Lessons 16-21

If you’ve made it this far, you can’t stop now! Just a few more lessons before you graduate from our poker school. In the last section, we talked about tournaments and no-limit and pot-limit poker. In this section, we’re going to step back into the realm of “normal” limit poker, but from a slightly more advanced perspective. While we try to make our lessons as simple and pain-free as possible, we’re going to get a bit more specific in this section with the language we use and the themes we discuss. Don’t worry, be happy! You’re a rapidly improving poker player and this stuff is only fancy talk for what you already know. Still, it helps to take a look. The next five lessons will touch on a wide variety of themes:

Lesson 16

Hello class! Knowing your opponents is one of the key skills you’ll need in order to beat the competition, so in this lesson we’re going to look at the most common “types” of poker player. It’s also important to bear in mind what type of player YOU are, and the types of things your opponents could do in order to beat you!

Types of opponents

Players are usually defined by, initially, the number of hands they play and, secondly, their betting style. In keeping with this, there are four main types of players: tight-passive, tight-aggressive, loose-passive and loose-aggressive. Let’s take a look at what all of that means:


By playing only a small number of hands, these players do fine in a limit game, but they won’t make much in a no-limit game. The only way these players win is when they pick off bluffs; normally, they won’t get the value out of their hands that they should. You should bluff at the flop a lot against these players and, if they are betting heavily, give them credit for a good hand and fold.


By playing a lot of hands, these players have to hope that opponents continually bluff into them because this type will call frequently with the second-best hand. This is a recipe for disaster at no-limit poker. You don’t see too many of these bad players at no-limit games because they lose so quickly and move on to limit tables.


These players come across as crazy maniacs but in reality, they are a very dangerous form of opponent—albeit with an Achilles’ heel. They will buy a fair share of pots, but then will get themselves trapped by another aggressive player and can lose their stacks in one or two hands. What separates these players from good “loose-aggressive” players is that they lack discipline. They love the action of no-limit so much that they get themselves trapped too easily.


This is a very common style and, in our opinion, one of the most effective. The tight-aggressive player’s main problems are that he may get chased out of a lot of flops too early and that he may be too easily read. You have to watch out for these players eating away at your bankroll bit-by-bit, and thus throwing you off balance.

Lesson 17

Kenny Rogers is no idiot. You really do have to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. One of the most common errors in Hold’em, much more so than in other games, is clinging to hands that look good, long after they’ve gone bad.

One of the clearest signs of a weak poker player is the inability to fold certain pocket pairs after the flop. Weaker players will often fold a K-J on an A-J-8 flop, but will bet all their money with a pair of queens on an A-10-9 flop.

When facing a bet, the difference in value between the two hands just mentioned is minuscule, but somehow the “prettier” pair of queens forces players to act like TV cowboys. As good-looking as the hand is, you don’t get any money for having pretty hands in poker.

What you do get is a chance to force certain situations in each round and better players will often beat weaker players for a lot of chips, even though the better player is holding worse cards than the weaker player. In a way, of course, this is the idea of poker, but what makes one player better than another, in essence, is the ability to transform what should be negative situations into positive ones.

The factors at work are the better player’s skills and the weaker player’s idea of a good hand. Another way to put it is this: giving a weak player a good starting hand is sometimes the best thing for a more experienced player. Just because something starts out fine doesn’t mean it will end that way. Starting hands are just that—a start.

Clinging to good starting hands for too long—specifically, putting in a bet in the bigger betting round on the turn—is an enormous hole in most players’ game. Players who rely on the most straightforward starting hands, particularly pocket pairs, will suffer the most.

Remember, just because it looks good doesn’t mean it is. Dump the cards that could get you in trouble.

Lesson 18

OK, class. This will be a short lesson, but it’s something we want to emphasize before we let you out into the real world of gambling ups and downs. That “something” is early betting. With so many hands being thrown in before the flop in a game of poker, pre-flop betting as important a part of the game as any, so it’s best to give it some thought.

The blind positions and the player who has to bet first must be more selective with their hands than other people at the table, since they don’t have the privilege of watching the other players bet and raise before they have to decide if they want to stay in the game themselves.

For example, let’s assume you’re first to play and you have a J-10, unsuited. The player to bet after you raises and everyone else at the table folds, except you. Now you’ve got a big dilemma.

The chances are fairly good that the other player has a better hand than you with at least an ace or a pocket pair. Unfortunately, you’ve already bet, because you had no idea or no way to tell what the other players at the table were dealt. In addition, you will always, throughout the game, be acting before this player, so his positional advantage will continue for the rest of the hand. Do you fold?

As you can see, the positioning is tricky. But it’s not all bad news being in an early position. Being in the dealer’s position not only gives you the benefit of observing how the other players are betting, but it also gives you the ability to adjust the size of the pot. After all of the other players have bet, a raise by the player in the dealer’s position could potentially double the size of the pot, assuming no one folds.

