Deception + curiosity = value in poker

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Most of the time I stick to a standard betting system, such as raising three times the big blind and betting two-thirds or three-quarters of the pot on the flop. When I’m the preflop aggressor, I lead with sets, trips, monster made hands and monster draws. I like to keep the aggression whether or not I hit the flop so my opponents can’t figure out when I’ve hit and when I’ve missed. Let’s say I raise with {a-Hearts}{k-Clubs} and the flop comes {a-Clubs}{a-Diamonds}{2-Spades}. I almost always bet right out, especially If I’m playing an inexperienced opponent who would think it’s best to be sneaky and check to disguise when they flop monster hands.

“What would my opponent do if I had this hand?” If I can answer that question, I can do the opposite for deception. If you come out firing into them, the first thing a lot of players think is “Well, if he had an ace, why would he bet? It’s a rainbow board!” Many opponents will call you with middle and even bottom pairs or potentially even float you on the flop to try to steal on the turn. Yes, inexperienced players will still float to try to steal on the turn because they may have just read about floating in a recent book or article. At the same time, if you’re playing against a savvy opponent who knows you bet your monsters strong, or you’re opponent has seen you take this line with big hands, you can check to vary your play and create deception.

A similar use of varying your betting to create deception takes place on the turn or even better, the river. Let’s say you’re on the button and called a standard raise from an early position player with {6-Hearts}{7-Hearts}. The flop brings {4-Clubs}{8-Hearts}{3-Hearts}, giving you a flush draw and a gutshot straight draw. The original raiser makes a continuation bet and you call. On the turn, you hit your gin card, the 5D. Note that this is the best card for you since from your opponent’s perspective, it’s unlikely that you called a raise preflop and then a flop bet with A2 or 67. Your opponent may correctly put you on a flush draw based on the flop action, so he fires again to protect his presumably big hand. Now you simply call with the stone-cold nuts.

The river brings a complete blank, the {10-Clubs}. Your opponent checks. At this point, I would seriously consider making a very large overbet — at least the size of the pot or even double the pot. Depending on your chip stack at the time, this may be a good spot to move all-in. Why? Because a smaller bet looks like you want a call and a large overbet looks like a bluff and your opponent is much more likely to pay you off with any overpair, set or two pair. You have a much-disguised nut hand and your overbet or shove in this spot looks like you missed. Your opponent thinks “Why would he bet so much?” Then says, “I think you missed your flush.” Without too much deliberation (and tons of curiosity), he “picks off your bluff” with {a-Hearts}{a-Clubs}.

Knowing your opponents, your table image and what hands you have shown will play a key role in the success of these plays. Situations like these don’t happen all the time, but they surface much more frequently than you might imagine — so be on the lookout. Next time you’re at the table, look for situations to deceive or instill curiosity in your opponents to maximize the value of your strong hands.

Decide to win!

— Lee Childs is founder and lead instructor of Acumen Poker. He also is an instructor with the WPT Boot Camp. Check out his site at www.acumenpoker.net.