HOW TO CHANGE YOUR POKER PLAY ACCORDING TO THE NUMBER OF PLAYERS AT THE TABLEIf you're going to play poker at a casino or with some friends, odds are, it will be Texas Hold'em or another community card poker game. The rules are simple enough to learn, and they are currently the most popular poker variants in the world. You can use many different strategies throughout the game, but which one will be most effective depends on the number of other players. Here are the best ways to play against multiple opponents in a community card poker game.
MAIN POKER PLAYSTYLES
TIGHTTight poker players are people who don’t like to play a lot of hands. They are very selective about which cards they play, and what position they play them in. A tight player might only average one or two hands in an hour.
PASSIVEPassive players will hardly ever be aggressive and focus on checking and calling rather than trying to bet or raise. They hardly ever bluff and will usually only bet when they have high ranking cards, but they will quickly fold at the first sign of trouble.
LOOSEA playing style characterized by playing more hands than the average, regardless of their rank or potential value. A loose player might play nearly every hand and relies heavily on bluffing.
AGGRESSIVEA style that involves predominantly aggressive actions such as betting and raising, rather than checking or calling, which are passive moves. Bluffing is essential for an aggressive player, it's impossible to get high ranked cards during every deal, so you have to bluff your opponents to be successful at this style.
TIGHT AND PASSIVE
A combination of the tight and passive playstyles. People who are trying to be tight and passive will only play a few hands and rarely make aggressive actions such as betting or raising. Being tight and passive requires a lot of patience.
LOOSE AND PASSIVEPlaying loose and passive emphasizes playing more hands than average, but rarely making aggressive actions. You play a lot more hands; however, you won't raise or bet, instead focusing on calling and checking. These players will generally be out first. Loose and passive are a bad combination, especially on a table of sharks.
TIGHT AND AGGRESSIVE (TAG)A tight and aggressive player will play a lower-than-average number of hands, but will also make large bets, and raise whenever necessary. Bluffing usually isn’t necessary because a tight and aggressive player is very careful about choosing which cards they play.
LOOSE AND AGGRESSIVE (LAG)Being loose and aggressive focusses on playing more hands than average, and betting and raising at every opportunity. As the name suggests, starting hand requirements are loosened, and cards that would typically be folded are played. Bluffing is essential when playing loose and aggressive, it's impossible to get high ranked cards during every deal, so you have to bluff your opponents.
POKER PLAYSTYLES FOR PLAYING AGAINST TEN OR MORE PLAYERSYou are unlikely to have more than ten players on a poker table; most full-sized games won't be able to seat more, and online is modelled on live poker games. All the strategies and gameplay tips for ten players should also apply on the off chance that you do find yourself in a massive game of 12 or more players.
TIGHT AND PASSIVEAt a table of ten or more players, there are two main playstyles you could start with, depending on what kind of strategies you like to use. If you'd prefer to start slow and see how the rest of the table likes to play, then start by being tight and passive.
With so many other cards and players in the game, it might be beneficial to sit back and watch, learning other people’s tells and weaknesses. Playing passively will lose you a few chips at the start, but once you've gathered enough information on the other players, switch to tight and aggressive.
Because you've been folding so many hands, and rarely made aggressive actions until this point, it will most likely catch everyone off guard. If you wait too long to switch, the only danger is you might have lost a significant chunk of your stack and be unable to make a comeback. If you've lost close to half your starting stack, switch to tight and aggressive immediately and try to claw back some of your chips before you get wiped out.
LOOSE AND AGGRESSIVE
Alternatively, if you'd prefer to make a statement early, play loose and aggressive. Play a lot of hands and protect your cards with large bets and raises, apply pressure and bully other players into folding. This style will make it very hard for everyone else to read you, and make the table respect your wagers. Knowing when to adjust play and increase the pressure to exploit an opponent's weakness is often the difference between winning and losing when playing LAG.
Don't stick to this style forever though, and swap to tight and aggressive once you start getting a lot of callers. This playstyle has limitations because it requires you to risk a lot of your chips on bluffing. Eventually, you will get caught out. Playing LAG can also be dangerous if others are using the same playstyle. Going up against another loose and aggressive player turns every hand into a 50/50 coin flip, an even playing field is the last thing you want. Poker is about getting an edge over your opponents and using that to your advantage.
