Posted May 07, 2023
Owner and Lead Pro
Professional Cash game trainer Bart Hanson has been producing strategy content for over fifteen years. He first started on Live at the Bike! back in 2005, then moved on to host "Cash Plays" on Poker Road, then "Deuce Plays" on Deuces Cracked and then to CrushLivePoker in 2012.
In his career as a professional poker player, Bart Hanson has:
-6 WSOP Final Tables
-Over 15 years of experience at the table
-Over $1,000,000 in tournament earnings
-Multiple appearances on ESPN and Poker Night in America
-4th place finish in 2019 WSOP Monster Stack
When it comes to live poker, your perceived image and your perception of your opponent’s image is everything. You have to be able to understand not only how to exploit your opponent’s tendencies, but also understand how your opponents perceive and try to exploit you. Here we’ll first talk about how to optimize and capitalize on your own image, then how to tag players and adjust versus them.
Optimizing Your Image:
In general, having a tight, winning image is the best image you can have at a live poker table. When people perceive you as a tight, competent player, you will find that you can take down far more pots before showdown. People will call you down less and believe your bluffs more, allowing you to scoop in the chips without showing down your hands as much. Players will mainly form this image of you when you are winning, have a big stack, or aren’t playing a lot of hands. Players typically over-fold at live tables when facing a player they perceive to be good. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive and bluff in correct spots when your perceived image is that you’re a good, aggressive player.
If you are having a rough day and losing a lot, or if you’ve had a streak of good cards and seem to be playing a ton of hands, you have to understand that your image may be perceived as a wild, looser player. If you’re down a lot of money, people might think you’re on tilt and try to play a lot of pots with you. Or, if you’re running into a lot of good hands, your opponents might think you’re playing too loose. The general thinking is that if everyone else is beating you, players might think they’ll be able to steal some pots from you too. If you’re bound and determined to keep playing after losing a few buyins, you have to understand how your image will affect your opponent’s actions versus you. In spots where your image can be perceived as weaker or looser, you should bluff less and value bet as much as possible, since players will be far more likely to call you down. Bet thin for value, shut down with many of your bluffs, and understand that everyone will be more likely to want to play pots against you when you’re perceived as a looser player.
One final note on your image is that you should often use it as the deciding factor when choosing between close spots. Instead of being lazy and flipping a coin between calling and folding in a certain spot, use your image to make your decision. If you think your image is strong, maybe bluff more often, as people will be less likely to challenge your aggression. If you think your image is weaker or looser, it might be time to value bet thin, and shut down with more of your bluffs. Use your image as a weapon and make your decisions based on how other players are likely to play against you.
Exploiting Your Opponent’s Image and Tendencies
Typically when you’re tagging players at the table and working to understand their tendencies, it’s good to steer away from just labeling players as “tight” or “loose” and moving on. First of all, whether a player is truly tight or loose takes a large sample size to determine, and this stat can change completely whether they are winning or losing in a session. A player who normally plays 30% VPIP may start playing 50% or higher when they’re losing, or could drop to 20% when they have a big stack and want to protect their chips. Also remember that a good Tight Aggressive Player (TAG) could get a big run of good hands, causing you to think that they’re really a Loose Aggressive Player (LAG).
Another way you can perceive players is by looking at the amount of chips in front of them. If you’re in a $1k cap game and a player has $4k+ in front of them, you could perceive that they’ve been having a really hot session and may be a good player, or at least more aggressive. The same can be perceived of you of course, and it’s not always correct, but we want to be looking for any indicators that we can form our opinions based off of. You have to take everything with a grain of salt, and consider whether they could just have matched the stack at a different table to chip up to $4k, and could still be down for the session. This is why it’s important to spend enough time at the table to really start to understand the dynamics of players, and tag them correctly. Always be willing to question and correct your perceptions of players, as they will constantly be changing their perception of you.
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