Playing through a bad image

If you have read any of my past Cardplayer articles you know how important I think short-term image should influence dec...

Posted Dec 27, 2012


Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

If you have read any of my past Cardplayer articles you know how important I think short-term image should influence decision making within hands. When you are winning people naturally want to avoid you. You will be able to make more plays and have control over the table. This would not work if you were not seen as “lucky” or “on a hot streak”. This may sound pretty silly be it cannot be more true.

Playing poker professionally or playing it part time for a profit is simply an arbitrage of how poorly other losing players understand the fundamentals of gambling. One of the biggest fallacies that goes hand and hand with superstition and luckiness is the concept of independence. If we flip a coin and I win five times in a row on the sixth time the odds remain exactly the same, 1-1 or 50%. Each trial is independent of one another and previous results do not influence future results. This is one of the simplest yet misunderstood concepts in gambling. It is hilarious to me that big time gamblers still use betting cards in games like Baccarat where the concept of independent trials holds true. There is no streak or trend that can be evaluated in these types of games. It does not matter if the bank side has been hit the previous one hundred times the next hand is still independent from the previous one. The same holds true in poker.

I’ve watched thousands of hours of live poker on the show that I host, “Live at the Bike”. And just like superstition in other forms of gambling I can tell you with certainty that exists in poker as well. A guy will call your raise with a weak holding like Q8 off suit preflop because he sees you as unlucky. And if you are unlucky than someone will reap the benefits of the other side. On the other hand if you are running hot your opponents will stay away from you. How do we counter this then? When we have a losing or bad image we must tighten up more, bluff less, and value bet our hands to death. Say we raise with AA and our opponent calls us with Q8. If the flop comes out Q high it is likely that we will be able to get three streets of value from a player who views us as having a bad image. On the flip side of this it would be a disaster for us to try and bluff him off of top pair because he thinks that we are trying to drive the action and win some of the money back that we have dropped.

A tighter style of play can be extremely frustrating while we are behind in a session because it is human nature that we want to push the action and chase some of our losses. This exactly why we must NOT play in this manner. Playing with a bad image should be very ABC and can be quite boring. But at least you know that you will be paid off in the long run.

Now even though poker follows the rule of independent trials there are some other variables that you must take in to account that have to do with human nature. If someone has a bad image I am less likely to try to bluff them off of a hand because usually when guys are losing they are on some sort of tilt and are playing less than optimally. So they are less likely to fold in spots where if they were winning they might. But you can expect to be paid off big if you make a big hand versus their made hand.

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