When you move up the middle limits in no limit Texas hold’em cash games then your image and your opponent’s image plays a big part in many things that you do. At the lower stake levels then your opponent simply will not be watching you enough for you to have to worry about that. Let us look at an example of how your image can affect what your opponents do. Let us say that you open raise in a full ring game from early middle position with 10-9s and the button who is an aggressive player calls you.
The flop comes A-K-J and you make a thin c-bet and your opponent folds. On the next orbit you raise from an even earlier position with 7-6s and the same opponent calls you. The flop is 4-4-2 rainbow and you make a c-bet which gets called. The turn card is the 8h and you fire another barrel which also gets called. The river card is a queen and you fire a third barrel which ultimately forces your opponent to fold. Your image is one of aggression because your two lines have been raise-bet and raise-bet-bet-bet.
This is indicative of someone that once they decide to commit to the hand then puts their pedal to the metal and maintains their aggression. An observant and sophisticated opponent would decipher that your ranges are polarised on the river and call you down more widely. This is a time to switch and not stack off for a while with your bluffs and to value bet your opponent with strong holdings. This is what is known as range manipulation because you are manipulating the range of hands that your opponent calls you with in future pots.
So on the next orbit you may fold a marginal 9-8s from position and even if you do raise with it then you may elect to back off if you don’t flop a strong hand or a strong draw. However if you are fortunate to see a strong premium hand likes aces or kings then this opponent could easily 3/bet you light based on your previous play. Only a few days ago I stacked a player that had Q-8s when I held pocket kings. I had been aggressive and then raised to 3.5bb normally. They 3/bet to 12bb and I min-raised to 25bb and they shoved over the top for their remaining stack…..clearly they didn’t believe that I had a real hand.
When your opponents become more sophisticated then poker suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting and not to say a whole lot different. When opponents observe you more then your own image affects what they do and you are going to have to be aware of that. Luckily we can use that information to affect our opponents thinking and to manipulate their ranges for future confrontations. It is for this reason why many players struggle when they move to higher levels. Their previous poker game and strategy no longer applies at a new increased level against better players.