The word ‘profiling’ has taken on a negative connotation as of late, but that relates to geopolitical events. It has absolutely nothing to do with poker and poker tips. Therefore, when you read about poker player profiling here, please don’t think of it in a negative light.
The objective in regards to poker strategy is to gather intel so we can make better decisions, and poker player profiling is part of the process. There is a strong correlation between poker strategy and poker player profiling. If you don’t already know that, you will soon.
Poker Player Profiling: Attire & Hands
If the player in Seat 1 is a country dude wearing a t-shirt, a slightly crooked cap, and his hands have calluses, then his profession likely relates to manual labor. If his skin is tanned, it’s outdoor manual labor, which means he probably feels more refreshed and relaxed than the indoor manual laborer when inside playing poker.
This is an advantage for him because of mindset. For the indoor manual laborer, it’s not going to be as much of a change. They’re going to feel more refreshed and relaxed when they’re outside. Being inside might negatively impact this player’s mindset.
Also think about income level. If someone is working manual labor, then you know they’re middle income, possibly low- to middle-income. I respect these people the most because they work their asses off for every penny. At the same time, we can’t get emotional at the poker table, nor can we get emotional when poker player profiling.
If these people work their asses off for every penny, then they’re not going to gamble much. As cruel as it sounds, this is where you want to apply pressure. The key is to figure out how much pressure they can and can’t handle.
When it’s early in poker games and Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, I will use small bets in an attempt to get these opponents off their hands. If those bets are effective, then I know I can stick to that bet sizing vs. that opponent for the rest of the session. If that bet sizing isn’t effective, I will increase the bet when I want to move someone off the hand until I find the number that works. It’s different for every player.
As far as being cruel or not, it ain’t cruel at all. Always remember that every opponent at the poker table is there to take your money. They don’t care if you’re rich or barely paying the bills because you have to take care of your sick mother. If they have an opportunity to take your money, they will take it. That’s why they’re playing poker.
Let’s say Seat 2 is wearing a collared shirt and a Rolex watch. Let’s add that they have no calluses on their hands. This likely means they have a higher income.
If that’s the case, it doesn’t mean they’re more likely to bluff, but it does mean they’re more likely to call. Keep this in mind before firing big when you have air. They won’t hesitate to put that cape on, quickly transition into Captain Hero, and call your ass.
I could write that I don’t mean to be blunt, but I do mean to be blunt because I want you to get the message. Poker player profiling will help you understand who to bluff and who not to bluff. That being the case, poker player profiling absolutely fits into our poker rules for winning.
Poker Player Profiling: What They Say
Sometimes you don’t have to say anything and information will be dropped right into your lap. For instance, I remember one time when a guy said his wife just filed for divorce and he barely had enough money to play poker.
The instant he said that I knew he was toast, simply because I went AGGRO on him. I knew he could only win if he caught cards for hours, but nobody catches cards for hours. As the old saying goes, “Scared money don’t win.”
Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Hero money don’t win, either. If you’re a calling station, you’re a fish. If it makes you feel better, you’re a donkey. What would you rather be: a minnow or a jackass? You probably don’t want to be known as either because they’re both terrible poker playing styles. In other words, don’t be a calling station.
Another time, someone mentioned that the owner of a Fortune 500 company was sitting at my table. Apparently, he loved to play in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments and lived close enough to drive to the WSOP Circuit in Cherokee, North Carolina.
Once I knew this, I took the opposite approach. I knew to go with an overbet strategy because he would have no concern for the money, was highly competitive, and would want a story to tell. Therefore, whenever I believed I had the best hand, I would overbet. He called more than he didn’t, which led to one of the best poker tournaments of my life.
On a third occasion, an older fellow told the table that he was about to ride his horse across the country and that he was bringing Viagra for the trip just in case. You know I will always be honest, and I have no freaking clue what that meant.
I have an idea what it meant, but I don’t really want to go there. As far as poker player profiling goes, he turned out to be a tight player. This is the first time I will ask my audience for help to put the clues together because I’m still lost.
Poker Player Profiling: How They Stack Their Chips
This is one of the best ways to approach poker player profiling and poker player styles, especially in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. Let’s say the starting stack is 10k and players get one orange chip with a value of 5k. If they put that chip at the bottom of their stack and keep it there, then they’re not experienced in poker tournaments.
