The Importance of Deception

One attempt of poker is to raise when you have a good hand and fold when you have a bad hand. But what will happen if you follow that attempt? Suppose in seven-card stud you have three aces rolled up on your first three cards. That is the best hand you can have at that moment. You do a raise and everybody folds. You have won small pot with a hand that possibly has made you won a huge pot.

The Cost to Give Your Hand Away

This clear example indicates a basic poker problem. You wish to make many hands by increasing your gains and reducing your losses, though what you cost yourself when you play in such a manner that your rival should know what you have? This question's answer is explained in the Fundamental Theorem of Poker, which expresses that every time rival play a hand different from the manner that they would have, if they could see all your cards, you gain; and every time they play a hand the same way they would have played it if they could see all your cards, you lose.

The Fundamental Theorem of Poker implies that when you play in a method that allows your rival know what you have, you would rather cost yourself considerably. Once your rival knows rightly what you have, they will never make any mistake excluding, a close mathematical decisions. The more your play gives away what you have, the fewer would be the mistake done by the rivals. But still you want them to make mistakes. In a sense, the whole motive of the game is to create mistakes. Obviously, you will not raise suddenly with three aces rolled up because you do not want your rival to know about a strong hand that you have. You wish to win more money from them on further rounds of betting. Similarly, there could be a mistake too by not raising with a big hand.

An exciting example of such a mistake came at the and of the 1977 World Series of Poker in a hand between two world's top class player Doyle Brunson from Longworth, Texas and Bones Berland from Gardena, California. It was no-limit hold 'em game. Berland had about $50000 in front of him whereas Brunson had about $20000. Berland raised at initial stage before the flop, a heavy raise and Brunson called him with two queens. The flop came J, 5, 2. Brunson called him when Berland again made a good bet. Another small card came on the fourth street and Bones made a massive bet, just to put Doyle all-in. Doyle thought once, twice and thrice and finally he pushed in his money and called.

Most of them thought Brunson played wrongly in calling with two queens. Berland was not bluffing in that situation. The critics believed that there was a possibility that Berland had either two aces or two kings, and he could have other hands that Doyle's two queens couldn't beat. He played in a given way, the only hand Bones might possibly have to beat Brunson was ace, jack the top most pair on board with an ace kicker.

At the time of show, Bones turned over his cards and he had clearly ace and jack. With two queens, Brunson won the hand and similarly win the world championship of poker that year. Afterwards, I asked Doyle about his risky call. He told that Bones couldn't have either two aces or two kings because with these hands he did not raise in early stage before the flop. He would just call with a hope to re-raise on a slowplay.

This was the situation where top player was given information because another top player played correctly but with much reliability. In no-limit hold 'em, with two aces or two kings, it is usually correct to slowplay in early position. Thus, every time when Berland played those pairs in same way, as he really did, the information which he gave away was rather costly than the money he expected to gain by playing the aces and kings correctly every time.

Let us illustrate the cost to give away your hand, for example you are playing head-up razz with no ante, no forced bet, and all the time in the world. Therefore, you think to play super- tight by folding everything except A, 2, 3, on your first three cards. Having no ante, it would be like you are certainly to end up a winner, but the truth is a good player will defeat you. He will instantly come to know you are playing only A, 2, 3, and accordingly he will play his cards. He will start off with a bit worse hand than yours such as three-card 5s and three-card 6s, but on further plays, he will wind up beating you, as he will come to know what you have. He will know when you make a pair and when you don't, he will not make any mistake. However, when you start with a good hand, you may tend to make mistakes because you do not know what your rival has. Therefore, in general it is correct to play so rigid when there is no ante and no forced bet, by only playing A, 2, 3, in razz, you give much information that you do not get chance against a good rival.

Deception and Capability Of Your Rivals

The question you should ask yourself is that when to play a hand directly and when to use deception. The very significant reason for making this decision depends on the capability of your rivals. The harder they are, the more you must think about playing a hand other than possibly to throw them off. The weaker they are, the more you get away with optimal play. Therefore, if on early rounds you are having good hand, you should not put in last raise against rigid player, but with a weaker hand, you should think to put in an extra bet making your rival think your hand is stronger than it is. Suppose, in seven-card stud, with a three-flush on third street , you might give away a re-raise to make a wrong impression. Now, if you pair on board, you have the extra equity that your rival may fold wrongly, fear of having three-of-a-kind or two pair.

However, when you are playing against an average player, you do not much gain in deception to specify the cost. You should put in an extra raise against such players when you think you have the best hand but giving in an extra bet with a weaker hand, against the one who won't fold, will rather cost you more money. In using deception, you must judge the capability of your rival against the extra cost.

