General concepts

Points of Play

Tournament Play

Thinking of the Future

In theory of poker, I devote a chapter to the pros and cons of “disguising your hand.”  By this, I mean playing your hand somewhat differently from the way it would seem it should be played, in order to avoid giving it away. 

Obviously you should only consider doing this against opponents who are good enough to pay attention to the way you are playing and are now likely to “put you on” a hand that you don’t really have.  You hope to take advantage of this deception on a later betting round of the hand.

There is, however, another reason to play a hand differently from what would be expected.  Not only might this strange play help you on a future betting strategy round, it may also help you on a future hand. 

More specifically, it is frequently correct to make a slightly bad play because of the impression it will make on your opponent, which can be taken advantage of later on in the game.

One of the clearest examples of this type of play is to throw in an extra raise early in a hand with cards that don’t really warrant it in order to give the illusion of action.  I, for instance, frequently raise the pot in a limit holdem poker game with a hand like:

This play only costs me a fraction of a bet in mathematical expectation of poker, but gains me a tremendous amount in future action on subsequent hands. 

An example of a similar play in seven-card stud poker would be to reraise with a three-flush or a small poker pair.  By itself, the play might be wrong, but it will pay dividends in the future.

Giving the illusion of action, however, is not the only way that you should think of the future while playing in a poker games.  For instance, you may want to make what you think is a bad call if you think this play will tend to keep other players from trying to “run over” you later on in the game. 

Likewise, if you find that you have been forced to throw your hand away on the end two or three hands in a row, you must make a mental note of it. 

You must be prepared to call next time with a hand that you wouldn’t normally call with.  This is because you can assume that your opponents have noticed you folding and are more apt to try to bluffing you.

There are even less obvious situations where you should think of the future.  For instance, when playing hold’em, I will sometimes check a good hand in early position on the flop and then check a good hand in early position on the flop and then check it again on fourth street even if there has been no flop bet. 

Many players think this is bad playing and on the surface they may be right (though slowplaying this way will frequently win more money). However, there is something they are overlooking.  By making this slightly bad play, I set up an extremely profitable play for future hands.  Can you see what it is?

For those of you who aren’t sure, the play I’m speaking of is to steal the pot on the last round from an early position (especially when an irrelevant card comes off on the end) when there has been no betting up to that point. 

In a $ 10-$ 20 game, I would normally be investing $ 20 to steal between $ 30 and $ 50.  This play will not work for most players, but it works for me. 

It works because players know that I am capable of checking a big hand twice (on the flop and fourth street).  Thus I am not called on the end by another player with a mediocre hand.

I have given you just a few examples of how you should think how a play you make now can affect the outcome and strategy of future hands.  Sometimes you might purposely make a certain play in order to set something up for later. 

Even if you are playing poker hand normally, however, you should evaluate how your play on this hand affects your opponents’ perception of you as far as future hands are concerned.  If you have evaluated their  perceptions correctly, you should be able to turn around and take advantage of it.

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