Never show a bluff

There is one rule that I think would work well for almost every poker player and it is very simple, but not easy, to implement. It is difficult because it requires keeping your ego in check. The rule is never revealing your hand when you do not have to. Never show a bluff, never show a bad beat and never, ever show a difficult fold.

Many players will argue against this strategy. They will say they are trying to establish a table image or set their opponents on tilt. In almost every case, I believe they are wrong. They are instead trying to satisfy their egos and the result can be devastating.

The reason I think they are wrong is that I do not think giving this information away is going to be very helpful, especially against bad players. Most games, especially at lower stakes, are full of bad players. Against this type of opponent, you want to figure out what their tendencies are, where they are exploitable, and take advantage of that situation. Perhaps they call too much. In this case, you make very thin value bets to take advantage. What if they fold too much? Then you bluff them over and over. What you do not do in either situation is show them a bluff.

In the first situation, you should very rarely be bluffing them so there are going to be very few opportunity to show a bluff. If they do see you bluff, it will just reaffirm what they already believed and they will continue to call too much. You do not gain much, except for stroking your ego.

In the second situation, you are now destroying the profitability of the situation. You are winning money from this player by bluffing him. If you start showing him bluffs, now he may decide he needs to look you up more. In effect, you are making him play more optimally.

In addition to this, you are going to have to show every other player at the table what you showed your opponent. Maybe you think he’s not calling you off enough, but now you have destroyed your possibility of bluffing not just him, but anyone else who might happen to be at your table.

One thing our egos do is make us think that we are much better poker players than we really are and that our opponents are less talented than they actually are. This twisted sense of reality will allow a certain rationalization to occur. Players believe their opponents are too stupid to notice and react when they show a hand. Of course, this runs contrary to the idea that you are showing your hand to establish an image that you are going to take advantage of. When we inspect the thoughts our egos cause us to have, we can find many such logical fallacies. I can assure you, no matter what game you are playing in, you have opponents who will respond to the information you give them.

I learned this the hard way in a local 8-16 limit hold ‘em game. I found this game with a ton of very passive, straightforward players. I crushed the game for a couple months and got very cocky about some of the moves I was making. I knew that if certain players bet the turn they had to have 2 pair or better and would confidently fold my top pair. Then, in my arrogance, I started showing some of these great lay downs to others players at the table.

Despite my assessment that they were all just a bunch of idiots who would never understand how to balance their betting ranges, they eventually figured out that I was a player they could bluff. Now, if I sit in that game, I am constantly barraged by bluff bets, bluff-raises, semi-bluff-raises and even check-bluff-raises. If it wasn’t for my ego getting in the way, maybe I would still be cleaning up. Instead, I’ve had to find other games to play that I have not yet ruined for myself.


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