Poker is a learning experience, so keep playing and have fun and try to remember as much of the details as you can!

Lesson 19

Hello class! In Lesson 1, we touched on some important pre-poker ideas including game and seat selection. Now we’ll continue along those lines and take a look at table selection.

Many people overlook table selection, but in many ways it’s one of the most important factors to consider. For example, if you’re sitting at a table that’s too tight, too loose, or too aggressive, it’s not likely you will make a profit, regardless of your relative skill level.

Playing online allows you a great amount of flexibility in choosing your tables. A lot of online poker rooms list the percentage of players who are seeing the flop. A higher percentage means a looser game. All online poker rooms also list the average pot size. You do not necessarily want to play at the table with the highest average pot size, since this may indicate a lot of raises going into the pot. For loose-passive games, choose a table with a relatively high flop percentage and a reasonably average pot size. Remember that your participation will help raise the pot.

While different players prefer different styles of play, the general consensus is that the ideal table is the loose-passive table where hopefully you will make most of your profit from other players’ mistakes. In general, the more players seeing the flop, the better.

Another factor to consider is the number of players at the table. Most online tables are ten-handed, which means you’ll have to play relatively tight. More players means more competition. At a six-handed table, you can play considerably looser than you can at a ten-handed table. Some players prefer short-handed tables because you get to see the flop more often, and thus have more chances at winning the pot.

It will take some experience to learn what type of table is best for you, but if you find yourself at a table where you’re struggling to make a profit, don’t hesitate to leave and join another group!

Lesson 20

As we draw closer to the end of our poker lessons, we’d like to talk about the final rounds of Hold’em poker, since we expect our students to make it there soon! The later rounds of poker contain a lot more money, but somehow people don’t study tactics for these rounds as much as they should. For a complete guide to poker tactics, don’t forget to check out our strategy section.

We’ll refer to the later rounds of poker as, quite simply, the ability to “finish.” The ability to finish is often overlooked because most average players, particularly in Texas Hold’em, focus almost obsessively on pre-flop play. That’s a bit strange, since there’s more money in the later rounds, but it’s true nonetheless. Indeed, it’s a common complaint of average players to lament some unorthodox or daring strategy another player has made late in the game which appears to be “lucky.” But the bitter truth is that average players fixate on the earlier parts of hands, while better players focus on the “kill.”

Consider the following example. When an average player raises with a pair of sevens after no one opens the pot, they can’t understand why a better player will often re-raise with a J-10 suited. All they see is a fairly risky starting hand. They don’t see that not only is the J-10 suited profitable here because of the dead money of the blinds, but worse, they don’t see how the better player is going to make them pay on later betting rounds. The better player is likely to exploit the average player’s desire to back-up his opening pair, no matter how bad the cards turn out and no matter how close they are to dangerous “bluffing” territory.

Great players understand that they are not trying to win every pot they play. They repeatedly try to set up situations where, at worst, they give up small edges so they can get a huge return less often. This is particularly prevalent in no-limit Hold’em tournaments. Great players want to see a lot of flops and aren’t afraid to lose small pots with hands like 6-5 suited. What they are waiting for is to “finish” in those rare situations when it really matters.

As a learner, you should acknowledge that sometimes it’s not luck, but skill, that defeats you. Pay attention and pick up some pointers; pretty soon others will be emulating you.

Lesson 21

The first thing we’d like to say in our final poker lesson is “Congratulations!” You’ve made it through 20 lessons and you’re well on your way to becoming a solid all-around player. Now, on to our final words of poker advice…

People often ask: what’s a perfect hand? You might be inclined to say that any hand that wins is a perfect poker hand. (And you wouldn’t be wrong.)

We’d like to define a perfect hand as a hand for which two competent players would be willing to risk it all, because they’ve each got a reason to believe that they’ve got the best of it.

This is what happened in a recent game between two members of our poker staff who, incidentally, are very close friends. Both players are tight-aggressives with many years of poker experience under their belts, and both players couldn’t necessarily conclude that the other had the best hand when they started betting.

When Player A finally made his play, there was only one hand that could beat his own, and Player B had it. However, Player B failed to re-raise Player A when he had the chance, because he feared a hand that Player A MIGHT have had, but didn’t.

Obviously, in a game this close, the outcome could go either way. And while skill has a lot to do with the way both players played, we want to stress that it was the hands that determined the eventual winner. Both players believed so strongly in the power of their hand that they were willing to risk it all. That’s why we say that it doesn’t really matter how a hand is played; the most important thing is the belief each player has in that hand. The chips were going into the pot regardless of any outside factors…

We hope you’ve enjoyed our poker lesson, and we wish you good luck in the world of online poker!