Other Sport

The four basic poker playing styles explained for football fans

By Emile Avanessian

poker playing styles explained using football analogies

Published: 17:38, 30 January 2022 | Updated: 9:03, 3 February 2022

In many ways, the game of poker is strikingly similar to football.

By and large, each game is an exercise in patience and discipline – more ‘marathon’ than ‘sprint’, if you will – that also requires selective, decisive and incisive aggressiveness at key moments.

The player at the poker table finds its closest footballing parallel in the manager, or head coach. They enter the fray with some degree of inherent, inborn philosophy, but must also assess the flow of a game and the opposition in real time, and be able to effectively adjust accordingly.

Building on this comparison, today we’re taking a look at what some term the four primary types of poker player – Tight-passive (‘The Rock’), Tight-aggressive (‘TAG’), Loose-passive (‘The Calling Station’), Loose-aggressive (‘LAG’) – and their stylistic and philosophical similarities to some of the great managers and sides from football history.


GGPoker Welcome Bonus Offer

New GGPoker customers (18+ only) can get either £40 in free play (made up of $52.50 in free All-In Or Fold SNG tickets from Welcome Bonus and $2.50 in free tickets from Daily Freebie) or a 100% deposit bonus when they deposit £10.

How to claim

  1. Go to GGPoker via this link
  2. Click ‘Join Now’ and create your account with your email address and password.
  3. Make your first deposit of £10/$10 or more.
  4. Choose your Welcome Bonus.

18+ only. Welcome Bonus for new players only; minimum deposit (£10/$10) required. Please play responsibly. £40 Free Play offer made up of $52.50 in free All-In Or Fold SNG tickets from Welcome Bonus and $2.50 in free tickets from Daily Freebie. T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.org


1. Tight-passive (‘The Rock’)

The tight, passive player – or ‘the Rock’ (no, not that one), as one might call them – is largely content to sit back, observe and absorb the game and understand its rhythms (and those of their opponents) while minimising risk. This player, by and large, only looks to engage in a scuffle when holding a hand that’s overwhelmingly likely to win.

Such an approach requires an immense level of discipline and patience which, considering human nature and boredom, can sometimes be difficult to maintain. Beyond that, even when one both embraces and masters the strategy of folding all but the strongest hands, there are the other complications. Chief among these is the fact that other players at the table, once they’ve identified this style, are unlikely to engage very heavily in a battle of wagers, as this player’s very involvement is likely an indicator of a strong hand. Additionally, even if this player has got an excellent hand, whatever action they do get is likely to be muted due to other players’ knowledge of their risk-averse approach. 

Put into football terms, this strategy resembles the traditional (historically, at least) Italian strategy of Catenaccio, or the approach of a ‘good Jose Mourinho’ side playing away from home against quality opposition. In football, proponents of these strategies posit that a 1-0 victory is the ideal outcome. This approach values neither the assumption of undue risk, nor the maximisation of margin of victory. This is a strategy that looks for consistent, sustainable yet small victories.

It’s worth noting that when the strategy goes wrong, it can be a grueling and demoralising experience. By neither betting aggressively nor playing aggressively (selection of hands), if such a player endures a run in which they are simply not getting quality cards, they are forced to watch their chip stack slowly dwindle in something of a ‘death by 1,000 cuts’ scenario. This is not unlike an extremely conservative football team falling behind unexpectedly, without a considered plan for how to fire back. Ultimately, this can turn into a toothless performance, in which the clock (or a stack of chips) slowly ebbs, and the player is ill-equipped to do much about it.

18+ only • Min deposit £10 • A qualifying bet is a ‘real money’ stake of at least £10 • Min odds 1/2 (1.50) • Free Bets credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days • Free Bet stakes not included in returns • Casino Bonus must be claimed within 7 days and expires after 14 days • To withdraw any winnings from the Casino Bonus, wager the Bonus amount 40 times within 14 days • Withdrawal restrictions, payment methods, country & Full T&Cs apply • BeGambleAware.org.

18+ only. T&Cs apply. Place a ‘Bet Builder’ on Mobile on Sunday. Minimum 4 selections at 1.5 minimum odds per selection. If your bet wins, you’ll receive a Free Bet matching your stake up to £20. Offer valid once per customer every Sunday. Free Bet valid for 7 days. Free Bet must be used at minimum odds of 1.2.

