselves in a world of problems against full houses.
Against a calling station, however, we have to account for the fact that they’ll call down with a much wider range. If they have a seven (like they do here), not even talking about weaker Qx, they’re unlikely to fold it regardless of how much we bet.
So incorporating overbets and going for max value is perfect poker strategy in this spot. Betting anything in the region of $100 to all in is a good idea in general. The exact sizing might depend on your particular reads and knowledge about this player’s tendencies.
So How To Play Poker Against Calling Stations?
There are certain situations in poker where moving away from the GTO and playing exploitatively is perfectly fine. When you find yourself in a pot against a calling station, this idea applies. You can forget about balancing your ranges and disguising the strength of your hand because the player across from you doesn’t care.
They are only concerned about the absolute value of their hand, and if they find it satisfactory, they’re likely to give you as many chips as you ask.
Do not try to bluff calling stations
Value bet even medium strength hands
Go for big value bets when you have it
As you see, making the right adjustments to your Texas Holdem strategy based on your opponents is not something you want to skip when learning how to play poker game. It will make you a better player and tremendously increase your win rate, which is something that you probably want.