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Exploiting Your Image

Whether you are playing live poker or online poker it really makes no difference, your opponents will still be watching how you play. If you think that low-stakes online players be it at limit, no-limit or whatever do not fit into this category then think again. They may be unsophisticated and they may be multi-tabling or doing other things, but if you raised every single hand pre-flop then they would know about it……..trust me. It is basically the extent of how much they watch you that differs depending on the level. I know of at least one online player who takes notes on his own play during every session. He notes how often he has raised, called raises, bluffed, shown hands down, etc. He single tables so he feels that this and watching his opponents gets him every possible edge that he can get.

If you have been dealt a succession of strong hands at the start of the session and won without a showdown then obviously your opponents do not know that you were dealt these hands. It now looks to your opponents that you are either bluffing more than normal or you may even be more extreme than that and be a wild maniac. If you are playing at a fair level where the regs are pretty solid then they will certainly be preparing to adjust to you.

The key here is to adjust before they do. If you can time these adjustments very well, then you can really save some serious money over the space of a year by changing gears and slowing down. Really sophisticated play goes even beyond that and if you were raising a lot pre-flop and one of your opponents three bets you then you may have margin here to four bet. However this is advanced play and not the point of the article, as the standard line when you raise with a mediocre holding and get three bet is to fold.

Any money that you save is identical to money that you win. If you fold instead of raising a hand where you would have been three bet had you raised, then you have more than likely just saved 3.5 big blinds. So you now slow down, hold your profits and eliminate bluffs. During this period where your initial play has basically set the tone, you can take advantage of your image if you happen to get dealt another powerful hand.

The same can be said if you have been winning or losing. It is a fact that winning players can intimidate other players while losing players can often be seen as weak and get targeted more. Very few players play well when they are losing. In fact, I even heard of one high-stakes online player who played $25-$50 who only ever used one buy-in per day because losing $5000 per day was his own personal stop loss.

If you have shown down some really good hands and won some big pots at showdown then your bets and raises will tend to get more respect from solid players who will be watching you. This means that you can bluff more and win some pots before your opponents start adjusting to you. This is akin to when you have been folding a lot. Now the time is right to launch bluffs and follow them through if need be.

It is worth repeating though that making advanced plays based on your own image basically comes second to the adjustments that you make to your opponents’ style of play. There are many more of them than there are of you, although that can be countered by the fact that numerous players have the capacity to adjust to you. However that last statement fails to take into account that not all of your opponents will be watching you that closely and this is why making plays based on your own image is second in importance to watching the other players.

Hand tracking software like Poker Office is great at providing you with valuable game data, but the statistics they provide are often not used fully by the overwhelming majority of players. Let us look at a certain player for instance who you have tracker data on over 5000 hands. The VPIP, PFA and AF metrics may be accurate but how much does that really tell you about how a player is playing at this very minute or in this session? The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t as these are merely long term averages. Useful though they are in many situations, they can sometimes hold a player back from really reaching a high level with their poker game.

Carl "The Dean" Sampson can be seen at his blog http://www.pokersharkpool.com and 888poker.

Carl Sampson

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