*New UK customers only. Min Deposit: £5. Maximum Free Bet: £30. First bet on a Football or Horse Racing multiple with 3+ selections. Overall odds: 3.00 (2/1) or higher. Free Bets available upon settlement of the qualifying bet. Debit card deposits only. This is offer is valid for 7 days from your new account being registered. 18+ BeGambleAware.org Full terms apply.

18+ only. New customer offer. T&Cs apply: £10 min. deposit required. 1 x £10 qualifying bet required. Qualifying bet must be place on selection with min. odds of 1.8 (4/5). 4 x £5 free bets will be credited once the qualifying bet has been settled. 1 x free bet valued for any football match result market. 1 x free bet valid on any football correct score market. 1 x free bet valid on any horse racing market. 1 x free bet valid on any Tennis market. Free bets valid for 7 days once credited.

Deposit £10 Get £30 in Free Bets T&Cs apply

New customer offer. 18+ only. New UK, IE & Malta users only. Min. £10/€10 first deposit only using Debit Card or Trustly. Free bets expire in 90 days. T&Cs apply.

18+ only. New customers only. T&Cs apply.

Claim Here
Bet £10, get £30 in free bets T&Cs apply

NEW CUSTOMERS ONLY. FIRST SINGLE & E/W BET ONLY. 5P MINIMUM STAKE. 3 X £10 BET TOKENS. FREE BET STAKES NOT INCLUDED IN RETURNS. FREE BETS EXCLUDE VIRTUALS. FREE BETS ARE NON WITHDRAWABLE. NO FREE BET EXPIRY. ELIGIBILITY RESTRICTIONS AND FURTHER T&CS APPLY. 18+. BEGAMBLEAWARE.ORG

18+ only. T&Cs apply.

Claim Here
Bet £10, Get £20 in Free Bets T&Cs apply

18+ only. New members. £10 min deposit & bet on sportsbook, placed & settled at 1.5 min odds within 14 days of sign-up. Win part of E/W bets. 2 non-withdrawable £10 Free Bet Tokens: accept in 7 days, valid for 7 days from crediting (ex. E/Ws & Multiples), stakes not returned. Click here for Rules & Exclusions. Bet Responsibly. BeGambleAware.org.

18+ only. T&Cs apply. New customers only.

Claim Here

2. Tight-aggressive (‘TAG’)

Like the Rock, the ‘TAG’ does not get involved in an excessive number of hands. Unlike the Rock, however, the TAG rarely gets involved in a hand with the intention of simply matching the opponent’s attack (wager), or ‘calling the bet’. The TAG’s approach is a more aggressive one, and calls for a far more emphatic wagering. Combined with a tendency to play only quality cards, this more aggressive betting approach does allow this type of player to better maximise winning on the action that they do get. Additionally, this strategy opens the door for a player to ‘buy the pot’ with some degree of frequency. For the uninitiated, ‘buying the pot’ refers to raising the bet aggressively after multiple other players have bet, making it more expensive for them to see the next card(s) on the board, and thus inviting them to fold their hands, and allowing the player (in this case, the TAG) to simply collect the wagers already on the table, without needing to see additional cards.

When a TAG does get involved in hand, it is similarly an indication that they are holding a strong hand. Once again, as with ‘the Rock’, this self-imposed minimum threshold for starting hands is good in that serves to limit losses, but the assumption from opponents that the TAG will only play a hand with the odds firmly in their favour tends to limit action and, consequently, winnings. Finally, by taking more aggressive approach by concentrating them into a smaller number of hands, each individual victory and defeat takes on outsized significance for a TAG.

In football terms, the best way to think about such a player is as a counter-attacking side, comfortable to sit back and absorb pressure while reading the game and understanding its rhythm. This kind of team will, generally speaking, only behave aggressively and commit to the attack when the situation favours it.

But it is also an approach that simply cannot achieve its ultimate goal without, well, scoring at least one more goal. The best comparison is not so much a specific team but a situation. This type of player approaches poker like a team in the Champions League trailing quality opposition by the (now-defunct) away goals rule. This player’s normal strategy will keep them in the game, but they will, at some point, need to veer a bit from that core identity, and take big swings – sometimes at times that are not always of their choosing.

