Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2005) in Poker Player newspaper.
We’re all influenced by our surroundings. Sometimes, we make quick decisions that are worse than they would be if we had a chance to analyze. That’s the truth about us as human beings.
And, so, when we’re playing poker, we’re apt to let the noises we hear and the erratic gestures we see lead us to costly conclusions. Today, I’ll present a lecture I did on that topic many years ago. You’ll learn to hear beyond the noise and see beyond the gestures.
And you’ll discover this truth: Your opponents’ images sometimes have little to do with their actions. Listen…
Comparing actions with images
We’re about to talk about something that is the downfall of players who could otherwise play at a professional level. If you follow my poker advice, you’ll pay lots of attention to how you appear to your opponents while you’re playing poker. That’s because most of your opponents aren’t serious players. They haven’t studied the game. They don’t know what they’re going to do with their marginal hands until inspiration strikes them.
Now, I know, a lot of people tell you that image doesn’t make that much difference. The important things are making very exacting decisions based on your cards and realizing that your opponents will also make decisions based on their cards. That’s both right and wrong. Yes, you should make quality decisions based on your cards and, yes, your opponents will make decisions based on their cards. But it’s wrong to assume that your image isn’t hugely important. It is. That’s because your opponents’ decisions are often not clear-cut.
They make many decisions at whim and will give you their weakest calls – calls that earn you a lot of extra profit – if your image is friendly, loose, and fun to play with. The trick is to make losing to you as painless as possible for your opponents. You can do this by never insulting them, congratulating them when they draw out and beat you, and showing that you’re interested in playing some hands frivolously and having fun – just like they are. Of course, the “frivolous” part is mostly an illusion, because you’re talking about more weak hands than you’re actually playing.
Fine. So, your image matters. It matters a whole lot. It’s a subject I teach in depth, and there are plenty of tricks and techniques that help you extract the most profit. But we’ll leave the specifics of your own image to another day.
Right now, I want to give you a profitable tip that can save you thousands of dollars. We’re all impressionable. Often I talk to professional poker players away from the table and they’re describing an opponent who they say is lucky, can’t play a lick, doesn’t know what he’s doing, plays every pot. And sometimes they’re describing a player I know to be quite different. The problem is, we’re all susceptible to being conned by the images of our opponents, just like they’re susceptible to being conned by our images.
I’m not even saying that your opponents are trying to con you by using a misleading image. Sometimes they just con you accidentally, even though their image is very natural to them. I knew one woman, Sumi, who had a natural image that was gold. She tended to often put in an extra bet, unwisely, but her chatter at the table, her genuinely expressed belief in luck and the fact that she thought she was lucky, was absolutely the most-profitable image possible. Players were habitually talking about her as if she played every pot, even though – if you just tuned her out and watched – it was clear that she was playing selectively. You just didn’t notice when she was sitting out a hand, because she was silent. But you did notice when she was involved in a hand, and you especially noticed when she won a hand, because she’d drive home the point and talk about her luck. She really believed she was luckier than her opponents, and for an incredibly long time, she was. But during this lucky period, she won much more money than someone else would have playing the same way – all because of her image.
Opponents, even professionals, were taken in by her image and her enthusiasm and called her hands in exasperation much more often than they should have. So, here’s my advice. Always compare the way your opponents images suggest they play with the hands you actually observe them playing.
Victims of my table image
If opponents would do that against me, I might only make half as much money as I do. But, they won’t. They’ll continue to be victims of my table image, because it’s their nature to be deceived by the sights and sounds around them, even when these sights and sounds don’t correspond to the actual events.
That’s why image works for you. But don’t let image work for your opponents. As an experiment, just tune them out and pretend they had said or done nothing other than play their hands. Watch what those hands actually are, and adjust your strategy according to that (and also adjust a little for the way other opponents may be reacting to that illusion). If you do that, you won’t be a victim to someone else’s image, whether that opponent’s image is natural or intentional. Once again: Compare your opponents’ actions with your opponents’ images.
This is “The Mad Genius of Poker” Mike Caro and that’s my secret today. — MC