There are several different types of players you will encounter at the poker tables. While it is our job to identify the player type as quickly as possible so we can start exploiting their leaks I can assure you, the vast majority of the players will encounter will be recreational players.
What do I mean by recreational players, or Recs for short?
These are players who like playing poker but are really at the casino for the social aspect of the game. They will often be with a friend or two, inevitably they will want to sit at the same table, they will have a couple of drinks and “mix it up” on the felt.
The hallmark of a Rec player is how little they know about sound poker strategy, no matter what they try to tell you. The telltale signs of a Rec player are:
1) The lack of pre-flop raises
2) The lack of betting for thin value
3) An over-reliance on “tricky” or “traping” play
4) Transparency in bet sizing and calling
Rec players will rarely if ever raise pre-flop since they feel any hand can be the winning hand and they wouldn’t want to scare someone off. However, on the flip side, they will not hesitate to limp-call a large (5-10x) raise. They will once in a while limp and then back raise, thinking they are being tricky, but they couldn’t be more transparent if they turned over their pocket aces.
These are the players you want to target most because they are the easiest to take advantage of and also tend to be pretty transparent when they do have a hand.
To effectively exploit a Rec player you have to learn positional awareness and disciplined opening ranges for your position. What I mean by this is, you have to be aware of your position compared to who is in the hand. Being in an early position means you need to play much tighter than you would on the button or in the cutoff.
Also, keep in mind who is still left to act behind you. Do they have a tendency to raise a lot? Do they 3-bet often? Are they loose and wild or tight and nitty? Knowing the answer to these questions will help you determine the range of hands to play in the various positions as the night goes on.
The next thing to pay attention to is the Rec players betting and calling tendencies. Will they only lead out with 2-pair or better? Do they like to check raise the turn with big hands like sets or flushes? Will they call down large bets on flush and straight draws? Do they call river bets light?
Paying attention and learning these tendencies will allow you to extract max value with your strong hands while minimizing your losses when the Rec player has a big hand against you. Most Rec players have a hard time mixing up their game because they aren’t self-aware enough to know they are repeating their patterns over and over again. Tells aren’t usually as obvious as putting down a cookie when they miss a draw, but they are as obvious as always leading out for $17 when they turn 2-pair. Learning these tendencies will allow you to exploit your opponents and increase your overall win rate dramatically in the long run.