phenom Phil Hellmuth classifies his opponents as animals. What type
of poker animal are you?
Phil Hellmuth Jr.,
the world record holding 15x WSOP bracelet winner, published the
poker strategy guide, Play
Poker Like a Pro.
At the time of writing, he already had 7 bracelets in his trophy
case, and had earned the unwavering respect of his peers – despite
the intentional aggravation the aptly nicknamed ‘Poker
Brat‘ caused them at
every possible convenience.
Within this book, he revealed one of his more comical secrets. Hellmuth doesn’t use the typical classifications to characterize his opponents. He doesn’t see them as being strong or weak, tight or loose, passive or aggressive. He sees them as creatures – mammals – as if every tournament he played took place in a zoo, and he was the only human guest in attendance, on an elaborate, private tour.
unveiled the secrets of this zoomorphic assignments, explaining how
and why he classifies each opponent as a poker animal. They why is
simple – it’s easier to associate each face with an animal than a
literary label. The how makes more sense we dig deeper into the
inner-working of his mind.
Phil Hellmuth’s Hyperbolic Zoo of Poker Players
Hellmuth chose five arguably appropriate animals to classify all
of the player types that exist in live and online poker rooms. They
include – in order of ease to deplete – the elephant, the jackal,
the mouse, the lion, and the eagle.
elephant tag is assigned to what most pros refer to as a ‘calling
station‘, or as Phil
puts it, a “player
who has too many hands and calls to many bets.”
This player’s lack of strategy is blatantly apparent to everyone
around him – i.e. the elephant in the room. He has no real starting
hand requirements, but rather a strong desire to see the flop before
deciding whether to make or break.
it’s apparent to everyone else that someone has made a far better
hand, the elephant will continue calling to the river if it’s not too
expensive to do so. He makes bluffing impossible, but provides an
easy source of chips for conservatives who only take strong hands to
the river against him.
A jackal is
someone Phil notes as being a “crazy,
seemingly illogical player who makes a lot of bets and raises.”
Most pros refer to this type as a ‘maniac‘
poker player. They are often found in online poker rooms and live low
limit games. They are an unpredictable mess, taking virtually any
hand forward, and betting/raising with no rhyme or reason.
players are statistically easy to beat by anyone willing to call them
with a good starting hand, because odds are, he has nothing worth
paying for. They’re also a source of great aggravation for tighter
poker pros like Phil, who has been knocked out of more than one
tournament by a jackal’s untimely luck.
most poker circles as a ‘rock‘,
the mouse is what Hellmuth calls a “supertight”
player who only moves on with the very best of hands – those Phil
defines as his “Top
player will rarely do anything but fold. When he does play a hand, he
will rarely raise or reraise. He means business, but takes no risks,
never bluffing and, due to this strict behavior, usually making more
money than he loses.
with a poker mouse is that to experienced colleagues, he can become
very predictable. Once Phil labels a mouse, he knows how to handle
them – raising when he wants them out, and backing off when they
show the slightest sign of aggression.
defines a lion as a “very
tough, consistently winning poker player.”
this player will stick to the basic requirements of a solid starting
hand strategy, but is known to stray from this tactic sporadically,
and even bluff on rare occasions. Having established a strong table
presence, he can do so safely, thereby helping to maintain a
consistent win rate. These are among the hardest poker players to
beat because they are great, unpredictable strategists.
is what Hellmuth refers to as a “world
class poker player.”
They are the best of the best, and the only players to truly earn his
respect. It takes years of experience and consistent studying of the
game to reach upper echelon status in the poker world. They are the
top-shelf liquor of the poker store; the top 100 players in the
world; those who earn the spotlight of the cameras at the featured
tables of the most prestigious televised poker tournaments.
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