In poker, image matters. This doesn’t mean you have to look like some douche bag straight off of ESPN to be a good player. Your sunglasses, your backwards hat and your Adidas jacket aren’t going to make you win, instead the pattern in which you play your hands will influence how much money you make.
Your table image will help determine how much action you’ll get and, ultimately, how you can manipulate your opponents into making big calls or big laydowns at the wrong times. While establishing a loose, aggressive image will provide you with more action, I believe it’s important to develop a tight table image in order to give you the ability to bluff without fear of being called when it matters most.
For example, sometimes when the action is folded around, some players will always raise from the cutoff and the button. The problem with this play is that its predictable and can be easily exploited. If you always raise from the button, the players in the blinds catch on sooner or later and will put in a big re-raise with any two cards. You will also find players just calling you with a much wider range of hands from the blinds before putting in a big check-raise on the flop. Why do they do this? Because you have been presenting a loose table image by raising any time the action is passed to you. Eventually, this image hampers your ability to bluff because any time you try to make a move, it’s likely that someone will play back at you. It doesn’t take long before your loose table image will make you a target for the experienced players at the table (or even the inexperienced players who get tired of being pushed around). The amount of chips you risk by being loose is usually not worth the reward of just picking up small pots when no one has a hand against you. But be careful, though, because when you play too tight you really won’t get any action and you’ll never get truly paid off on your hands.Ideally, you want to project a very tight image while actually being somewhere in between the standard perceptions of “loose” and “tight.”
I have one very simple piece of advice to help you with this part of your game. It may sound so simple you would wonder why I bother mentioning it but, in fact, this is one of my most important rules: Always fold junk!
By always folding junk hands, you accomplish a number of goals:
1. You resist the temptation to get involved in a hand just because the action was passed to you. With the level of aggressiveness that characterizes today’s play, it’s better to pass on bad hands even in position.
2. You avoid pot-committing yourself with a hand that will usually be dominated in a race with a short-stack. For example, if you raise from the cutoff for 3x the big blind with J-3 while playing position and attempting to provide action and a stack with 8x the big blind moves in behind you, you are in a bad spot. It’s better to just avoid these situations altogether.
3. Most importantly, you further cement your image as a tight player. Now when you raise with a hand like A-8, you can feel confident that your tight image will provide you with a higher range although you’re actually playing a bit looser.
Remember, it takes more than good cards to be a winning player. By creating a solid table image you can eventually play a wider variety of hands than your opponents expect and take down key pots at critical times. You’ll be labled as “the guy who always has it” even when you don’t.