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House of Cards
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Shaping Your Image

by Ashley Adams

I have found that as my opponents play more “correctly”—that is to say as they cease to be bad calling stations, my old tight aggressive, “ABC” poker is less profitable. I don’t make as much money off of bad calls, which was the main part of my profit, because my opponents aren’t calling as readily as they used to with second best hands. Accordingly, it’s critical for those of us who care about winning to regularly assess what we’re doing and how it’s working and then redesign what we do to take advantage of the changed circumstance. I’ve been doing exactly that over the last couple of years and especially over the last six months. During that time I’ve worked on two things, chiefly: aggression and image. I’ve addressed the subject of aggression in previous articles, and I’ll address it more in the future. So let’s look at how you can make more money by changing your image.

Simply put, you don’t want to be viewed as a nit. Even fairly bad players will eventually refuse to give you action when you hit your big hands. They’ll wait for you to be aggressive and easily stay out of your way—greatly diminishing how much you can make on your big hands. That’s a bad thing.

But you don’t want to turn into a loose calling station either— spewing chips as you too-easily call or check. Nor do you want to become a maniac, wildly throwing chips in with nothing just so you’ll be impossible to figure out. You’ll get those calls with your nut hands, but the cost of maintaining your loose and wild image will become much too expensive—eating too deeply into the gains you make when you get the action you crave.

The key is to look fairly loose and unpredictable without actually eroding the core solidity of your game. So become more aggressive in spots when you may well not be the favorite—and loosen up in situations when you might have the implied odds for longshot draw. Here are a few examples of how you can do this. You’re a couple of seats before the button. A fairly tight player makes it $12 in your $1/2 no limit game. Everyone folds. You look down and see Ah4h. The standard move might be to call or even fold with this hand against what appears to be either a very big Ace or a premium pair. But in the interests of ramping up your image don’t do either. Instead, raise. Make it $30 or so. Your opponent may well fold. But even if your opponent calls and checks the flop, plan on making a continuation bet of $50. On the other hand, if he 4-bets pre-flop or comes out betting on the flop you can fold, (if you haven’t improved)—with your image improving in either case.

You’re in mid-position with 6d 8s. Three players call the big blind and it’s your turn. One-gapped, unsuited low cards are pretty awful. Still, if the game is fairly loose and passive it may well be called around by a few other players, giving you enormous implied odds. You call too. If someone raises to $7 or $12 and anyone calls, you can stil call (assuming fairly large stacks). You still have great implied odds for your longshot draw. And even if you don’t hit, you’re helping to move your image away from nittiness. You’re under the gun with KcJs. You have a stack of $300 or so as do a few other players. You’ve folded six or seven hands in a row. Go ahead and make it $12. True, KJ, especially off suit, is not a premium hand. Generally you need to be very careful with it, especially in early position, because it can lose you a ton if you can’t get away from it. But you can get away from it, being a good player, and you want to improve your image by playing more hands.

The key to all of this is to give yourself an excuse to be in more hands and to play more aggressively—even if it means that each individual play may not be profitable. It will make you appear looser in the long run—and that will add profit to your game.

Ashley Adams is the author of Winning No Limit Hold’em and Winning 7-card Stud, both available at He is also the host of the popular poker radio show, House of Cards. For listening times and stations, to get a podcast of the show, or to check out the blog, go to You can email Ashley at

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