Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


Table Image -- Part II

Working On Table Image

by Steve Zolotow |  Published: Sep 21, 2011


Steve ZolotowYour table image controls what your opponents think about you. What your opponents think about you has a strong influence on how they will play against you. From a passive point of view, you want to be aware of your table image at all times. This awareness will enable you to play correctly when your opponents make a play based on what they perceive to be your style, and they determine this by what they think your image is. From an active point of view, you can deliberately try to create an image that isn’t representative of the way you play. They will be consistently led astray by their mistaken impression of you style.

There are four important images. Really, these are can be considered as two sets of two, since each set contains two opposite images. The first set of images concerns your general style. A tight player normally presents a tight image. Opponents will generally be careful around a tight player; they will avoid getting into pots against him with marginal hands. Conservative players seldom get a lot of action, and when they do, it is usually from a player with a reasonably good hand. If you are a loose player and like to see a lot of flops, having a conservative image will keep your opponents from reraising you or making squeeze-plays. This will allow you to see flops cheaply, and it will also make it easier for you to figure out your opponent’s hand range. It will generally be narrower against a tight player.

The mirror reflection of the tight image is the loose image. This is sometimes referred to as the wild image or crazy image. Players with this image are thought to play a lot hands. If this image is really strong, they are considered as playing way too many hands to be profitable. This causes the opponents to play a lot of marginal hands very strongly. This is an ideal image for a conservative player to have. A tight player with a wild image may find his opponents practically throwing their money at him. Mike Caro and others have devoted a lot of thought to ways of creating this image. Both of these images are most important when you are the aggressor. Players tend to call someone with a loose image and fold to someone with a tight image.

The other set of images gain importance when your opponents are the aggressors. These images might be called the Pushover and the Tough Defender. The Pushover lets you steal his blinds. He folds to big bets on the river unless he has the nuts or very close to the nuts. On the opposite side of the coin, we find the Tough Defender. He has an intimidating image. He defends his blinds. He calls big bets. If you three-bet him, he’ll four-bet it right back in your face. When you have a Pushover image, expect to be bluffed. When you have a Tough Defender image, assume your opponent probably has a good hand. No rational player will pick you to make a random bluff against, but they will make a lot more value-bets.

Note that these four images — loose, tight, pushover, and tough defender — all describe the way many players really play. They are images that reflect an underlying reality. It is also possible that you don’t really play the way your image suggests. This may happen when a random set of hands ends up creating your image for you. For example, you get a lot of big hands, and you are always betting and raising, but your opponents don’t seem to have enough to get to the showdown. Your real hands are never seen. You now have a wild image. No one is going to be that afraid of your next bets and raises. You must be aware of this when you enter a pot.

Your image isn’t always the same to every player at the table. Some opponents may have played with you a lot; they should be aware of your playing style. Others won’t be familiar with you; they’ll base their judgment on what they see during the session, but they may not all see the same hands. Suppose you start off with a cold run of cards and hardly play a hand for the first hour. One of the only hands you play is aces, and you end up winning a nice pot. This is the only hand in which they’ve seen you reach a showdown. You now have a tight image. The player you just tapped out leaves, and now a new player comes to the table. The first two hands after he joins your group, you run a successful bluff and also have a good hand with which you three-bet. Neither hand is shown. You may still have a tight image to those players who have been there for a while, but the newcomer probably perceives you as a fairly loose player.

Remember these four images: tight, loose, pushover, and tough defender. Always be aware which of them you have against the various opponents at your table. So far, we have only looked at images that occurred organically. You did nothing to manufacture an artificial image. In the next column, I will examine some ways to create an image. It is sometimes possible, and usually desirable, to create an image that leads your opponents astray. At worst, you should be able to strengthen an image which has been naturally created by the cards. Spade Suit

Steve “Zee” Zolotow, aka The Bald Eagle, is a successful games player. He currently devotes most of his time to poker. He can be found at many major tournaments and playing on Full Tilt, as one of its pros. When escaping from poker, he hangs out in his bars on Avenue A — Nice Guy Eddie’s at Houston and Doc Holliday’s at 9th Street — in New York City.