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As you evaluate opponents to determine what kind of player each is – tight or loose, passive or aggressive, deceptive or conservative, etc. – images or impressions of their traits are formed.

Your opponents do the same. Most of them soon will have formed an opinion as to what kind of player you are. I usually start off each session playing tight and selectively aggressive.

I stay in only with good starting hands – carefully following the Hold’em algorithm and raise aggressively when I have a strong hand. After a while, that’s the image of me that has been formed in my opponents’ minds.

That’s what they now expect from me as we play hand after hand.

Knowing that many (if not all) of my opponents have formed this image of my play, can I use this information/assumption to gain an edge over my opponents? Certainly.

You have all heard the advice to change gears periodically. (Like driving your car, there are times to shift into a gear other than drive.) My opponents expect me to play tight and raise (be aggressive) only when it’s to my advantage – like betting for value when I have made a strong hand (that’s my image!).

Now I can shift gears and do some bluffing and/or raise when it is to my advantage. Let’s look at an example.

With my image now firmly formed in my opponents’ minds, I am in a $3-$6 limit game and call from a late position with A-10 suited. The flop brings two more spades, giving me four-to-the-nut flush.

With four opponents calling to see the turn, I decide to raise for value: The card odds are about 2-to-1 against my making the flush on the turn or the river. I am certain that all four of my opponents who have already “invested” to see the turn, will call my $3 raise. So I am getting 4-to-1 money odds on that bet.

For every chip I put into the pot, I stand to gain four chips. That’s about double the card odds – a great investment. We call that a Positive Expectation bet.

Lo and behold, the turn is not the third spade that I need to fill my nut flush. That’s really no surprise. After all, the odds of making the flush on the turn were against me.

Knowing my tight-selectively aggressive image, because I just raised on the flop, all four of my opponents now check to me. After all, they respect and perhaps even fear me. Considering my image, why else would I raise on the flop?

At this point, I have an option: I can check along and get a free card to see the river without investing a double ($6) bet. Alternatively, I can make the bet as a semi-bluff. They may all fold to my bet, leaving the pot to me with just ace-high. That’s fine!

If an opponent or two call my bet, I still have a reasonable chance to make my flush on the river. I have nine solid outs, so the card odds are about 4-1 against me. With all the chips already in the pot, I am getting a lot more than 4-1 on the odds.

If an opponent calls my semi-bluff and I fail to make the flush, I still have the option to bet on the river. Now it’s a straight out bluff.

I am hoping my image is strong enough to persuade my last remaining opponent to fold. Of course, as my bluffing tactic, I always use the Esther Bluff augmented by the Richard B. reverse tell.

(For comments, questions contact “The Engineer” 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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