How to craft your ‘poker image’ at the table
How to craft your ‘poker image’ at the table
Flipping through the channels I caught an interview with Roger Clemens discussing his long term success. When asked how he approaches each hitter Clemens had this to say: “I pitch to my strengths, and force the hitters to make the mistakes. I know my opponents, I study them, and I know their strengths and weaknesses. Generally pitching to my strengths will indirectly attack a hitters weaknesses. If a guy is very impatient I know I can attack him with high heat, a pitch that I’ve relied on my whole career. I’m also very aware of my reputation of being a hard nosed flame thrower that isn’t afraid to knock someone down. I use that to my advantage, I’m able to work off of my fastball keeping hitters off balance with breaking balls. I’ve never been afraid to mix it up, but it’s nice to know at the end of the day I can rear back and challenge anyone in the box.”
Hearing Roger speak made me realize how knowledge of the game so greatly out weighs God given ability. He is able to take the lead in most situations and force hitters to adjust their game. Before you grab a baseball and attempt to make a career change realize this is very applicable to zynga poker. In this article I’d like to discuss table image and developing a playing style focusing on strengths.
As a beginner two years ago I was naive to my table image. I just couldn’t understand why all my bluffs got called down and why my marginal hands were always under pressure. Fortunately I ran well and played against zynga poker players incapable of capitalizing on my inexperience, so I faired well. However, as I jumped stakes I would have gone broke had I not deeply examined my style and image.
My style of play is very image based and read dependant. Most people who play with me would classify me as the resident maniac. Truth is I like to see a lot of cheap flops, but when I make a hand, a draw or just sense weakness I attack the pot of zynga poker chips very aggressively – power poker at its finest. This forces me into some tough situations where people take stands at me, which lends me to make big calls for a lot of zynga poker chips. If there is a big pot I’m probably involved, rarely as a big dog. Aggressiveness, gamble, read based plays, loose preflop play; all these factors culminate to develop a maniacal table image, or should I say table illusion.
My maniacal appearance is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. I give action to receive action, but the action I give is generally small gambles in big pots where the implied odds are right or I control the action. I’ll peel with bottom pair and a backdoor, or a gutter if I think it’ll get paid. In turn I receive all the action I can handle with my big hands, you can only table 45s for a monster pot so many times before people start to give you action with any two.
Developing a style:
I’ve developed my style around this image and more importantly around my strengths in zynga poker. I know I am a strong post flop player. I trust my ability to read players and situations. I also know that most amateurs’ biggest flaw is the inability to apply Skalansky’s Fundamental Theory of Poker. Just like Clemens I force my opponent to make mistakes, those mistakes lead to big pots of zynga poker chips. I count on them to misbet their hands letting me make a hand cheaply and then pay off a big bet when I do. I expect them to put the zynga chips in drawing against the odds. Dissect your own play and that of your opponents all while noting each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to develop a style that enables you to capitalize on unprepared opponents.
Skalansky’s Fundamental Theory of Poker in a nutshell says if the cards were dealt face up for everyone to see you should make the appropriate move based on all the information available. For example if you know a player has the nut flush draw and you hold top set you should make bets that lay him incorrect odds to draw to his flush, thus he makes a ‘EV play every time he calls your bet. Most player’s biggest flaws reside in mis-betting their hands.
Exploiting your image:
To anyone paying attention at a zynga poker table, your style is going to become very apparent. Whether you are a rock, ABC, or a maniac people associate a certain image with such styles. Use this to your advantage. Roger knows people associate him as a flame thrower, and yeah when he has a guy cornered he’s going to reach back and cut one loose. However, he uses that image to set hitters up, he plays of his fastball and fools unsuspecting hitters with his vast variety of off speed pitches. As a maniacal player I know people can’t put me on a hand, thus when I make a big one all I have to do is bet it well; give them enough rope and their sure to hang themselves. Also people can’t see me switch gears because they expect a certain ram-n-jam style, so they aren’t paying attention to hundreds of hands I’m folding. All it takes is one big bet of zynga poker chips or one re-raise and everyone chalks it up to me being a maniac, not the actual facts of me having a hand. These are the advantages a player must capitalize due to his image. The same way that ‘Action’ Dan Harrington is able to pull off ridiculous bluffs at WSOP final tables, he is very aware of how his opponents perceive him and he exploits that.
Developing a style and image go hand in hand. However, once your image is exposed that is your image forever, but your style is open to change as often as necessary. This goes back on what I spoke of earlier with Harrington. He’s able to make these outlandish bluffs at the appropriate times because his known image is that of a rock so people assume his style follows suit. Not the case, any player worth their salt knows that you are constantly changing gears throughout the course of a night. You must be able to play like a rock when the game is ultra loose, and you must be able to play ABC poker against bad zynga poker players. The bright side is you’ll have your image to play off of. So even when I’m playing ABC poker my image says I’m quite capable of bluffing in odd spots, thus why occasionally I’ll get called down by bottom pair. It’s all about understanding how you are perceived and the situations that are presenting themselves. Take mental notes on the conversations at hand when you are involved in a pot, and use that to get into the minds of your opponents. If you know what they are going to do before they do it how could they possibly outplay you and steal your zynga poker chips.
I just want to talk briefly about controlling pots and opponents. To simplify things we’ll call it long ball vs. small ball. Now image is incredibly crucial to this aspect of zynga poker as certain images present difficulty one way or another. Rocks have a tough time playing long ball, while maniacs tend to have it tough keeping pots small. However, regardless of your image it is possible to incorporate each in your repertoire. Take control of the action, if you dictate the betting size or if there is a bet at all then you control not only the size of the pot of zynga chips, but also the action of your opponents, which will force them to make mistakes.
A couple of plays I particularly like to employ are both position plays. If I have top pair with an okay kicker in a heads up pot, and my opponent has been controlling the action so far I like to just call the flop. Should he bet again on the turn, I will make a small raise so that he will more than likely check to me on the river, giving me the option to check down what I uncertainly think is the best hand. This raise serves two purposes: One, you gain value for a mediocre hand without having to put a bet in on the river in a spot where you’re unclear if you have the best hand or not, and two, if you are beaten, your opponent will let you know it immediately on the turn or he’ll check down the winner on the river rather than value bet you. Small raises of zynga poker chips scream strength and barring him having a monster you are going to get the check down you set out to obtain.
The second play is a positional play in a multi-way pot. Say you hold T’9′ in a 4-way pot and the board comes T’9’7′. Action is checked to the 3rd player who makes a stab for half the pot. You make a small raise. Reason here is now the pot odds will be incorrect for any of the upfront players to draw and if they were slow playing a monster you’ll generally see a 3rd bet or a fairly large overcall, screaming strength. In most situations you’re going to get the pot heads up with the original aggressor and you are going to see the river free as the turn action will surely go check-check. Now the pot is still relatively small and calling a river bet will be very manageable even with such a scary board. Taking control of the pot and controlling your opponents’ action will lead them to make mistakes; saving/earning you extra profit throughout the night.