Apr 19, 2010

Image & Profits

So, in an effort to see how well establishing an image at a table works, I tried not doing it today. I've come off 4 winning sessions (to varying degrees) where I was pushing image and working at establishing it and exploiting it.

First a bit of information. An image at a poker table is how other's perceive you. Queue smartass response here. But, this doesn't have to be who you really are, or how you are really playing. You CAN manipulate it. You SHOULD manipulate it. The image I'm using is a total rip-off from advice garnered through reading a book by Mike Caro.

It's a wild and unpredictable image. I want the other players at the table to see someone who will play anything, will bluff anything, plays crazy and unpredictable, but is always fun about it and never a sore loser or sore winner. I do this by playing some wild crazy stuff when it's cheap to do so and make sure I show my losing cards. I also talk a lot in the chat, without reaching the point of people saying "wow, won't that guy ever shut up?!" Friendly banter about things other than poker and of course friendly banter about the game. I do my best to be liked by everyone, but especially by the "weaker" opponents. Which is easy in the first 10-15 minutes and you've played a couple crazy hands for all to see. You're basically giving money away! And you're laughing about it and complimenting people on hands.

So, I'm in the hole to start. Say I get a big blind where someone has doubled the bet and I have a 2-3 off suit. I'll throw the money away hoping to either catch some rags on the board or for a check off until showdown. I'll even call minimum bets at this point. I want this hand to be seen. And the only way for it to be seen is to make it to the showdown. If someone comes with a big bet over the top that I can't justify losing for the sake of establishing the image, I cut the loss off right there and wait for an opportunity to present itself.

It's important to do this when first sitting down at the table, because people form "first impressions" which are hard to change. I do my best to get a couple of crazy hands to the showdown within the first 10 hands I'm at the table. I also make sure to show a losing bluff if one occurs during this period and then I'll find a cheap bluff or place to muck cards. This keeps me from being completely known, but what is known is that I bluff & play crazy cards. This will induce people to call me more often when I actually have the advantage. Much more often than if I had set down, played serious and dominated the table. I'm not interested in these players thinking of me as a big bad poker player that is good. I'm interested in adding to my chip stack at their expense.

2¢/5¢ blinds and $3 starting bankroll in the game. If I've gotten lucky, I'm only down about 50¢ to 75¢ by establishing my image. If I got lucky and won one of those crazy hands by catching some good rag flops, or I coaxed someone into folding with that complete stupid bluff, I could be even better off than that. If I got really lucky and did both, I could be up at this point with a good image established. Being down even $1 can be easily won back. You've now set this image in their mind and it's easier to keep it there than to put it there in the first place. A well timed dumb bluff or rag call about every 5th or 6th win will do this. Because it's much more memorable to see someone win or lose with a 2-3 off suit in a situation that it shouldn't have been played than it is to see someone win with a pair of Kings. I also show some of my good hands that get players to fold as well (though, never the really dominate ones, those are memorable too). Basically, I look to make my wins as forgettable as possible and my crazy calls as memorable as possible.

Once that image is established, you just keep milking the friendly banter in chat and working to maximize your crazy plays and minimize your winning plays in the opposing players minds. And instead of actually playing that way, you're playing decently tight and dragging as many chips as possible out of players without using advanced tactics very much if at all (things such as check-raises). Instead of a check-raise, just bet or check-call. If you check-raise, a red flag goes up and the opponent is likely to fold when he would normally call as much or more than that amount in subsequent betting rounds. Again, this advice straight from Caro.

So, how did my foray go without using an image at all? I lost. $3.45 in 1.5 hours to be exact. I had a bad beat in there or would have been a little better, but those go with the game and have to be counted just as when you give an opposing player a bad beat for a good stack of chips. I also switched tables twice to minimize the bad table effect in this experiment. I lost money overall on all 3.

I switched over to a new table with 6 players at it and immediately began working on the image. I dropped down nearly $2 establishing my image by overplaying a flopped 2 pair playing 2-5 off suit and losing to King high flush. But when I felt it was appropriately applied and working, I started playing real poker again. And, voila, I'm over my initial investment of $3 within 30 minutes of starting to actually play. I had spent about 15 minutes establishing the image at the table. I was up 25¢ at this point. I played another 15 minutes to satisfy my "minimum" 1 hour per session and ended up with 35¢ profit overall.

So does establishing an image, working to upkeep it, and exploiting the advantages it gives you really work? So far, in my experience it works very well.

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