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Keep your made hands hidden

Posted on | March 29, 2009 |

Unlike most beginners believe, in poker you do not make your money off the good hands you’re dealt. Statistically, over the long-run everyone gets the same quality cards, provided the dealer or the online poker software is unbiased (which it is in the overwhelming majority of the cases). If you were to make your money off your good hands, over the long-run you’d end up with exactly the same amount of money you started on, it if weren’t for the poker rake. The rake cuts into your revenue (that’s exactly why you should always sign up for rakeback or become a poker props team member) and you’ll end up in the red.

Fortunately, that’s not how poker works (well, the part about the rake does work like that). You’re supposed to make your money off the mistakes your opponents make and by sticking to the correct choices yourself. How you achieve this is your own personal business, however one thing is certain: if your opponents will succeed in putting you on an accurate range of hands time and time again, they will almost never make a mistake, which means your chances for making money will not exist either.

That leads us to the conclusion that you need to disguise your hands. Again, it is up to you how you go about it, but there are two kinds of disguised hands. The first kind is the naturally disguised one. A naturally disguised hand is one that is so unlikely to be in your possession that your opponent will almost never include it in the range he puts you on.

Here’s an excellent example for a naturally disguised hand: you have 3s, 5s in your pocket, and the board runs Ah, 4s, Ks, 2h, Jc. Here, on the Ah, 4s, Ks flop, your opponent is probably going to put you on a flush draw, but as the turn and the river bring different suit cards, he will believe you missed your draw. The fact that you hit your 5-high straight on the river will elude 99% of players, even those who consider themselves skilled. In this situation, what you want your opponent to have is a set. His set will give him the confidence to consider value-betting you, in which case you hardly even have to make a move: he’ll serve his stack up to you on a silver platter. The beauty of your disguised hand is, that assuming that you’re chasing a flush, your opponent might call your value bets on less than a set, maybe even on a top pair.

The re-draw is another classic example of a naturally disguised hand. Take the following flop for instance Jc, 10h, 3h, while you’re holding Jh, Ah in your pocket. Here, you have top pair top kicker, which is pretty darn likely the best hand at the table on the flop. You already have the best hand, but you stand a pretty good chance to improve even further. Other players may have stronger draws, but the fact that you have that flush draw will replace a lot of your lost equity.

Now then, when you fire out your bet, your opponents will almost certainly assume you have top pair and the only thing they’ll be pondering about is how strong your kicker is. There’s not much sense in betting the flush draw, so their conclusion will in fact be correct. The beauty of the re-draw is that even as they make a correct read on you, they set a deadly trap for themselves. If your flush draw fills up, you’re going to take down some huge pots mostly filled up by guys who estimate that they have your top pair top kicker beat.

If your opponent has a strong draw and fails to fill it up, you’re going to win a medium-size pot. If he makes his hand, you lose a medium size pot, but if he makes his hand and your flush fills up as well, you’re going to take down a huge pot.

Not all hands are so conveniently disguised by Lady Luck though. Big hands which can be spotted easily need to be disguised through deceptive play. More on that though in another article.

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