Breaking Down the Action:
  • The Elite Pro
  • The Twitch Streamer
  • The Online Grinder
  • The TV Star
  • The Everyman

There was a time when you could divide poker players into four neat groups: tight-aggressive, loose-aggressive, loose-passive and tight-passive. Those days, however, are gone. Poker players are now a far more diverse bunch. From old-school grinders to new age streamers, there’s something for everyone in the modern game.

If you’re just starting out, you might be looking at which style suits you. This is where we come in. Like a tailor assisting a nervous groom at his suit-fitting, we’ll size you up, find out a little more about you then set about your person with a tape measure. Actually, we won’t do that last bit – we’ll tell you exactly what type of poker player you are instead.

Ready? Let’s take a seat at the table.

  1. The Elite Pro

Sam Greenwood

Canadian poker player Sam Greenwood – an elite professional

This is the one that you really want to be, but there are probably a million reasons why you’re not. For a start, you’re reading this article, whereas your elite pro has already done ten laps of their indoor pool and have consumed three kale shakes.

That’s not strictly true, of course – there’s only so much kale in the world – but being elite is really about making optimal choices. As an elite poker player, you’ll have chosen optimal lines for many years, not just in the game of poker, but which games to play, which tournaments to attend and which cash games to avoid.

Being elite is about consistently making the right choices and those choices then providing you with the inevitable rewards due to application and time. There’s really no short-cut.

Signs You’re Elite: You have a tournament planner in spreadsheet form, crossbook regularly with great players and have at least 10 of the world’s top casinos on speed dial. You exercise, meditate and are mindful of virtually everything and can sleep on command.

Elite Players: Bryn Kenney, Jason Koon, Sam Greenwood.

Time to Reach This Level: 10+ years  

  1. The Twitch Streamer

Jeff Gross

Jeff Gross, poker player and Twitch streamer extraordinaire

Playing poker at a consistent level, doesn’t have to be your route to wealth, of course. Many of poker’s richest modern players have achieved notoriety via the medium of online video blogs (YouTube) or by broadcasting their talents directly to poker fans via Twitch.

Think of poker streamers and you might instantly recount Doug Polk and Joey Ingram’s amazing efforts in this realm, but while both those men are incredible poker players, a lot of their most popular videos are the many witty and engaging comments they make on others play (Mike Postle and his baseball cap included).

Players such as Parker Talbot, Kevin Martin and Jaime Staples haven’t just become better players during their Twitch careers, they’ve grown up on screen and in sharing so much of their lives, have engaged with millions of fans worldwide. Those clicks eventually turn into some serious dollar.

Signs You’re a Twitch Streamer: You sleep in late and live for the midnight hour. You enjoy editing videos. You can live off cereal alone and are comfortable filming your every waking move.

Twitch Players: Jason Somerville, Jeff Gross, Jamie Staples.

Time to Reach this Level: 3+ years

  1. The Online Grinder

Dara O'Kearney

Dara O’Kearney – the epitome of a player designed to conquer the online world

Let’s face it, at least 80% of all poker these days is taking place in the virtual world of online poker. From cash games to tournaments, festivals to record-breaking World Series events, it all goes on via your internet connection.

Not everyone is an online grinder, however. To be one, you’ll need to put in an incredible amount of your time. We recently spoke to Dara O’Kearney and he is an online grinder. It has taken the Irishman way more than the 10,000 hours that it is purported you’ll need to put into anything to succeed.

From a complete disregard for sleep to an ability to convert hours into work, being a professional online poker player takes enormous dedication and is not for the faint-hearted. You’ll need nerves of steel, yes, but long-lasting stamina, both mental and physical, to grind a profit at the great game in its digital form.

Signs You’re an Online Grinder: You tend to head to the bathroom 55 minutes after the hour every hour. Your circadian rhythms dictate that you sleep around the small hours and you have never watched breakfast television.

Online Grinders: Dara O’Kearney, Ben Tollerene, Chris Moorman

Time to Reach this Level: 8+ years

  1. The Traveller

Tony Dunst

Born for a life lived out of a suitcase – Tony Dunst

Travelling the world playing poker is many players’ dream. To some, however, they think they want the globetrotting lifestyle without being prepared for it. Sleeping in a different bed each week might appeal in the pages of a bestseller or the opening frames of your favourite action movie, but the reality is that you’re waiting around doing nothing for hours on end a lot of the time, often in airports.

