Poker: From Mr Tight to Doc Dolittle

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EVERY poker game is defined by the personalities of the players. In a sense, they are always the same types; only the mix is diffferent. As a rough and ready guide, here are five kinds of player to be found at any game.

1 Mr Tight. This player sticks to the odds and plays like granite. He is easy to read but hard to win from. If he makes a bet, he is sure to have the goods. But in a free-swinging, high-raising game he has no chance.

2 Johnny Gambler. Fast and furious, this player likes to bet it up at every opportunity. He has never heard of odds, and has no respect for opponents' cards. If he has any kind of a hand or an 'out' he will go for it. On his day, a big winner - he needs to be, to make up for all the other losing nights.

3 Doc Dolittle. The Doc has been around a long time and knows a lot about poker. He is not afraid to run a bluff on a pair of deuces, but makes sure he keeps out of trouble on the big hands. A break even player or small winner.

4 Jack O'Blarney. Plays for fun and conversation, always telling stories and holding up the game, quick to explain where you went wrong or why he was unlucky. Fond of a quick one at the bar between deals, shrewd on occasion.

5 Jim Flick. A hustler in a button-down shirt, quick and hard-betting. Knows the odds, but mixes up his game to make his play unreadable. Makes the rules, soothes the losers, usually wins.

So forget the maths. What matters at poker is to know your man, or woman. The odds are merely a framework for play, like the lines on a tennis court. In practice, good players change their style, like changing gear, according to the mood and pace of the game. Every hand that is played reveals something about players' styles and standards - and also your own.

Happily, modern poker still celebrates the virtues of its Wild West origins: risk, daring, true grit. Luck comes into it, but the luck evens out in the long run.

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