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Paying Off - Paid Off

by Jesse Knight
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Poker Payoff
Pay Off - To call down when you think you probably have the losing hand.


Uncertainty is a part of poker. There are times when you feel confident that you have the best hand, and times when you are pretty sure that you do not have a winner. If you call your opponent down when you strongly suspect that you are beat, you are “paying them off.”

Sometimes a player will pay off because they are on tilt, or simply cannot accept that they are beat. Others may pay off routinely, simply because they are of the mindset that they have to see everything all the time in order to sleep at night. These are obviously not good reasons to pay someone off, and you need to have the discipline to restrict yourself from that behavior. People that constantly pay off are referred to as “calling stations,” and are rarely winning players.

While paying off your opponent should be avoided generally, there are times when it is appropriate. One time it may be appropriate to pay off is when the pot gets very large and it is a very small amount to call. In this situation, you may suspect that you are beat, but you have pot odds to call because the bet is so small compared to the size of the pot. Because of the ratio of bet size to pot size, you would not have to win at a very high frequency to make money on the call over the long run. Another time it may be a good idea to pay off is when you suspect that there is a moderate to high probability that your opponent is running a bluff or jamming a busted draw.

The flip side of paying off is getting paid off yourself. As you know, it is ultimately up to your opponents if they are going to put money into the pot. The decision to pay you off is theirs and theirs alone. That being said, there are numerous things that you can do that will affect your chances one way or the other. There is a substantial amount of poker theory that deals with the art of getting paid off. This is relevant for all games, but it is particularly important for games with unstructured betting, like pot limit or no limit, as well as for tournament play.

One thing players can do to improve how often they are paid off is to disguise their hand. This is often done through betting gambits. If you act other than how your opponent expects that you would act, for instance, if you check when you would normally bet, you may be able to confuse your opponent about your holding, resulting in your getting paid off.

Another thing that will get you paid off is a good table image. You want your opponents to think of you in a certain way, and you actions and mannerisms at the table can help to bring this about. The importance of cultivating a proper table image cannot be understated. The first thing you should know is that a good table image will deceive your opponents about what kind of player you are and how you play. If you are a good player, you are probably tight, solid, and aggressive, but can open your game up when the opportunity presents itself. Even though this type of table image can be intimidating to the other players, it is not the best image for you to cultivate, even though you may be proud of the way that you play. The reason that it is better to cultivate an image that does not represent your actual style of play, is because you want to confuse your opponent and keep them guessing. You do not want them to get a line on your play. For this reason, the best image for a tight, solid player is that of a loose cannon. This is the best image for getting paid off. You definitely do not want to be thought of as either a nit, or someone who can be pushed around. You want to be thought of as unpredictable, rather than predictable.

So, when it comes to cultivating table image, your job is to give the impression that you are a maniac, without actually being one. There are some very specific things that you can do to accomplish this. The first thing you can do is to talk a lot while the game is in progress. Your opponents will interpret brash talk as arrogance and egocentrism. These are characteristics often associated with maniac players. Another thing you can do is to accentuate your betting, so that other players will notice when you bet. When you are going to bet, do so quickly and with flair, and be talkative. Alternatively, when you are going to muck, do so quietly and unnoticeably.

You should know that it is human nature for people to form opinions of each other within the first few seconds of meeting and that these opinions are hardened within minutes. This means that you must be prepared to begin cultivating your image as soon as you walk up to the table. Since you have a small window to establish your initial table image, you need to act on it right away. If you have posted behind the button, and no one has entered the pot yet when it gets to you, consider raising and possibly running a dry bluff. Being extra aggressive on your first few hands will help you to establish the image you want. This may cost you a bet or two initially, but it can help you get paid off consistently in the long run. It is ok to spend a little on your table image by making sub optimal plays on purpose. This is commonly referred to as an “advertising budget.” Just don’t get carried away and make too many sub optimal plays. If you do, you will spend more than the value that you add, and you will really turn into a maniac, rather than simply cultivating that table image.

Usage: Paid Him Off, Got Paid Off, Paying Off, That Was A Pay Off

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