Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1993) in Card Player magazine.
Make fun of this if you choose. Attack this if you will. But years from now, someone will demand enough data, sift through enough situations, review enough research to prove this concept once and for all.
When your profits soar. Hear the truth, my friends: The most money you can ever expect to win at poker comes precisely when you’re playing substantially tighter than your opponents think you are.
That’s why I talk so much about image at poker. Some people mistakenly believe that mastering strategy is 95% of the game. That’s wrong! Strategy is just phase one. Beyond phase one, most of the money you make is based on psychology.
Day in and day out, the right image will earn you more extra dollars than you probably suspect. Often by simply playing tight, meaning you’re very selective about your hands, you can win money against opponents who are unsophisticated and play too many hands indiscriminately.
Fine. But sooner or later your opponents wise up. They see with their very own eyes that you’re playing tight. And something dawns on them, something destructive to your bankroll. They think, “Ah-ha! This guy’s only playing quality hands, so I’m not going to play anything weak when he’s in the pot!” This brainstorm costs you money. Your opponents suddenly stop playing their weakest hands, which—of course—are precisely the ones you want them to play.
The solution. Sure, there are times you’d like to have a tight image so you can win by bluffing. But far more often, you’ll profit most by helping players exaggerate their greatest weakness, the weakness of playing too many hands.
You can do this simply by cultivating, a wild, unpredictable image. I’m telling you to go ahead and let yourself take the worst of it sometimes—conspicuously, but not often. Giggle about those weak hands you just played, and steer the conversation so that your opponents are aware of your “mistakes.” Then play tight as hell until the spell wears off. Then take the worst of it again.
Then .. .well, that’s all there is to it. You’ve probably heard that experienced players aren’t fooled by your image. Come close, because I want to whisper a highly classified secret: Even experienced players will be fooled by your image. The only difference between the way weak players respond to your image and the way experienced players respond to your image is that experienced players will go out of their way to deny that they were influenced. — MC