Do you have a strong poker table image?
I hadn't realised it but my work colleagues at my new job (in a foreign language school) had a totally different opinion about me than I realised. I had been forgetting to close the door during lessons while teaching which made it a bit noisy from our room and my boss asked me today 'Toby. Do you have claustrophobia?' I literally was lost for words - I've never had a phobia in my life! How that moment made me realise they don't know me at all. 'Do I have claustrophobia? Of course not. I just forgot to close the door!'
It made me think. Perhaps I'm not as aware of what people think of me as I thought. Perhaps the image I am projecting is a completely different one to the one I thought I was representing to other players and in this case people. Perhaps to some more observant players, if I'm not being careful, perhaps they are reading me like an absolutely open book! So what can I do about it? First think about what image I am actually giving to the rest of the table. Am I a tight player, a rubbish one or a toughie? Why have I come to these conclusions? And if I find it's erring on the negative side, what can I do to change my game plan?
From my readings on Texas Hold'em No Limit, primarily I think it's important not to 'over-react' about this point and instead gradually come up with some constructive strategies to muddy the waters for your opponents read on you a little bit. Don't panic. For example, by varying bet sizes across a variety of hands, as is recommended in Sklansky's and Miller's 'No Limit Hold'em Theory and Practise', (including garbage hands in certain spots) this can make it more difficult for an opponent to get a read on what you might have.
It is important though to play the game of poker as well and not try to remember everything learnt in books all in one go! I've done this several times before and lost a good deal of money because using certain strategies in poker is all about timing and deception, and definitely not about always sticking to the rules.
Say you employ Daniel Negreanu's small ball strategy of risking few chips to win lots of pots, but fail to be disciplined enough and get caught up in a hand which leaves you 'pot committed' and don't fold when you should on the flop.
You have 8 ♥️ 6 ♥️ and raise 3 times the big blind from the button preflop and get called by the player in the big blind. The flop comes K ♣️ 7 ♠️ and 2 💎 giving you nothing, but as the BB checks you take a stab at the pot with a smallish bet. She re-raises, you call and a 9x comes on the river giving you a straight draw, more betting comes in, you call and the river is a blank. You end up losing a fair amount of your stack at this long shot draw when you should have just folded on the flop!
To add the main point of the article, I promised to do a book review of Phil Helmuth's 'Play like the Pro's' but as I haven't finished reading it yet, that is still to come, and the reason I mention this is that from what I can remember from reading it years ago while still at University, I know Helmuth, a legend in the game, talks a lot about table image and reading your opponents hands.
For some reason Phil Helmuth does have a bit of a misconstrued reputation for 'blowing up' after losing single hands live on air, but as the writer of one article suggests, this is unfair. According to the article I read, there are more google searches on 'Bad play by Phil Helmuth' (1.2 million hits) compared to good play by 'Phil Helmuth' (557,000) and I'm guessing it is due to Phil's reactions to losing a hand that draws the crowd, which unfortunately has seen him gain the nickname 'poker brat' for his temperamental nature.
Still, as he has won the WSOP bracelet 15 times and has earnt in excess of $23 million in tournaments during his career, so I think we can use the inspirational speaker Les Brown's (look him up on youtube) popular qoute here; 'Other people's opinions of you do not have to become your reality.' As I'm sure Helmuth does use this perceived weakness from others as an advantage against them. It is said in 'The Art of War' that the warrior of masterclass ability will trick his enemy into thinking he is somehow weak or injured and then strike at the last moment. People love drama, they love to see certain poker players and sport stars seemingly silly reactions if they lose a hand or get a decision against them, that's just people and the Internet. I'm sure in the end Mr. Helmuth or any sports stars are that worried about it and have used this perceived weakness to their advantage.
#Check out the article on cardplayer.com - 'True tales from a Hollywood Poker hustler - Phil Helmuth a victim of 'Brat' hazing?'
So back to the main point of this article. How strong are you in the two components of table image and reading other player's hands? I think it is well worth considering to get good at both. David Sklansky and Ed Miller, in the conclusion of their book 'No Limit Hold'em Theory & Practise' suggests to try out some of the concepts they reveal, then return to reading the book to go over some of the same ideas, so that the concepts become more and more familiar. 'Perfect practice makes perfect' (as my PE teacher used to say) after all. In my posts, I mention this book a lot but that is because it is so good. There are many different plays suggested in there which can aid both of these components.
My idea in future play is to take my time a little bit when seating at a new table. Perhaps for ten minutes or so, not really playing a hand, but maybe just watching what the other players do. How strong are they? What are their raising habits? Who is the sucker at the table? (Quoting from Rounders) And where can I make most of my money? Finally, who is the danger player to avoid? I will tell you about my results in a future post. Let's see how working on my own table image, reading Phil Helmuth's book 'Play like the Pro's' and reading what other players might have through this ten minute observation can help improve my game.
Please feel free to leave any comments about this post - hoped you enjoyed the read.