There are four basic types of poker players. If you play against live players, whether in a land-based casino or online, you will encounter each of these types of players. You are also basically one of these types.
If you wish to advance as a poker player you must become thoroughly familiar with the types of players you play against. You must also become more aware of your own tendencies. The better players you encounter will be reading you from the get-go so you should develop the skills to read them as well.
The characteristics of the different types of players show up in their betting style, their general behavior, and their bluffing tendencies. Very few players can fully alter their personalities when they sit down at the poker table. The players who win most often are the ones who learn to project an image of themselves that they want you to believe.
The higher you go in your poker playing the more sophisticated are your opponents. Knowing these poker player types is absolutely necessary for success at any level but especially so at higher levels of poker competition.
The four types of players are tight, loose, passive and aggressive.
Tight players bet only when they have a good hand. Such players should never play high-stakes poker as they won't get betting hands often enough to survive in such an environment. Pot-limit or no-limit games are out of the question. Beginners are always advised to play no more than 20% of their hands. This means that all beginners should be tight until they have acquired enough experience to move ahead.
Passive is similar to tight. It refers primarily to one's bluffing habits. Passive players will rarely bluff. They may also shy away from raising. Once again, experience teaches passive players how to be more aggressive. If you are playing against someone who appears tight/passive he is either: a beginner, an experienced player who never advanced and is thus easy to read, or a very seasoned player who is showing many faces to confuse you. The latter type is very dangerous to your bankroll.
Loose is the type of player you dream of playing against and must never be. They bet with the weakest hands, don't like to fold, will often stay in a hand "just to see the next card" or "just to see if you were bluffing". They lose money almost every time they sit down to play. Once in a while they have a hot streak and can win a lot if they are playing for high stakes, but for the most part they lose.
Aggressive is the type that is relentless. They will come after you without mercy. If they get a good read on you they will often fool you into analyzing the hand incorrectly. The aggressive player is always studying their opponents. They are always looking for an edge. Some players who are aggressive-wannabes are really loose players who don't know what they are doing. True aggressive players know very well what they are doing at all times.
Tight/passive combines the uncertainty that all new players have with an inability to bluff confidently. When you have such an opponent, you know that a call means a betting hand and a raise may very well mean they have the nuts.
Tight/aggressive may be a careful player who can go for the jugular at times. These players will make true bluff s. It may take some time to fully understand that an opponent is such a player because their generally tight play doesn't lend themselves to many good bluffing opportunities.
Loose/passive bet on almost anything but they are open slates. They have no bluffing skill so you needn't worry about that aspect of their game. Loose players do get good hands so you may misread a bet and lose to a loose/passive player but in the long run, these players will make you happy.
Loose/aggressive players are the hardest to read. They appear loose so you think them poor, inexperienced players. Then they'll take a big pot fooling you and others that they were betting with nothing. You try to read them and they can show characteristics of all the different types and combinations.
Pros are always aggressive. They are fundamentally tight in that they know when not to bet a hand. They want to appear loose at times to get you to make foolish bets.
If you are a beginner, especially if you are a beginner, you must know yourself well. You will not develop excellent poker skills overnight. You should play games you know well, bet modestly and for low stakes, study your opponents relentlessly, and accept your losses graciously. If you find yourself up against an aggressive player before you have the skill to compete, you can excuse yourself and find a more compatible game.