Changing Gears Keeps Your Opponents Guessing

Dario Minieri

To be successful in No-Limit Hold'em you have to be aggressive. However, if you lack the ability to change gears at the right time, your opponents will catch on and adjust their play against you.

When you sit down at a poker game you are constantly trying to figure out how your opponents play.

You look at every hand they're involved in in an attempt to deduce their style of play and what their playing tendencies are.

You aren't the only one trying to do this. Your opponents are attempting to do the same thing against you. Just as you want to know how they play, they want to know how you play.

It is in your best interest to do everything you can to make this task more difficult for them. You want their picture of you to be imprecise and distorted.

You accomplish this by staying one step ahead of your competition and changing gears. You should always be aware of your image, because how your opponents perceive you dictates how they will play against you.

Aggression and You

The optimal style (if there is such a thing) for playing No-Limit Hold'em is generally somewhere between tight-aggressive and loose-aggressive. The key fact is aggression: it is good to be aggressive, because to make money you have to get money into the pot, and you can't do that by being passive.

There is, however, such thing as too much aggression, and you have to realize that your opponents are likely to adjust to that.

Gus Hansen
Gus is a man who loves him some aggression.

When you walk that fine line between tight- and loose-aggressive there are going to be times when you walk all over the table. It's only natural; it can be by sheer aggression or by way of a hot wave of cards that never actually get to showdown.

You have to be able to accurately perceive how your opponents are going to react to you running over the table.

If they think you're going to walk all over them every hand regardless of what you hold, they are going to adjust their play against you.

Generally when people are getting run over they start to wonder if they are just getting bluffed all the time. The way they find out is by forcing you to see a showdown, meaning they are going to be more willing to call you down. This is not a bad thing. This is when you want to switch gears.

Switch It Up

Once you realize your image has gotten out of control, you have won too many pots without showdown or you have been caught bluffing a few too many times, it's time to switch it up.

Begin playing a more conservative game - bet and raise with only your strong hands. Your opponents will never be able to properly adjust right away.

Despite the fact that you are now playing a conservative game, your opponents will still believe you to be the same wild maniac from before. They will be more than happy to go to showdown with you with their marginal hands. You've switched gears, but they haven't.

After a while of you playing your conservative poker, showing down only big hands, your opponents will become complacent. They will think your LAG maniac days are behind you and you are just some ABC TAG that doesn't get out of line.

If you are always aware of your image and stay one step ahead of your opponents they will never correctly adjust for your play. If they are never sure, they will be left to make mistakes. Their mistakes are pretty much just dollars in your bankroll.

Allen Cunningham
Allen Cunningham knows the right gear for the right situation.

It Goes Both Ways

When you have the loose-aggressive image you can switch it up and play tight and still reap the rewards of having a loose image. The opposite is also true. If you have been card-dead and folding your life away, your image will be ridiculously tight.

Just the same, you can switch gears and exploit your tight image by becoming more active. Your opponents will think you are only betting with the straight goods, and you will be free to steal pots to your heart's content.

The whole concept of changing gears revolves around staying one step ahead of your opponents. You never want to play in such a manner that you make it easy for your opponents to know what you have. If you make it too easy then they'll be able to play perfectly against you.

You want your opponents to make mistakes. You do this by constantly being aware of your image and switching it up just when they think they have figured you out.

If you remain consistently ahead of your opponent's reads, you'll leave them guessing and ultimately, usually guessing wrong.

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