Perception always plays a role in poker

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Most of us spend a lot of time at the poker table studying and reading others. We want to know their tendencies and tells to provide an advantage. It’s equally important to know how others view us. This often proves more difficult. Here are a few shorthand tips based on tournaments I played.

The first was at the Venetian as part of its Deep Stack series. I was one of the older players in the tourney and I could tell my opponents were quick to label me in their mind as tight. Throughout the tournament I was able to use that to my advantage by inducing bluffs when I held strong hands and also by making strong bets when I needed to chip up. I wasn’t doing anything extraordinary other than letting the propensity of people to judge a book by its cover get the best of them. I made the money by following this strategy and was on the cusp of a deeper run when my kings ran into aces.
That’s poker and rather than dwell on that hand, I immediately cashed out and jumped into a cab to the Stratosphere to play in my first event on the new Senior Poker Tour. The image here was remarkably different. While I qualify for this, a lot of older seniors were filling out the tables and I was asked more than once to show my ID to prove my age.

As the tourney started, I was getting some cards and making some hands. As the hands were rarely going to showdown, I knew I was quickly developing a reputation for playing fast and loose. I knew I would start to get called down. As we started the second level, I had a big chip lead on the table. With blinds at 50-100, my opportunity came up. An early position player opened to 300. A middle position player made it 600 and the button called. I was in the small blind with K-K. I decided to make a fairly large overbet to 3K. The original opener quickly folded. The middle position player chuckled and exclaimed “3,000” a few times. I could tell he wanted to fold but somehow didn’t believe me. He finally talked himself into calling and the button called as well.

The flop came 10-7-2 with two clubs. I quickly moved all-in. The middle position player went into the tank for a long time. While he was in the tank the button told me he was going to call if the middle position player folded because he “knew” what I had. He didn’t know what I had and I knew he was way behind me. At this point, I was hoping for the middle position to fold. He called. The button showed his pocket jacks and folded. Both seemed surprised when I turned over my kings. The middle-position player had 10-9 of clubs. I won’t tell you how the hand ended because the moral of the story is making right decisions based on all of the information available to you at the time, including how others perceive you.

— David Apostolico is the author of numerous poker books including You are the Variable – Play your Best Poker. You can contact him at thepokerwriter@aol.com.