Chapter 32: Image in Online Poker
Sometimes at a table, you’ll raise three pots in a row and not win a single one. Your image is not good and won’t get much respect.
Sometimes at a table, you’ll win two big pots in a row with good hands. Your image is good and you’ll get respect when you bet.
Sometimes at a table you’ll be card dead and won’t have played a hand in 25 hands. Your image is tight and you’ll get respect when you bet.
Your image is how others at the table perceive you. In the fast and furious world of 6-max poker your image can change very quickly based on the previous hands.
Your opponents all have images they are portraying to the table as well. Some are aware of it and some aren’t.
Having a grasp of your own image will help you greatly when deciding how to react to what your opponents are doing (or predicting how they’re going to react to what you do). Many players are short-sighted and only remember what has happened within the past half hour to hour when it comes to what they think your image is.
You will play some opponents so often they will know what your standard image is, so little bumps in the road won’t affect how they view you too much. However, you can certainly do some things, like 3-betting a ton or going on tilt, that will change their minds for the short-term.
A good image. Having a good image means the other players feel you are playing a solid game. This usually occurs when you’ve not been out-of-line aggressive and have been showing down good hands. It also means that your opponents still think you can make a move or two. A well-balanced image.
Think of it this way; if you’ve been betting and raising a normal amount but keep showing up with good hands when all the money goes in, people are going to be more reluctant to call you down lightly or bluff you.
With a good image you can get away with more bluffs in the right spots. You will be bluffed less. You might even be feared a little more and can bully a little bit until they pick up on your increased aggression.
A bad image. When you are playing a lot of pots and not winning them, your image is going to be bad. When you keep showing down losing hands, you’ll start to get less respect when you bet and raise.
It’s quite incredible how quickly players change when your image becomes bad. If you’ve lost a big pot or two or been caught bluffing a couple times, the amount of folds you can get on bluffs decreases dramatically.
It’s much easier to play with a good image than a bad image. It’s almost bizarre how much better things will work out for you with a good image. What you are trying to do with your bets, raises and calls will work out much better.
A nit image. Sometimes you are just so card dead you haven’t won a pot in what feels like hours. You haven’t put in a big bet postflop. You may have called preflop to hit some sets and folded to the flop bet. There’s a good chance everyone else has noticed as well.
If people think you are a nit, they will respect your big bets but play back at smaller ones, figuring you will fold unless you have a huge hand.
Manipulating our image
How to use our image to our advantage should be fairly obvious: we do the move that has the most positive expectation against what we expect our opponent to do given what he thinks of us.
If he thinks we’re tight, we put in a big bluff when we think he thinks our hand is a very good one. If he thinks we’re out-of-control and on tilt, we tighten up and play solid, waiting for a good hand to get paid off.
It’s all about staying one step ahead of the competition. When I notice I have a bad image and am not getting respect, I tighten up immediately. I raise less preflop and don’t make as many bluffs. When I have a good image, I open up my game a little bit but not too much. I don’t want to turn my good image into an overly aggressive image.
Take little steps in the other direction of your image, not big ones. If you’ve been playing tight, you don’t need to 3-bet every hand preflop and double and triple barrel everything in sight. Just 3-bet a little more, double barrel a little more, check-raise a little more.
For example, let’s say I’m playing $3/$6 on Full Tilt. The table is mostly comprised of solid TAGs. The past three orbits, I’ve raised the button when it’s folded to me. The next orbit, it’s folded to me again and I have Kh6h. While I would raise this hand about 90% of the time that it’s folded to me on the button, here I elect to fold it. I know that my recent image is that of a constant blind stealer. I feel I have less of a chance to steal the blinds and my hand is too marginal to hit many flops or play back with if I get 3-bet.
From this example you can see what I mean by little changes. I’m always aware of these things at the table and am making small adjustments. I never tighten up too much in these spots, as the button is still a big money maker. But I cut off the more marginal stuff as I anticipate they are going to play back at me lighter.
Using my good image to increase my double barrels is a postflop example. Let’s say I’m playing $2/$4 on Absolute Poker and open Ts9s UTG to $12. First off, I like to raise suited connectors on occasion in early position, especially when my image is one of a solid player who is not to be messed with. The CO, a tighter TAG with stats of 17/13/2, calls. I put him mostly on small to medium pocket pairs here as he generally would 3-bet his big pocket pairs and he would not call other hands like suited connectors in this spot. The button and the blinds fold and we’re heads up.
The flop is 7h2d2s. I bet $20 and the CO calls. I keep my read on him that he has a pair from 33 to TT. It’s also possible he’s slowplaying 77 or 22, but that’s so rare I’m not that worried.
The turn is the 6h. Normally, I’d just give up here against most opponents. I just don’t feel they are folding enough to a bet. However, I know that in the last few orbits, I’ve only shown down very good hands and not been caught bluffing. I’ve bet my good hands with big bets and given the fact I raised UTG, and thus am expected to generally raise good hands UTG, I can really represent a big pair by betting again.
I take all this into account and bet $60 into $67 pot. My opponent thinks for a little bit, and folds. In his mind, he doesn’t have much other reason to think I am doing anything but betting a good hand here since all he has seen me do is just that – playing good hands and betting them big. That is my image in his mind.
Again, some of your opponents are multi-tabling robots or are just too dumb to notice this stuff. Try to pay attention to the tables at all times.
Our opponent’s image
For the most part when analyzing an opponent’s image, we should be looking for the same things that we look for in ourselves. If you’re up against a good, thinking opponent, you can assume he is making some of the same assumptions we are.
Generally, however, most players are either too bad to adjust their game based on their image or they are playing too many tables or not focusing, thus they are not really taking image into account. There are two things I look for that can really change an opponent’s image, however.
The “tilt” factor. Always look for an opponent who loses a big pot, especially when it’s a bad beat. He could be going on tilt and spewing hundreds of dollars in every direction. Also look for a player who wins a big pot. He may start to loosen up and play more pots since he is now winning big for the session.
The last three orbits. It’s almost like an unseen force, but what your opponent has done the last orbits at that table can slightly alter his play. If he’s been more aggressive, keep an eye out for more aggressive moves. If he seems to be folding a lot, he’s playing tight for whatever reason, and you can react accordingly.
A note on when an opponent is playing more aggressive than normal. Sometimes an opponent is either getting a hot run of cards or he is aware that he just made a few big bluffs. They may actually play tighter than usual after a few orbits at the table like this.
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