Creating your Own Luck at the Poker Table

The Money
"The more I play, the luckier I get" - Gary Player

Don’t worry, you’re not about to read some new-age hippy nonsense; creating your own luck in poker has nothing to do with karma and everything to do with your micro image.

All poker players are familiar with the idea of a table image. But it’s your micro image that actually affects how your opponents play against you.

If you’ve spent some time reading articles on this site, you might remember an article by Dan Skolovy on Exploiting your Table Image.

If you haven’t read it, take a second to read it first as it’s crucial to understand the basics of table image before trying to grasp micro image.

Your Table Image

How you look, what you wear, how you talk, what you say, what you don’t say - and most importantly how you play - will all affect your general table image. The more time someone spends playing with you the more detailed your table image will become for that person.

In general, your opponents will use your image to file you into a broad category of poker players. Are you a fish? A regular? Strong; weak; a rock? Totally wild?

Your general table image will include some noted specifics about how you play. And if you don’t bleed any huge tells, these will be few and often forgotten.

But it’s these basic elements of table image that become the foundation of your micro image.

The Micro Image

Your micro image has three elements:

Joseph Cada
Sometimes luck finds you anyways.
  1. Your table image - all micro images have to fit into your perceived table image
  2. Your history at the table
  3. How you’ve played the previous few relevant hands.

While your table image will rarely change (you’re wearing the same clothes and talking the same way now as you were an hour ago), your micro image is always dynamic.  It’s also specific to how you’re actually playing your current hands.

This is always what your opponent uses when judging how best to play against you.  Your table image will affect how your opponents plan to play against you over the session, but your micro image will affect how your opponents play against you in the current hand.

Creating your own luck at the poker table then comes from knowing how to exploit that micro image.

Step 1 in Creating your Own Luck

Before you can exploit your micro image you need to know what your opponents assume about your game and how that affects the way they play against you.

Look in the mirror and be honest with what you see. Do you look like someone who is tight with money or someone who doesn’t care about it? Do you look reserved or outgoing? What about how you play? Do you splash around or are you a rock?

If you can, talk to a good honest friend who can tell you exactly what your image is at the table. The more you know about how others perceive you the better you can exploit your micro image.

Step 2

Step 2 is the easiest. All you have to do is play cards. Feel out your table, play your standard opening game and observe your opponents.

Take note of whose paying attention and who thinks he can pull one over on you. It’s during this opening phase your opponents decide on your general table image.

Since micro image is an offshoot of general table image, you have to spend enough time at the table for players to fully form a picture of your image. Once that’s happened, move on to step 3.

Step 3

Phil Hellmuth
Hellmuth's table image is ideal for micro image exploitation.

Despite the title of this article, it’s impossible to actually create luck. What you’re going to do is create the opportunity for luck, then take advantage when things fall into place.

It’s your job to create the opportunity for good luck as frequently as possible. You’re going to use your micro image to set up these situations and count on luck to finish the job.

If you have the table image of a strong, aggressive player, players will be cautious. Your general image then does not lend well to making money - so you have to use your micro image in its place.

An Example:

Say you make a button raise with a marginal hand such as 8 9. You’re raising a real hand but it’s not a premium.

This isn’t a reckless - or even a really loose play - but it’s something a rock will never do. Either way, you bet the flop and take down the pot.

The next hand you’re dealt A Q. As you’re in the cut-off you raise again, this time getting two callers. The flop comes 7 Q 4. Your opponents check to you and one player calls your three-quarter pot-sized bet.

The turn brings the 10 and your opponent checks. Since you almost certainly have the best hand, you bet again and get a fold from your opponent.

The next hand you’re dealt A A. You open for a raise and everyone folds to you.

At this point, you’ve only raised and bet because you’ve had strong hands. You haven’t done anything reckless or absurd. But to your opponents (who haven’t seen any of your cards), you’ve raised and bullied three hands straight.

Your current micro image is you’re a table bully or are simply bored and raising everything. At this point, your opponents will want to take a stand and put a stop to your aggression.

The next hand you’re lucky enough to be dealt A K. After a few limps you make your standard raise and actions folds around to the button. He slowly makes a raise 3x your bet.

At this point, you’re now poised to take advantage of your micro image.

Chips and candy
Creating your own luck: like taking candy from a baby.

Yes, it’s possible your opponent fell into AA or KK here. But chances are he’s playing back at your image rather than playing the strength of his own cards.

He thinks you’re bullying, so the best thing you can do is nurture that belief. You instantly ship all in when action is folded around to you. Your all-in is for the rest of his stack - about 7x the size of his 3-bet.

If we’re correct, and he made his raise simply on the notion we’re being a bully, he can have any two cards here. Chances are he has a weak ace or a small pair and is raising thinking he has a slight edge on your random two cards.

Your overbet here is also way too strong and reinforces the idea you’re actually weak and being a bully.

End result: You get a call and play a 300bb pot with A K against his A 9, all-in pre-flop.

Key Takeaways

As you can see from the example, exploiting your micro image requires the perfect set up. This will seem as if you’re a complete luck sack to your opponents.

But you should be constantly monitoring your micro image and making plays that allow this sort of situation to materialize. You spend all night working on exploiting your micro image and then you hope the cards come through for you.

Yes, you got lucky. But you would never have had the opportunity to get lucky if you hadn’t created the situation leading up to it.

Your goal is to repeat Step 3 as many times as you can. The more you play and the more often you set up a situation that allows you to be lucky, the luckier of a player you will become.

Remember: that player would never have put it all in with A 9 against you on his own - it was the situation you created that allowed that to happen.

All it takes is attention to detail, thoughtful plays and the eye to take full advantage of the situation when luck does show up. Rather than just thinking about the hand in progress, think about how your actions in this hand could benefit you in a later hand.

Once you’re operating with this mindset, you’ll bring your game to a whole new level.

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