Texas Holdem Poker - Image is Everything
Hour after hour, hand after hand we all sit and make decisions. Crucial decisions and in some cases our tournament and bankroll lives are on the line based on the choices we make. But did you ever consider what other people think of you and your decision making?
Most of us live our lives with very little concern about what others think of us aside from being a “good” or “bad” person or employee. However, playing poker online is an entirely different animal and how you are perceived by others is of critical importance to your success or failure at the tables.
Many times I have heard players mumble to themselves about why someone called there AK down to the river with bottom pair without blinking an eye. Others attribute it to being unlucky. Neither of these players considered that there previous actions solicited there opponent to call them down with the smallest pair.
One of the most common mistakes players make is playing hands the same way each time. When playing against skilled poker players this is a major flaw because it makes it much easier to put you on a hand or range of hands. For instance: You pick up AA under the gun and limp. The button raises and then you re-raise. Well, that’s usually an indicator of a strong hand. So, if every time you pick up a big pocket pair in early position and limp and re-raise you will get very little action from your opponent unless you are B-E-A-T!
Now, because you have created the image of a tight, trapping, one dimensional player that limps with big hands your opponents are likely to call. They have adjusted to your “strategy” and table image accordingly. This is part of the dynamics of the game and something you need to constantly be aware of.
Let’s take a look at another example of table image and how we are perceived:
You pick up pocket AA’s in middle position and it’s been folded around to you. With the blinds at 200 / 100 you decided to raise it up to 600. The button calls and the flop comes Xs Xs Xc. You decide to push instead of value betting and win the pot.
Two hands later you pick up KK on the button. You raise it up to 600 again and your opponent calls with his pocket 33’s. The flop comes 3 Xc Xc and your opponent checks. You push All-In with your pocket pair and your opponent doubles up easily. By allowing you to play your way out of the hand your image made you an easy target to trap. Your tendencies are to push with over cards and the table knows that after seeing you play for the past hour or so. Again, this is the image you have created with your play. You are a certified home run hitter that does not know how to choke up and hit the other way.
This is where changing gears comes into play and is a necessary skill utilized by better players. You must be able to limp occasionally with big hands as well as call raises with big hands to play them effectively. Otherwise, you give away too much information too often to remain effective for any period of time. Also, you must consider that sitting at the same table with the same players for hours at a time lends itself to players categorizing your play accordingly. Usually we fit into a few categories based on our aggression or lack thereof such as:
So it’s up to you to change gears in your play so that your opponents are not able to put you on hands and play back at you so easily. Here are a few basics in changing gears at the table you can use.
First, you need to be extremely aware of what hands you displayed in showdowns. In particular with the most recent showdown you had. You need to be sure not to play the hand the same way the next time around for your own sake. Good players have long memories. Don’t take that good play you made an hour ago for granted. Players are constantly updating there memory banks with information on each others play to be used against them at some later point in time.
Second, never show cards at the table unless you absolutely have to. Why give away free information? Remember, "There is no honor amongst thieves". And at the poker table you are in a den of thieves.
Third, be aware of what hands you are playing and from what position you play them in. There are times when calling a pre-flop bet just for the sake of giving the perception that you are a little loose helps to maintain your image. That doesn’t mean you are going to call an All-In post flop bet but it does alleviate the perception that you are tight if you have not played a hand in a while. One of the worst table images you can have is being too tight at the tables. It’s hard to get action this way because everyone knows you don’t get involved unless you have the nuts. Not good!
There is an old adage that says; "In order to get action you must give action." Well, that is indeed true. However, you must pick your spots and be aware of what kind of action you are giving in order to employ this thinking properly. In other words keep your head in the game and pay attention not only to your opponents play but your own. By following those simple concepts you can maintain and change your image as needed to maximize your profits at the table and that’s what it’s all about.