Typology of poker players: Models and reality

Religions, concepts, thoughts, ideas, poems, art, fiction, theories in general – I like to think of them as models to describe reality. An even better word in my opinion would be to use the word “approach”.

In this article I will write about different types of poker players, their strengths and weaknesses and how they try to approach the reality of poker.

Approaching a reality

You can approach the reality of music in many different ways. Different researchers in the field of listening typology have described a multitude of different “listening experiences” to music. All of these experiences are one way to explore what the reality “music” is.

Theodor Adorno, a famous German philosopher and music theorist categorized listeners into those categories:

Expert (mostly professional, follows the piece and tries to think ahead and guess how the piece will continue by trying to “think music”; knows a lot about how music “works”)
Good listener (like the experts, understand the why and how, but does not possess the vocabulary to express himself; is very smart, but can´t talk smart)
Educational listener (knows everything about the composer/artists, the length of the piece and where it was written. Knows all the pieces by name, but lacks the deeper understanding that the expert and good listener have)
Emotional listener (enjoys the beauty of the music; doesn´t care when, how and why the piece was written; he associates the music with his feelings and situations in life; is against analyzing music, because it’s against the nature of it)
Resentment listener (follower of a very unknown and not popular style of music and deeply identifies his personality with everything surrounding it; he clearly distances himself from what “the masses” think because he despises it; heavy metal or baroque organ music lovers can be examples of this type)
Entertainment listener (simply wants to be distracted and “only” entertained by music. Similar to the feeling that alcohol and nicotine provide)
The Rest (people who don´t care, don´t like or even dislike music)

There are other and completely different ways tocategorize listeners, but I used the example of music to provide an analogy for what we will discover later in the article when it comes to poker.

Approaching the poker reality


When we try to approach the reality “playing poker”, we often use the model of mathematics. Mathematics is a great model to approach the poker reality. Mathematics is a great tool to calculate your equity and approach the reality of how often you will net a certain profit while having a certain risk to reward ratio. But while approaching, we should recognize the inherent flaws. This approach can only get us so far. If you have tried to figure out what certain types of body language mean by applying maths poker, I’d be delighted to read the trip report.


Another model that is quite often used by players is the psychological model. This model can have major impacts on your game, especially when you are good at understanding human emotions. Of course this models also has its flaws, or rater, let me say limits. Poker psychology can give you players’ tendencies. Let’s say you know Villain will be bluffing his complete bluffing range in a certain spot. Your emotional brain can’t quantify “much in relation to x”. The emotional brain only recognizes “bluffing a lot”.  But let’s say you have a bluff catcher, but my range in a certain spot is enormously strong. Even if I bluff with all my bluffs, you don’t have a profitable call. Your emotional brain might be saying “this is an excellent bluff card since it hits his perceived range so well”. Your more analytical brain would have told you to fold, because you’re beat 95% of the time even if I turn every worse hand into a bluff. To make it short, psychology can´t calculate pot odds & equity.

There are other ways to approach poker as well, but it’s not important to write about all of them. It’s more important to realize that different ways can coexist peacefully (this almost sounds like a rant about religious tolerance or politics). Some are weaker, some are stronger in certain areas. And I like to stress that I don´t think they are equally important. Every different aspect can teach and enlighten you about something that you haven´t discovered yet.

Typology of poker players according to Adorno (I´m stealing here!)

You will encounter players that are experts, good listeners or consummators (aka fish). Every poker 101 guide teaches you to identify the players on the table as soon as possible. Whether you call yourself a feel player or math wiz doesn´t really matter. Wherever your preference lies, you will be able to grasp this part to approach reality better.

According to the Adorno-model presented earlier in this article, try to find out which kind of listener you are (of course in regards to poker)

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