With the warp-speed pace of internet poker play, it becomes important not just to profile your foes but to do so quickly and efficiently, so that you know how to respond to them in the moment. This is not so much about storing longterm information on an enemy (though you can do that, and it's helpful) but about observing a player's patterns, assigning those patterns a label, and then using the label to clarify what kind of player you're dealing with right here, right now. Players will switch gears, of course -- and when they do, you amend your label. But your first order of business is to assign a label, so that you can assign a probability of someone playing a certain way.
Yes, you're making a number of assumptions, and no, those assumptions are not backed by massive statistical support. Yet I contend that a player who has demonstrated the ability to check-raise bluff deserves a different designation -- even if it's a tentative, speculative one -- from a player who has shown strong tendencies to call and fold. So I watch the patterns to crack the codes, and then sum up my sense of my foes by labeling them.
In this column and the next one I'm going to share with you some of the labels I use, along with associated characteristics and characteristic plays. Take a moment to amplify my definitions. Guess, in other words, what you would expect to encounter from a player with a certain label. Note how much information about a player is implied just by his handle and not much more. Don't be afraid to be wrong in your assessments. It's learning to make assessments that's important -- and more than most players bother with. "To name a thing is to own a thing," says the sage; if so, then to define an opponent, and to extend and expand your definition, is to own the deed to his house.
KOSHER. A kosher player is simply simple. Straightforward and honest, he plays his own hand and doesn't think much about yours. Offering little or nothing in the way of deception, he bets, calls, raises, or folds according to the real strength of his holding. Take his actions at face value. About the trickiest play in his repertoire is the check-raise; a check-raise bluff is beyond him.
TIMMY. Short for "timid Timmy," this player is weak, passive, and unlikely to make any sudden moves for fear of startling himself. Timmies don't play to win; rather, they play not to lose. Therefore you find them liberally inhabiting the middle stages of tournaments, but rarely the final table. Aggressively attack uncontested flops against a Timmy. He won't play back unless he has a real hand.
SPEEDER. A speeder is a dangerous player. He plays fast in every sense of the word, and part of his motivation for playing fast is to get you to play fast, too. If he's better able than you to analyze and act on the fly, he can make money on the margin, so he attempts to increase the pace of play not just through fast choices but through promiscuous raises and re-raises. Take your time against a speeder. Pause to consider your decisions. This will not only ensure that you're thinking things through, it will frustrate him by breaking his rhythm.
I'll be back with more profiles next time; in the meantime, why not start compiling a list of your own? Trust me, to name a thing is to own a thing indeed.