This weekend I was thinking about the ideal image you want to have when you’re playing no-limit Hold’em. Here are the main things I want my opponents to be thinking about me:
- I want my opponents to think it’s hard to bluff me.
- I want my opponents to think I’m loose enough to have any two cards in any situation.
- I want my opponents to think I don’t care about the money.
These are all tied together and overlap each other in various ways, because they’re all related to having a disregard for the money, but they seem to me the main points of the image I want to establish. Let’s go through the reasoning behind this list one by one.
Why do I want my opponents to think it’s hard to bluff me? So that I will be bluffed less. I want to establish an image that makes people think I will not let go of a hand once I’ve got my chips in the pot. Making people think you are stubborn when it comes to letting go of a hand will make their hands that much more readable.
Why do I want my opponents to think I’m capable of having anything? This allows me to pull off bluffs when I think the time is right. If my opponents think I’m so loose that they can give me credit for having just about anything at any point, this allows me to strategically push them around when I sense weakness.
Why do I want my opponents to think I don’t care about the money? This is just the underlying, supposed reason that explains the two traits already mentioned. I want to foster an image of myself that makes people think, “this guy obviously doesn’t give a shit about the stakes”. Having this image, which you can establish in many small ways, allows you to better establish the previous two images.
All of these traits may seem pretty beneficial to anyone who’s read Brunson’s SuperSystem or anyone who knows the benefits of a loose-aggressive style of no-limit poker. But not many people are willing to really put on an effective act that will communicate this image to their opponents.
Let me put it this way. Here are some things you should not be doing at the poker table:
- Complaining about bad cards
- Complaining about lost pots
- Looking upset by beats
- Taking a long time agonizing over decisions in pots that aren’t large
- Talking about your strategy
- Talking about why you made a tough fold
- Showing a fold of a good hand
All of these things just mentioned directly get in the way of you establishing the intimidating image I’ve described. I love to see any of these behaviors at my table, because it means these players have already let me into their mind a little bit. Knowing what types of hands they will fold, knowing what types of strategies they consider important, knowing they obviously take the stakes seriously: all of these clues help me reach judgments about how to play against them. The less information you give away about your strategy, and the more two-dimensional your style seems, the more your opponents will make themselves predictable and easy-to-read.