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Table Image Management

11 Strategies for Effective Table Image Management

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Table image management is a critical aspect of successful poker play, influencing how opponents perceive and react to your actions. In this article, we’ll explore 11 strategies for crafting and maintaining an effective table image that can give you a strategic advantage. By understanding and controlling your table presence, you can manipulate opponents’ decisions to your benefit.

What Is Your Resting Face?

This is going to sound ridiculous, but your resting face does change how people play against you.

I have a resting bitch face. My look at the poker table can be described as, “who farted?” My girlfriend makes fun of me all the time for this. I can assure you this look I have is completely unintentional, but it doesn’t matter. Some people at the table feel like I’m judging them when they play. For this reason, they want to show me that I’m not such hot shit. They’ll call me down with anything in the hopes of catching me in a bluff.

I’ve learned this over the years, so I’ve set up huge value bets versus players who I feel might have tilt issues. Again, I realize this sounds bizarre, but you should have seen how people played versus me when I had to wear a face mask a couple of years ago. I got folds I never used to get before because people didn’t feel I was judging them anymore.  

If your resting face and demeanor is pleasant, people might trust you more. I have seen tons of nice guys run over the table because people don’t feel bad about folding to them. This is a key secret of table image management that most people aren’t even aware of.

Figure out which reaction people have to you or if they have any reaction at all. Use it to your advantage.

How Are You Dressed?

Believe it or not, what you wear can be a key piece of table image management. If you look like you’re about to rob a liquor store, people are not going to want to fold to you. No one wants to lose versus someone they feel superior to.

If you dress presentably and conduct yourself like a pro, there’s no shame in folding versus you.

If you’re wearing a hoodie and a hat, that’s fairly neutral. Many people dress like that for comfort reasons.

If you play a role, people will change how they play against you. I’ve dressed like a country boy before. People were less willing to believe I could bluff them when I seemed like a bumpkin who didn’t know anything.

Conversely, I’ve also dressed in T-shirts from metal bands I follow. If my hair is messed up and I look rough, everyone believes they can beat me. I play like a total nit and value bet with large hands. The big baller pros don’t want to lose to the night shift manager at a 7/11. Their ego gets the better of them.

What Are You Discussing?

Watch every word you say. If you let people know you’re familiar with poker terms and poker coaches, they’ll immediately change how they play against you. Don’t give off any information.

If someone asks how much poker you play, always say you play for fun, even if you’re a pro or a semi-pro. Don’t let them know how seriously you take it. Don’t tell them you read training articles in your free time.

What Job Did You Say You Have?

If they ask you what you do for work, don’t ever say poker. Even if a bunch of your income comes from poker, don’t say that. Give some generic answer. If your job is somewhat interesting, make up something different. If you have an interesting gig, people will be asking you questions about it, which can distract you from the action.

In fact, from a table image management perspective, the less information you give others about what you do, the better. All sorts of professions come with baggage at the poker table: accountant, psychologist, statistician. The less the other players know about how you spend your time off the table, the better.

What Language Are You Speaking?

I’ve played in foreign countries and not said a word. Why? I could pass for a local if I didn’t open my mouth, but the second my American accent came out, they’d have a better idea of how I was playing.

I’ve also feigned not speaking English or not understanding English. That can make it harder for people to categorize where your playstyle comes from. It may seem crazy to pretend you don’t speak English. From a table image management perspective, if it wins you more chips then it’s crazy like a fox

Do They Categorize You By Age?

Many poker players make determinations about your play based on your age. For example, if you’re a senior citizen, they might believe you’re incapable of aggressive play and big bluffs. They might believe that’s more of the domain of younger players.

If you think people are categorizing you as old, then stomp their ass with more aggressive play. You’ve got this.

Conversely, people always think I’m bluffing because some players believe I’m younger than I am. For this reason, sometimes I have to nit it up and go for thinner value bets.

Do They Categorize You By Sex?

I sat down once at a tournament table. A tiny woman next to me was on her laptop. She was going through Solver ranges and taking notes. I immediately thought to myself, “I’m going to wait and see how she plays.”

However, tons of other men at the table didn’t get the memo or didn’t care. They went flying at her. She sliced and diced all of them. She was capable of plays they weren’t giving her credit for. She wasn’t even thinking about table image management, but the men at the table saw a little lady playing and took it from there.

Conversely, I’ve had a lot of success playing like a total nit when I look roughed up. If a larger dude with a beard is slinging some chips, people might believe that person is bluffing. If you’re instead value betting, you’ll get paid off.

Are People Commenting On Your Aggression? Time for Some Table Image Management

If someone says something about the garbage you’ve been playing all day, pay attention. They’re essentially alerting the rest of the table to you. You’ll need to start value betting more thinly and carefully assessing your bluffs. On the other hand, if you have been showing your extremely rare bluff as a means of table management, consider your job well done.

Have You Been Caught Bluffing?

I got caught in a massive over-bet bluff on the river the other day. Someone at the table was kind enough to point it out to everyone so that even the people on their cell phones could notice my blunder.

From that point on, I had to play tighter. Everyone else was going to be chasing the dragon of the bluff-catching thrill. They would struggle to fold if they hit something because the last guy caught me bluffing.

How Seriously Are You Taking The Game?

If you’re watching every pot intensely and firing your chips out with authority, people are going to know you’re not goofing off. They might believe you’re seeing them as targets. They’ll be wary about potential bluffs and call you more often.

If you pretend to be on the phone while you’re instead taking notes on the players, people will think you’re playing recreationally. If you occasionally look up at the TV or nurse a beer, they’ll think you’re a more casual player. They might just give you credit for a hand if you suddenly want to play a big pot. They don’t expect the dead money to have a huge bluff chambered.

How Comfortable Do You Look?

I’m a twitchy person. I don’t know why. I’ve been like that since I was young. The stupid amount of caffeine I drink every day probably doesn’t help.

When I’m at the table, people don’t trust me. They always think I’m bluffing because I look disgusted with my lot in life and fidgety. Those aren’t typical signs of confidence. I have to use extreme care with my bluffs, and I have to value bet viciously.

However, if you look confident, calm, cool, and collected, people will give you the benefit of the doubt. They’ll feel you likely have the hand, because they couldn’t look that relaxed if they were bluffing.

Keys to Effective Table Image Management:

Mastering table image management can significantly enhance your poker strategy, allowing you to dictate the pace and flow of the game. By applying these 11 strategies, you’ll be able to create a powerful and deceptive table presence, keeping your opponents guessing. Remember, a well-managed table image can turn a good player into a great one, providing a crucial edge on the felt.

Want to read more from APT Head Pro Alex Fitzgerald? Try his article about the 11 Tips for Handling Bad Beats and Variance

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Alex Fitzgerald

Master Poker Coach | Low-to-mid-stakes | WPT & EPT final tablist | $3.5M cashes | Best Selling Author

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