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I’m going to attempt to break down the different styles within poker and what they mean in the real world. This is going to heavily sit with those in Europe since my analogies are based upon English Football (If anyone reading this understand what I’m saying and wants to rephrase it in terms of NFL/NBA/NHL then please do).

The reason for this post is because I disagree with a lot of the general attitude in the online poker world in regards to how the game is played (by this I mean turning around and saying THIS way is the best way in which you can win and it’s the ONLY way you should play). Poker online is a lot tougher nowadays because everyone is learning from the same information, and thus they are learning how to be the SAME player as the next guy. This is very much seen in the English Football.

Manchester United:

The reigning champions and one of the biggest names in the league. They play a very espansive, fast-paced style. They are the ultimate LAGs of the Premier league. Very rarely will United draw a game, they’ll either destroy a team by sheer attacking power or get caught by a “calling station” (suckerpunched). THATS why I love the way United play. But let’s talk about this LAG.

Loose-Aggressive-Aggressive. Very open and risk-taking, in poker terms this type of player will allow you lots of chances to take his stack. The reason is because HE is so focused on taking yours. He isn’t interested in checking down to the river (much) and wants to either take the pot off you right now or you to prove to him you’re the better hand. Try to play around with this guy and he’ll have you in knots, because you know he is bluffing and yet you can’t do a thing about it because you don’t know if this time would be “the one time he has it”.

Arsenal:

This team plays a lot more of a TAG style.  It is often said that Arsenal can “pass themselves to death”. The reason being is that they like to take their time, they use precise movements in the fact that they know what they are going to do and how they want to do it. They are in total control of the action, because they don’t allow you any. There’s almost no freedom in their actions. Creativity, yes, but true freedom no. If the ball falls right for them then they will destroy everyone in from of them. However if they are up against a real “nitty” team then they become stuck. They very rarely lose, in fact their variance is extremely less than United’s. However their wins:draw ratio is a lot tighter. They are a BREAKEVEN team.

Tight-Aggressive-Aggressive. You control everything. You know when you’re going to enter a pot, how much with and why you’re doing it. You don’t enter many pots (you keep control of the ball and thus the tempo of the game) but those you do you are wanting to take down. People can’t mess around with you because usually you’ll have something.

Chelsea/Liverpool:
These are the counter-attacking teams. Also known as the ROCKS of football (for those in the know, think Italian teams). They are the check-raisers and the calling stations with the nuts vs aggressive players. These two teams want to not lose first and win second. They can (and do) win the big trophies but it’s a true grind and not the “pretty style” that some people, this poster very much included, demand and want. Their margin of victory/defeat is usually very slim. Often if things aren’t right it’ll be a lot of breakeven results because that’s better than a slight loss.

Tight-Passive-Aggressive. This player wants YOU to make the moves. He gives control over the action and pot to you because he knows that with the nuts he can “sucker-punch” you out of the hand. In fact they can sit around for hours on end doing nothing much in particular and yet somehow they end up with a whole bunch of chips!

Rest of the bunch:

The rest of the teams are really bad. The bottom bunch who are relegated (pushed to the lower leagues) are usually Loose-Passive-Passive. Way too many leaks and no punch to their play whatsoever. The best of the rest are generally Loose-Passive-Aggressive. Again, a whole bunch of leaks which COULD be plugged but with enough skills to get a result or two at times. Yet almost every team has one thing in common when they come up against one of the big teams I mentioned. They attempt to tighten up and sucker-punch for a victory. They REALLY don’t want to lose.

So what happens and where am I going with this? Well Arsenal are the TAGs, so unless they “get the right cards” then it’s going to end up as pretty much a grind/break even experience. A TAG isn’t going to allow the other play enough room to play back and hang himself so it comes down to cards vs cards and how each poker player (team) can react to the bigpot situations.

Liverpool and Chelsea? TPA. Again they are looking for the right spots, using the right cards in order to extract the most amount of damage. If the cards don’t come, they may look for spots in order to pick off enough small pots (chances) in order to come out a slight winner. After all a slight winner is better than not being a winner.

United on the other hand don’t care about cards. Like Doyle Brunson says (immortalized by Matt Damon in the winning scene vs Teddy KGB in Rounders), they’ll keep pushing and leaning on the other team until that team either plays back or crumbles. And very rarely does the team play back. It’s a massacre. But it only works if United (a LAG) is on their A-Game. If they’re not and they come up against a decent side then they are the ones who could get destroyed. But that’s the risk they take to control every game they play.

I hope this is making sense. What has happened with the US rooms is that the fish (smaller/lower teams) are not playing back at the bigger teams. This happened with Arsenal a few seasons back. The team had gone an entire campaign undefeated but once the smaller guys spotted how to defeat the team they couldn’t buy a win for love nor money. This is why it’s a nit-fest in the US tables. The weaker guys are trying to limit the damage first and then go for the winnings second. Against a TAG, that’s the perfect way of playing because it now means the cards have more say in proceedings. A TAGgy player is going to pass themselves to death unless they get a break, or gets unlucky and lose a bundle because they get sucker-punched/counter-attacked

A really strong Rock team is going to come up stuck (not get the breaks) a lot of the time in this situation either, pretty much for the same reasons. But a LAG team like United? They’ll run right over the tight-ass mo-fos and keep smashing that hammer until either the opponent breaks or they do. And they will have the SKILLS to make sure that they very rarely break.

 

For me that is the key. In the short term you don’t need to match skill levels versus a TAG if you play a tight-passive-aggressive game. A weaker player does not need to go skill vs skill against a TAG, he can let the cards do the winning for him and make sure not to lose any/too much in the mean time. In the long term that statement is completely wrong. If two teams play each other over and over again the one with the greater skills wins out. But just like A-A vs 7-2o, you never know what ONE session/game will produce. Hence why the FA Cup – if you know of it – is famous for “Giant Killings”). A TAG is putting his hopes on the long-term, a +ev. Even if it’s a small value.

 

On the other hand a LAG is all about putting their skills vs your skills in every single game. A LAG is going to push and push and push into every player, every hand, taking every victory they can. This is why United has been so dangerous down the years. But it is also why the “standard” skill level of online poker appears to be getting higher.

US Tables – Tight, counter-attacking players who are trying to compensate for lack of skill. They don’t want to go skill vs skill, they KNOW they’ll lose.

EURO Tables – Fishy only in regards that these players DO try to match Skill vs Skill. It’s just as dangerous as the US tables but in a different way.

 

You see the fish everyone wants to see are those matching skill vs skill. Pushing AI with top pair no kicker. But what they are finding are fish who are trying to limit their actions so that WE open up and get caught on the counter. They are playing a style which lowers the potential wins of a TAG player but they aren’t raising the potential losses at the same time.

 

Now I’m not advocating one style over the other (although there IS a style I prefer). You have to chose what is best for you out of your personality and playing style. But it is always good to understand the positives and negatives of each style. If you can’t deal with an All-or-Nothing session then be tight. If you’re looking to control everything around you, attack with SKILL. But remember, for every style there is a style which counters it. And then it comes down to which player is better over the long term.