You see a lot of different styles of play at the poker tables, and I think many very different, seemingly opposite approaches can do fairly well. Many people just kind of naturally find they prefer to play a certain way. I like to create very different playing styles and try them out, and I think it’s fun, good practice, and makes it harder for your opponents when all of a sudden you’re doing everything differently.
So I thought I’d just go through some of the things I try to decide on when creating a new style. I’m sure I’ll miss some stuff I should be thinking about: other’s ideas are very welcome.
- pre-flop ranges: Deciding what hands I’ll open from each specific seat is usually the first thing I decide on. I’ll also think about how I might add or subtract hands based on table conditions like effective stack depth, the presence or lack of other players that are aggressive pre-flop, and other player’s calling frequencies. Along with this are flatting ranges in different seats and/or in the presence of prior limps, and of course how I’ll respond to 3 bets, or facing a raise in front (though for me this is usually less fixed, and more a function of what kind of ranges I think I’m facing from a specific player).
- pre flop bet sizing: I don’t modify this quite as frequently as some of the other things, but it is certainly an element of style, and something I like to deliberately decide on.
- post flop bet sizing: This tends to be a much more difficult and complex decision than pre-flop sizing. What conditions do I want before betting big or betting small? Do I want to mostly bet small on all dry boards, and choose larger sizes on wetter boards? How will I adjust my sizing based on the number of opponents still in the hand? Do I want to just use a small number of bet sizes, or am I in the mood to have a very large variety?
- aggression rates: I like to target specific ratios for value bets versus bluffs. I’ll adjust that facing certain types of players, but barring adjustments, I like to have a baseline. I’ll typically make this target different for every bet size, and for every street. I’m honestly not very good at really hitting my targets: I think it’s best controlled by thinking about the right hands in range to play each role (some hands that are good for big value bets, others that are good for smaller bets, and others that are good for large bluffs), and splitting some hands between different rolls. Also impacting aggression ratios is how often I’ll take more defensive lines, postponing bets to later streets, and how often I’ll expand my value betting range to include more middle strength hands.
- range construction: This is already mentioned in the bullet above, but deserves about 15 bullets. I think this is the hardest part about poker: deciding in advance what hands in your range should be taking what lines on different types of boards.
- tactical tricks: What tactical tricks do I want to regularly employ? Do I want to frequently attack paired or wet boards? Do I want to use a lot of check raises? Do I want to limp/raise pre-flop? These and many other similar tools are also elements in a playing style worth considering.
- stickyness: I don’t always consider this as part of the style building process, but I think that as the bullets above change, you’ll also want to change how much you over or under fold in the face of aggression against you. Many super aggressive players tend to really fold out a lot of their range just as soon as they face return aggression, while players that regularly under represent their hands will often get a bit stickier. This can also be related to what kind of implied odds you’ll be typically getting (how often opponents will pay you a lot if you hit some big outs).
Hope others find that a little useful in coming up with their own playing styles.