In the game of poker, deception is not cheating or immoral. In all its ramifications, deception and trickery are part of the game and worthy of our full respect. . .
To be a winner at the game of poker, you must be deceptive: Give your opponents information that will lead them to make mistakes and it will enable you to win more and bigger pots. Consider ways to be deceptive at the poker table. . .
Bluffing: Bluffing is the most apparent form of deception. Most bluffs are intended to force out an opponent. Betting or raising gives your opponent reason to muck his cards, leaving the pot for you. At least you hope your bluff—your level of deception—will be adequate for the job.
Tells: According to Mike Caro, “tells are mannerisms ... that ... allow you to determine what type of hand your opponent is holding and whether or not he is bluffing” (from Mike Caro’s Most Profitable Hold’em Advice). Mike discusses “natural tells” and “actor tells.” In my book, I refer to the latter as “Voluntary (or Controlled) Tells” (The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!) designed to deceive the observer. Mike lists the “Shrug Tell” as an example: When a player shrugs his shoulders and then bets, he has a powerful hand, and is trying to convey his indecision in order to induce a call. I have previously described the Richard B. Reverse Tell that my poker students use in conjunction with the Esther Bluff: By leaning forward as he bets, the bluffer is sending the message of strength, thereby encouraging his opponent to fold.
Listening, Probing: In The Psychology of Poker, Dr. Alan Schoonmaker discusses unique ways to gain information: Listen for comments made by opponents and probe by asking questions to get more information. Knowing this, a smart player who does not have an image of deception, can offer statements that mislead his opponent. Deception...
Slow-Play, Sandbag, Check-Raise: If you flop a powerful hand, instead of betting or raising, a slow-player checks rather than bets. A vivid example is offered by Lou Krieger in his book, Hold’em Excellence: From Beginner to Winner, If you catch the nut flush on the flop, “your interest lies not in reducing the number of opponents but in luring them onward, to the turn and the river, when the bets double and you can extract maximum profit from them.”
Similarly, a sandbagger will check after flopping a monster hand, and then raise if anyone bets. A check-raiser checks from an early or middle position, hoping that an opponent will then bet. After others call, the check-raiser then “drops the bomb” by raising to build the pot. Deception...
In all of these cases, deception is used to keep opponents in the hand and to build the pot.
Evaluating the Players: Most players evaluate opponents’ traits: tight or loose, passive or aggressive, timid, calling-station, or deceptive. Recognizing this, a deceptive player may use his tight image to be more effective in bluffing. After playing a while, he may change from tight to loose-aggressive to gain an advantage over his opponents who still are expecting him to play his hands tight.
A Unique Act of Deception: In a recent column in Poker Player Newspaper, one of my favorite columnists, Ashley Adams, offered a very different act of deception: When about to make a seat change, “inquire about the fate of the last occupant to throw off any suspicion that you are a skillful player” who is making the change to gain better betting position over selected opponents; e.g., to bet after a maniac.
Other Forms of Deception?: Can you suggest other forms of deception? Explain your rationale. E-mail to email@example.com. A prize awaits the best submissions. Offer stands for two weeks after publication of this column. . .
George “The Engineer” Epstein is the author of The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners! and Hold’em or Fold’em?—An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision and teaches poker at the Claude Pepper Sr. Citizen Center in Los Angeles. Contact George at firstname.lastname@example.org.