So, what’s the best poker playing style? You can spend a lot of time trying to answer that question, of course. There’s plenty of advice that goes one way or another, always trying to claim that playing a specific way of playing is the best way to win. The truth is, though, there’s not a single poker table image or style that dominates the table.
In fact, sticking to a single style is one of the worst things you can do.
In the real world, players respond to one another instead of sticking to a method of play. If they see you being conservative, they’ll hit your harder or put up their own barriers. When other players see you adopt a more aggressive poker strategy, they’ll shut down on they’ll come back at your twice as hard.
You really want to win, so you need to pay attention to how your opponents react to your own moves. Your poker table image is going to have an incredible impact on how the other people at the table respond, so we’re going to spend some time discussing how you can work with that.
Most poker players today play the LAG style – loose and aggressive. They go hard pre-flop with a number of different hands, trying to frustrate the other people at the table and force them into mistakes. Let’s talk about that’s going to impact your ability to win.
Poker Table Image: Loose and Aggressive Strategy
So, why go with a loose and aggressive style? It makes you look a little crazy. It makes you look like you’re going to raise with anything, and that makes you so wild that you seem predictable. Other players are going to call assuming that you’ve got nothing, and then you’re going to start taking their money.
In fact, you’re going to get away with murder. If your poker table image is tweaked in the right ways, you’re going to be able to get through the early stages of Texas Hold’em poker tournaments with ease. Now you just need to figure out how to switch gears and really take people down during the end game.
Learning to Switch Gears
If you’re involved in a Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament, learning how to mess with your poker table image at a moment’s notice is one of the most valuable skills that you can cultivate. The table can and should always be changing, and it’s your job to learn how to adapt. When you can change gears on the fly, it’s going to be much harder for other players to play against you.
The reason that a loose and aggressive style tends to fall apart is that players don’t understand how to get out of that particular mode of play. If you stick with loose and aggressive, other players are going to figure you out quickly – but if you’re able to go tight and aggressive, or even tight and conservative, after a few hands, you become a better poker player and harder to deal with.
The ideal situation to be in is one where the other players haven’t paid any real attention to your gear shift. You worked so hard on your crazy poker table image early on that the other players still think you’re going with a loose and aggressive style of play. This gives you a brief but important period of time in which you can force the other players to bet more heavily than they should and they’ll essentially start handing you chips in response.
You only get a limited amount of traction when switching, so make sure that you know what you’re doing. In order to know what gear to switch into, we’re going to have to discuss poker table image in greater detail.
Understanding Poker Table Image
If you want to win tournaments, you’re going to have to be able to identify your poker table image. You need to know what kind of image you are projecting and what kind of image your opponents are projecting as well. Once you can identify what things look like, you can take advantage of that knowledge.
When we talk about poker table image, we’re talking about the way that you and your opponents seem to play. There are two table images happening at any given time – the way others perceive the image, and the way that the player perceives the image. Understanding both is the key to great poker play.
Imagining the Opponent
Most poker players start by coming up with a table image for their opponents. This is usually fairly easy, because it just comes down to simple observational skill. Anyone can tell the difference between an aggressive or conservative player, or the difference between someone who plays tight and someone who plays loose. You’ve been doing this from the moment you started taking poker seriously.
There are a lot of bad ways to determine an opponent’s image, of course. There are tons of stereotypes about how different ages, races, and genders play – and they’re all fairly inaccurate. You might get lucky with a guess or two, but the way that you determine a player’s real image is paying attention to how they play. If you can’t get to that point, you can’t expect to really compete with real players.
Actions and Interpretation
If you’re going to start working with reading the poker table image of other players, you need to start committing to taking action. You can’t just stop and assume that a poker player is being aggressive and then go back to your normal game. If you see that someone is being aggressive, use that information! Use it to read the other player’s hand or to make a decision on how you bet.
All the observation in the world is useless if you’re not making constant alterations to your play style due to changes in information. Sure, you’re going to lose a hand or two when you guess wrong, but you’re going to come out on top over time. That’s how great players play, and how you need to play.
What’s Your Poker Table Image?
Let’s assume that you want to play some real poker – not just a few games against friends or against online opponents who don’t know how to play. During those early stages, you just need to know how the opponent plays – you’re going to constantly respond, and that’s fine. When you get up to playing against the big dogs, though, you’re going to have to start worrying about your own poker table image.
This is much tougher than the earlier type of poker, because you’re going to have to shed some ego. You have a plan to determine how you want to look, of course, but that’s got to be abandoned. You need to think about how you are actually playing and acting at the table, and then figure out how the other players see you. It’s only with this kind of information that you’re going to be able to pull the rug out from under the rest of the table.
The first thing you have to remember is that your image is most directly controlled about your last hand. It’s great if you’ve spent the last decade gaining a reputation for being an aggressive player who dominates the table – at least if you’re only playing with people who have played with you before. In most cases, though, it’s going to be your actions at this table today that are going to determine how everyone else reads you.
Let’s say that you have the image in your mind of yourself as a conservative, safe player. If you’ve come out big from the first hand, betting again and again and taking home pots by sheer bullying, is anyone going to believe that first image to be true? Of course not! At today’s table, you’re a totally different person. If they’re making observations based on how you are actually playing, your self-image doesn’t matter. How lucky you were today doesn’t really matter – the other players can only judge you by what they see.
If you want to prey on the other players at the table, you’ve got to stop thinking about who you want to be seen as and start looking at who you really are being seen as. It doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked to build your image at the past, every player with whom you are unfamiliar is going to have to build your image from scratch. If you can zero in on what they think of you, you can make a pretty big impact at the table.
Using Image to Your Advantage
The good news is that you can use any poker table image to your advantage, so long as you pay attention to what other people think of you. If other players think that you’re an overly-aggressive player, they’re going to treat your bets and raises with a lot less seriousness. This will allow you to actually play more aggressively when you have a good starting hand and you’ll be able to take home more money.
You’re still going to come out ahead if that tournament’s view of your image is one of a weak player. Your opponents are going to think that you’ll fold on anything, so you’ve got a better chance to chase after weak hands and you’ll be able to bluff much more easily. And if you do have a strong bet, people will take you seriously – letting you get away with murder, when you’re lucky.
Your Changing Image
One last thing to remember about poker table image – it changes, even over the course of a single game. Unless you are playing with true beginners, the players against whom you are playing are going to keep track of everything that you do and adapt as necessary. You can’t really count on being pegged as a tight player if you start to play loose later, or an aggressive player when you get really conservative.
At best, you have a few hands to take the other players off of their games. You need to keep shifting your image in order to fall into the sweet spots where you’re being read in the wrong way. Pull off a tricky move too many times, and it becomes useless. Do it right, though, and you’ll only have to do it once.
Texas Hold’em Poker can and should be a game of constantly changing expectations. Do your best to keep ahead of your opponents and make sure that you adjust your image of their play every time you get new information. Everyone falls prey to a bad guess from time to time, and that’s fine. If you can force the other player to do it more often than you, though, you’ll end up being the player who wins the poker tournaments and walks away with the big money. See you at the WSOP!
Poker Table Image – FAQ
Why are bad poker players called fish?
Bad players are called fish because some of the other players are sharks and eat them up.
How do you deal with aggressive poker players?
You eliminate Ego and let them do their thing. When the time comes for you to strike, you will know.
What is a donk bet?
A fish and a donkey are the same thing, which are bad poker players. If you make a donk bet, then you made a bad bet. We all do from time to time.
How do you beat a loose passive player?
You can steamroll any kind of passive player. I highly recommend putting a lot of pressure on these types of players. Only fold when they come back at you.
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