Adjusting to Different Player Types in Poker Tournaments

adjusting to different poker player types

It’s estimated that over 90% of the money won by winning players comes from recreational players. In tournaments this means that you don’t necessarily have to push every edge to the maximum that could have a small positive EV in terms of chips. Rather, you should play a solid game and try to win those chips from weaker players, who are more likely to make huge mistakes at some point in the hand.

We asked the Pro Team of Beasts Of Poker to share some expert advice on what kind of adjustments you should make to win the maximum from different player types in tournaments. In this post we’re going to cover the most common player types you will meet in tournaments, and go into the details of how you should adjust your strategy for each of them.

Playing against weak-tight players

Weak-tight players are generally ones that you expect to make money against by simply staying aggressive. Their biggest weakness is that they’re unwilling to enter a pot without a premium hand, making them very easy to read. Typical stats for this type of player would be something like 11/9/4 (VPIP/PFR/3B). Therefore they have a good hand every time they decide to see the flop.

It’s rare to see these players bluff catching with a very weak hand, but keep in mind even the tightest players will adjust at some point if you keep up relentless aggression. Therefore going on overdrive with postflop barreling might not be the best solution. Instead, we recommend to steal the blinds of these players and bluff a few more combos postflop, so that they just keep bleeding chips to you slowly but surely.

Playing against loose-passive players

Most poker players started with this style when they sat down at a poker table for the first time. People are naturally curious, which in NLHE translates into a desire to see how your starting hand develops and if you manage to win. Some players keep playing this way, and they are usually players who like poker for other reasons than winning money.

The glaring leak of loose-passive players is their willingness to call with too many hands both preflop and postflop, many times without the proper odds to do so. Our adjustment here is simple: Play as straightforward as you can, bet big with your good hands and avoid bluffs with no backup equity. You can generally size up your bets against these players, as their calling ranges tend to be quite inelastic.

Playing against hyper-aggressive & loose players aka maniacs

Ever heard of maniacs? They are the players who everyone wants to avoid sitting on a big stack on their left. Maniacs have higher-than-average bluffing frequencies both preflop and postflop. Sometimes it feels hard to play against these opponents as their wide range of hands makes them quite unpredictable.

While the strength of their game is utilizing fold equity to the maximum, within this strength lies also their weakness. They simply can’t have it all the time if they’re firing away huge every time they play a hand.

Our best response against maniacs is to give them a chance to dump away their chips. You can just slow-play your monsters and let a hyper-aggressive players hang themselves.

Some players might feel the urge to take a stand against a maniac, but fighting fire with fire usually just results in more variance and unnecessarily risking your tournament life. If you find yourself sitting at the same table with a maniac and you have a short stack, your hands are pretty much tied to waiting for a good starting hand (even more than at a normal table).

Playing against your average tournament regular

You will face a few average tournament regulars at pretty much any table in tourneys unless you’re playing some super high roller tourney with the majority of the field consisting of poker celebrities. The main thing to keep in mind when entering a pot with a tourney regular is you can’t make any significant exploits against this player type. They have a solid game at every phase of the tournament.

Having a solid overall game doesn’t mean that regulars don’t make any mistakes. Let’s say that you have cold-called an open from a regular and this player fires all 3 streets. On many board runouts, it’s unlikely that your average regular has a properly balanced range with their bet-bet-bet line – many regulars don’t have any bluffs at all if the board reads out AA985 with a completed backdoor flush. You can find some good folds against this player type that you would not make against maniacs or world-class tourney crushers.

Playing against an online Super-Star ⭐

These are the endbosses of tourneys. The biggest winners in online tournaments play huge volumes, have massive trophies under their belt and they can be quite tricky to play against. Don’t level yourself when playing against these players – focus on playing your A-game when in a pot with them, and try to keep your leaks to the minimum.

The best weapon you can have against these players is knowledge of GTO (game theory optimal) play in different spots. With short stacks the equilibrium shove/calling ranges can be studied with hand charts. The deeper the stacks get, the more complicated the GTO strategy is going to look like. Having studied the game with poker solvers might pay off some dividends if you end up running deep in a big tournament with multiple crushers left in the field.

Final words

While the tactics to adjust to some basic player types are not that complicated, many players fail to make these exploits in-game as they’re often either playing too many tables or otherwise playing on autopilot. Let’s end this post with a quote from a Team Pro of Beasts Of Poker on the importance of adjusting to your opponents:

‘There are just so many ways to make mistakes in poker that every poker player on earth has some leaks in their game. In poker you get the best results by putting round pegs to round holes: Value-bet those calling stations to death, put pressure on weak-tight players by barreling and make tough folds against nits. While GTO strategies have their place in modern tournament poker, massive profits await players who are good at exploiting the weaker players!’

-‘zumbapoker’, Runner-up in SCOOP-97-H 6-max $5.2K PLO & Beasts Of Poker Team Pro

Beasts of Poker