I’ve written an article here that covers switching gears in poker and why it’s important. I mentioned that poker is dynamic because every player is different. They play their hands different. They approach situations like the bubble or being short stacked different. They think different.
So your approach from one player to the next will be different.
But before you can figure out your strategy, you first need to determine who you’re playing against. You need to figure out their playing style, if they’re good or not and their little quirks so that you can play as profitably against them as possible.
In short, you need to determine their table image.
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What is Table Image?
A player’s table image is how they’re perceived by the other players at the table.
For example, if someone plays a lot of hands, they’re going to have a loose table image. If they open-raise a lot of hands they will have loose-aggressive, or LAG, table image. There are many “labels” used in poker, including loose-aggressive (LAG), tight-aggressive (TAG), tight-passive or loose-passive.
Table image is important because it determines the strategy you should use. You don’t want to play the same way against a loose player that you would against a tight player. One player hardly ever folds, and the other player will fold most of the time.
So you need to determine which is which, because raising or re-raising a loose player can get very expensive for you if you’re not sure how to react to their 4-bets or if your post flop games isn’t very good.
Know what I mean?
So with that in mind lets look at the different ways to (quickly) label your opponent, so that you can come up with a strategy for how to take their money.
How to (Quickly) Label an Opponent
The tried and true approach to figuring out what type of player your opponent is is to play against them. Watch them, see what they do and how they do it.
That can take awhile, though. Not to mention that we can mistakes in the meantime trying to figure them out.
I’d prefer to do things a little faster. And to make money against these guys as opposed to handing it over. Here are some ways to figure it out.
- SharkScope – SharkScope is a tournament and sit and go database. Look up your opponent and you can see how much money they’ve won or lost, how many games they’ve won or lost, their average buy-in, ROI and more.
- Notes – If you’ve taken notes on an opponent that will quickly give you some insight. If you haven’t taken any notes, start now. Make sure your notes are specific. You want to know if they play a lot of hands, when they make bad plays or if they’ve made killer reads.
- Stats – Stats, like notes, will give you insight into who your opponents are very quick. If you’re not using a HUD, you should. Unlike SharkScope or OPR, you can use your stats to determine more than if they’re just good or not. You can also figure out how loose or tight they are, if they c-bet or steal a lot and more.
- OPR – This stands for Online Poker Rankings, and is like SharkScope, except it covers cash games, MTTs, SNGs, different games and more.
- Multi-Tabling – You can check to see if your opponent is multi-tabling. Multi-tablers are usually competent, profitable or break even. You can also exploit them with steals and marginal spots since they are usually trying to stick to the simpler decisions.
- Chat Box – The chat box will tell you if the player is playing on more than one table, since multi-tablers usually don’t have much time to chat. You can also get some insight as to whether or not they’re tilting, angry, goofing off or whatever.
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Look at their actions too….
Other than tools and software, you should also pay attention to their actions. For example, ask yourself these questions:
- Does my opponent play a lot of hands?
- Does my opponent raise his hands, or re-raise often?
- Is my opponent aware of position?
- Is my opponent aware of basic poker strategy?
These are all good methods and questions to help you label your opponent. You may not have the entire story, but you should still be able to determine if the player is good or not, and that alone will tell you enough for when and how to switch gears.
However, one word of caution. Be careful not to hastily label someone, or at the very least, be willing to admit your perception or read was wrong. In other words, you don’t want to be quick to label someone as loose just because they played the last 5 hands, and then make all of your decisions based on that. That could end up costing you. You need to be willing to alter your strategy as time goes on and you collect more information/reads.