If you find yourself playing against another loose and aggressive player, switch to tight and aggressive, play fewer hands, wait for high ranked cards, then don't back down. Unfortunately, you can still lose when it comes down to the river, but poker is a game of risk. It's better to take a chance and lose, than continually be bullied out of hands or frequently be forced to go all-in against another LAG player.
SCENARIO 1—10 PLAYERS AT THE TABLE
GAMEPLAY TIPS AND STRATEGIES FOR PLAYING AGAINST TEN OR MORE PLAYERS
DON'T WAIT FOR A PREMIUM HAND EVERY TIME
When you're playing with so many other people on the table, you will get some terrible hands, probably a lot in a row. It might be tempting to hold off and wait for the perfect cards, but this is a mistake. Be patient, but don't wait too long to try and win a hand.
Waiting for a perfect hand will often result in your stack getting decimated by the blinds. By no means should you risk it all on a 7, 2 off suit, but eventually, you will have to play with what you have, or risk being blinded out. The longer the game drags on without you winning a round, the less of a threat your dying stack will be. Risk it or lose it.
KNOW WHEN TO FOLDNo matter how clever you are, eventually there will come a time when it's clear you've lost. If you've been bluffing with a 10, 7, and an opponent has been re-raising you the whole time, then it might be time to lay down your cards. Know when you're beaten and save your stack.
SLOW PLAYLet the other people at the table do all the work. If you have the top-ranked hand, play passively and let everyone else bet and raise, whole only checking and calling. Most of the time, this will be seen as a sign of weakness, and other players will wager aggressively to try and make you fold.
With so many people at the table, the pot is likely to snowball and become very lucrative for whoever wins. Keep in mind this can be dangerous though, just because you have a top pair pre-flop doesn't mean that will still be the case on the river.
AVOID PLAYING EVERY HANDThe mantra that you have to be "in it, to win it" does not hold true in poker. Realistically, every hand dealt has a chance of winning; there are just some that have a higher chance than others. Be selective about how many hands you play in a game; especially one with ten players, otherwise, you will lose your stack very quickly.
DISCOURAGE LIMPERSLimping into a hand with low ranked cards and then winning through sheer dumb luck is one of the most annoying things to witness in poker. We are all guilty of it, but it's still very frustrating to be on the losing end. When you are dealt high ranking cards, protect them and make sure no limpers sneak in and steal the pot. Raise four or five times the big blind and scare away the weak hands before they get a chance to hit.
LOOK FOR WEAKNESS AND APPLY PRESSUREOut of the nine or more other players at the table, one or two will likely be passive players who are averse to risk and fold at the first sign of trouble. Seek these people out and look to bully them. Whenever you're in a hand with a passive player, apply pressure by betting big and scare them out of the pot.
MAKE SENSIBLE BETSIf the pot is only $50, over betting by raising $4000 is likely to make people think you are bluffing. Seasoned poker players will see an overbet as a possible sign of weakness and consider calling or raising. Another thing to keep in mind is if you actually have good cards, a massive overbet could make everyone fold, and you've just wasted a good opportunity to score some chips.
Under betting can also get you into trouble, if the wager is $20, don't raise it to $21, you will get called immediately because it's a weak bet. If the pot is low, bet the equivalent of two to four times the big blind. If the betting is high, look to double the previous wager. As a rule of thumb, try not to bet more than whatever the pot is, unless you have an excellent reason. Wager appropriately for the situation and avoid over betting and under betting.
AVOID UNNECESSARY WAGERSThe quickest way to lose your stack is to be careless with your chips. When you're playing in a big game with lots of players, you can't afford to make silly wagers on cards with a low chance of success. Pick your spots and avoid unnecessary bets.
VARY YOUR BETS AND PLAYSTYLEBeing predictable in poker is a sure-fire way to lose your entire stack. Varying how you wager and play can help prevent other players from guessing your cards. Make a weak bet on the river when you have the top pair, make a big wager early, then check. The more unpredictable you are, the less likely other players will get a read on you.
