Advantages can be exploited by using image

January 31, 2017 3:00 AM
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Every poker player displays an image – a mental picture of the kind of player he is that other players assign to him based on how he has been playing his hands. Is he tight, loose, aggressive, or passive – or a combination of these? Or, perhaps he is deceptive – often bluffs or slow-plays or check-raises.

He may be a “chaser” who keeps calling even when he has a draw with only a few outs – a huge longshot. Perhaps, he is a “calling-station.” Once he has invested to see the flop, he will call all the way to the end. Players even with limited skills may use this image in making decisions, depending on the situation. Let’s call this the “Playing Image.”

Examples: A loose-aggressive (LAG) player stays to see the flop more often than a more discerning player would, often staying all the way to the end; and he raises quite often. On the other hand, a passive player just calls along, hardly ever raising. Tight players stay to see the flop only with strong or made hands. If a player with a tight image comes out betting or raising from an early position, then, convinced he is a big underdog, the skilled player promptly mucks his marginal hand.

To my knowledge, no one has ever commented on a second type of image that even the least skilled players are likely to observe, and pay attention to, and then react in some manner. Let’s call this the “Chip Image.” It is a special image opponents might ascribe to a player who has several racks of chips piled high in front of him.

I recall, years ago, a highly skilled player would come to the table with three full racks of chips. That caught my attention; I’m sure other players noticed that too. As time passed, new players coming to the table, also saw his racks of chips, and concluded this guy must be a big winner. That’s the image he projected!

The same can be said about the player who wins several big pots in a short time. His stacks of chips crowd the table space in front of him. Other big winners will exchange their racks of chips for larger denomination chips. That may be more convenient, but it does take away some of the intrinsic value – some of the “magic” – from their favorable Chip Image.

Inherently, his opponents at the table will react to this observation – stacks/racks full of chips piled high and glaring at them. That guy must be a big winner! That’s the image his huge chip count projects. There is bound to be some envy. More important, they respect and fear this player – the big winner.

For all intents and purposes, he is in control of the game; he governs the play. He can use this image to win even more. When he bets or raises, his opponents are likely to pause and question whether to call. After all, they “know” he is a winner. On that basis, it is much easier for him to steal pots and bluff out his opponents – and his stacks/racks grow taller.

After a while, suspecting he has been bluffing, some of his opponents are bound to start calling. Once he has been caught in a bluff, he would be wise to stop stealing and bluffing for a while. Play it straight and tight. Perhaps it’s a good time to take a break. Have some dinner, take a short walk outside the casino or get a table change.

In summary, image is important in playing winning poker – both those of your opponents and your own. There are two forms of image to consider: (1) Playing Image, and (2) Chip Image. Think about it.