Mixing up your playing style (or changing gears) in poker simply means that you break away from your “normal” style of play to keep from becoming too predictable so that your opponents have a more difficult time reading you and putting you on particular hands. It does not mean that you should purposely play bad hands if you happen to be known as a tight player. It means loosening up your range of starting hand selection a bit if you’re normally tight. Likewise, it also means sometimes playing tighter if you have developed an image as a loose player.
Once you become predictable and other players have figured out your style, your profits will suffer because other players can adapt to the way you play and act accordingly. If you’re a nit, players will tend to fold when you raise. If you’re loose and aggressive, your style can be combated by playing tight and waiting for rock solid hands. So its important to change gears so you’re table rivals cannot always counter your moves correctly.
You must mix up your playing styles in both tournament play and ring games. There are situations other than falling into a trap of predictability that tend to require you to alter your playing style. For instance, in a tournament when your stack size has changed dramatically, such as having a deep stack or being short-stacked. Also, nearing the bubble stage of a tourney requires adapting to the game situation. Other instances of gear-changing necessity include a change in table dynamics, as well as the shuffling of players – watching some players leave and seeing new ones join your table.
If you happen to accumulate a large stack of chips at the table, it is often more profitable to loosen up your game a bit and throw your weight around the table. I’m not advocating an all-out loose and reckless playing style, but you can win some pots based on your stack size as opposed to the cards you’re holding by putting pressure on some of the players who may be short-stacked. Winning pots in no-limit texas hold ‘em sometimes has more to do with stack size, betting and position rather than the player holding the best hand. If you are one of the unfortunate short-stacked players, you will also need to change gears and tighten up, preferably waiting for a premium hand where you can get all your chips in the pot and double up so as not to be short-stacked any longer.
Nearing the bubble position in a tourney, players often tighten up in an attempt to hold on and let others bust out to secure an in-the-money finish. However, this is also an opportune stage of the tournament in which to capitalize on the tight play of others and steal some blinds or uncontested pots to make a deeper run in the tourney instead of merely a winning position. After all, making the final table is where the money is in tournament play. A large number of entrants in a multi-table tournament is a prime example of where changing gears in the various stages of the tournament’s progression can be a successful and winning strategy.
Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, players at your table will alter their styles too, beginning to play increasingly tighter or looser. If you can identify when the table dynamics are changing in this fashion, you can also change gears accordingly, thereby maximizing profits by adapting to the current table dynamics as is being put forth by your opponents. Poker is all about adapting and adjusting to the playing styles of others. The best players are able to recognize this and stay one step ahead of their rivals. Along the same lines are situations where players leave your table and new ones arrive. This will change the dynamics and will require you to change gears to assimilate a winning and successful strategy based on the play of the new breed of players at your table.
It is not wrong to find a winning style of poker and to stick with it for a majority of your time at each table. Consistency and making the correct plays will always be the most profitable in the long run. That being said, if you fail to change gears from time to time, your playing style will be restricted from maximizing profits by being unable to get more money in the pot that will naturally occur from a more diversified style of play. It’s vital to change gears when the situation calls for it – not only to confound your opponents by removing your predictability factor – but also by adapting to the ever-changing game situations and table dynamics. By mixing up your playing style you may well see your bankroll move up a gear as well.