by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
While playing poker, it’s vital to prompt the question: What convincing indicators do my opponents give about their playing ability? The answer is deduced from several variables. How they look, act, and speak, are such variable examples, and these attributes are just as relevant as player methodology and playing style.
Observantly judging and categorizing players should allow you to identify the good and bad players at your table. Deciphering what sort of impression a truly clueless donkey gives off will enable you to employ aggressive tactics against your opponents, and launch unanticipated, pointed attacks. Getting inside the mind of a poker donkey will help you beat the bad players, while providing a smokescreen of sorts when playing against good players.
When placed at a tournament table where you know it won’t be broken for the entire day, or for many hours, control your table image. Early tournament demeanor and play style will form the bulk of the impression other players use as reference when playing against you for the rest of the day. As a simple example, if a player raises 5 times the big blind during the first level of a tournament, it might give off the impression of inexperience.
There are basic tactics that can be used to throw your opponents off to your true capabilities or playing style. If you’re a tight player, show up with eclectic glasses and a Hawaiian shirt, and be very talkative. Especially talk about gambling in the pits, or some of the day’s sports picks. If you’re a very loose and aggressive player, come dressed with slacks and a button down -- and wear a wedding ring, whether you’re married or not.
If you want to mask your capabilities, after a hand, say something to the order of how you would have hit trips on that flop. Do this when you have a hand similar to 97 in early position, even though folding is a better play. Anything a novice player would do, mimic them.
If you are giving off the impression that you’re a bad player, the players that are paying attention at the table will go out of their way to believe the evidence at hand. Donkeys may be the most gullible, but if you’re a good actor and patient strategist, even the experienced players will succumb to assumptions.
We hear the term, “deception,” thrown around quite often in poker, and people do often play along the stereotypical lines many have drawn for them. Most information you gather is real information, not a ploy. With some simple planning and thinking on your feet, you can decide exactly what type of image you want to give off when you sit down at the table and play. This is one of those beautiful areas of poker where there are no limitations or rules.
You can wear what you want, say what you want, and play however you like. Put the pieces of the puzzle together by referring back to your social experiences while remaining calculated. Meanwhile, practice your own deception while growing awareness for those applying similar tactics. Furthermore, spot the donkeys, and exploit them.
Ultimately, your senses should be heightened while you observe, act, adjust, and strategize. Think through your behavior at the table, and remain highly attentive to the action and people around you. Gather information while actively managing the information that you give away. By applying the aforementioned strategy, you will create more opportunities for profitable play. Go forth and win.
David “The Maven” Chicotsky is the 2008 Online Player of the Year and a former #1 ranked online tournament poker player. He is also a well-respected poker coach and can be reached at TheMavenTraining.com.