Why the cards matter least – Poker Strategy Part 4

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy

Submitted by McTap, this article is a part of the Poker Strategy series.

In this article I will discuss what poker table image is and how to play accordingly. If you have not read the previous articles in this series, check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 at your convenience.

When it comes to table image, betting patterns and hands played dictate exactly how a person is portrayed at the table. Through everybody’s image on the table you can better understand the action that has happened, and what is to follow at the table.

Here are several types to describe your opponents.

Tight Player
If a player has not played many hands over a long period of time, that player will have what is considered a tight table image. This type of player only plays the monster hands. If you have PokerTracker (PT3) or Hold’em Manager (HM) running, this player will have a VP$IP (Voluntarily Puts $ In Pot) of less than 20. A player with a VP$IP of less than 20 means they only play about 20% of the hands they see. Keep in mind that you need at data set of at least 1000 of your hands before you should take these numbers at face value. Anything less does not represent a good enough data set to be confident in the number. That doesn’t mean you ignore the numbers, just be aware that the numbers could be a little skewed.

Tight Aggressive Player (TAG)
If your opponent is considered a tight player and decides to raise the hand he/she is playing, then he/she would be considered to have a tight aggressive table image. This type of player is very common, as many people feel that this is the way to play in order to be successful. TAG’s usually have VP$IP and PFR (Pre Flop Raise) numbers (using PT3 or HM) very close together, as this shows that they always raise the strong hands they decide to play. This is an excellent strategy for playing Sit ‘N’ Go’s (SNG), or Single Table Tournaments (STT), but usually falls short when playing Multi table tournaments (MTT) as you are relying too much on your cards to chip up.

Tight Passive (TP)
If your opponent is considered a tight player but only limps, or calls PFR, into the very limited pots they play, then he would be considered to have a tight passive table image. In my opinion, this is a new player who is scared to play big pots, so by not raising or re-raise with their strong hands, they limit the size of the pot and the amount they could lose. They would rather see the flop fairly cheap before making a decision for more of their chips. Unless this player is holding AA or KK, they can be pushed out of pots with PFR or strong bets on the flop with a non scary board (no face card). On the other hand, if you feel that your opponents play very loose and aggressive, then playing tight passive is an excellent way to trap them with your monster hand. I wouldn’t recommend playing this way too often, as you allow too many players into the pot cheaply, against your strong hand, where they could easily out flop you.

In order to maximize your profits against the above tight players, playing in a loose style will allow you to do this, as long as you remember that a raise from a tight player usually indicates strength, requiring your starting hand to be strong(er).

Loose Player
The more hands an opponent plays, the more he is considered to have a loose table image. This translates to a much higher VP$IP than a tight player. As everybody knows, premium hands do not come around that often, so if a player has a VP$IP of 20/30/40 or higher, then they are getting to the point where they are playing just about any 2 cards, without really considering their position or their opponents. Most loose players are just trying to hit the flop hard (2pr, straight, flush, etc.) and then try to trap their opponents with their made hands, or if they miss, but the flop is uncordinated (no face, no connected or no suited cards), then they again will try to steal the pot against tight players. Most loose players have no problems with folding weak hands after the flop. The problem is putting them on a range a hands that the flop did not hit, so that you may bet/raise on the flop to get them to fold.

Loose Aggressive Player (LAG)
Now if your opponent is playing plenty of hands and raises many of these hands, then he is probably using the fact that their opponents are tight and playing aggressive against them so they can win the pot without getting to the showdown, or flop for that matter. When it comes to their VP$IP and PFR numbers, you will find LAG’s having high numbers that are close together. The best way to play against this player is to wait for a strong hand and play back at them with raises and re-raises.

Loose Passive (LP)
This is probably the toughest opponent to play against, as their hand range runs pretty wide. The problem with a LP player, you really don’t know if they are a fish or a skilled player trying to outplay their opponents on the flop/turn/river. Because LP’s play many hands, you will find it very hard to know if the flop/turn/river has hit your opponents hand. The best way to play against this type of player is to always raise your hands pre-flop, making it expensive for the LP player to see a cheap flop.

In order to maximize your profits against the above loose players, playing in a tight style will allow you to do this, where your starting hands will be stronger than the average hand played by the loose player. Be very careful with trap plays against loose players, as their range could be very wide allowing the flop to hit them strong in many ways.

