In Part I of this two-part article, we explained the importance of deception in poker and discussed bluffing and semi-bluffing, building the pot when you catch a monster hand (preferably the nuts), and gaining position. We continue with additional forms of deception…
Stealing the Pot
Stealing the blinds is quite common. If you are in a late position pre-flop, and all your opponents before you muck their hole cards, your bet may be all you need to take the blinds. (It’s not a lot of chips, but it will pay for a big blind.) It’s best if you have at least a marginal hand in case one of the blinds wakes up with a decent starting hand. This strategy should not be used if an aggressive player is one of the blinds.
Going one step further, consider stealing the pot when there is a weak flop and you are in late position – preferably the button — and everyone has checked to you. (Small pots do add up over time.) However, don’t do it too often lest your opponents get wise and start calling even with marginal hands. Use deception with due prudence.
Everyone knows what a tell is – a form of “body language” from which players often gain pertinent information. (Note: Poker is a game of partial information; the more information you gain, the more likely you will win. Also, it’s far more difficult to gauge tells when playing real money online poker as opposed to live poker in a brick and mortar room.)
A rather unique form of deception is offering an apparent tell in order to deceive your opponent – a “reverse tell.” By way of illustration: You catch a monster hand; your goal now is to build the size of the pot you expect to win. Wanting opponents to call your bet/raise, you might resort to a reverse tell.
Examples: cover your mouth with your hand, lean back in your chair, rub you neck, “freeze” in your seat, apparently immobile, take a deep breath and hold it, and breathe heavily after raising. An opponent observing such a tell takes it to mean that you are bluffing, so he stays in the pot rather than folding. He might even raise your bet. Wow!
Using Your Image
After playing for a while, each player is bound to project an image that even less-skilled players observe. On that basis, players categorize their opponents as tight (play few hands), loose (play lots of hands), passive (rarely raise) or aggressive (often raise). Some may be loose-aggressive or tight-passive. Also, opponents may be regarded as calling stations (cannot be bluffed out) or as bluffers (prone to bluff quite often). That’s the image projected. The skilled player can exploit his own image to deceive opponents – and win more chips from them.
Let’s suppose you started off playing only the best starting hands; you sit out hand after hand. Hence, your opponents regard you as a very tight player. With this image, your bluffs are more likely to succeed. (Note: Never show your hand when you win a bluff. Don’t give the “enemy” any information that would benefit him.)
But, inevitably, an opponent connects on a draw, and calls your bluff bet. Now, when you show your hand, you have a new image in the minds of your opponents. Now, for a while, hold off on making any bluffs. Furthermore, when you catch a monster hand, your bets/raises are more likely to be called – so you win bigger pots. Deception can pay…