Other players will eventually catch on to your style of play if you play with them on a regular basis. You’ll need to find clever ways to outwit them.
Running an elaborate bluff isn’t necessarily the answer. Instead, try playing strong hands the same way you would ordinarily play marginal or drawing hands, and then hope your opponent attempts to run you off with a big bluff of his own.
I faced this situation at the 2008 BC Poker Championship in Canada last month. Of the 690 players who started the tournament, only three remained when the following hand took place.
The blinds were at 40,000-80,000 with an 8,000 ante. I had about 2 million chips, and my opponents had around 4 million each.
Sitting on the button, I found pocket eights and raised to 178,000. The small blind folded and the big blind called. The flop was a good one: A-c-8-d-6-d.
My opponent checked and I fired out 210,000 and got a call. The turn card was another ace giving me a full house. Then, my opponent, a young kid, bet 350,000.
Obviously, I felt like I had the best hand but decided that calling was the best play. I did it in such a way, however, that the kid wouldn’t think I was so strong. I played it a bit Hollywood, acting as though I had a hand such as 10-10. I was hoping my award-winning performance would entice him to make a big move at the river for all of my chips.
I liked the call for two reasons.
If he was on a draw, he couldn’t win regardless what card he caught. Why not let him catch the card he thinks he needs? If he gets lucky, it only increases the chances that he’ll bet it all on the river.
Or, if he does have an ace, he’ll play to the turn or river anyway. I can wait until the river just in case another ace or a six hits. If one does, my full house becomes weaker and I can fold my hand if he makes a big bet.
You see, I knew the kid’s tendencies and correctly understood his perception of me. He clearly had the guts to run a big bluff because he’d done so earlier in the tournament. I also sensed that by smooth calling the turn, he’d assume I was on a draw or had a mediocre hand at best.
Now, if I actually did have pocket tens, I probably would have called on the turn and folded to a river bet. I guessed that the kid knew that, too, so my ploy was the perfect set up.
I was being tricky by not really doing much at all.
Okay, so a jack comes on the river and the kid bets my remaining 1.3 million chips. I deliberated for a while and finally made the call.
The kid turned over 4-c-5-h for absolutely nothing!
There was no chance that I could’ve gotten that last 1.3 million chips had I decided to raise on the turn. However, by consciously playing my monster hand much like I would a mediocre one, I baited the kid to try to bluff me out.
A common mistake made by amateurs is that they fail to take advantage of players who bluff excessively. Instead of playing possum and letting their aggressive opponents continue to bet, beginners raise too early with monster hands, allowing their opponents to fold.
Playing tricky poker doesn’t have to mean making bizarre moves or playing way out of character. Rather, it’s simply about taking advantage of what you know about your opponents and how they perceive your style of play.
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