How to Recognize a Strong Player

I’ve had a number of occasions over the years where I’ve been playing someone at relatively low ranks (maybe in the tens of thousands), and then comment to the player, “wow, you seem surprisingly strong”, and then a few months later they are in the top 10. I’ve got no simple formula to explain how I recognized that strength, but at the same time, reflecting on what left me feeling these players were unusually strong led me to a few realizations:

  • they seem to fold easily: they might take an aggressive line, you raise, and without even thinking, poof, they toss the hand
  • they call a lot: they are not afraid of calling in difficult, marginal spots
  • they check a lot: you might be sure another bet is coming on the turn or the river, and then, the echoing silence is all that comes
  • they raise a lot: you already knew that part

In short, there is a certain balance to their play.

Let me know if others have thoughts on how they are able to recognize a strong opponent.


At ring tables, if they have more than 2x the max buy-in…

That means the complete opposite, Sorry! :ghost:

Sign of a good player is when they fold a lot preflop and only play with a tight range (few hands)

Sign of a strong player is when they 3 bet or 4 bet me with a polarized range (people tend to confuse them with maniacs but they are a different breed). They also always tend to raise when they play a hand rather than call.

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Yes, they play play a tight range. You definitely have to here. It’s not unusual for 4 or more players to be in the hand at showdown, even in a 6 max game. Also, checkers and callers don’t last very long anywhere.

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I could’t agree more … bankroll management.

Sorry, aber wenn ich selber wirklich ein starker Spieler wäre, würde ich dann nicht lieber meine kostbare Zeit mit Echtgeld Pokern verwenden? Oder sind Echtgeld Spieler keine starken Spieler, sondern immer nur Bingoluckyfishfreaks? Oder kann man Spielgeld mit Echtgeld Pokern einfach nicht vergleichen.
Sind verschiedene Welten, mit verschiedenen Emotionen. Denn mit Spielgeld allin gehen ist sicherlich wesentlich leichter und der Puls bleiben auch ziemlich ruhig, als wenn man in einem $ 200 alles auf eine Karte setzt bzw. man überragend spielt und der Gegner einfach nur ein Zocker ist und im River die 5% Gewinnchance trifft.

Sorry, but if I were a really strong player myself, wouldn’t I rather spend my precious time playing real money poker? Or are real money players not strong players, but always just bingo luckyfish freaks? Or you just can’t compare play money to real money poker.
Are different worlds, with different emotions. Because going all in with play money is certainly much easier and the pulse stays pretty calm than if you bet everything on one card in a $ 200 or you play outstandingly and the opponent is just a gamer and the 5% chance of winning hits the river .


Welcome to the Replay community, Herr Simon.

Of course, really strong players are not going to be playing free poker. Did you expect to be sitting across from Phil Ivey on Replay tables? The thread is about recognizing a strong player in the context of free poker, of which there are quite a few. Some regular Replay players I have seen are certainly good enough to play at lower stakes cash games. I don’t know why everybody thinks that “cash” changes everything. Las Vegas was built on fish, and the low stakes poker tables at casinos are generally full of tourists, as these tables are not profitable enough for the pros to bother with.


Real money live $1/2 is an joke, even compared to replay elite stakes. 5NL is also quite soft and 10NL isn’t much better, though it’s true that absolute crushers wouldn’t likely be going for play chips.

Some on this thread have said that strong players play a tight range. I’d say the opposite, strong players play a wider range than the typical nit regs at the higher stakes here. Opening 25% of hands (averaging across positions) and winning at 100k/200k is more impressive (and tougher to beat) than just playing pocket pairs and AK.


Play too tight and you’ll lose too much money posting blinds. Betting, raising, shoves … aggression. That’s NL Hold’em. If you take that stuff out of the game, it’s no longer poker. Good players don’t play almost every hand they are dealt. They’re also not a bunch of checkers and callers. They apply pressure.


@ misar “Also, checkers and callers don’t last very long anywhere.”

You have to be aggressive! I play 95% tourneys, 5% Ring Games. Mostly +R cause you can build a stack quick, then sit on it, then when +R ends, when REAL poker begins…

That is when you have to be aggressive. Especially when you’re the button or close to it. If a bet comes clear around to you all checks, especially after the flop, That’s when you bet! Pot bet works well if the pot is big enough. But any aggressive bet there and they’ll often fold all around.

And to @ Yorunoame
This is against the intent of the thread I guess, but the strong players become obvious to me pretty fast. Not just from a big stack (least important.) Just from the way they play. Cut their losses and fold, fairly often. Like was said above, raise more than call.

I shouldn’t tell this but… When I have the nuts in the hole.A-face card or a high pair, even A-spot suited, I’ll bet the min. Just to get everyone else, as many as possible, to contribute to the pot I have a good statistical chance to win!

Aggressive betting plays into the hands of a player with a very strong hand. He can check once. Then call the clever guy. Check again. Call the bigger bet. After the river, the clever guy goes biggest bet yet and check raiser goes all in. ho ho ho You call that, you gonna lose.

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A strong player is a player who can constantly bet and win pots, but just when you get tired of it and call them down they have the nuts. These players are incredibly balanced so that you are making a mistake either way. That is a strong player.


An answer to your question, I love my bed at home

I usually look in the mirror.


They play a tighter game. They mostly play strong hands. They know the odds.