Friday, June 1, 2012

Judging Books By Their Covers

Part of an email the Guru sent me yesterday said:

"I used to have a crazy loose image but actually was playing tight [back] in the $20/40 [limit] days."

There is a really important "a-ha!" concept of poker buried in this otherwise innocuous-appearing sentence. I've written about it quite a bit on this blog, such as here and here. The point is that your table image should be the opposite of what you're actually doing at the tables. You should be zigging when everyone else thinks you're zagging.

TAg play is what most beginners are taught because it results in low variance and reasonably high returns. At the heart of winning TAg play is just staying out of a lot of pots and keeping a solid image alive. When you do enter a pot, other players notice, and they only stick around if they actually have something, otherwise you're taking down the blinds and moving on. You maintain a tight image as much as you can, and you exploit this image with well-timed squeezes and steals. Your image is one of a rock, but you're actually selectively bluffing. TAg poker is winning poker....

...ah, but so is LAg play. In LAg poker, the variance is higher, but so is the profit. Why is this? Answer: because your image becomes one of a loose cannon, and loose cannons will get paid off when they have the goods. Your image is one of a maniac, but you're actually selectively taking your opponents to Value Town when you have a hand. LAg poker is winning poker...

...which is just another way of saying that it doesn't really matter what your style of poker actually is, as long as your opponents think it's the opposite of reality. When your opponents are thinking, level-2 players, you have to adjust-- or else they correctly peg you as the player your are. To win, you have see yourself through their eyes and try to imagine what they think you're doing. Then you use this knowledge to walk them down a garden path that ends in vipers and quicksand.

Podcaster Bart Hanson eschews the whole TAg and LAg table image thing. In live play, he says that a "winning" or "losing" image is all you really need to keep track of. If your opponents perceive you as a winner during the current session, they're going to give you respect and fold more to your 3bets. If they perceive you as a loser, you're going to have to switch to Value mode to profit.

The Guru frequently says "Action Begets Action", which means that if your opponents see you involved in lots of pots, raising it up, etc., they're going to give you less respect when you do in fact wake up with a big hand. They think you're zigging, while you're in fact LAgging.

Action Begets Action might be better written as Image Begets Action.

All-in for now...

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