While there's not a whole lot that needs to be said about table image while playing online, it still bears giving heed to. Table image is of course much more of an issue when playing live games in a casino or poker room, as players have a much greater tendency to pay attention to what you're doing than in almost all online games. There's a few concepts that we need to go over though in terms of our play.
Generally speaking, the better the game, the more opponents will be tracking your play, and the worse the game, the less they will be paying attention to such matters. In all cases though, you need to be aware of the possibility of this. Keep an eye on your opponents because we'll be looking to turn the tables on them if they pick up on our play to any real degree.
In the softest games, it's probably only the stuff that stands out that will get much attention. People are playing their own cards pretty much, and aren't really tracking much if anything. If you get on a lucky streak and get several strong hands close together, they may tend to fold to you more. If you spot this, this gives us an opportunity to take advantage of this by playing and betting a few more hands than usual. We don't want to go crazy with this and let this be an excuse to make poor decisions though. We always need to keep in mind that our opponents at these games have a strong natural tendency to overplay their cards, and we don't really want to get called down very often with a hand we know probably won't hold up in such a situation. So you need to be fairly sure of yourself before you go off and loosen up too much. Still, if our image is lucky, we can capture a few extra pots by taking advantage of this, as long as we don't overdo it.
As the games we play in get better, we need to be more and more aware of the potential for this though. By playing a tight aggressive style, what we want to be wary of is players making the correct move and folding to our hands too much. If this happens too much, we always want to consider finding a better game though of course. If it's not too frequent, we can pick up on this and do a little more bluffing. A good plan here is only to play a few more hands, but bet them out more often whether we hit them or not. If people think we're tight and only play strong hands, we want to use that to our advantage and bet them out of more pots of course. If they start picking up on this to the extent they are back to calling the normal amount against us, it's time to re-adjust and go back to our more straightforward play.
In other words, what we're looking to do is to try as best we can to perceive what sort of table image we have, and adjust to it if necessary. As the games become tighter, as the limits go up, as the table shortens, then generally speaking, we need to be more aware of what our table image is. And our table image may held by the whole table, by several players at it, or even by a single player. Don't just assume that if a certain player is picking up on what we're doing to a certain extent, the whole table has picked up on this. We want to tend to treat each player's manner of playing us separately in most cases.
Some sites also support software that will assist players in tracking us. A lot of the larger sites have this capability, especially Party Poker, where this sort of thing is a fairly big part of their culture. One of the great things about the smaller sites, or places like Pacific Poker, is that they don't support any of this type of software, so the players won't have this information on you. On the other hand, you can play at the ones that do, but be sure you have the same weapons as the better players there do.
On our home page we offer such software, such as Poker Tracker and Poker Pal. The great thing about Poker Pal is that you can take it to a place like Pacific, where hardly anyone has it, and gain a real advantage that way. We're working together with the company who makes it to incorporate some very exciting tracking capabilities to it, and we'll let you know when this becomes available.
Whether we have software to track our opponents or not though, we always want to get tabs on our opponents, to seek out what their table images are, to get as big an advantage as possible. Even at limit, where many decisions are fairly straightforward, we want to be aware of these things. We constantly preach watching and learning from your opponents, and there is a very good reason for this. The more we do this, the better poker players we become, and the more money we make. And it makes the game more entertaining as well.
So what are we looking for here in terms of picking up on the table images of others? Simply put, we want to know first of all how loose a player is. Does he play a lot of hands pre-flop? Does he bet loosely? Does he call loosely? Does he fold very often? Does he fold to raises often? Secondly, we want to know how aggressive the player is. How often does he raise pre-flop? How often does he raise post-flop? How often does he re-raise? What sort of hand strength is needed for a raise and re-raise? By getting a handle on the particular styles of players, their "table images" so to speak, we will get a much better handle on what to do when we go against them in a hand.
Finally, let's discuss the tactic of manipulating table image. If you're familiar with Mike Caro, he's a great example of this. Mike will do just about anything to lead you to believe he's a wild and crazy player, when he doesn't play too differently than we do. This sort of thing is entirely dependent on how much opponents are paying attention to you, and the degree that Caro takes this is pretty much limited to live games where the players are of good caliber. If they are of very good caliber though, this won't work as well, as they will see through it. This is one of the reasons Mike has had so much trouble winning at the highest levels, in spite of being very knowledgeable about the game in general.
In terms of our online strategy, this isn't something we'd want to consider doing at the bad games we like to play. If we're playing at a strong table though, a few well placed moves to throw our opponents off, like playing absolutely nothing to the end, will have its place. For the majority of games we'll be playing though, this not only isn't needed, it would be wasted, as we'd just be making the same stupid moves as anyone else, which wouldn't have us stand out, even if they were paying enough attention to us.
In the end, it is ideal that we not have a table image at all, so we can blend in with the yahoos at the table even though we're playing a much stronger and sounder game. Occasionally though we may need to do a little adjusting, and we always want to be on the lookout for when we do create a table image of sorts for ourselves by standing out, so we can adjust and use it to our advantage.