Everybody has their own playing style. It’s like a fingerprint. Its something that is dictated by ones own personality as well as their personal poker playing history. but, that doesn’t mean it can’t change and it is especially important to use the perception of a particular style (or lack thereof) to its best advantage. Good player figure out how to best use their natural aptitudes and train themselves to act differently on occasion.
Personally, I will generally ocilate between two general tamplates. Usually I will play tight and aggressive. which is to say I won’t play a lot of hands. I’ll wait until I have top shelf cards and then play them very aggressively to intimidate the other players at the table. I will rarely check or call when I’m in this mode. If I’m playing, I’m raising. When I get a monster I may allow a check or call on the first round in order to induce a reraise. Other than that I will raise immediately – increasing the amount of the raise every subsequent round. Not only does it cause the other players in the hand anxiety once they get to the last rounds but it also keeps them worried about whether I will be playing in any particular hand. This general feeling of anxiety towards me works in my favor when the close calls come down the pike. They will either make a mistake, or throw away the best hand out of fear.
Though that is how I play most of the time, very often l will abruptly switch to an extremely loose, aggressive style. Rather than wait for the premium hands, with this style I will play many more hands than I normally would. Low pocket pairs and even suited connectors may be raised preflop. Again, my betting stays aggressive. I’m constantly raising and increasing the amounts of the raises. In both cases, this forces the other players to make decisions and the more decisions they have to make, the more likely it is that they will make the wrong ones.
The trick is, learning when to switch up styles. Like I said, my default tends to be the tight aggressive template, it just comes naturally. A more aggressive style may be natural to someone else. However when I’ am in the tight mode for a while eventually I’ll get several quality hands in rapid succession. This is my cue to amp up my game. Since I’ve already built a certain amount of trepidation in the other players about getting involved in my hands, they will be very reluctant once I start playing more often following a number of significant victories. Then the pots keep falling my way and its a ripple affect that could last for some time before I pull back to a tighter position again.
Another excellent time to switch to my looser game is when I first sit down at a table where nobody knows me and I can immediatley tell that the general skill level is high, but everyone is playing pretty tight. This is a good opportunity to take down a lot of pots before the turn but I always rememeber to be very careful of the slow play. If someone seems like they are stringing along every round, I will suspect they are holding a monster and waiting for me to bury myself. Remember that these are skilled, tight players. They know how to pick their spots. In fact its precisely the move I would do against a player like me.
Whatever your style, pin it down and use it for all its worth. It doesn’t matter what it is, the awareness of it is a powerful weapon. Self knowledge is just as important as the information gathered about an opponent. A conscious variegation of style will defeat a skilled, but one dimensional player any day.