Deception and the Size of the Pot

The size of the pot is another main reason to decide how to play a hand. As the pot increases, its importance to camouflage your hand decreases because the bad players can fold but good players are not likely to fold. Neither good players will try to bluff when the weakness is revealed, because they too think that the pot is big and you have no chance to fold. So if the pot grew larger, you have no chance to think about using deception.

Deception and Size of the Bet

The concept is a related one. You should not generally throw in a small raise with a big hand when early bets are smaller than future bets. You can put people on guard because even if they do not fold immediately, they will when the bet increases in future rounds. It would seem to get more action on your big hands by slowplaying them. On the contrary, with large increase in bets from one round to another, you may consider to put in extra action with a weaker hand on an early cheap betting round to develop a wrong impression further when the bets are costly. Therefore, you must determine not only the amount in the pot but also how much bets are now as compared to the future bets. You may check a big hand early to win big bets further, and however, you may bet with a weaker hand early in expectation that your rival will check to give you a free card later.

Quite obvious, you should better afford to camouflage your hand in initial rounds in pot-limit and no-limit games than in limit games because both the size of the bets and the size of the pot increase substantially from one round to the next round of betting. With lot of money and big hand in front of you, you can check and give your rival many more free cards. You should not consider protecting the money in the pot, as you are about to get paid-off if you bet any larger sum later. It would cost much to protect small pots, mainly when you have only a fair hand. For winning them, you have to make bigger bet than you would in limit games, and so in no-limit you would like to give free cards even when you are not enjoying about it. (See Chapter Ten, "The Free Card".)

Deception and the Number of Rivals in the Pot

With a large pot, with large early bets and with weak players, you do not consider about camouflaging your hand. The outcome is that more the players in the pot, the less you gain by camouflaging your hand. You yourself cost too much when you do. You cannot make everybody fold when you bet with a weak hand, and you yourself cost too many bets when you miss a raise with a strong hand. When you let many rivals in cheaply, you maximize your chances to be outdrawn. Heads-up situation needs camouflaging your hands more than multi-way pots.

Let us look at two early- round of betting situations first one where you have given your hand away and secondly where you can use deception. In both the situations, you have a pair of aces in the hole before the flop in hold 'em. That is, you have the nuts, the best possible hand at that moment.

It is a no-limit game. You have made a small raise, four or five people have called, and somebody puts in an enormous re-raise. You can re-raise again if your play gives away your hand completely. It is better to drop all camouflage because as the pot grow bigger and bigger, what is there inside the pot now counts more than possible bets on further rounds. You should put in all the bets with two aces.

However, in a limit hold 'em game you should not put in all bets with two aces against a good player. It is good to re-raise because you can have various hands. On the other hand, you should possibly call, if your single rival re-raises again. If you raise again, your rival figures you for two aces. The thing that benefit is that one small extra bet, but you may have cost yourself two or three bets later on. In such case, you have lost too much by giving your hand away. You tend to gain more by using deception.


The common rule is: The better the players and smaller the pot, the more you camouflage your hand when there are more cards to come. The worse the players and bigger the pot, the more you play your hand normally, without giving anything away. Sometimes, playing the hand in a normal manner may be the best deception of all against a rigid player who wish to be deceptive. The below hand from seven-card stud will make this point clear. You have

your rival has

If rigid rival acts and raises before you, you would re-raise against a sucker. A rigid rival who has two kings will know that you may re-raise with a three-flush or any number of second-best hands. Therefore, you not only have your deception but also an extra bet.

It is greatly essential to camouflage your hand against online poker player who put efforts in reading hands yet such player may not extremely be good, and when deceptive play has confused the super readers, they will get no chance. This may put you on a hand early, and as a captain goes down with the ship, he sticks to his view until the end.

To avoid giving your hand away, there are five reasons for using deception.

You are up to against good players or super readers.

As compared to future bets, the pot is small.

As compared to future bets, the present round of betting is small.

You have only one or two rivals against you.

You are slowplaying a worse hand

The first two reasons are more vital. It is not necessary to fulfill all five reasons before deception is used. So long as one or both of the first two are included, three of the five are generally adequate.

When the pot is large or when early bets are large, not to use deception against bad players or against many players. When the pot is large, it is vital to play a good hand strongly. When you have not beatable hand and figure you will benefit by waiting a round before making a move is the only exception.

The base of your decision to play deceptively is easy. You should play each hand of each session and each session in such a way that you can win more money and lose the least of it. (Excluding when you intentionally play a hand worse to develop a wrong impression for future hands). Do not forget from the Fundamental Theorem of Poker that more your rivals know about your hand, the less mistakes they will make. But, there can be some situations when deception may be expensive and straightforward would be the best. We shall discuss about such situations in the next topic.