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What is your Table Image in Poker?

A table image is something you fabricate intentionally with the sole purpose of exploiting it later on. Your table image is how other players perceive you. It takes a little time investment to create, and it can be destroyed in a single hand. Your table image should be part of your poker strategy.

Let’s pretend we are viewing the world in black and white and that there can only be two types of poker players: The aggressive player and the conservative/tight player. The idea of creating a tight image is so you can bluff and get away with it while the aggressive player image would allow you to get called when you have a big hand and lead with a bet. It’s of course a little more than this in reality, but for the purpose of this article, let’s just look at the world in black and white.

How do I create my table image?

There’s different ways to do this, but the most common way is to show your cards when you wouldn’t need to. This is called advertising, and you want to market a message of some kind to other players. For example, in a large pot where you make a big bet that results in everyone folding, the tight player will want to show that he did in fact have a solid hand while the aggressive player will take joy in showing people that he just bluffed. There are other ways to advertise by showing cards, for instance a tight player that folds because he has nothing can show that he has nothing.

Advertising is not something you need to do every single hand, but it’s something that needs to be repeated and the message has to be the same. You can’t advertise a tight image one hand, and an aggressive image three hands later. That will just confuse opponents. The objective is to make opponents think they have you figured out.

Other than exposing cards, there are other indicators that opponents can pick up on. Do you play a lot of starting hands or do you fold most of them? If you play a lot of starting hands, but then decide to advertise a tight image later by folding and showing you have nothing, you’re again sending mixed messages. You have to play the part to make it believable.

How do I exploit my table image?

There’s numerous ways to take advantage of a well established image. As mentioned earlier, the tight player image will allow you to be taken very seriously when you bet and opponents will think long and hard about folding. They wouldn’t give the same courtesy to a super aggressive player who probably has nothing.

If you have an aggressive image, does that mean players will call you every time you bet? Of course not, but I assure you, they will be tempted! One of the benefits of having the aggressive image is that while opponents know for a fact that you bluff them regularly, they also know you hit a good hand once in a while. It becomes difficult to read you. Suppose you go all in with AA in a situation where a large pot developed pre-flop, people will automatically assume you’re trying to steal it. So someone will probably call with an average hand. If you were the tight player, they probably wouldn’t.

Losing and rebuilding a table image

Failing to advertise your image regularly can result in players not really being sure of what your image is, and this is not good. It should be apparent to others. If you’re in a tournament, and get moved to a new table, then nobody there knows about your image so you have to rebuild it. If you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, meaning the allegedly tight player got caught bluffing for example, then that causes people to question the validity of the image you projected. When this happens, you can do a few things: Hoping to get moved to another table is one thing, but you have no control over this so don’t bet on it. You can rebuild your image and attempt to re-convince the majority that you’re really the saint you portray. But the third option is to change your play style and take advantage of getting caught to create a brand new image that you’ll later exploit.

Consider the image of opponents

While we’ve talked about your own image only up to this point, understand that your opponents are trying to do the same thing. When someone works hard at portraying an image, you should know better than to believe it because you know that they, like you, simply want to turn it into an advantage at a later point. Try to study them and see if there is a pattern when they seem to perhaps exploit the images. For instance, does the tight player only raise when there’s a big pot and one or two opponents? Does the aggressive player suddenly check in the BB when they normally bet in this position? Ask yourself why the sudden change in behavior and watch what is about to unfold. Is the player trying to build a new image or taking advantage of the existing image? If they have no reason to build a new image, you can bet that they’re trying to extort some money from the unsuspecting players who think they have them all figured out. They’re completely wrong of course!

Mind Games in Poker