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When good players think of table image, they tend to categorize other players based on two criteria: number of hands they play, and how aggressively they play those hands.  Players that play many hands are loose while players that play few hands are tight, and players who mostly bet and raise are aggressive while players that mostly check and call are passive.  This is a good starting point for categorizing other players, but when trying to understand your own table image, this may not be the best way.  Most fish at low stakes games don’t think this deep about other players since they barely think beyond their own hole cards.  Therefore, when trying to understand how fish at the table view you, it makes more sense to simply think about whether you have a winning or losing image.

Winning Image

If you have been playing well and winning lots of pots either without showdown or with strong hands at showdown, you will have a winning image.  There are many advantages to this.  It varies from player to player, but in general, people will play more straightforward and be more hesitant to play hands with you.  You’re less likely to get bluffed or called down light, so your bluffs will have extra fold equity.  Because people are playing more straightforward, it’s also much easier for you to come up with the optimal decision when it’s your action.  People will tend to have narrower and more polarized ranges against players they perceive as winners.  There is a disadvantage though.  Because of your winning image, most people will try and play their A-game against you.  While their A-games might still be fishy, you’re less likely to get action with your strong hands.  This disadvantage can be somewhat negated by being friendly and chatty at the table, however.

Losing Image

If you have been playing poorly and/or have lost some big pots, you will have a losing image.  In general, if you have a losing image, most players will play more hands against you.  They view you as someone likely to pay them off if they hit big.  Thus, your bets and raises will be called more often and your bluffs will have less fold equity.  There is an upside to having a losing table image, however.  Because other players view you as a donkey, they’re more likely to call you light.  Thus, your value bets are much more likely to get paid off.  With a losing image, it can be extremely profitable to just sit back and wait for big hands.

What Poker Image do You Prefer?

Overall, one table image isn’t necessarily better than the other.  Which image you prefer depends mostly on your playing style.  For me, I’m most comfortable playing moderately loose but extremely aggressive.  Much of my game involves isolating limpers in late position with a wide range preflop and relying on board textures to bluff my opponent(s) postflop.  Therefore, I prefer to have a winning image under most conditions.  For players that play tighter and mostly bet for value, it might be better to have a slightly losing image since your value bets are more likely to get called.  Whatever the case, however, as with anything in poker, it is very important to be versatile.  Understand the advantages and disadvantages of both a winning and losing table image, and you will be able to seamlessly transition between the two as conditions change.


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ALL IN Magazine Contributor Zhijian Xing