TABLE IMAGE is the way you perceive opponents and the way they perceive you - tight or loose, passive or aggressive.
But knowing your table image isn't enough. You also need to know how to change it to make your game less predictable, which talented pro Vanessa Rousso accomplishes in a unique way.
"Before every tournament, I'll pick one weird hand that I'll play in addition to the good hands that I'll play," Rousso said. "Every so often, you'll get lucky and win a big hand because no one could put you on that hand."
At this year's $10,000-buy-in World Series of Poker main event at Las Vegas' Rio Hotel, Rousso picked J-2 of clubs, and with blinds at $100-$200, she was dealt those cards in the cutoff seat. She raised to $300 and was called by the button, who was holding pocket 3s.
The flop came A-4-3, rainbow, giving Rousso a gutshot straight draw and a backdoor flush draw, while giving her opponent a set. She led out $700 and was raised another $800.
"He can't put me on a gutshot straight draw there," said Rousso, who finished second in the NBC National Heads Up Championship in 2009. "He probably puts me on an ace there. So when he raised just $800, I'm actually getting odds to go for my gutshot. I called, and I thought I was done with it."
But the turn came the 6 of clubs, giving Rousso a flush draw to go along with a straight draw. She checked. Her opponent bet only $1,000, giving her odds to chase her draws.
"I have nine outs for a flush and an additional three outs for a straight; there are four 5s left, but I don't want to count it twice," said Rousso, a pro from the PokerStars online site. "So I have 12 outs; multiply it by the rule of 2, and I have a 24 percent chance to hit my card. So all I need is 3-1 odds to make a call there. With $4,000 in the pot, I'm getting 4-1 to call $1,000, more than the right odds. Plus, I'm getting the implied odds that I know he has a big hand, so if I make my flush or my straight, I'm going to get paid."
When the river came the queen of clubs to complete Rousso's flush, she led out for $6,000 and got a call from her opponent who, likely along with the rest of the table, was stunned to see the cards that beat him.
"That's the reason you play a weird hand like that once a tournament," Rousso said. "You can win a big pot and it can help your image. You have to do things with your image. I have to make them willing to pay me off. Every time I bet, they would never pay me off. So now, after playing that hand, they're much more likely to call me."
Outs: The unseen cards that can improve your hand.