Changing Gears in Tournaments and Cash Games

Changing gears is a powerful tool every poker player needs in their armoury. But what does it mean and how do you do it? Find out here.

Every poker player has their playing style. Some are naturally tight-aggressive, others loose-aggressive. However, the best players do not only play one way because they are constantly changing gears.

Changing gears refers to changing your playing style, which keeps your opponents on their toes. You use your table image to your advantage to accumulate more chips or to get bluffs through.

Observing your opponents is key to success in cash games and tournaments. You need to know how they play so you can put them on an accurate range of hands. For example, there is no point in check-raising a continuation bet from an opponent who only fires on the flop if they have a super-strong hand.

Likewise, it is not a good idea to run an elaborate bluff if your opponents see you splashing around in pots and you have a loose image. Your bluff will not receive any credit and your opponents will call.

You should have guessed that your table image is crucial in relation to changing gears.

Changing Gears: When To Do It

Switching from tight to loose is the most common form of changing gears. It is most effective this way and a powerful tool in any poker player’s arsenal. Let us say you are playing mostly premium hands. They do not come around often, so observant opponents will categorize you as a tight player due to the lack of hands you are involved in.

Changing gears and playing several hands in quick succession, regardless of their strength, will likely see you win pots uncontested. Why? Because your table image is of a tight player. Your opponents will think you are enjoying a rush of cards and will almost certainly back down.

Use Being Card Dead to Your Advantage

This works when you are card dead, too. Looking down at 6s-2c, 9d-3h, and Kh-3s over and over again is frustrating, but you can use this to your advantage. Continually folding trash holdings makes your opponents think you are a very tight player. Use those thoughts to your advantage by changing gears and coming out firing.

I played in a tournament in Europe a while ago where I was completely card dead. The cards I received were not even worth bluffing with. However, a spot came up where I used my tight image to my advantage. A solid player on the button raised, the small blind three-bet, and I four-bet from the big blind with Ts-7s, which is hardly the type of hand you should habitually four-bet. Both opponents instantly folded because they put me squarely on aces or kings. I then entered the next few pots and chipped up nicely, before going back to my usual tight-aggressive style.

The Change Has To Be Sudden; Both Ways

Changing gears only works if the changes are sudden and extreme. You cannot warm up by playing a couple of hands slightly more aggressively, building up to a grand crescendo. It needs to be an instant change, like a drag race going from 0-100kph.

The instant change is designed to catch your opponents off-guard, you do not want them to warm up to your tactics. Furthermore, the change back has to be equally as quick. It is all about keeping your opponents guessing about how you play. Do not give them the opportunity to realize what is going on!

The best players in the world change gears without thinking about it. They use every trick in the book to gain an advantage. Poker players win the most chips when they adopt a style that is opposite of their opponents. Tight players win more from loose players and vice versa. Blast through the gears, bamboozle your opponents, win their chips, and go back to your original game plan. Your stack will thank you for it.

Brad Johnson

You name the game, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Brad has either played it or placed a wager on it! Brad calls himself a natural gambler, and someone who gains as much enjoyment from writing about the crazy game of poker as he does playing it.


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