3. Loose-passive (‘The Calling Station’)

The ‘Calling Station’ – or, a loose, yet passive player – is an interesting sort. Their threshold for quality of a starting hand required to wager is not nearly as high as those of the Rock and the TAG. However, this player takes a conservative approach to wager. The thinking in this strategy is, in its simplest terms, that any two cards can win. To the Calling Station, if the price is cheap enough, even an awful hand – and 5 and a 2 of different suits, for instance – is worth seeing through to the ‘flop’. If the three cards that fall are a pair of 5s and another deuce, the hand is suddenly monstrous. These possibilities – and the possibility of these possibilities, which open the door for a good bluff – are this player’s lifeblood.


Interested in Virgin Bet offer above? Your next step is to follow this link.

The offer is only valid for new members. 18+ only. Be Gamble Aware. £10 min deposit & bet on sportsbook, placed & settled at 1.5 min odds within 14 days of sign-up. Win part of E/W bets. 2 non-withdrawable £10 Free Bet Tokens: accept in 7 days, valid for 7 days from acceptance (ex. E/Ws & Multiples), stakes not returned. Click here for Rules & Exclusions. Bet Responsibly.


If, after the flop, their substandard hand remains substandard, with no real possibilities for victory, this player is always free to simply fold the next time a wager is made. 

From a football perspective, this is strategy would involve holding on to possession, constantly probing all parts of a defence in search of a weakness, while still comfortable pulling back and regrouping, before looking for the next opening.

At its apex, this strategy is employed in the absence of other players who are aggressively raising the bet prior to the flop, and involves the player in question ‘catching cards’ – both in their pocket hand, as well as on the board. Proper execution, combined with an extraordinarily strong run of cards –Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and David Villa, for instance – this approach can recreate the glory of Guardiola’s peak Barcelona sides. Aggressiveness with devastating effect, with minimal concern for reprisal.

It must be mentioned that this approach is not for the faint of heart. When things go wrong with this strategy, they can get ugly. The not-quite-worst-case scenario, in which the player is seeing many flops but not catching card is akin to that of the Rock: a toothless performance, in which the clock (or a stack of chips) ebbs, only more quickly than in the case of the Rock.

Of course, there is another, more spectacularly disastrous downside scenario. In this case, our player is allowed to see many flops, and catches cards… but cards that are not quite good enough. The fallout here includes subsequent bets and involvement in larger pots, the most important of which do not fall the player’s way, and ultimately, a very-good-but-not-good-enough hand that wipe’s the player out in one fell swoop.

4. Loose-aggressive (‘LAG’)

The LAG (‘loose aggressive’) employs the most high-risk, high-reward approach of all of these player types. This is a player happy and willing to dictate the pace of play and aggressively seek out victory. At the same time, the LAG is willing to cede some control to the opposition, while sniffing out weaknesses, and counter-attacking incisively.

Whether on the front foot or the back foot, the LAG is constantly seeking out victory. At the poker table, this can mean frequently raising bets and taking part forcefully, sometimes without a ready-made winning hand. Either of these scenarios has the potential to lead to a certain level of friction — if not outright conflict — with opposing players.

At its best, this is the style of the great Liverpool teams of recent vintage, spearheaded in attack by Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, with the fiery character of Jurgen Klopp on the sidelines, and, for quite some time, by Sir Alex Ferguson’s great Manchester United sides, in which ‘attack’ was the top priority, and occasionally ruffling a few feathers came with the territory.

However, this style, employed improperly, can lead to disastrous results. In football, this can mean an emotional and unstable team that ships goals freely. At the poker table, this can mean a player whose chip stack swings wildly, seemingly without a plan.

READ MORE:

✕︎

Sign up to the Best Football Offers

A valid email is required.

Invalid e-mail.

Yes I am over 18.
Yes, I would like to receive email updates on exciting offers from squawka.com. For more info on how we and our partners process your data, see Privacy and Cookie Policies.
You need to confirm that you are over 18 and that you want to receive updates.

*By subscribing you are confirming that you are over 18 years of age.

*All emails include an unsubscribe link, where you can opt out any time. *Please see our privacy and cookies policy..

x

Newsletter error