Hand Ranges
Now that we have a better understanding of the types of opponents you have, you need to be able to place your opponents on a hand range according to their table image.

Here’s a pretty good breakdown taken from PokerShark
Group 1 Hands: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, and AKs. There are 28 ways to make these 5 hands, 2.11% of the possible hands.
Group 2 Hands: TT, AQs, AJs, KQs, and AK. There are 30 ways to make these 5 hands, 2.26% of the possible hands.
Group 3 Hands: 99, JTs, QJs, KJs, ATs, and AQ. There are 34 ways to make these 6 hands, 2.56% of the possible hands.
Group 4 Hands: T9s, KQ, 88, QTs, 98s, J9s, AJ, and KTs. There are 50 ways to make these 8 hands, 3.77% of the possible hands.
Group 5 Hands: 77, 87s, Q9s, T8s, KJ, QJ, JT, 76s, 97s, Axs, and 65s. There are 98 ways to make these 18 hands, 7.39% of the possible hands.
Group 6 Hands: 66, AT, 55, 86s, KT, QT, 54s, K9s, J8s, and 75s. There are 68 ways to make these 10 hands, 5.13% of the possible hands.
Group 7 Hands: 44, J9, 64s, T9, 53s, 33, 98, 43s, 22, Kxs, T7s, and Q8s. There are 106 ways to make these 20 hands, 7.99% of the possible hands.
Group 8 Hands: 87, A9, Q9, 76, 42s, 32s, 96s, 85s, J8, J7s, 65, 54, 74s, K9, and T8. There are 132 ways to make these 15 hands, 9.95% of possible hands.

Here’s an updated table that includes variance increase of 3.5% for 10 player tables, and 6% for 6 player tables (again taken from PokerShark). Keep in mind that the numbers are not exact as they do tend to overlap. For a better understanding of ranges, I would suggest reading Sklansky’s book titled “Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players.”

A Player Plays Hands Up to

Full Ring VP$IP

6-max VP$IP


Group 1



Very Tight

Group 2



Very Tight

Group 3




Group 4




Group 5




Group 6




Group 7




Group 8




Any Two Suited or Worse



Extra Loose

Now with a better knowledge of table images and hand ranges, your decisions process should improve. Here’s what I mean, A-Q is a much stronger hand against a loose player than against a tight player. The reason for this is the loose player has been entering many hands and probably does not have a hand as strong as yours, while the tight player needs a premium hand to enter the pot. As a result, raising the loose player is a smart play, while folding might be the right play against a tight player.

Another thing to remember is what your opponents consider your table image to be. Keep in mind that what you think you are playing as might not be perceived in the same way as what your opponent think you are playing as. For example, you’ve played tight for the 1st 15 hands of the game and all of a sudden you go on a run of 4-5 hands that you raise because they were very strong. You might think you are playing like a TAG player, as you only played/raised strong hands, but your opponents have just seen you raise 4-5 hands in a row and now consider you to be LAG. This is especially true for opponents that you have not seen too often (very small data set on them), as they have not see you either, so they have limited data on you.

So while you play, keep in mind how you may be perceived at the table (by the number of hands you have played and how you have played them) and try to play the opposite of your table image, so that you can keep your opponents of guard. If your opponent views you as never being able to bluff, it will be easier to make a play that will bluff him out of a hand, and if your opponent views you as a maniac, you will be much more likely to be called or even raised that could help your big hands get paid.

If you can place your opponents into a specific table image style, you can play the opposite style against them, no matter what cards you have.

Good luck at the tables.


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2 Comments to Why the cards matter least – Poker Strategy Part 4

December 13, 2008

Stellar work McTap….it fully deserves a rating of 5 stars!
I found the following sentence really interesting:
“This is an excellent strategy for playing Sit ‘N’ Go’s (SNG), or Single Table Tournaments (STT), but usually falls short when playing Multi table tournaments (MTT) as you are relying too much on your cards to chip up”

It relates very well to the discussion we had on the PokerBRB forum (http://www.pokerbrb.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1935) were you recommended me buying “Tournament Poker: 101 winning moves”.
Can’t wait to receive it and start messing with my opponent’s heads:-)

December 14, 2008

Hi McTap

Looking forward to reading your future tutorial on PokerTracker:-)

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