There are some names out there for poker players. Labels you can use to communicate, or remember, the type of play you or a compatriot may be facing. There are fish and sharks. He's loose/aggressive, she's tight/passive (Mmmmmm... tight passive.) But it occurred to me, on my excruciating drive home, that the labels available today are insufficient. Fish come in many flavors, and more information is necessary when you are trying to find something satisfying on which to snack. It's time to learn new monikers; new labels for the kids at play. This, then, is the metaphor of the modern poker player. Welcome to the schoolyard.
This guy is pretty obvious. He's pushing people around and grabbing lunch money when he can. The thing about bullies is that they will back down if you've got the balls to stand up to them, and that's the trick you have to learn. Let the bully swagger and squawk. Do your best to keep your lunch money on the tray in front of you. Don't make eye contact, and timidly fold when he puts up his dukes, but pay attention. When the time comes, you've got the nuts, and push comes to shove, push back. Beat him. Screw slowplaying this bastard, kick him where it hurts, in his ego. If you think you've got him reraise the whole way. If it's no-limit you are playing, don't simply push all-in, reraise. If his big mistake was deciding to mess with you, you want to make him make the same bad decision over and over again. Push him until he backs down. If he doesn't back down it's going to be expensive, so make sure you've got something to back up your punch; no bluffing yet. If he sucks something out, calmly muck and wait for him to try it again. He will, and this time he'll be seeing the river, so make it as expensive as possible. Once he's learned his lesson he'll give you space, and you should be able to bluff a couple of extra bets off of him.
Bully variations: The Coach
This guy is not only trying to push you around, he's telling you how your play stinks, too. He's going to really hate it when you show him up on the playing field, so he'll start taking it out on the other players. That's fine. Let him soak the others for a while, then school him again. He'll back down after the flop and call to the river just to see if he catches it. If he does he's going to be interminable, so no bluffing this guy. Just wait until you catch the ball, and then run him all over the field.
This guy has got intelligence, but he might be lacking in street smarts. He's read the books, memorized the starting hands, and can handle implied odds without moving his lips. He's playing solid poker, but he 's so solid you might be able to predict what he's going to do next. Pay attention to this guy, he's your friend. He's going to help bring the tone on the table down and keep the wild players under control. If you find yourself in a multi-player pot with this guy and he just keeps raising you probably want to muck. Don't begrudge him his winnings, either, just back off and let him take the less educated kids down. He's the one that's going to pay you off when you do the unexpected. Then, instead of criticizing your play, he's going to question your motives. "Why are you raising 5 6 off in mid field with no callers on the board? Don't you know what pot odds are?" Don't tell him your actual thought process. Just remind him, "any two cards can win." Now smile as he writes this down in his little notebook. The next time you face him with top pair and a good kicker, he'll call the whole way with Ace high just to see if you got it.
The Cool Kid
This is the guy everyone wants to be. He mostly just hangs out and watches, but when he decides to get into the game he plays tough. He's smart, but he doesn't like to draw attention to it. Everyone respects him, and even the bullies back down if he takes a swing. He'd be called tight/aggressive if he put up with getting labeled by The Man. Just remember that he's got more than just book learnin'. If he's getting enough cred he's going to be playing some softer cards, just to keep the bankroll moving. If he can't get any other action, and you are looking at 2nd pair, you should consider calling him down just to see what he's got. He won't get mad, he'll just smile wryly and make a mental note. The next time he pushes back against you he's probably going to have it. Just smile wryly and make a mental note.
We all know this guy. He's along with his friend, backing up the play of the day. Most of the things he says start with "Yeah!" as in, "Yeah! We're gonna kick your ass!", or "Yeah! He's way smarter than you are!", or "Yeah! You didn't have the right pot odds for that call!" The Sidekick isn't defined so much as what he is; more as what he's trying to be. Figure out who he's imitating and you can figure out how to beat him. Hopefully, he should be an easier beat as it's not really his own personality that's influencing his play, and it's always hard to be something you're not.
One note: You're not going to see much of The Sidekick online. He's there, but most of the time he's too difficult to recognize. Sit down to at a $1/$2 or $2/$4 table in AC and you'll have tagged him in the first 15 minutes.
I almost named this guy The Newton*, but no one outside of Club 506 would understand what I meant, and I thought it might get confused with The New Guy. This is a great guy. He's usually a good player, but he doesn't like aggression. In fact, if you try and push him, not only is The Biter going to push back, he's going to cut you. What can sometimes be a good play against The Bully or a blind-thief is not a moneymaker when applied against any raiser, but The Biter is going to try it anyway. If you've got the nuts, and The Biter wants to play, don't bother with the slowplay. Tell him he's got nothing and shovel in the chips. You might want to make your move early, however, because unless our friend is getting lucky, pretty soon he'll bust out, throw down his cards, and stomp off. Try and get a piece of the action before that happens.
The New Kid
This isn't so much of a personality type, as something you need to be aware of, particularly online. The New Kid is an unknown. Is he a Bully, a Geek, a Biter? Who can tell. Often times, online, what happens is that you assign personality to a position. When the player switches you get The New Kid. If you've been waiting on the cards to reraise into The Coach sitting two seats to your right, and suddenly it's not working out the way you expected it to, it's probably because that position is now filled with The New Guy. Pay attention, it could hurt. Of course, the reverse is also true. Once you take a seat online, you become The New Guy. If you can figure out who the old guy was, you might have an advantage until the rest of the kids catch on.
The Special Ed Kid
This is the guy that has no idea what's going on. He's smiling and happy, and calling everything preflop because, as you told The Geek, any two cards can win. When he wins, he wins big, because no one thinks he's got anything. You can't tell what The Special Ed Kid is playing, because he doesn't know himself. This is fine. This is good. While he wins big occasional, most of what he does is lose. If you are kind to him, he can be the table's special friend. Don't pick on The Special Ed Kid. Encourage him. Defend him when the Coach berates his play. Congratulate him on his wisdom when he drags down the chips he won with J 5 off from under the gun. Be nice to The Special Ed Kid; he's paying for dinner.
Special Ed Kid variation: Mellow Yellow
There's another kind of player. I'm going to call him Mellow Yellow after an actual kid I went to middle school with that always wore bright yellow shoes. This guy sits quietly. He doesn't play much with others. He probably doesn't talk much. He simply waits, and watches. Then suddenly something happens, nobody knows what it was, but Mellow Yellow is off his meds and all over the place. He's pushing down The Bully, and busting Coach's balls. He's outsmarted The Geek, and left him crying with cracked Aces. The Biter is bleeding chips, and even The Cool Kid is overthinking his play. Then suddenly the moment is over. Quiet descends upon the schoolyard. It's a nervous sort of peace, however, because everyone knows Mellow Yellow is in the yard. Waiting. Watching.
Sometimes it's good to be The Bully or The Geek, and everyone wants to be The Cool Kid. However, the real King of the Hill, the Master of the Swing Set, the Pimp of the Playground, that's Mellow Yellow.
* Hey man. Just for the record, it's not because of your poker play. It's all personality. Please don't cut me.