How your opponents ‘see’ you as a poker player

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In our two previous columns, we listed the 13 (count them) reasons for raising in a hold’em game and we discussed several: (1) Building the pot; (2) Forcing out opponents to reduce the size of the playing field (RSPF), and (3) Raising a maniac.

This latter discussion included raising to improve your betting position (gaining the virtual button) by forcing out opponents behind you and isolating the maniac when your raise forces everyone except the maniac to fold.

Heads-up with a decent hand against the maniac, you usually are favored to win. Today, let’s consider raising to create or change your image – how your opponents “see” you as a poker player.

Many winning players start off with a tight-selectively aggressive style of play. A tight player stays to see the flop only with strong hands. He plays conservatively, often folding from early positions. This trait is easily discernible by virtue of the fact that he plays very few hands.

When he bets or raises, it’s because he has a powerful hand – likely to be the winning one. That’s a sound way to play poker but sooner or later his opponents have figured him out. As a result, when he flops a monster hand, they often drop out when he bets or raises. Big hands won’t earn the chips he would have hoped for.

After playing awhile against your opponents, it is prudent to change your image (“changing gears.”) Seek opportunities for bluffing. Because of your tight image, your bluffs are likely to succeed – especially if you use the Esther Bluff, reinforced by the Richard B. Reverse Tell.

USING THE RAISE

Ultimately, an opponent will call your bluff. He may have a strong hand, or perhaps he had failed to observe your tight image. (Happens!) Let’s say you were drawing to the nut-flush after the flop. The turn doesn’t help.

Now heads-up against a loose player, after you check, he bets. You raise! Shout it out loud and clear. With the river card yet to be dealt, it’s a semi-bluff. But it could be more than that. . .

The river card doesn’t help your hand. All you have is four-to-a big-flush! Because you check-raised on the turn, your opponent checks to you. Your best chance of winning that pot is to bluff on the river. Unfortunately, your opponent calls and takes the pot.

Yes, you lost that pot. But when you turn up your holecards, all of the players at your table are anxious to see what you check-raised with and then bet on the river. Your image has just changed. Now they know that you are likely to bluff!
How does that “new image” work to your advantage? The next time you have caught a monster hand, your opponents are more likely to call your bets and raises. As a result, you will get paid off when you make the winning hands. That raise on the turn was a sound investment.

USING NEW IMAGE

Example: With pocket queens, you raise from a middle position. Three opponents including the big blind call. The flop brings a third queen, giving you a big set. The queen is the highest card on a rainbow board (no suited cards).

Before changing your image from tight to deceptive (likely to bluff), your bet on the flop would likely be greeted with all your opponents folding, leaving you with a tiny pot. But, because of your “new” image, earned by your check-raise a few hands earlier, opponents with small/medium pairs and three cards to a straight or flush, will call your bet.

Furthermore, if an early-position opponent bets and is called, your raise is bound to be called – thereby building the pot for you (hopefully). With a big set on the flop, you are a huge favorite to take the pot at the showdown.

(“The Engineer” is a noted author and teacher of poker at the Claude Pepper Sr. Citizen Center and at West Los Angeles College. Last year, he received the Senior Citizen Volunteer-of-the-Year Award from the Westside Optimists and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected])

 

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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