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Tips for Spotting Rocks at the Poker Table

Professional Poker

When sitting at a poker table, it is important to be able to spot the different types of poker players at the table as quickly as possible. Many people have discussed how to play rocks, maniacs, and other and how to spot them based on their play.

There isn’t nearly as much out there in identifying poker player characteristics. Often, you can pick up on a poker player’s style within a few minutes of them coming to the table and before you even watch them in a hand. In this article, we’ll talk about quickly spotting rocks at the poker table.

Conservative Demeanor Usually Means Conservative Play

Rocks are typically easy to figure out after sitting at the table for a while and watching play, but there are many common characteristics that rocks hold which makes them easy to spot. In general, you’ll find that rocks tend to be older players. While this sounds like a bit of age discrimination, this is just observation.

I am typically somewhat of a tight poker player, but when I sit down at a Hold’em table where the average age is 50 or older, I tend to loosen up my game. Some of this is due to the fact that many older players are used to the old school type of poker where aggression was not focused on as much as solid play.

However, as time starts to pass, this isn’t holding as true. There are many older players that are adopting the newest techniques, and within a few years, an older player isn’t going to automatically default to old-school poker play.

Another telling characteristic of a rock may be a person that is extremely quiet. They may not speak at all or they may hold a minimum of conversation. Raise, call, and nice hand may be the only words you hear from them for an hour at a time. Some of this may be that they don’t want to give off any tells. Some are just incredibly shy.

Other Identifiable Characteristics of Rocks

Rocks will usually sit down with the exact buy-in or with a pre-determined set of chips. If the game is a $60 buy-in, they may sit down with the exact amount of money. Granted, this is not always a reliable read but at lower stakes, it tends to hold much more weight. Sometimes this is just uber-bankroll managements while other times it is more akin to scared money.

I have found that how a person is dressed can correlate to how tight or how loose they are. For example, someone in a t-shirt and jeans is going to usually be looser than a person in a 3 piece suit. Sometimes it is an image they are trying to uphold.

For some, it is their personality. No-Limit Hold’em can vary in this due to the fact that some people will emulate certain players. Back in the day, you saw a lot of players dress like the late David “DevilFish” Ulliott. In general, the sharper the dresser, the more likely they are to play snug.

If a player sits down with a book, expect that person to be somewhat rocky. They are sitting down for the long haul and don’t mind waiting for strong hands. This used to be the case across the board, but in recent years this doesn’t apply as often to players in tournaments, especially slow structure events.

It’s not uncommon for someone to come in with a myriad of anti-boredom items on Day 1 of a tournament to pass time. However, if you’re in a $1-$2 cash game and a person brings a book to read, you have probably found your resident rock for the game.

As Always, Don’t Assume This Works For Everyone

A lot of the above characteristics are to be used in conjunction with watching the play of a particular person. People will deviate from the above patterns so don’t automatically put someone in a category due to an above recommendation.

For example, I am usually somewhat quiet at Holdem tables and am relatively rocky. However, I am very chatty during Seven Card Stud and Omaha Poker games regardless of how I am playing. I also almost always dress in a t-shirt and jeans. I dress up a little better for certain tournaments when I want a tight image. It works a surprising amount of the time.

As with everything in poker, there are no absolutes. And watch for changing conditions. A rock that takes a really bad beat may start tilting and loosen up his game or make other mistakes in their play. Noticing this will give you extra opportunities to exploit them. Notice any characteristics about rocks that aren’t mentioned above? Feel free to leave a comment and share.

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