PLAY POSITIONPlaying position is never a bad idea, but it's very important at a full table. You should be playing the majority of your hands in either early or late position. Early position allows you to set the tone, while late position is where you will have the most information to make informed choices because everyone else will have acted already.
If you are first to act, it's a great spot to set an aggressive tone and scare everyone out of the pot with a hefty bet. Generally, a high pair is good enough to play from early position. Playing in the middle position is more flexible; you can see a few other players act before deciding whether you want to be in the hand. You should be playing the least number of hands in middle position.
Late position is where you should be playing most of your hands. Being one of the last to act is always the best spot to be in because you ultimately have the final say on how big the pot will be pre-flop. You also have access to the most amount of information on the table and can make a more informed decision about what your next move should be.
STEAL THE BLINDS
If you're playing in position, it’s also a prime opportunity to steal the blinds and make some quick chips. In a game with lots of players, you need every advantage you can get. If you're in early position, make a large bet, five to ten times the big blind, to try and scare everyone out of the pot. If you're in late position, wait until the betting is weak, and then bet three times the current pot size to try and scare the other players into folding and score some easy chips.
This strategy works best when you're in early or late position, but if you're a risk-taker, you could try this tactic from anywhere. The chances of success would be far lower though. Pay attention to position and take every advantage you can get, stealing the blinds won't make you a giant stack instantly, but if you're patient, it can help slowly accumulate chips over time.
SCENARIO 2—EIGHT PLAYERS AT THE TABLE
POKER PLAYSTYLES FOR PLAYING AGAINST EIGHT PLAYERS OR LESSHaving eight players is relatively common at a poker table in both a tournament and a cash game. Most of the same strategies and gameplay tips that apply with ten players are still relevant up until the final four. You should still think about not waiting for a premium hand every time, knowing when to fold, slow playing, discouraging limpers, making sensible wagers, looking for weaknesses and applying pressure, avoiding unnecessary bets, playing position and trying to steal the blinds.
TIGHT AND PASSIVESimilar to a table of ten or more players, there are two main playstyles you should consider using. You can start slow and look for tells while the other players are duking it out. Once you are ready, swap to loose and aggressive or tight and aggressive, depending on how much risk you like to take while playing poker, and start trying to win pots.
LOOSE AND AGGRESSIVEThe other option is to go straight for the jugular and play loose and aggressive from the start. Make big bets, raise, and generally just bully the other players out of pots. However, keep in mind, you can't do this forever; eventually, someone will call. Once you start getting a few callers, swap back to a tight and aggressive playstyle, play fewer hands, but still be aggressive when you bet.
GAMEPLAY TIPS AND STRATEGIES FOR PLAYING AGAINST EIGHT PLAYERS OR LESS
DON'T SHUTDOWNThe biggest mistake you can make is to sit back for too long and let everyone else chip up. You don't want to be the short stack on the table. It's fine to take a breath and watch for a moment if you have a broader plan, but don't wait too long or you will get left behind.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR CHANCESUnless you are very unlucky, you will get plenty of chances to chip up throughout the game. When you have cards with a high success rate, go for it and don't back down.
BLUFFING IS ONLY USEFUL IN MODERATION, IF AT ALLBluffing is very hard on a table with five or more players. Unless you are very convincing, odds are there is at least one player who is willing to call you or raise. Bluffing can be a useful tactic for winning big pots when the cards aren't going your way, but don't get caught doing it repeatedly; otherwise, you will be hard-pressed to make wagers that will be respected.
WATCH THE GAME, EVEN WHEN YOU'RE NOT IN THE HANDEven after folding, it's a good idea to pay attention to what's happening, look for tells, and other information that can help you gain an advantage. Watch how other players bet, see where they raise, and how. Knowledge is power, and the more you can collect, the better your chances of success at the poker table.
SCENARIO 3—FOUR PLAYERS AT THE TABLE
POKER PLAYSTYLES FOR PLAYING AGAINST FOUR PLAYERSWhen it's down to the final four, you need to start adjusting your play and looking to chip up. You don't want to be the short stack because everyone will be looking to knock someone out and get one step closer to the top prize, short stacks are often the easiest target.
