Poker Playing Styles

Poker is a complex game with plenty of variables. This is why you will never find two players that play the same identical styles, unless they are bots. Everybody plays differently. However, we can distinguish 4 main playing styles basing on 2 variables – tightness and aggression.


Tightness refers to the amount of hands a player actively plays by either calling or raising preflop and seeing the flop with. What is considered tight and what loose depends on the poker variant and number of players at the table. For example, playing 30% hands is considered loose in full ring Texas Holdem and tight in heads up Omaha.

 Tight player plays a narrow range of starting hands
 Loose player plays a wide range of starting hands


Aggression refers to the actions a player usually choose:

 Aggressive player bets and raises more often than calls
 Passive player calls more often than bets and raises

Aggressive players always win more than passive players in the long run. When you are aggressive, you have two ways to win the pot. You can win with the best hand at the showdown or make other players fold. Passive players can only win by showing the best hand. It is impossible to be a consistent winner when you are passive, unless you can see your opponents cards.

When we combine tightness and aggression variables, we get 4 possible poker playing styles:

Tight aggressive (TAG)

Tight aggressive is the most profitable playing style for micro and small stakes poker. TAGs play only good starting hands and play them aggressively by betting and raising both preflop and postflop. They win the most money by showing the best hand against loose passive players that call their bets with weak hands.

Such players can be difficult to win any money from. When your table is full of tight aggressive players, I suggest that you leave and search for a better one, unless you are a good LAG player.

Tight passive (Rock)

Tight passive is the second most losing playing style in poker. Rocks play a very narrow range of starting hands and rarely bet or raise. They very often have the best hand at the showdown but cannot win big pots because of their passiveness. The amount of money they lose by folding excess the money they win from those small pots.

Such players are perfect to have to your left at the table. You can steal blinds from them all the time and they will almost never defend. However, if a tight passive player raises, you can be almost 100% sure that they have a strong hand. Do not try to call or re-raise them without a monster or a hand with good implied odds.

Loose aggressive (LAG, maniac)

Loose aggressive can be the most profitable playing style at medium and high stakes poker. LAGs play a wide range of starting hands and play them aggressively by betting and raising. This style is very risky and requires good reading skills to be profitable, otherwise it can be a financial disaster. Usually they will not have the best hand at the showdown. They rely on making other players fold their better hands. Loose aggressive style works best at a table full of TAG players.

You should avoid having a LAG player to your left at all cost. Playing out of position against them can be a nightmare. It will still be difficult to play against them also when they sit to your right, if they are good. If they are bad, you can win a lot of money by picking their excessive bluffs with less than premium hands. This will increase your variance, though.

Loose passive (Fish)

Loose passive is the most losing playing style in poker. Fish play a wide range of hands and play them passively by calling and rarely betting or raising. They love to see showdowns with marginal hands no matter the price and it costs them a fortune in the long run.

Fish are obviously the players you want to play the most against. Playing your strong hands aggressively and avoiding bluffing is all you need to make money from them.

Conclusion on poker playing styles

If you are a beginning poker player, I recommend that you start learning the tight aggressive playing style. Playing only good starting hands will save you from many tricky situations that LAGs often get into. You can still change your style later when you have more experience. Regardless of your style, you should always seek to play at tables with passive players. They are the easiest source of money in poker.

More articles on general poker:

 Quick start
 Poker bankroll management
 Poker position
 Poker software
 Optimal poker session length
 Poker history
 Poker glossary
 Poker tips

Go back to the Online Poker Strategy.