Tuesday, October 23, 2007


This weekend I sat down with my painfully depleted bankroll at a $20 max NL game. I was playing pretty poorly, basically how I play at the WNP game but without any reads or aggressive plays (loose passive all the way, baby!). And people could tell; they were calling my raises ultra light and stealing on the flop more often than not.

So in response I went into ultra-nit mode, waiting for a top 15% hand and raising hard and playing hard post flop. I did better and felt better about my play, but again, my opponents caught on and started folding to my aggression more and more.

For example, a loose-aggressive maniac type of player sat down with $3 and just started shipping every other hand. He would raise hard if anyone limped (I'm talking like a $3 raise in a $0.10/$0.20 game), and ship on top of a normal raise. Eventually he built his stack up to about $12. I had been nitting it up ever since he sat down, so I basically thought "oh great, I just need a good hand and I'll stack this guy no problem." BUT, any time I showed any aggression at all, he would back down. So, again, I find myself missing out on opportunities to make money because of my image.

It seems like whenever I try to establish an image either way, I either turn into an uber-nit, or a loose passive spew-monkey. I would like to change that.

So, I guess my question for the group is, how much does image factor into your play, both your own and that of your opponents? How do you control your image, and how do you play back against opponents with a well defined image?


jason said...

I play image all of the way baby especially on line. The nice thing about on line though is you can change your image at anytime.

I basically start most games on line by pounding pots and stealing them, particularly from the button. The table will always or virtually always catch on and play back at me. Then I have to go into catch a hand and show it mode, preferably at showdown. If I dont make it to showdown, then I show any premium hand that I "steal with."

I am always conscious of everyone elses image. Can I make a small bet and will they fold. These are my favorites to play against the loose passive types. What does a check raise mean from this player. Is he stealing or does he show down winners with check raises.

Then I watch for instachecks, instacalls, and insta min raises. Most all of the time these are all a sign of weakness. Players that think then check most all of the time have something, at least a draw.

If you are just doing the math and have good players at the table, the rake will eventually get to you. You need some sort of edge. Pattern recognition and image recognition are key in my book.

Marshall said...

I think a lot of the decisions I make at the table are more influenced by image than anything else. I try to be acutely aware of what other people are thinking of me and I try to pay close attention to how others are playing.

Last night is a good example. I had a terrible image for most of the night. Martin called me down with 3rd-4th pair twice. Part of this is his poor play at that moment, but if I am playing really tight, he folds there.

Playing your image becomes a fine line to balance on. If you have a tight image, how many times can you bluff before people catch on? If you are playing loose, how do you make sure you still get paid when you flop a monster? I think that image management is something that comes to us sort of subconsciously but could probably use a closer look at different parts of the session.

Sushi Cowboy said...

I think everyone has a primary nature/image to them. Be it tight, aggressive, solid, loose, d0nkish, whatever. But the players who can shift gears and mix up their play to maximize the benefit that their table image provides will reap more benefits than those who always play the same way.

Steve is quite the rock and when he is involved in a hand he will be given a much wider berth than just about any other player at the table. But think of how much more he could be pulling in if he bluffed more often to work off of that image.

But image can change. Sometimes I have my Harrington hat on and sometimes I have my Farha hat on. Last night was one of my Farha nights.

Marsh has different nights too. He will maintain his aggression, some nights he's the magic man and he ALWAYS has it whenever he is looked up. Last night was not one of those nights. I did call with less than optimal holdings but I felt I was ahead. In one of the two cases I think Marsh was talking about I had turned two pair and that one wasn't *just* 3rd pair or 4th pair, it was 3rd and 4th pair. But I digress.

Yes, we all have our images and when you play the same players as much as we all do then the attention to image becomes even more important.

jsola said...

Great comments, y'all. I agree with pretty much everything that's been said so far. Marsh is right on when he says it's a fine line to balance, and I think that's the thing I have the most trouble with. I can run with that style for a little while, but then I get into the habit of trying to win each and every pot through blind aggression. Eventually you hit the tipping point where people are calling you down with any pair.

Being aware of how the people at the table view you is extremely important. Playing a crazy aggro style is all about getting people to call you down light when you hit, but all the planning and set up in the world isn't going to help you against a multitabling nut-peddler.

Bob Loblaw said...

It's pretty interesting examining how image affects my play with the usual TNP crowd. Since the advent of this blog, I've made a conscious effort to really vary my play, and I'd definitely say it's working to my advantage. But it doesn't always work -- Marshall said a couple weeks ago "I like the new Royal, let him bet out at it even though he has nothing and then take him down." or something like that.

But my table image worked totally in my favor on last Friday night when I was able to call Jason's big bluff based solely on my knowledge of how Jason perceives me and my playing style. I didn't have anything near the nuts on that hand, but because Jason has commented on my play in previous games (specifically saying "that 40 bet seemed fishy" on a hand that he wasn't even in -- and he was right), I was able to compound that knowledge with my making a weak hand on the river to call his monster bluff bet. Now if I could turn that into a raise instead of a call on top of his bluff bet, that would be golden. But I digress.

Still with me?

It's not that I simply am able to use my somewhat-tight image and have it work. It's that I'm able to use that image to my advantage (by either sticking to the image or knowingly playing against it) at whim -- using my reads of players at the table and they're image to work against them.

I'm nowhere near able to use the more blatant image manipulation that Marsh and Jason talk about for their online play, but overall, table-image manipulation in our live game is a huge part of the way I currently play.

I've been reluctant to come out and say this up to now for fear that I'm giving away too much, but that's just silly. The more you all know about my play and how we all perceive each other's table image, the more we can all learn from it.