Build the poker table's image in your mind

June 16, 2015 3:00 AM


When playing poker, table image can make a huge difference in your results. Starting from the first hand, opponents will try to perceive how you play. Are you tight or loose, aggressive or passive, deceptive, timid? This image will influence how they play against you.

Likewise, you should constantly be ascertaining table image for each of your opponents. In addition to how they play their hands, consider what they say or any other tells.

For example, you “earn” a tight image if you fold the vast majority of your holecards. According to the Hold’em Algorithm (see the ad to the left), on average, only one out of four or five starting-hands are playable. That would lead to a tight image.

Staying to see the flop more often would produce a loose player image – more inclined to gamble. Aggressive players raise often, even without a strong hand. Passive players rarely raise. Deceptive players often bluff.

For each of your opponents, consider his table image when you make key decisions. For example, when a tight player raises preflop from an early position, fold all except strong starting-hands. Save your chips! On the other hand, if the raiser is loose-aggressive, you have less to fear as to the strength of his hand, and should call so long as you have a reasonable chance of connecting on the flop.

A deceptive-image may deserve a reraise from you: Bluff out the bluffer! Occasionally, you will find a timid player at your table. He usually folds to a raise – an easy bluffing target (using the Esther Bluff, of course). If he does call your raise, caution on your part is demanded.

One obvious-to-all table image is the “maniac” – the ultimate in aggressive play. He bets and raises at almost every opportunity. There often will be one at your table – sometimes more. In that case, try to get seated to his left, so you see how he bets preflop, before you must act.

Fold a marginal drawing hand that cannot stand a raise. Reraise with a made hand (A-A, K-K, or Q-Q) to force out opponents behind you, thus improving the odds you will win this hand. Based on probabilities, the odds are that “maniac” has a weak starting-hand.

If the opponents behind you are mostly tight players, even with a marginal starting-hand, your reraise – a three-bet – may force them to fold, leaving you heads-up against the maniac. That’s fine.

Your table image is important when you make a vulnerable hand on the flop or turn. A middle pair or two-pair, even if they are the top pair/two-pair on the board, can easily become a poor second-best if an opponent catches a better hand. That can be quite costly. If your own table image is that of a tight player, your opponents are more likely to fold to your raise, thereby protecting your vulnerable hand.

Is your opponent deceptive? That’s his table image if he seems to be stealing many blinds preflop, when he raises from a middle/late position after the players before him have all folded.

Suppose you are one of the Blinds and observe this table image. This would be a good opportunity to defend your Blind, even with a marginal starting-hand – one you would otherwise toss into the muck from your early position if someone had raised and been called by another player. Mr. Deceptive is very likely to fold to your reraise, leaving the pot for you.

Do this a few times and, before long, you will gain an image as a tough defender of your blinds. Opponents – even a deceptive one – will be less likely to raise unless they have a strong starting-hand.

As for your table image, it would be wise to mix up your play. Start with a tight image; then it’s easier to bluff. Once you are caught bluffing, your table image changes; now you are more likely to have your raises called. You can use this new image to gain bigger pots when you catch a monster hand.

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