Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Deception: Zigging When They Zag

"Keep your eye clear, and hit 'em where they ain't." - Willie Keeler

To win consistently at poker, you have to stay one step ahead of your opponents. In terms of thought levels, you need to be operating one level above them. For instance, when you rise high enough in stakes at hold'em, your opponents are almost all playing a solid Level-2 game. They're REDi'ing against you. They're putting you on hand ranges, and they're adjusting accordingly. This means that you need to be at Level-3. You have to put them on the hand range they're putting you on. Said another way, you have to learn to deceive them.

There are few things more fun in poker than stealing a pot with a naked bluff. When that happens, you realize that your own cards no longer matter. You've gotten inside your opponent's head. You understand what he thinks you have in your hand, and you are able to take advantage of that fact. You are now playing the player, and bluffing (and bluff catching) becomes a bigger part of your game.

Sometimes, however, you get caught bluffing. We all do.... and it's okay. In fact, the great players use it to their advantage. They don't see getting caught as a failure; they see it as an opportunity.

As soon as you get caught holding air, your table images transforms to one of a loose and tricky player. People now see you you as full of it--and they'll begin to call you down lighter. They begin to put you on wider ranges that include more weak hands and air. They think of you as a tricky player. They think of you as a bluffer. So they call more.

So use this.

Deceive them. Use your image to your advantage. Tighten up. Play fewer weak hands. Switch to playing only premium hands-- and when you do, push those hands very hard. Your opponents will call you because they think of you as a bluffer. And then they will lose, because you're now not bluffing.

Eventually their image of you will begin to change. They see you turning over only good hands. They see you winning. They will either start to think of you as being on a hot streak, or, more likely, think of you again as a TAg. They might think that you're someone who got caught bluffing earlier and is now over compensating by playing super tight.

So use this.

Deceive them. Use their new image of you as an opportunity to change it up again. Begin bluffing more.

Deception is all about zigging when your opponents think you're zagging. It's about getting them leaning one way, while you're actually going the other. And believe me: your opponents are always leaning one way or another; everyone has an underlying opinion or image of everyone else at the table, including you. The trick is staying one step ahead of that image. If they think you're on a zig, you need to be on a zag. Let 'em try to hit you where you ain't.

All-in for now...

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