Every poker player develops an image. It is determined by how you play the hands dealt to you, which your opponents at the table can readily identify: tight or loose; passive or aggressive; and/or deceptive (likely to bluff.). More skilled opponents will also observe if you are a calling-station, a player who rarely folds after investing in the hand. Loose-aggressive players are quite common; somewhat less so are tight players.
Whether or not your opponents consciously seek to identify your image, most of them are bound to form one in their minds after several orbits of play. The evidence is right there in front of them, hand after hand. They can also get further information when you turn up your hand during a showdown.
Your opponents’ perception of your playing traits – your image – can be an important factor that you can exploit to your benefit. Sure, an astute opponent will use that information against you. But, in another way, you can use that information to build bigger pots when your hand is well ahead – and expected to take the pot.
Consider your image when building bigger pots. Let’s examine the two most common. In each case, based on your image as your opponents see it, what is the best way to build the pot after flopping a monster hand?
A tight image: You have been fairly diligent in complying with the Hold’em Algorithm. On that basis, you have played relatively few starting hands – less than one out of four. As a result, most (if not all) of your opponents regard you as a tight player. That’s your image as far as they are concerned. And you should know it.
After playing a while, you are a bit behind when you look down at pocket 9’s from a middle position. So, you call the Big Blind to see the flop. The odds are about 8-to-1 against improving on the flop; but it does happen. The flop: 9h-8s-2d. You have connected with a set of 9’s! That could easily be the winner even without further improvement.
An early-position opens the betting, and is called by the player to his left. Now it’s your turn to act. You are tempted to raise; but, on second thought, you wisely decide it would be better to slow-play – just call – so as not to force out the other players yet to declare. You plan to try to build a big pot that could well earn you enough chips to put you comfortably ahead.
What’s more, you realize your opponents regard you as a tight player. That’s so important! On that basis, with your tight image, a raise would almost certainly force out opponents yet to declare and make the others very wary – and cautious. Most likely, your opponents would then have a good read on your hand and be less likely to cooperate as you try to build the pot. With your tight image, slow-playing your monster hand on the flop is the best way to play it.
A loose-aggressive image: On the other hand, what if you have gained a loose-aggressive image? Your opponents associate this image with deception and bluffing. Then, with that in mind, they would be more likely to pay to see the turn even after you raise on the flop from middle – or any – position.
Naturally, this would help build the size of the pot you expect to win with your set of 9’s. And furthermore, knowing your image, an aggressive opponent in a late position holding an over-pair to the board might be inclined to re-raise. More chips going into the pot! A bigger pot for you.
So, with your loose-aggressive image, open-betting or raising is the best way to play your monster hand for maximum profit. What a difference your image can make.