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“The Importance of Image at the Table” by Alan25main

January 28, 2020

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How do you think other players perceive you? What would be in their player notes about you? Consider the actions you take at the table. Alan25main details the importance of image in the following article.

“Frequently, we’ll see a hand that goes like this: The blinds post, the Under The Gun drops, and the next player goes all in. Fold, fold, fold, call, fold, fold, fold.

The hands are turned face up. The raiser has Q-Q, the caller has something like 7-5 suited. The flop comes 6-4 of the suit that matches the 7-5, plus an off-suit ten. The turn is a 3 for a straight, the river is a Q. A great wailing and a gnashing of teeth follow.

“How could you possibly call my all-in bet with such crap?”

It was easy. The caller was remembering the previous 18 times the raiser went all in with that sly smirk, scooped the blinds, and mucked the cards when no one called. Did the caller expect to win? Probably not. She was paying for information, in this case to know what was being raised on.

How valuable was that information? Pretty valuable. It was saying “This time, I deserved respect.” That may not apply to the next hand, or the next raise by that all-inner, but it’s a start.              

The proper study of poker players is other poker players. The easiest way to gain that information is to buy it, just like the 7-5 suited did in this case. Obviously, if you can get some other curious player to pay for it, instead of paying for it yourself, that’s to your advantage. But without information, you’re operating in the dark. Any surgeon will tell you operating in the dark is a bad idea.

Many, perhaps most, players invest a lot of effort in building an image of themselves in the other players’ minds. You want to be seen as the player who never raises without the best hand. Not the “almost” best hand, but the absolute nuts, every single time. Then, your raises get the respect they deserve. 

At which point, your problem reverses itself. Now, nobody calls. And, since you’re only playing a few hands, the blinds, antes, and rake eat your stack and you still lose chips because no one is calling your bets.

A “dilemma” is literally a forking pathway whose destination is unknown. How do you solve the dilemma in poker? By tailoring your image. You want your opponents to see you as the one who “always has the nuts, except when you don’t.” Then, they don’t know what to do. Those who don’t know what to do will make mistakes. Some, probably many, of those mistakes will favor you.

This story is true. I knew a man named Bob Hall and several of the other players involved, though I wasn’t physically present, myself. 

With a bunch of other Marines, he was on his way home by ship from the Far East in late 1967. He played a lot of 5-card stud on the ship, 25¢ limit, anytime. There was no limit on the number of raises in those games, and even if there had been, heads-up, they still would’ve been able to bet all the way down to the felt, plus whatever they could borrow during the hand. One hole card and four up cards formed the hands. 

Bob invested most of a week of putting a chip on top of his hole card every time his down card was an ace or a king. By the fifth day, everyone in the game knew he was always (and only) putting that chip on his hole card if it was an ace or king. On the seventh day, he stopped putting the chip on the aces, but still put it on the kings. 

Eventually, he was dealt aces back to back. His unfortunate opponent had back to back kings. Bob bet, the other guy, seeing Bob had no chip on top of his hole card, raised. Bob just called. After the final card was dealt–with Bob making the initial bet every round on his ace high board and the other guy raising–Bob’s pair of aces was the absolute nuts. Bob bet, the other guy raised and Bob now raised back. The other guy raised, Bob raised again.

They continued to raise each other back and forth at 25¢ a pop for nearly half an hour. Other guys crowded around the table watching. Money was borrowed from some of the watchers. Everybody was laughing at the absurdity of the two “big bluffers.” 

Finally, every chip had been bet and no more money could be borrowed because it was all on the table. Bob finally had to merely call. The other guy showed his kings. Bob showed his aces. Everybody gasped as he took the pot. 

I looked for, but can’t find Bob’s letter–it’s gone down the rabbit-hole of time–but Bob had won nearly $250 in 25¢ raises. And all of it was because he became suddenly unpredictable and created a good situation.

You want your opponent to be a little–or even more than a little–fearful every time he acts. Your image has to be both tough and unpredictable. And, you’ll still lose, now and then.

Good cards don’t guarantee good results, but good situations do. Go create one.”