Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I was thinking a lot about the hand ranges post from yesterday. One of most fun, and sometimes most difficult parts of putting people on hand ranges involves factoring in image. Image in poker is everything. I talked expressly about it in yesterday's post. If you know someone is a stealy player, then the hand range you put them on when they open-raise from the button is going to be quite a bit wider than if the guy who never ever steals except from the button suddenly open-raises from the hijack or the cutoff. While it is entirely possible to start putting people on ranges of hands right from the very first time you sit down at the table, the bottom line is that what you're really doing in that situation is working from a starting model, one of, say, the "average" player. So if I first sit down to a poker table and in the very first hand, a player I've never seen before sitting under the gun open-raises 3x the big blind, I don't know him from Adam but I'm going to assume he has a big Ace or big pair. Why? Because that's how most people play, and until I learn anything otherwise, I can only assume he is "average".

But all that changes once I've seen him get taken to the river, and say he shows down in the hand above something like pocket 3s. Now I know quite a bit about his starting hand range, and I can immediately think of him as likely more aggressive then the average player before the flop. Or say he shows down A8s after open-raising utg before the flop. That tells me quite a bit as well. I don't play that hand in that spot, not in cash and not in tournaments except when late or short for the most part, so the fact that he does can also reinforce that aggressive, loose image. Now once I've seen that hand, if the very next time he is utg he raises it up again, now am I just putting him on a big Ace or a big pocket pair? Of course not. Now it's any pocket pair (if I just saw him raise utg with 33), or many big and medium Aces (if he showed down the A8s). That kind of information is absolutely key if you're going to be using hand ranges to evaluate where your opponents are at in every hand you play. Which as a reminder is the only way you should ever be playing this game.

The above should be pretty obvious stuff for most of the people who read here regularly. But one of the most interesting aspects of the whole image thing in hand range analysis to me is how, if you're playing in a game with strong players, or say maybe very late in a big mtt where most of your opponents are cognizant, solid aggro types, your own image in the minds of the other players at your table impacts the hand ranges you can put your opponents on after they take a given action. I find this to be a big issue for me in every blonkament I play in, as I have profiled so many hands and so many tournament runs at this point that basically everybody and their mother in every private blogger event I've ever played in believes me to be a stealy, aggressive player. This is how I get impacted by this aspect of putting people on hand ranges, including how I have to adjust my own play as a result:

So let's say there are 10 players left in the Riverchasers, and I am near the top in chips (yes, I decided to go with something that happens quite frequently, so what of it?) Now the action folds around to me in the cutoff, and I look down to find pocket Jacks. I raise, and only the button (say, with half my stack size) calls me. The flop comes down 753 rainbow, I have the solid overpair to the board. Now I bet out, and the button raises me allin. In this scenario, if I am an unknown player and I have just sat down in, say, the 50-50 or whatever it is at a table full of players who don't know me, I am definitely going to consider folding here. In most cases under such circumstances in fact, I do fold this hand. I only have pocket Jacks, and my opponent could have any two pair, any set, the flopped straight or even just a higher overpair, all of which will beat me and potentially eliminate me from the tournament. I don't like busting out early in a tournament with just one pair on the flop (the only fourth-highest overpair at that), and normally I am not calling off anything resembling a large stack in this spot.

However, getting back to my Riverchasers example, all this analysis changes if I am a thinking player and if I accord a similar thinking nature to most of my opponents at the table. If I think the player on the button who called my preflop raise views my image as someone who loves to steal and raise and bet aggressively with nothing, then the hand range he puts me on when I open raise before the flop is much wider than my actual holding of pocket Jacks. What's more though, is that since he puts me on a wider range of holdings to be open-raising with late in the Riverchasers, then the range of hands I put him on to be calling that preflop raise from me also needs to be widened, in some cases significantly depending on who the exact player involved is. That's the part that tends to get me into trouble in the blonkaments, perhaps more than any other single facet of my blonkament game.

Take the pocket Jacks on a 753 rainbow flop scenario again. In the 50-50, if I bet out with my Jacks on that flop and get raised allin, I am likely to fold. I understand that this unknown player who does not know me puts me on a decent hand but is raising, indicating that he probably has a measly pair of Jacks beaten at this point. But in a blonkament, where I know my opponent thinks I am a stealer who open-raises with bullshit cards, for him to call my preflop raise could be with almost any two cards, and to raise me allin on that flop can be just as much being done with air simply based on the expectation that I am a stealer and therefore I can fold. Similarly, I often fold a medium overpair like pocket Jacks on a raggy flop when I believe my opponent in a large public mtt might have a higher overpair given that he raised or called my raise before the flop and then raised my bet on the flop. But again in a blonkament, when I know my opponents have that stealy, aggro image of me and the way I play in these things, it is just so much more likely that they are in there with just top pair, an overpair but a lower overpair than my Jacks, or even many kinds of draws with overcards, that I often feel compelled to call in such a situation. Ironically, it is my own aggro image that causes me to make such a call in the blonkament situation, because I know my image is perceived by my opponent, and therefore I know he or she is widening his own range of hands to play against my perceived weaker range.

The more in touch we all are with our own images at the poker table, the better our results will be, plain and simple. I try to remind myself of this every time I get caught calling off and getting stacked in a blonkament because I know the way I am perceived by the other players around me. I continue to see players in these things who do not seem to have a clue about the actual image they have actually amassed over countless tournaments playing together with the group, and these people seem to be the most consistently easy to outplay because they refuse to accept the way that others are factually thinking about their holdings given their actions in a given hand. Like many parts of life, image in poker is everything.

Oh, and congratulations to que31dawg for taking down this week's MATH tournament in addition to the full $240 prize pool for winning the latest Shootout tournament. I got silly coolered early on when I rivered an inside straight only to lose to the higher rivered inside straight, and I shut it down from there so I don't have any of the details.

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Shrike said...

Obviously having a stealy, aggro image can be very profitable when people play back at you with a wider range ... you tend to get paid off more on your premium hands.

Just call me Captain Obvious.


2:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home