Images Poker Body Language

In many competitive endeavors, people cultivate a serious, intense, or intimidating image to help them succeed. Football players try to look and act "mean" to get a psychological edge on their opponents. Baseball pitchers sometimes throw at or near batters to keep them off balance. Even in non-athletic competitions, like vying with colleagues for promotions or raises at work, people try to appear serious, studious, and intense to impress their managers.

Many poker players who are trying hard to succeed, consciously or unconsciously, project the same intense image. They would be better off if they did not, however, as appearing serious and intimidating is counter-productive to winning at small stakes hold 'em.

The money you make comes from your opponents' mistakes. The players who make the most mistakes, and therefore who are the most profitable for you, almost invariably do not take the game seriously. They do not view poker as a battle of wits, as a mathematical and psychological test; they view it as an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. They know that they are a favorite to lose, but they play anyway because it is fun.

If you project an intense or intimidating image, these ideal opponents will likely react in one of three ways:

  1. They will take the game more seriously when you are in the hand. They usually do not think too much while they play, but when playing against you, they will try to play their best. Bad players do play better when they try.
  2. More likely, they will simply tend to avoid you. They are not here to play "serious" poker, and they do not want to be the patsy for someone who does. So when you enter the pot.

instead of calling with 8464 as they normally would, they will just toss the hand to avoid you.

3. They may even leave the game. If the atmosphere of the whole game turns intense, usually because several players are taking things too seriously, weak players often simply leave. They may go find another table, or they might decide that they have a better place to spend the afternoon than at the card room.

Thus, looking too serious will tend to make poor players leave, or at least play better and more tightly, all of which cost you money."0 Here are several specific things that some players do that make them seem to take the game too seriously:

1. When you enter a game, you usually have the option either to post an amount equal to the big blind and take a hand immediately or wait for the big blind to come to you. Mathematically, the choice you make does not much matter. (Nevertheless, people seem to like to debate this picayune topic.) But psychologically, the way you handle this situation can be important. Some players will sit down, refuse to post, and wait almost a whole round for their blind. They sit there, arms folded, watching the action for up to fifteen minutes before playing. Don't do it. If you do not feel comfortable posting immediately, put your chips down and leave the table for a few hands. Get a drink, or go talk to someone. Come back to the table only when you have one or two hands left to

110 In a poker tournament, it may well be advantageous to project an intimidating image precisely because it achieves those effects. You often want your opponents to play more tightly against you than they would otherwise. But this is virtually never the ease in a small stakes cash game.

wait. If you sit out seven hands before you play, you will appear too serious.

Do not wear wrap-around sunglasses, hooded sweatshirts, or other clothing intended to obscure your face. You are playing small stakes hold 'em. not training for covert operations. You do not need full camouflage gear to beat the array of tourists, recreational gamblers, and retirees at your table. They are not sweating your every facial tick to "see into your soul." These items only hide things that your opponents are not looking for. They do, however, may make you look intimidating and overly intense.

No matter how good you are, some opponents will occasionally criticize your playing decisions (often employing outlandish and absurd logic). Defending your actions is the natural tendency, but avoid doing so. Do not explain how you were correct to call because of the implied odds, or that you raised your draw correctly because of your pot equity edge. Just smile and change the subject. You have little hope of convincing your critic that you actually play well (which is good), but your technical discussion will make other players at the table feel ignorant and outmatched. Poker is a terrible game for those who compete primarily to earn the respect of their peers. Some of your opponents will think you play terribly, and there isn't anything you can do to convince them otherwise. Why would you want to anyway?

Similarly, never criticize an opponent's play. In addition to angering the target of your criticism, it makes you look like a jerk and intimidates every recreational gambler at the table who will now worry that he may be the next recipient of a verbal tirade. One ill-timed bout of criticism can send your most profitable opponents home and turn a terrific game into a terrible one. As a poker player and a decent human being.

there is simply no excuse for criticizing any of your opponents.

When most new players think of their "image," they worry about how their opponents perceive their play. Should they play a few junk hands to shake a tight image? Should they make a crazy bluff and show it to "advertise"? If they have raised before the flop several times recently, should they just call if they are dealt another "raising" hand? Should they behave in a ridiculous and obnoxious manner to appear loose and wild?

In a small stakes game, the answer to these and many similar questions is almost always, "No." For the most part, your opponents do not pay attention to your playing tendencies."1 Even most of those who are vaguely aware usually do not bother to adjust their play based on their observations. Someone may say, "Man, you haven't played one hand in the last hour," as he calls your under the gun raise with It does not much matter if your opponents think you are tight or loose, passive or aggressive.

If you want to build an image, build a friendly and laid-back one. Small stakes hold 'em is a company softball game, not the World Series. It is not the place for "war paint" or brush back pitches. Do not charge the mound if a pitch hits you; just take your base with a smile. If you behave like you are just playing to enjoy the game, your opponents will have more fun, and you will make more money.

111 The exception, as previously noted, is if you often fold for a single raise on the same round you have bet. Try to avoid doing that too much, or your opponents will take shots at you.

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