EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the seventh installment in our series of common mistakes often made by Texas hold’em players.
As you develop your poker expertise, it is important to come up with deceptive skills to have in your repertoire and call on when appropriate. Those who do not do so are making a big mistake.
A player who never bluffs or is not otherwise deceptive, is not likely to be a winner. Playing only ABC poker won’t “cut the mustard.”
Once your opponents know you never play deceptively, they will label you a tight player – one who only plays and bets with strong hands. Then they can promptly get out of your way when you would rather have them help you build a big pot you are favored to win. Winning only small pots is not likely to be enough to overcome the cost to play – the House’s rake, the Bad-Beat Jackpot drop, and the tip you give the dealer when you win a pot.
Deception at the poker table is quite proper. Do not consider it immoral. Being “tricky” can be an important part of your game and really help you in your goal to go home a winner. For one thing, deception will make it tougher for your opponents to read your hands; and all the more difficult for them to make decisions contrary to your best interests. Equally important, being deceptive can substantially enhance the size of the pots you win. That is all to your advantage.
There are various forms of deception in which you should seek to become expert. The most common, of course, is bluffing – betting or raising with a weak hand to force out opponents who likely have better hands. You were drawing to a big flush or an open-ended straight, but failed to connect.
In that case, bluffing may well be the only way you can possibly win that pot. But don’t try it against a Calling-Station. The fewer the number of opponents in the hand, the more likely your bluff will succeed. Using the Esther Bluff tactic, semi-bluffing on the turn is when you bluff bet while holding lots of good outs.
In that case, if all your remaining opponents muck their cards, your bluff has won the pot for you. If an opponent calls, you can still connect on the river – or make a continuation bluff.
Other forms of deception:
Trapping – playing your hand so as to conceal its strength, so opponents are more likely to bet a hand that is second-best to yours; they may even try to bluff you out.
Slow-playing – not raising with a powerful hand, especially if it’s the near- nuts, thereby, encouraging your opponents to stay in the pot and perhaps even doing the betting for you – until you raise on the river. Now, that is how to build big pots!
Sandbagging – avoid betting out with a powerful hand, with the intention of raising if an opponent makes a bet.
Check-raising – like sandbagging, it’s checking with a powerful hand, and then raising after there’s a bet and (hopefully) a few calls, thereby building the size of the pot you expect to win.
Reverse tells – giving a tell on purpose so as to encourage an opponent to act against his best interests, to your benefit.
Each is appropriate in certain situations. There’s a lot to learn, but the player who fails to do so is making a big mistake; it will be very costly.