In order to maximize your profits at the poker table, your goal should be to play completely opposite of the way other players at the table perceive you. Simply put, if opponents label you a conservative player who never bluffs and only plays premium hands, you’ll do better playing aggressively and bluffing frequently. Conversely, if they think you’re a wild, bluffing maniac, your best approach is to play fundamentally sound, with very little bluffing.
That’s easier said than done.
Changing your stripes by playing a style that isn't comfortable for you can be extremely difficult. Here are a few ways to get the job done.
Show Your Hole Cards
Lots of so-called experts strongly disagree with this type of tactic. However, I’m absolutely convinced that showing your hand — especially early on in a session — can help shape the type of table image that you’re looking for.
The key to doing this properly is to show your cards selectively. Think about what revealing that specific hand says about you and your playing style. For example, if you normally only bet when you have premium cards, show a bluff early on. This plants a seed in the minds of your opponents. It shows them that you’re capable of such plays, even though you secretly don't plan on utilizing them again.
If you’re an advanced player who plans to make sophisticated bluffs throughout a session, go ahead and show opponents a hand or two when you actually have the goods. This might satisfy their curiosity and allow you to continue to make big bluffs.
Do Your Dirty Work Early
If you’re planning to play for six to eight hours, it’s foolish to make image plays in the last couple of hours. Instead, set up your opponents early by making out-of-character plays at the beginning of the session.
The only time you might consider making image moves later in the game is when you play with a regular group of guys who you'll be facing again soon.
An important element to consider when playing tournament poker is the breaking order of your table (tables break up as players are eliminated). Ask the floor person when he thinks your table will be breaking. It’s pointless to make an image play if your table is breaking soon. You won't have time to reap the rewards of exploiting that image later.
Use a Secret Weapon: Your Mouth
To be a great poker player, you’re going to have to learn this fact: Everything that’s said at a poker table is worth listening to. It's all information that you can use to make better decisions, whether people are talking about baseball, politics or, oh yeah, poker.
Observant players will listen to what you say; it shapes their view of you and your playing style. Knowing this, you can completely fool opponents. They’ll misread you based on the things you say and won’t be able to figure out how you play your hands.
Try dropping an innocuous comment like, "I just hate pocket kings. When I get that hand I just want everybody out."
This ploy might lead opponents to believe that you play scared poker. Later, a large pre-flop raise on your part might suggest to others that you have a very strong hand, perhaps those pocket cowboys.
So, having made that earlier comment, you now have license to bluff with a junk hand. After you steal the pot, be sure to seal the deal by saying something like, "Phew, I'd rather win a small pot with a big pair than lose a big one."
Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.
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