Home-Game Player Types: Exploit Your Friends


The best thing about having a home game is getting to crush the spirit of your friends and take their money at the same time.

If you brag shamelessly to your friends about your poker skills, you need to be able to consistently take their money. The best way to take all your friends' money is to first understand what kind of player you yourself are, and then get a read on what kind of player each one of them is.

Once you understand your respective playing styles, you'll be able to exploit them, and take all your friends' monies.

The Scared Fish

The scared fish is the hardest player type to stack quickly. Yet this is also the player you can win against most consistently.

Characteristics: Scared of everything and everyone. If you sneeze, he's pretty sure it's a tell that you have him beat. Only plays the nuts and will fold anything less.

I've even seen a scared fish fold the nuts. It wasn't a hand that could be confused as not being the nuts either ... he had quads. Honestly, he had quads. In Hold'em. And folded. Folded to a pot-sized bet.

Point of Weakness: Since this player is willing to fold anything he has, you should be betting anything you have. The second he shows strength in any way, fold like a cheap suitcase. This player is almost best played blind. Your hand is utterly irrelevant - play exclusively on the reads you get on him.

The Careless Fish

The careless fish is a player who has no idea how to play the game and really doesn't care to learn. He's basically playing blind.

Characteristics: Finds things he likes in his hand, and reasons to bet, arbitrarily. Maybe he thinks his hand looks pretty, or he's just bored. Either way, there is no way to know what kind of hand he has at any point.

Point of Weakness: His entire game is his weakness. You want to push the nuts hard, because there's a decent chance you'll get paid. If you don't have the nuts, you have to evaluate the strength of your hand versus a random hand.

The Poker Expert Who Oddly Enough Smells Like Fish

Every home game has at least one player who's read a book or two, watched poker on TV, played online, and has maybe even been to a real live cardroom.

Characteristics: The end-all, say-all poker expert. Knows all the fancy words (and the meanings of some of them as well), and likes to think he'll clean up every time he sits down with you.

He's the one who likes to talk about poker topics such as reverse implied odds at the table, so he can show off how good he is at the game to everyone.

Point of Weakness: Along with the belief that he is the best player at the table, this player will try to bluff, bully and get creative as much as possible. When you have the nuts, let him bet into you and try to push you off the hand.

He will also want to make good reads and tough lay-downs to show off how good he really is; this player can be bluffed, and will pay off almost all of your value bets.

The Uber Bully

Raymond Rahme
Raymond Rahme.

The uber bully is the player who believes he can win every pot if he just tries hard enough.

Characteristics: Hyperaggressive - attempts to win almost every pot by brute force. The Uber Bully will back off when he senses strength, and fire all three barrels when there's a sniff of weakness. This player typically either busts out early, or accrues the chip lead.

Point of Weakness: Seeks validation of his style through successful bluffs. Wants to make other players fold to reinforce his belief that he possesses a winning playing style.

If he can be led to believe you're weak when you're strong, it can be easy to extract bets on all streets. When you actually have the hand against this player, it's best not to lead, as he will rarely come over the top of strength with nothing.

Typically, bluffing this player is a mistake. It's best to make a read on whether you're good or not. If you're good (and typically weak hands may be very good against this player), just check-call every street to maximize the pot size.

The Legit Amateur

These days, the majority of poker players fall into this category. They are still amateurs, and make their fair share of mistakes. Outside of the unforced errors, they play a solid game, occasionally marked with moments of brilliance.

Characteristics: The legit amateur is striving to become a better player. He'll want to try and pick on the worse players at the table, and steer clear of the better ones. Willing to lay down his hands and make the occasional bluff. Depending on the cards being dealt, this player can be a dangerous opponent.

Point of Weakness: The extreme fear of making a mistake will help force this player to do exactly that. He can read the board, and understand where and how his hand is vulnerable, making him easier to be bluffed than most other opponents.

The best rule of thumb for playing him is to always believe him. If he's representing he has it, he probably does. His bluff-to-nuts ratio is so low, it's not worth trying to pick the right time.

The Pro

Depending on your ego and how long you've been playing poker, this is the category you may reckon you fall into. After reading the below, though, you may have to reevaluate that hunch.

Characteristics: The pro has more poker experience under his belt than the rest of the table combined. He typically doesn't care about the money in play at the local home game, as the stakes are far below a meaningful amount for him.

This player is playing for fun, even when the "fun" factor of the game is mostly lost. He's there to socialize, have a good time with friends, and fool around with cards.

When he does take it seriously, the pro is the player you don't want to butt heads with. Having no fear of loss, he cannot be bullied, and is willing to chunk it at any moment when he senses weakness.

For a couple of reasons, unless he's helping out a friend, the pro rarely talks about poker theory at the table. First, it's simply not an interesting topic at this level. Second, all pros know not to tap the glass.

Point of Weakness: For all of you players up against a pro at your table, the advice I have for you isn't going to be very helpful. In order to outplay a pro, you're going to need to understand the thought process of the pro, meaning you're a pro yourself.

If that's not the case, you're going to have to underplay him.

Scotty Nguyen
The Pro.

The only way to underplay a pro is to play very simple ABC poker. Only bet when you have it, and fold when you don't. You must use your bet amounts and body language to try and convince the pro you're doing anything but.

For example, if you have the absolute nuts, if you check-raise, he'll fold to you. If you bet out you might get a few bets. If you chunk your stack over the top as soon as he bets, you now force him to make a choice:

"Do you have it, or is this your idea of a bluff?"

Many pros will get stuck thinking about your play on their own level. If you have the nuts, and he's betting into you, it makes no sense for you to push - why not just let him keep betting? This can be reason enough for him to call, thinking you're weak.

This will only work if he has a hand strong enough to make the call, though.

* * * * * * * * * * *

That pretty much covers all the types of players you'll encounter at your home game. The first step is to figure out who you are, and use that to your advantage. After you have a read on yourself, you can start figuring out the other players.

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