Image by Anton Raath

Playing poker is in some ways a microcosm of life.  Your strategy will often determine whether you succeed or fail.

In poker (as well as in life), there are four basic types of players based on level of aggression and frequency of play.

The diagram below shows the four types:










Are you loose or tight?

The top axis is divided between loose and tight.  A loose player will play just about every  hand to “see what happens.”  A tight player will fold the majority of hands and “pick his or her spots.”

Think about how loose and tight applies to different scenarios in life.  In the workplace, a “loose” coworker speaks up often, revealing his or her opinion about complaints, coworkers, or the direction of the company.  A “tight” player chooses his or her battles by only speaking up when they feel the cause is worth the trouble.

In the dating world… well, use your imagination.


Are you passive or aggressive?

The left axis is divided between passive and aggressive.  A passive player rarely raises, and often calls other player’s bets.  An aggressive player is often the one to raise.

In the real world, a passive person tends to just “go with the flow,” while an aggressive person tends to take control of situations.

In the workplace, aggressive people tend to have the loudest and most opinionated voices.

In the dating world, an aggressive person “makes the first move.”


Which strategy is the best?

Based on the four strategies in the matrix, which do you think is most effective in poker as well as life?

Let’s break each of them down:


Loose / Passive

In poker (as well as in life), a loose/passive approach tends to be the least productive. 

This kind of player will loosely play just about every hand and passively call other player’s bets instead of raising. In doing so, the player pays a lot of money to the pot when they don’t have the best hand. 

When they do have the best hand, their lack of aggression means they make less money.  In addition: they rarely represent a big hand, and therefore don’t get the benefit of bluffing either. 

What does a loose/passive person look like in the workplace? 

People who speak up often, but with a weak voice, are considered loose/passive in the workplace.  They are quick to reveal their position, but they don’t fight very hard for it.

Because they speak out often, they’re hard to take seriously; and since they don’t fight very hard for their position, they tend to get steamrolled by more aggressive coworkers.

Loose/passive isn’t a very good strategy for dating, either.  A person with this strategy will date just about anyone who comes along and will just kind of “go with the flow” instead of standing up for themselves.


Tight / Passive

In poker, a tight/passive player will wait until they have a good hand to play, but once they are in the pot with other players, they simply call other player’s bets instead of raising.  This approach typically performs better than loose/passive, but is not considered to be the best strategy.

In the workplace, a person with this strategy will only speak up on the issues that concern them the most, but they won’t fight very hard for their position.  This is most likely the quietest person in the office; and while this person is probably taken more seriously when they speak up, they tend to get overpowered by more aggressive coworkers.

In dating, this person is more selective with a partner, but is still very passive in asserting his or herself. Once again, this leads to being the subordinate in the relationship who is more likely to get pushed around.


Loose / Aggressive

In poker, loose/aggressive players are the most exciting and volatile in the game.  They play a lot of hands and are always raising.  They tend to have wild swings in winnings.  One round, they may win a big pot, and they could loose it all on the next. 

Depending on the styles of the other people at the table, the loose/aggressive style can be either very profitable or very unprofitable.  Overall, this style tends to perform better than the previous two mentioned.

In the workplace, a loose/aggressive coworker speaks up often, and takes an aggressive stance on issues.  This is probably the most annoying person in the office. 

There they go again… always causing trouble.”

Depending on the management style of their boss, they will often get their way just to avoid a confrontation.  In comparison to the loose/passive and tight/passive styles, they will tend to have more success, but take some baggage with them on their way up.

The same goes for dating.  A loose/aggressive person is the one playing a “numbers game.”  They don’t care if they strike out because they know its just a matter of time.


Tight / Aggressive

In poker, a tight/aggressive player will wait for their spots.  They only play good starting hands or well-timed bluffs and fold the rest.  When they do decide to play, they are aggressive by frequent raises.

Since they don’t play often, their moves get the respect of other players and their bluffs carry more believability.

In basic poker strategy, a tight/aggressive approach is considered to be the most productive.

A tight/aggressive strategy is also very productive in life. 

If you can have the patience to pick your spots and go for what you want aggressively, you will have a better chance of succeeding.

In the workplace, don’t take on every battle; but when you take one on, fight hard.  If you keep your mouth shut for the most part, when you do finally speak up with force behind it, people will listen.

As opposed to the loose/aggressive coworker who tends to annoy everyone, a tight/aggressive coworker tends to demand respect.

The same goes for dating.  Pick your spots and go for what you want.  You’ll tend to have more success…



So what strategy are you using?  If you don’t consciously have a strategy, what pattern of behavior do you tend to fall into?

Most people will naturally fall into one of the four approaches.  Examine yourself and see where you can tighten it up a little bit if needed.  If you tend to bow to other people’s wishes, see where you can get a little more aggressive in your most important battles.

Poker is a microcosm of life.  How are you going to play the hand you were dealt?