I’ve been playing more and more low stakes live poker lately and have been doing fairly well. I played maybe eight times this month of $1/$2 NL for only maybe two hours at a time and am up about $1000 or so. I can attribute a good portion of it to categorizing my opponents. The way to do this is to play tight the first couple of orbits so you can figure out the few different types of opponents. Usually you don’t even have to wait the first couple of orbits because their playing style is written all over them. Allow me to explain below. Keep in mind this advice will only work on $1-$2 tables and possibly $2-$5. It may work beyond that, but I have little experience at those stakes.
The first type of opponent you may notice is the regular. The regular is easy to spot because (s)he knows the other regulars and also the dealer by name and addresses them as such. These are the players that are probably going to be pretty competent and probably won’t make any glaring mistakes, however it still doesn’t mean they will be all that great. They also generally play pretty lag especially in position with limpers. The best way to deal with them is to stay out of their way with mediocre hands until you are more confident with how they are playing. Also, if you have a monster, make it look like you don’t know what you are doing, by under betting and calling their raises, then hammer the river. This only will work once, but will give you an opportunity to bluff them later on.
Keep in mind, not all regulars are laggy – the older the player, the tighter they tend to play. It’s not too uncommon to see an old man only play a hand every two or three orbits. When he raises, don’t get too involved unless you beat his over pair or TPTK.
Probably the most obvious to spot player is the Asian guy. Asian guys all play crazy and love to gamble. It’s not uncommon for them to go all in preflop on their first hand at the table even with no limpers. The skinnier the Asian, the crazier they will play. Also if they wear glasses, and the thicker the plastic in the frames, the crazier they will play. To deal with these players, simply trap them. If you are UTG and a 6 foot 120 lb Asian with really big plastic glasses just sat down at the table at your table and you look down and see pocket aces, limp in because this guy is pushing all his chips in regardless of what he has as long as the pot wasn’t raised. By limping, you may even get a caller besides the Asian, if other people are familiar with this stereotype.
Related to the Asian guy is the Asian lady. They tend to be older women who always chase flushes. To play against them, all you have to do is over bet the pot on your top pair – make them pay for their draw. If the third suit comes out on the board and she bets, even if it’s small, you better fold because she hit her flush.
You will no doubt see about half of the table doing tricks with their chips. The most common one is shuffling the chips. This doesn’t indicate how well a player plays, however it does show they have table experience and probably won’t give off the most obvious of tells. Your best bet with these people playing with their chips is to just lump them into one of the previous stereotypes. One thing you may be able to extract from their chip playing is by paying attention when they play with their chips. I recall playing against someone who would only shuffle his chips when he was going to bet. Some players may do the opposite, and some may have no pattern, so this is just something to watch for.
The next type of player is the guy with the headphones who isn’t paying much attention. Often times their head phones will be accompanied by an over-sized hoodie. These players are often quite bored because they are used to playing 16 tables simultaneously online. Most poker rooms won’t allow you to play more than one table at a time, if they did, these players would no doubt find a way to do so. Anyway, they will probably be familiar with proper betting sizes and all of those types of fundamentals. Your best bet for beating them is to catch them off guard. To catch them off guard, you have to do the typical things live players do that online players fail to adjust to. Play the 93o in a raised pot and check call until the river on a 245AK board and hammer the river, you will stack their big slick every time.
Finally, the best type of player to have at your table is new guy who hasn’t played much before. The new guy will appear a bit nervous, probably make a few etiquette mistakes like maybe accidentally betting out of turn. This is probably the easiest to play against. They will just about never try to bluff because they are worried about looking foolish. They will call multiple streets with middle pair, so take them to value town. If they raise, they’ve got something good. If they wait until the river to bet and act a bit extra nervous, like maybe being a bit louder when they announce a raise and they are shaking like a Polaroid picture, you better believe they have the stone cold nuts and you could safely fold your Aces on an AsKs2AQs because they have JsTs. Okay, don’t really fold quads! But you should never have to stack off to one of these opponents unless they outdraw you after the money is in.
I know I’m forgetting some of the other common opponents, but for now, these will help you make wise decisions on whether to value bet or fold your trips on a three suited board and other such situations. One final piece of advice unrelated to these stereotypes, (with the possible exception of the headphone guy) live players will rarely bluff a large river bet. Save your money on a mediocre hand and fold to that river bet.