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“The Image of the Guy in Your Mirror” by Alan25main

May 14, 2019

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How do other players at the table perceive you? Ron Pittenger, or Alan25main on Replay Poker, shares a fictional story with a focus on how your poker tells affect others, and ultimately your own game.

“Bob, you’ll never believe it! I just finished second in the daily tournament!” Herky was so excited it was almost comical, but he also looked upset at the same time.

“Congratulations, Herky. Good job. Isn’t that your best finish ever?”

“Yes. I’ve made it to third twice, though.”

Bob had just come in for the day. He had a pocket full of chips he hadn’t bothered to cash in the evening before. “You ought to look happier, winning, what, a hundred?”

“$125, and yeah, I shoulda done better, but Jerry–you know him, the guy with the limp–got lucky at the wrong time for me and wiped me out.”

Bob led the way to the card room’s free coffee set up. “Tell me about it, Herk.”

“Well, we were down to the final four. I was chip leader with 6001. Jerry had 6000. Two guys I didn’t know each had less than a small blind, so they were pretty much out of the game, anyway. Blinds of 200 and 400, Jerry was the Under The Gun guy and I was the Button, and the two little stacks were already all in. I had A-6 off. Jerry called the blinds. I didn’t think mine was big enough to raise, so I just called, too.

The flop was 3-3-6. Since the others were all in already, Jerry had the first option to bet. He checked. I looked at my hand, A-6-6-3-3. Top two pairs with top kicker. There’s only two threes Jerry can beat me with unless he holds a better pocket pair. If I get him to fold right now, then I don’t make much, if anything. As I saw it, my problem was if I bet too much, he wouldn’t call. So, I bet the amount in the pot. Jerry hesitated only a moment and called. The turn card was a six. Jerry checked again. I took the time to think. I had the top full house. Before, I more than half wanted Jerry to fold. Now, I want him to have that three and call.

I bet half the pot, wanting him to call and praying he’d raise. He looked at me, looked at our stacks, and just sat there, thinking. After about a minute, the dealer cleared his throat. He didn’t actually say anything, but the hint was really strong that Jerry should do something, anything.

‘What the heck,’ Jerry said, ‘it’s only chips.’ He shoved all in.

Now, maybe I should’ve worried about that a little, but I didn’t. The worst I could imagine was we would chop, both having a six. I called. I had 1 chip left. I turned up my Ace and six. Jerry, that misbegotten luckier than the devil himself, rascal, turned over 3-3. For quad 3s. The river card was a blank.”

“Herky, there’s no shame in being beaten by four of a kind. And, he had them before you filled, so you were always behind. It’s not like he drew out on you.”

“What could I have done better, Bob?” Herky wasn’t quite whining.

“Probably not much. You could’ve gone all in before the flop, I guess. Jerry might’ve folded. But, the truth is I doubt it. He knows you. You’ve played against him at least once a week for over a year. What do you think Jerry thinks of you?”

“Uh, I’ve never thought about it. I have no idea.”

“Remember last week–or maybe it was the week before–when Jerry called your A-J bluff with A-K?”

“Yeah. That cost me a bunch of chips.”

“Either Jerry has a really good read on you, or he just knows you bluff a lot. Or, maybe both. Either way, he has what the Brits would call ‘a plus score’ against you. So, I’d guess there’s about a 50% chance he would’ve called your big raise, and nothing would change. Once that flop was seen, your only hope was to fold.”

“But, I had the top two pair and the top kicker, and then the top full house. I couldn’t fold.”

“If he raised and showed you his hand, would you have called?”

“Ah. No.”

“That’s the importance of table image, Herky. If players think you’re always bluffing because you bluff so often they can’t help noticing, of course they’ll call with loose hands. They aren’t afraid of your raises anymore, instead, they see them as opportunities, Herky. That’s why they keep calling.”

“How can I fix it?”

“It won’t be easy. You’ve played a loose aggressive game as long as I’ve known you. That’s a lot of habit to break. What you want is to be tight aggressive, instead. Stop raising at every opportunity. Be more selective about what you’ll open or call with, and much more selective about what you’ll raise with. If you do that, you’ll have about a three to six month window of winning like you can’t even imagine while everybody else adjusts to your new, improved style.”

“That actually makes sense, Bob.”

“I said it wouldn’t be easy. It might even seem boring to you. If you stick with it, it’ll pay off. You want the opponents to see a winner when they see you, not a goose to be plucked. Take care of that guy who lives in your mirror. His image matters.”