Poker’s great when you’re running well. Your stacking chips, your confidence is high, the cards are coming as planned, your opponents are intimidated, tilted, and they’re not playing their best. The chips just roll on in, just like you dreamed they would.
Unfortunately, there’s a converse when running badly. Your confidence is low. You’re getting ground down, your opponents are the ones empowered, and your edge isn’t nearly as high, maybe it’s even negative.
How your opponents’ perceive and react to you is an issue that many players overlook. And the psychological effects it has on your game can turn a bad run into a never-ending downward spiral. You need to constantly perceive what your image is, and adjust to how your opponents’ strategies have changed.
Most opponents’ play loosens up against you when your image is poor. They’re confident and perceive you as unlucky. For that reason, your bluffs and semi-bluffs tend to lose value. However, there is a good side to a bad image; your value bets increase in worth.
So, when I first notice that my opponents are empowered by my bad luck, I play more solidly. I tighten up on my bluffs and semi-bluffs, which takes away some of the value of my implied odds. Therefore, I tighten up on my starting requirements, particularly those situations that need fold equity to justify playing. Since my fold equity is diminished, I can’t play as many hands profitably. However, because many opponents’ have loosened up on their calling requirements, I’ll value bet more liberally and slightly larger. I realize those factors aren’t congruent regarding implied odds, but if my fold equity is greatly down on my drawing hands, I weigh the value of drawing hands more toward the payoff value and reduce the fold equity value from them.
At some point, my opponents will become aware that I’ve changed my strategy. At that point I will open up my bluffs and semi-bluffs, though not in an overtly strong way. It’s, once again, adjusting to my opponents’ perception of me.
Keep track of your image. Don’t get caught up in the emotions of winning and losing and adjusting your play based on emotions. Rather, adjust your game to how your opponents are perceiving you and adjusting to that image.