LOOSE AND AGGRESSIVE (LAG), TIGHT AND AGGRESSIVE (TAG)
In the final four, you want to focus more on aggression than in previous game stages. Start playing more hands and focus more on betting and raising. Because there are fewer players, the others might chip up and leave you behind as the short stack if you are passive for too long. Start playing either Loose and Aggressive (LAG), or Tight and Aggressive (TAG) and adjust between the two accordingly. Don't stick with one style too long, or you will become predictable.
GAMEPLAY TIPS FOR PLAYING AGAINST FOUR PLAYERS
PLAY POCKETS AND PAIRS MORE AGGRESSIVELY
Pockets, or even a low pair, are a great hand to play in the later stages of the game. Because there are fewer players left in the game, you are less likely to be the victim of a limper on the river. A pair is also easy enough to turn into three of a kind, which can then change into a full house, or if you're fortunate, four of a kind.
PLAY MORE HANDSAt this stage of the game, if you are still playing fairly tight, start getting involved in more hands. Every chip someone else wins makes their stack slightly more dangerous. Don't go crazy and play every hand but be aware that it's close to the end game, and you should start building your own stack to get ready for heads up.
REMEMBER GOOD POKER FUNDAMENTALSVary your betting and playstyle to keep your opponent’s guessing. Fold a few hands, and then make a big wager, don't be predictable. If you are continually changing the way you play, it will be tough for your people to get a read on you.
DON'T BE OVERCONFIDENTYou are very close to the final two, and the top prize. Even if you are the big stack, don't let your previous success go to your head. It shouldn't matter if you have one chip, or ten thousand, play smart, the game is yours to lose at this point.
BE PATIENTBecause there are only three other players, you have a bit more time to wait for decent cards. You should have a healthy stack at this point, and you can afford to sit back for one or two rounds, one of the worst things you can do is try and race for the finish. You might get lucky, and the other players will wipe each other out, and you can coast straight into the final two.
SCENARIO 4—HEADS UP
POKER PLAYSTYLES FOR PLAYING HEADS UPHeads up poker is usually reserved for the last two players in a tournament. You are very unlikely to encounter it anywhere else. Heads up is different from every other stage of the game, and requires a lot more aggression; otherwise, you will be bullied out of pots.
Heads up is all about being flexible and being able to change your playstyle to suit the situation. Playing loose and aggressive is a good way to set the tone from the start, depending on what your opponent does, it could be beneficial to switch between all the styles, loose and aggressive, tight and passive, tight and aggressive, and loose and passive.
This stage of the game is like a dance, you want your opponent to be reacting to your moves, not the other way around. You need to shape your game plan based on what your opponent is doing and be ready to swap between all the different playstyles depending on what the situation dictates.
LOOSE AND AGGRESSIVE (LAG)
When you start playing heads up, go straight to being loose and aggressive, especially if you are short stacked. For the most part, you will be playing every hand, and if you set the tone early, you could get lucky and bully your opponent into giving up a big chunk of their stack. However, if you find that your opponent is also playing loose and aggressive, and you are not confident of the outcome, swap to tight and passive.
TIGHT AND PASSIVEIf the other player is aggressive, you have three options, match their aggression, go all in, or take a step back and wait for a better hand. At most, you want to play tight and passive for only a few hands, the blinds will start to take their toll if you are stagnant for too long. Take a moment to filter through a few bad hands, then regain the momentum and go back on the attack.
TIGHT AND AGGRESSIVE (TAG)If you are a more cautious player, and don’t think going on the attack is the best course of action. Wait a few hands until you get a half decent hand, then bet aggressively. This playstyle can still work wonders, but like tight and passive, you can’t wait long to make a move, or you will lose too much of your stack and no longer be a threat.
LOOSE AND PASSIVEThis playstyle could be used to set a trap in heads up. Play loose and passive for a few hands and wait for the prime moment to switch to loose and aggressive again. If you time the switch right, your opponent will think you finally got frustrated, lashed out, and they might follow you all the way to the river.
GAMEPLAY TIPS FOR PLAYING HEADS UP
Easier said than done when playing heads up. If you've been in the game for many hours, it all comes down to this, and it can be hard to stay calm. Take a breath, play smart, and remember the basic fundamentals of poker.