Being thoughtful of poker playing style is a fast way to get better at poker whether you’re a skilled player or a poker beginner. Things like bluffing and betting becomes a lot easier when you get a read on your opponents playing style. 

No players fit perfectly into just one of the playing styles – it’s more fluent. And players may switch between playing styles if they get bored or if they are really talented and use it to set a trap for you. 

If – like me – you prefer watching a short video instead of reading a page, you’ll be happy to know that this entire blog post has been condensed into a five minute video.
The text version continues beneath the video.

What is poker playing style? 

Some players bluff a lot, others are more reluctant. Some players are always a part of the action, while others play less hands. This all comes down to a player’s playing style. 

A poker playing style is determined by how many different starting hands you’re willing to play – and how aggressive you play them. 
To sort of categorize the different playing styles we use this chart.
Tight versus passive & aggressive versus passive.

Poker playing styles

Tight playing style vs loose playing style

On the far left of the chart, we have tight. Tight players will only play a very narrow range of starting hands. They are in no rush, and don’t mind waiting for a perfect hand.
This means they’ll often fold their hand pre flop. 

Loose, on the other hand, means you’ll play a wide range of starting hands. This is the type of player who gets bored easily, and so they want to take part in everything.  

Passive playing style vs aggressive playing style

In the bottom of the chart, we have the passive player. One who doesn’t like to come off too strong. They prefer checking and calling, in an effort to see what their cards may turn into with the right community cards. But they stay away from confrontation. 

Aggressive players are quite the opposite. They play their hands with great conviction and prefer to bet or raise. They feast on the tension and pray on other players too tight to call their crazy actions.  

The four different poker playing styles

This creates four different poker players – and those are what we refer to when we talk about the different poker playing styles.

Each poker playing style has its pros and cons and while some of them are more efficient than others, you’ll often find all four types around your table.
Let’s have a closer look at each of the different playing styles – and how to beat them.

Poker playing styles

Loose passive poker playing style

This is a common beginner’s choice of playing style and perhaps the worst one. 
They are loose, so they’ll play a lot of the hands they are dealt. But the passive side to them means they don’t do much – they just check and call.
For this reason, they’re often referred to as a ‘Calling Station’. 
Since they have money in every round, but play it slow, they often end up losing all of their chips in a hurry.

Going into a hand without conviction is essentially what we call ‘limping’ – a death sin in poker.
The hands you play have to be played with conviction.

Loose passive players take part in all the action in the beginning of the night, but will spend the majority of the night as a spectator with no chips.
Don’t be a calling station.

Poker playing styles

When facing a calling station, stick to playing your strong hands. And don’t bother bluffing – they’ll happily call anything.

Tight passive poker playing style

This player has a more conservative and ‘boring’ approach to the game. Unlike the calling station, these players are ‘tight’, meaning they only play a narrow range of the hands they are dealt. They’ll happily fold hand after hand pre flop, waiting for that perfect hand.
And when they do get their golden hand, the passive side to them means they usually just check or call. So even if they win the hand, it’ll be a small price pot. 

The risk-averting, and kind of boring, approach to the game has earned this playing style the nickname ‘Rock’. Since they just sit there, without doing much. 

They may get more time at the table than a calling station, but eventually, they’ll bleed out from the blinds. 

When facing a Rock pay attention to the times when they are small or big blind. You have a great chance to ‘steal some blinds’ by placing a bet pre flop – they’ll fold their blinds way too often. 

Tight aggressive poker playing style

Often shortened to just TAG, this playing style is generally considered the most effective and it’s also the playing style most professional poker players use – at least as a baseline. 

As tight players, they only play a narrow range of the starting hands they are dealt. 

They sit patiently, waiting for the right hand. But when that hand comes along, unlike the rock, a tight aggressive player will pounce and attack with force – betting or raising.

They are often called ‘sharks’, because they’ll patiently circle around the pot until the perfect time to attack, delivering that deadly bite. 

But, there’s always a bigger fist, and there are ways to blow a shark out of the water. 

Their tight plating style makes them fairly easy to read. If they have something, they’ll be aggressive. So if you spot a shark trying to just limp their way into the next round, by checking or calling, hit them with a raise. 

Loose aggressive poker playing style

Also known as a TAG. These are the maniacs – the entertainers.
The players that make poker worth watching.
Their loose approach means they play a wide range of starting hands and take part in most hands. And they play aggressively with lots of bets and bluffs.

These players are nearly impossible to read but the playing style also comes with great risk – you either win big or lose big.

But there’s no denying it’s very thrilling to watch, and you think of players like Stu Ungar, Doyle Brunson and a personal favorite; Gus Hansen. 

When facing a loose aggressive player, you’d be smart to take the tight aggressive approach. Lure them into a trap and have them build a huge pot for you to steal from under them.

What’s the best poker playing style

So, the million dollar question (sometimes even literally) is of course; what’s the best playing style in poker

First, it’s important to note that no player fit’s 100% into just one category. It’s fluent and you probably find yourself somewhere between. You may also switch between different playing styles during a game. A tight player may turn loose if bored and vice versa. 

You’ll see a lot of new players take a passive approach, before understanding the strategy and mechanings of the game. But there is no doubt that an aggressive approach is the most effective. As long as you pick the right times to be aggressive. 

In general, it’s best to either bet/raise or fold. Try not to check or call.

Most players practice a tight aggressive playing style, and that is probably the most efficient and winning of the four. Although the loose aggressive playing style is the one that produces the most poker icons and legends.

Poker Rules

The best poker playing style seems to be switching between different playing styles.
Stick to aggression but fake a passive play to set a trap once in a while.
That’s the best strategy to win at poker. 

Practice your poker playing style

If you and your friends want to practice your poker skills and play around with different poker playing styles, you should check out our app. The free EasyPoker app works as a digital version of a physical poker set. We think it’s the best app to play poker with friends – whether you’re physically sitting together or playing online from separate locations. 

The app takes care of everything, so all you have to do is just play your cards and have fun.

Plus, it’s free. So you might as well give it a try?

Poker strategy

More poker strategy

We try to build the best online library of easy-to-understand poker tricks and tutorials. 
If you like this guide og poker playing styles and want to dive deeper into poker strategy take a look at one of these.

Win poker