From early check-ins to cancelled flights, train journeys or transfers, to lost luggage and room delays, the life of a poker traveller is often about managing frustrations. If you can deal with the elements that are in your control and ignore those that aren’t, however, the opportunity is there to travel the world and make money playing poker. What could be more fun than that?

Signs You’re a Poker Traveller: You have run for a plane without a single degree of panic. You can hunt out the only bar in a city of hundreds that offers both atmosphere and value. You can speak a little bit of a handful of languages.

Travelling Players: Tony Dunst, Jake Cody, Chris Smith (nee Moneymaker)

Time to Reach this Level: 8+ years

  1. The Whale Shark

Bill Perkins

Bill Perkins is often in the biggest games and is dangerous every time he sits down

Of the seven player types, this is probably the only one you want to see turn up at your table… or do you? Like a pint of double cream, the ‘Whale’ in poker is known as being rich and thick. Whale sharks, however, are at the top end of the game, due to their bankroll already being massive and some serious under-the-radar skill at the felt.

Players who might be whale sharks will travel the globe but are never a prisoner to the right game choices or what might appear to be good value. They already have millions, but they’d like a few more and any player with that kind of financial freedom are dangerous as hell.

If you arrive on a cruise ship and see one, you might fancy a game of cards. Suddenly, you’re three buy-ins down before you realise that they don’t just own the ship, but the entire fleet.

Get rich quick? Forget it. But make your fortune and

Signs You’re a Whale: You usually choose one of everything off the most expensive menu. Your cardiologist is on speed dial. You cannot say how much a pint of milk costs. You call champagne ‘bubbles’.

Whale Sharks: Paul Newey, Bill Perkins, Tony G

Time to Reach this Level: 20+ years

  1. The TV Star

Daniel Negreanu

Kid Poker is a bona fide TV superstar and has made poker bigger because of it

Playing poker is hard enough if you’re at the felt with your friends. Playing in a televised game has its own unique demands on top. From the make-up that is applied to your pokerface before you settle into your not-always-built-for-comfort chair to the heat from the TV lights on your face at all times, there’s a scrutiny about playing on TV that is unreal.

Unreal is really the operative word for a TV poker star, really, because while you’ll naturally need to rely on your skills to acquiesce the pressure of everyone being able to see what you’re doing after the broadcast, you also need to be able to exist inside a persona. The best TV players don’t just grind away playing their natural game. They became a TV star by playing an entertaining brand of poker, and it’s essential to maintain that across various different eras of poker.

From mixing up your playing style to avoid losing money to concentrating on the game when there is a TV crew filming you and watching your every move is hard enough. But pick the wrong TV show and you might never play in the big games again.

Signs You’re a TV Star: The room comes to life when you’re in it. You’re never short of ideas for birthday presents. You genuinely think that your shower-voice would sell records.

Players: Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Luke Schwartz

Time to Reach this Level: 7+ years

  1. The Everyman

Erik Seidel

The everyman of poker and a man for all seasons – Erik Seidel

The everyman is almost the ideal type of poker player to be. Adaptable to a fault, if you’re an everyman – that term refers to both sexes, of course – then you’ll be able to move with the poker times in ways that other players barely even notice until you’ve won more than they ever dreamed of.

The trick to being an Everyman is clear – flying under the radar, which when you’re winning at poker is extremely hard to do. As soon as you’ve been found out, it’s imperative that you alter your game with it. Like a chameleon, or perhaps a snake shedding its skin, adapting to each change in the game marks you out as an all-time great.

Signs You’re an Everyman: You have watched so many poker training videos that you know each change to the game before it comes into fashion. Your electric shaving implement never runs out of batteries. Your wardrobe hasn’t changed in 20 years.

Players: Erik Seidel, David Peters, Toby Lewis

Time to Reach this Level: Infinite

There you have it, so what are you waiting for? Your poker career is in your hands. It’s merely a case of how you want to play them.

Paul Seaton

Paul Seaton has written about poker for many years, travelling the world to report live from such poker events as the World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour. As well as reporting live from the felt, Paul was Editor of BLUFF Europe magazine and has written for major poker brands including PokerStars, 888poker and partypoker where he was Head of Media. Paul has interviewed many of the world’s greatest poker players, such as Sam Trickett, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and Bryn Kenney, the current all-time money list leader.

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