The rule is that you have to keep your largest denomination chips in front of your stack or on top of your stack. The same rule applies for traditional poker games, but it won’t be enforced as much.
If a player does this and they’re inexperienced, you have to figure out if they’re a passive beginner or a calling station beginner. You can usually figure this out by applying poker player profiling even if they haven’t played a hand yet. Look at their clothes, their hands, their jewelry (if any), and if you really want a great clue, look at their shoes.
A lot of men will wear sneakers to play poker because they want to be comfortable, but if they’re Cole Haan shoes or something along those lines, then it tells you that they’re more likely to be a calling station because they have no problem spending money.
If you’re not sure how to figure out what kind of footwear your opponents are wearing, it’s easier than you think. The simplest approach is to place your phone on your thigh (it doesn’t matter which thigh). Use the phone for a while so you look down between hands and nothing seems to be out of the ordinary.
After about 5-10 minutes, ‘accidentally’ knock your phone off your thigh and onto the floor. By doing this, you have an excuse to look under the table. If you’re really slick, pretend that you can’t find your phone. I know this is nearly impossible in reality, but you can pull it off if you’re a good actor. You will have full view of everyone’s footwear while you’re down there. Focus so you can remember everything you see.
If there is a 90-year-old woman (or man) not wearing underwear and their legs are open, then do your best to forget everything you have seen, and I owe you a steak for even mentioning this idea and putting you in that position.
Getting back to those poker chips, if a player has them in several different rows where the stacks don’t go very high, they’re likely a newbie.
These players tend to play very few poker hands. They don’t realize it, but that style of stacking chips indicates someone who is cautious. They are giving away the way they play their poker hands prior to even playing a hand.
If someone stacks their chips high, it usually indicates aggression. This personality type indicates that they want to be in control of a situation, even if it requires some risk. They need that tower to feed their Ego. They want others to come by, see that stack, and say, “There goes Donald again.” The best way to get a big stack is to be aggressive.
The third type is someone who stacks out, usually in a diamond-like pattern. This person is methodical, patient, but willing to take risks at the right time. They are capable of deceptive tactics. I know this for two reasons.
One, I am one of those players. Two, the high-stack player is more about straight aggression than deception and the low-stack player is all about caution. Therefore, you’re going to find more deception with players who stack out.
How Would I Know?
I know that some of this poker player profiling information might come across as wild and crazy, but please allow me to share something. I don’t play as much poker as online poker players, but that’s a different style of play anyway.
On the live poker side, I don’t play high stakes like some poker pros. However, I play a lot of poker. Are there people who play more live poker than me? Absolutely. But I play more live poker than the average individual. I also play in a lot more places than the average individual. I have seen the same things over and over again. Should I be sharing these secrets with you? Sure. Why not?
Everything I have written about poker player profiling above I honestly believe to be true. It’s possible that I’m incorrect on somethings, but all I can do is transfer the information as I see it, hear it, and sense it.
You can figure out most poker players and their poker player styles before they even play a hand. All you have to do is apply the poker tips above. Look at what they’re wearing, be sure to get a good look at their hands and feet, listen to what they’re saying, and pay attention to how they stack their chips.
It’s nice to have an advantage before the game even starts. If you’re playing in a poker tournament, you might start with the same amount of chips as your opponents, but you’re going to be ahead before someone jumps on the mic and says, “Shuffle up and deal.” Applying poker player profiling definitely fits within our poker rules for winning.
♠ pokerjournal.org / Tyler Nals
Poker Player Profiling – FAQs
A: Use patience. You always want to play the opposite. That being said, you also want to get as many chips in the middle as possible pre-flop when you have a premium hand.
A: A nitty poker player is someone who doesn’t take many risks, sometimes no risks at all. They bet when they have it and fold when they don’t. They play very few poker hands.
A: A passive poker player is someone who will almost always check when they don’t have it and fold to your bets. I love to play against passive poker players.
A: A tight poker player is someone who doesn’t play a lot of hands. Don’t confuse tight with passive. In fact, tight players seem to be the most successful poker players, but these same players are aggressive and often crafty when they get involved in a hand.