Shifting gears based on your table image

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By Zack Bartholomew

We’ve heard how important it is to shift gears during a session. Sometimes you ramp up the aggression; other times you hang back and wait for good hands. Most people play aggressively when they’re on a rush and then when the cards dry up, so do their bets. Obviously this can’t be correct. So when do we shift gears?

Shifting gears should be primarily a short-term-image-based decision. Your short-term image depends on if you have been winning or losing in the past 30 minutes to an hour.

When you’re winning, you’re a scary opponent. Your stack is growing; you’re showing down strong hands and you’re probably scooping more than your fair share of pots.

When you’re losing, you’re a fun opponent. More people will call your bets preflop. Your continuation bets will get much less respect and life is going to be harder for you.

If you disagree, watch for this at the table next time. Look around the table and pick out one short-term winner and one short-term loser. Watch how differently the players react to the winner and the loser in pots. I think you’ll be surprised.

When I’m winning, there are a few things I like to start adding to my game to really crank up the pressure on the table.

First, I start three-betting more often as a bluff. I still selectively choose the opponents I do this against, but I’m more liberal with my hand selection. This also makes you scarier to play against and you can really begin to dominate a table.

Next, I’ll gradually keep increasing my late-position raising range. If they keep letting me steal their limps and blinds, I’m going to do it more and more often.

Last, I’m more willing to fire multiple barrels at a pot. Since you’ve been winning, you’ve been showing down the goods. Keep making them think you have it with your relentless betting.

Keep in mind that when you lose the first decent pot, your great winning image is damaged and you must repair it.

When I’m losing, I’ll do the exact opposite of what I do with a winning image. I play much tighter to the point of being nitty. I will rarely bluff. I’m basically waiting on the cards to come my way and then for my opponent to donate some chips to me before I can really start getting in there.

If you’re looking for a new place to start expanding your game, this is a relatively easy and fun way you can start consciously shifting gears to maximize your profits at the table.